Ready for Cyber Monday? How to Prepare Your Shop For Holiday Sales

Holiday sales season! This is the time of the year when many of our custom website clients are seeing their biggest sales numbers of the whole year, doubling or tripling what they do in an average month. And for other types of businesses, winter can be their slowest time of all. I have some tips for both of these scenarios, including real life advice from four shop owners.

Gift wrap photo © Ashley Wilbur

Holiday sales season! This is the time of the year when many of our custom website clients are seeing their biggest sales numbers, doubling or tripling what they do in an average month. And for other types of businesses, winter can be their slowest time of all. I have some tips for both of these scenarios, including real life advice from four shop owners.

It’s true that more people are shopping during November and December, but it’s also true that your competitors are out there shouting about what they’ve got going on. So what can you do to make yourself heard in all the noise, provide value to your customers without being annoying, and make the most of this lucrative season? Read on!

How to get more sales on Black Friday and Cyber Monday

Treat holiday ecommerce plans like a launch date

Treat your holiday sales season the same way you would treat a launch date, be it a launch of a new brand, a new product line, a new website. Here’s a post that gives tips on keeping your customers in the loop about changes and special events: Smart Strategy: How to Rebrand Without Losing Customers.

Plan special offerings in your shop around the holidays

Decide what special happenings will be occurring during the holiday season for your customers. Will you be offering a seasonal line? Limited edition products? Will there be a sale or a discount of some kind? Will you add an extra gift to each package? Think of something newsworthy that makes financial and practical sense for your business. You may want to consider having an exclusive offer just for members of your mailing list, as well as what you do in your shop for regular customers.

Build momentum in your newsletter and on social media

Then, you’ll want to build momentum. Start early, and mention repeatedly on social media and email what you’ve got going on. Share what you’re excited about for your brand this holiday season, and what your customers should keep an eye out for.

As Black Friday and Cyber Monday get closer and closer, your mentions of the holidays should start coming closer together as well. If you were mentioning the holidays once per week on Instagram, it might be time to start posting three times a week about your event or products. People will expect your newsletter to be more frequent before Christmas, so don’t be afraid to send more! You aren’t spamming people, you’re providing valuable help to them in finding that perfect gift for that special someone.

Bringing holiday shoppers to your website

What publicity can you get during this season?

Take advantage of any holiday-based opportunities, such as gift guides, holiday collaborations with other businesses, or finding ways to cross-promote businesses with the same audience as yours. Rather than waiting for these things to drop in your lap, be active in seeking them out or getting them started!

How can you enhance your social media and your website?

What ways can you feature seasonal specials on your site and on social media? Now is a great time to start a Christmas Pinterest board, change out the photos and content on your homepage, and create a gift guide on your own site.

The Thanksgiving to Christmas season is a perfect time to create shop categories such as “gifts for her” or “gifts under $25.” Keep in mind that while people are shopping more in general around Christmas, they tend to be shopping at a lower price point than the rest of the year.

How can you bring value as you keep promoting your site?

This is a great time of year to consider how your products make great gifts (paired with chocolate? bundled in kits?), and who they make great gifts for (crafty cousins? wisecracking BFFs?), and then do the work for your customers. Give them ideas and spark their imagination! People won’t get tired of hearing from you if you’re giving them relevant ideas for getting through a kind of stressful season. Be warm, be helpful, relate to how much they’re trying to get done at once, and offer to take the worry out of that gift purchase for their sister. They’ll thank you for it.

Tips from shop owners

Four shop owners in our community replied to my newsletter about holiday sales with the following tips for you:

Tina doesn’t forget the other winter holidays

My biggest piece of advice is to not forget about other winter holidays like Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and New Years. I find the focus of so many articles is on Christmas but there are other opportunities for boutique brands in the winter months to increase sales.

If you have a home decor brand think about doing gift guides, special collections or bundles for Thanksgiving. Gift guides for decorating a Thanksgiving table or hostess gifts can be really unique ways to stand out. I plan to do a guide to dressing the kids for Thanksgiving dinner with fall themed dresses and nice dress shirts for boys. Last year I had a lot of traffic from my Hanukkah gift guide board with baby outfits and toys that linked back to my shop.

