The holiday season is fast approaching!
In this post, I'm going to share with you how holiday sales are different than other times of the year and what you need to do to prepare your handmade shop this holiday season to make the most out of the biggest shopping time of the year!
Hi, my name is Mei Pak, and I help makers, artists, and designers make a consistent income selling their handmade products online.
How Sales are Different
First, let's talk about how sales are different during the fourth quarter compared to other months of the year.
Knowing this will make a lot more sense on how to strategize and prepare for the upcoming weeks.
Increased Conversion Rate
The first thing that is going to change in your online shop, is you should see an increase in your conversion rates.
Your conversion rate is calculated by finding out for every 100 people that come to your online shop, how many of those people actually end up buying?
If you have one person that buys out of every 100 people, that means you have a 1% conversion rate.
It's normal and healthy to have a 1% conversion rate, and you can definitely expect that conversion rate to go up during the holiday season.
I've seen it go as high as two to four times your regular conversion rate during the holiday season.
If you normally have a 1% conversion rate, then you could have anywhere between a 2% to 4% conversion rate over the holiday season, without ever changing anything!
This is because more people now have a reason to shop online than they did in other months of the year.
There is purpose and urgency so you don't need to do a whole lot of work to convince someone to buy from you.
You will naturally see an increase in orders coming in.
Increase in Errors
That will mean an increase in customer service emails that you have to respond to.
We’ll also be dealing with shorter deadlines and more stressed out customers because a lot of people need their orders to arrive on time to give away as gifts.
There are family events happening, get-togethers, dinner parties and so on. The pressure is on the customer to bring their gifts on time to these special occasions.
No one wants to be the person who shows up without a gift, especially when everyone else has one.
Because of the increase in packages shipped across the board with every other business out there, the Postal Service will be slammed and as a result we will likely see a lot more errors on their part as well as delayed shipping.
This is something you want to be prepared for.
Let's translate this into some actionable steps you can take to prepare your own handmade shop for the craziest time of year.
That way, you can approach the holidays with less stress, less unhappy customers, and more time to spend with your family.
New Marketing Techniques
Since people are more likely to shop online over the holidays without you needing to convince them to buy, you want to take advantage of that time.
This would be the time to try out new marketing that you've never done before but maybe always wanted to do.
It's a great time to test different things for your business.
For example, if all year long you've only ever done social media posts, then now might be a good time for you to consider taking on paid Facebook ads.
The reason I say this is because the chances of success are much higher simply because more people are buying and conversion rates are increased.
The same goes for media outreach.
If you've been following my channel for a while, you know that I love media outreach as a strategy for marketing products.
If you've never done it before, now would be a good time to try it!
So many influencers and content creators like bloggers, websites, and magazines are looking to create gift guides.
So they're on the lookout for new and cool products that they've never featured before.
On the same note, now is a good time to be a little bit more aggressive with your marketing.
Unlike other times of the year, you don't need to give people a reason to buy, because they already have reasons to buy, which is typically to get gifts for their family and friends.
You do need to make sure that your shop stands out from the competition.
You’ll want to be the shop that people think about first when they're thinking about buying a gift for their brother, niece, parent, whoever it is that your products serve.
The way to stand out is by being top-of-mind to the customer, which means making sure that people remember you.
People will only remember you if you show up consistently and frequently.
This might mean that if you used to send one email newsletter a month to your email list, you might want to up that frequency to twice a month or even four times a month.
You don't have to worry about people complaining about this.
A lot of shops are increasing their marketing during the holiday seasons, so people know to expect it.
You don't want to be one of the shops that are left out because you're not keeping up.
This is also a good time (and the only time I recommend) that you stock up on extra inventory.
A lot of customers need their orders arriving sooner rather than later, and it will help you to have some stocked up inventory that's ready to go as soon as the orders are placed.
Keeping your turnaround times shorter than normal will really help you out here.
At my jewelry shop, Tiny Hands Jewelry, we normally only stock up on my cupcake necklace when the quantity has dropped to 5 pieces. Over the holiday season, however, we increase this.
We want to be more aggressive with that threshold, so we might change that to stock up on the cupcake necklace when the quantity drops to 10 pieces.
That makes it so that we're not caught in any surprises and we can ship out orders faster that way.
For the rest of the year, I don't usually recommend having too much inventory on hand because this means you have a lot of cash tied up in physical stock that you don't know when you're going to sell.
This can be challenging for a lot of beginning business owners because you could have used that cash to grow or invest in your business.
For example, getting better product photos or improving your product descriptions on your website.
I recommend that you get extra help on deck
If this is your first holiday season, you may not know yet how much extra work you're going to have to do.
But it might be worthwhile to already have that conversation with a family member or your neighbor to get them warmed up to the idea that you might be needing their help.
This could be getting help with packaging orders or doing certain steps in your production process that's easy for someone new to do.
What I suggest is that if you plan to employ the help of a family member or friend, that you do this before the holiday shopping craze actually starts.
For me personally, I start to see sales coming like crazy around the mid-week of November or right after Thanksgiving.
If we're using my experience as a benchmark, that means you'll actually want to onboard your help right now when things are still slow.
It does take time and energy to train someone new.
If you try to bring on someone when you're already drowning in sales, you're not going to have any time to teach them.
You need to set clear shipping deadlines for your customers.
Think about your website’s shopping experience.
Where are the high visibility points in this process?
People are most likely landing on your individual product pages, they add something to their cart, they go to the cart page, then they go check out.
All of those pages get a ton of visibility from people.
If you've decided that the final day for US orders to be placed to arrive on time before Christmas is say December 10th, you want to type up a short notice and put it in all of those highly visible areas on your website.
That means, putting that notice on your product page, preferably:
- under the add to cart button
- the cart page
- your checkout page
- even in your email confirmation that gets sent to the customer after they've placed the order
You want to state this notice more times than you feel is necessary because I guarantee you most people are not seeing most of these notices.
Setting the right customer expectations for when they can expect their order to arrive, is going to be the biggest difference in how stressed out you are over the holiday season.
It's best that you over-communicate here so no one gets upset or disappointed.
Now might be a good time for you to also consider offering faster shipping options if you don't already do this.
If you're shipping with USPS, and you've only offered First Class Mail before, then consider also offering Priority Mail and Express Mail.
Yes, those would be more expensive options, but many of your customers will choose to pay more if it means getting their orders ahead of schedule.
Your customers will appreciate having the option to upgrade.
It's also a good idea for you to set up more stringent boundaries for yourself.
For example, the holidays might be the time when you decide not to take on any custom orders because that's going to take your time away from serving all your other customers.
We all know that we never get paid enough for custom orders anyway.
It's okay to say no and turn down certain requests or ask people to check back with you in the new year when you have more time.
I have been there many times before where I've overextended myself because I didn't want to say no to someone, but then I just end up being miserable.
I don't want you to have to go through that!
You just have to brace yourself!
The fourth quarter is said to be the time where shops make the same amount of money in sales compared to the first three quarters of the year.
It is an extremely busy time and you'll just have to mentally and physically prepare yourself.
There will be days when you haven't gotten enough sleep, and nights where you're working when everyone else has gone to sleep.
Your business will require more of your time and energy over the holidays.
The good news is you'll make a lot of money, and if you plan and prepare correctly, hopefully with the advice from this post, you'll be super organized and ready to take on the next couple months!
I hope this post has helped you get more prepared for the holidays.
If you’ve enjoyed this post, have any questions for me, or if you want to share any of your own holiday prep tips leave a comment below!
Don’t forget to check out my YouTube channel for more tips and inside secrets!