Timber! How we delivered a fresh approach to festive selling on Amazon
Selling fresh-cut Christmas trees on Amazon has never been done before. But, greetings card and gift retailer Hallmark was determined to make it happen. Having previously helped the brand successfully negotiate Amazon listings for fresh flowers and plants, Wunderman Commerce was only too happy to step in again.
What followed was a tough 18 months of talks and planning involving Hallmark, Amazon, distributors and tree growers. Given the potentially enormous volume of orders over a very short sales period (six to seven weeks), the project threw up numerous operational and logistical challenges we had to address along the way.
Here's how we made it happen.
Given the fact that this was the first time anyone had sold fresh-cut Christmas trees on Amazon, we had no historical data on which to base forecasts and plan inventory. Not only that, we were faced with the need to accurately anticipate demand week by week to ensure customers got the freshest cut trees. The trail from pre-order through to delivery so the freshest possible trees were being delivered took considerable planning.
Growers wanted hard commitments about how many trees would be taken each week so they knew how many to cut on an ongoing basis. Amazon was reluctant to commit to fixed numbers without knowing the full scale of the opportunity.
Amazon was also concerned with how quality control and consistency would be managed, as it anticipated issues with customers returning stock due to naturally occurring blemishes, such as holes or lack of uniformity. Amazon had no capacity to manage or accept returns, and there were financial implications to resolve between all parties.
On a similar issue, Amazon wanted to approve the packaging used for the trees as it wanted to avoid damage in transit at all costs.
We worked on a drop shipping arrangement with Amazon running the sales, Hallmark as the licensed brand, Agricola managing the distribution and stock sourced from a single farm in Northern Michigan.
The work we did with the grower on forecasting and order staging was critical. We used data on the number of artificial trees sold on Amazon plus intelligence and industry experience from the grower itself to build up as accurate a demand model as possible.
We used a tiered wholesale pricing structure to offer Amazon standard volume discounts for a number of different order quantity scenarios, while ensuring we were able to support fulfilment costs. We took the lead in negotiations on Hallmark's behalf to agree shared responsibility with Amazon for unsold units.
Ultimately, no one wanted high volumes of unsold stock, so we recommended initial orders should be conservative, with the option to reassess after pre-sale figures were available.
Following all the hard work behind the scenes by everyone involved, Hallmark was granted exclusivity by Amazon for sales of all 6 - 7 foot trees. And, in spite of Amazon's initial concerns over packaging, after sending several samples to Seattle, we needed neither SIOC (Ships In Own Container) nor FFP (Frustration Free Packaging) certification.
More than that, in something of a coup for us and our client, Amazon agreed to Hallmark branding being on the box, despite the trees being listed as sold by Amazon.