The biggest traffic driver by far for me the last 3 years was from FreeShippingDay.com. Any merchant can sign-up for it at no cost. All you have to do is provide a free shipping code that is valid on Dec 16th. If you have ready to ship items and can meet the Christmas deadline I highly recommend registering on this site and promoting your free shipping offer across all social media. I will be updating my homepage banner and social media headers with a free shipping message to make it front and center with potential customers.

–Tina Bar, Wild Dill

Ruth opts out of the Black Friday and Cyber Monday craziness

Color Learning Educational Toys at Handmade Happiness by Ruth

Color Learning Educational Toys at Handmade Happiness by Ruth

Since I’m a small handmade toy brand marketing that my toys make parents’ lives easier, I’m not putting anything on sale the weekend of Black Friday. I’m running my big holiday sale the week BEFORE. I want parents to feel the freedom of spending their holiday weekend with their families, so I’m offering my biggest sale of the year the week before the holiday so that I can spend the weekend with my own family and so that I can take one more thing off of a busy parent’s plate. I’m hoping that the commitment to family time will raise the feel good factor of my brand.

–Ruth Rau, Handmade Happiness by Ruth

Stephanie plans thoughtful gift wrapping, packaging, and shipping

My holiday approach with my hand-printed glass ornaments is my packaging. It’s the same year round (note, I do NOT change anything about my packaging for the holidays) but it has a different appeal at the holidays. My ornaments are always individually packaged in rigid, hinged boxes and tied with organza bow. They’re sturdy which makes them great all year long for shipping (from my perspective) and storage. But at the holidays, this means that they can be handed to the recipient without any work at all–it’s already a little box done up with a bow, what else could you need?

The answer to that question is a gift tag–and I’ve already done that for them too… I will ship any order directly to their recipient. It doesn’t change my process, but it takes an extra step out of their hassle for the holidays for that sister who lives a few states away. And as an extra courtesy, I put on a gift tag, hand written with a note from them. My customers can send me what they want it to say when they’re placing their order, and I put that right on the box for them on a sweet little hanging tag (which is actually one of my watercolors printed on inexpensive business cards and punched out with a tag motif punch from the craft store).

All in all, it’s a little more like the big box store approach that people are so accustomed to around the holidays. It doesn’t change anything that I do in my process, it’s really just a different focus for my marketing in the holiday season for these uber holiday gift items!

–Stephanie Lendrum, Phylogeny (ornaments here)

Kara solved the problem of low sales in winter for a wedding business

Our First Christmas Ornamenet at Kara's Vineyard

Our First Christmas Ornamenet at Kara’s Vineyard

I sell a wedding product, so my business is booming essentially from January – September… completely opposite the typical retail cycle. While everyone else was drooling over the holiday season and thousands of sales it would bring, I dreaded it because those were the months that my sales completely dried up.

To counter this, I began cultivating more of a long-term relationship with the brides and grooms who purchased from me, by way of a mailing list and Facebook page. This way, I could re-target my purchasers during the holiday season with a Keepsake Ornament collection that I designed to celebrate your “First Christmas” as an engaged or married couple.

Suddenly, my seasonal wedding-based business was a robust, year-round sales cycle that brings me more sales revenue in my previously “dead” months than at the height of wedding season!

I hope my story will help others who may be struggling to get going with a holiday product line. Although it’s a bit late in the game to design and bring a brand new product to market in time for the 2016 holiday season, it’s NEVER too late to provide consistent, friendly & stunning client service, and to cultivate a mailing list full of your raving fans. Patience and consistency will pay off.

–Kara Lamerato, Kara’s Vineyard

Let’s talk about this in person

Join Aeolidia’s Biz Tips Facebook group to chat with other shop owners about what you’re doing this holiday season.

Not only will we be talking about this informally off and on through the holidays, but we’re also having a live training and Q&A on Thursday, November 10th at 10am Pacific / 1pm Eastern. Danielle Spurge of the Merriweather Council will be chatting about holiday promotion, management, sanity and success! She will stream live in the group and take questions concerning email marketing through the holidays, prep steps, and keeping it all together through the busy season. Danielle will also give tips for making the holidays a starting point for a successful new year. Please join us:

Request to Join

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Get your Targeted Traffic workbook

Want to get started figuring out how to attract holiday shoppers? Grab our workbook to research and pin down what you know about where your best customers are hanging out. It explains traffic-generating concepts in more detail, and you can use the included tips to make a plan to get high-quality, high-converting traffic to your website.

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