It’s Holiday Time!

Coming off of last year’s successful holiday season, I’m really pumped for this year.  We have two busy times of the year: spring time and the holidays.  Spring is super busy because that’s when the weather starts to get nice and people start spending money on their cars.  Detailed Image is the place to be.  From a strict revenue standpoint, if we we weren’t growing so fast, spring would probably be our busiest time of the year (now we grow so much every few months that it’s hard to tell because whichever season happened most recently was our largest ever).

But the holidays are different than the spring.  As a business owner, I think they’re more fun.  They’re a different challenge. Consider the following:

  • Amazon sales go way up.  Everything we have on Tastefully Driven is listed on Amazon, including the detailing supplies.  Amazon customers are different because they know nothing about us as a company.  It’s a chance to win over a whole new base of customers.  It also works the other way – if they get upset, they tend to be a bit meaner because they don’t “know us”.
  • FedEx shipments go through the roof, meaning that their entire operation is less reliable.  They have substitute drivers who don’t know where we’re located.  Pickup and delivery times are all over the place.  More packages are lost and damaged…by a lot.
  • The weather is totally unpredictable.  Last year we had a lot of unhappy customers who received their packages just after Christmas because their was a major storm that last shipping week before December 25th.
  • Customers that never shop at Detailed Image shop with us to buy gifts for the car enthusiast in their family.  Consequently, customer service with these people is much higher than with our “regulars”.  Sometimes it’s tech issues (it’s hard to explain to a grandma how to register and make a purchase…), other times it’s not knowing what products to buy (which drains George and Greg trying to do their best to explain).  I’m sure chargebacks will be up too.
  • Many of our vendors, who are very busy themselves, have plant shut downs for a week or two.  This makes inventory management even harder for November – January.
  • People spend like crazy.  It’s the one time of the year people just throw everything on their credit cards and deal with the consequences later.  It’s up to us to make sure that we give them plenty of  amazing deals that they “can’t pass up.”
  • My favorite – we’re competing against all online retailers.  Most of the year, Detailed Image competes primarily with a few other auto detailing websites.  But during the holidays, we’re up against Best Buy and Newegg and everyone else on the web.  We’re competing for space in people’s inboxes.  A mom might buy a gift for her son in college at Best Buy instead of DI solely because they have a better newsletter or a better sale.  When it comes to gifts, competition extends beyond your niche and becomes whatever the recipient is interested in. All retailers step up their game during the holidays.  That means we need to do the same.

All of that can be stressful…if you aren’t prepared.  Last year, we weren’t.  We all got super worn out.  We were trying to start to plan the new website, I was trying to program some stuff last second for the existing website.  Meanwhile I was going to the warehouse every day in the crappy weather packing orders and stocking shelves.  On top of that, customer service was through the roof, especially on the Amazon orders.  I could barely handle managing my social life.  January came and we were all so worn out that we got absolutely nothing done.

This year, we’ve learned our lesson.  We sat down in August to develop our holiday plan.  Everything we’ve been doing since has been a trickle down from that plan.  We need to have certain features programmed for the site, we need to have designs done for the site and for newsletters, we need to stock up on products we plan on putting on sale (almost everything), we need to have employees trained, and we need to have a coherent marketing plan for how to aggressively use our site, our forums, newsletters, Facebook, and Twitter to keep consumers focused on what we’re doing.

I’m so excited because I think we’re really going to nail it this year.  I think that November and December will be our largest months ever, and I think that we’ll be able to manage everything because the focus will solely be on getting the day to day right.  No new features or future projects. For me, I’ll be planning on a large increase in programming fixes (minor errors get exploited during busy times) and a jump in customer service, including spending time filing claims with FedEx for lost packages.

Just knowing what to expect makes everything so much more pleasant to think about.  Should be fun!

Posted on September 27th, 2009 in Ecommerce

5 comments on It’s Holiday Time!

  1. Neville says:

    Love how you guys learn so well from past mistakes. I definitely feel you on the holiday sales. It’s great that people spend so much, but it’s terrible to take on the extra work load….unless you plan ahead.

    Can’t wait to read your posts in January “DI and TD Did So Unbelievably Well in Q4 2009!”

    • Adam McFarland says:

      Thanks Nev. It brings up an interesting point – every business owner’s “dream” is to have their business explode and grow rapidly, but in most cases that’s a ton more stressful than slow and steady growth. I’m sure even you have a limit to the amount of orders you can process in a day before it becomes chaotic (too much time processing them, supplier running out of stock, etc).

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