Your customers are already planning for Christmas

 

I always advocate planning ahead as a small business owner (which is why I created THE SUCCESS PLANNER…set your goal now and start making a plan for how to get there this year).

 

But there’s a new trend this year that will have your business planning even further ahead than I would typically suggest.

 

Consumers are already (as of writing this, which is July 2020) looking ahead to the holidays.

 

And I get it.

 

2020 has been a challenging year and when you can’t go out and do all the things you want to do, you plan for something to look forward to.

 

The holidays are also comforting for so many reasons, and we could all use some comfort.

 

Consumers want brands (that’s you) to help them prepare for the holidays early (source)

 

Here’s how your business can start prepping, so it can then help consumers prep.

 

This post may contain affiliate links, which means I’ll receive a commission if you purchase through my link, at no extra cost to you. Please read the full disclosure here.

 

 

STEP 1 – START OR IMPROVE YOUR ONLINE STORE

 

Holiday craft shows may not happen this year. Which means people will be doing the majority of their shopping online.

 

Your business needs to be prepared by having an online presence that allows consumers to buy from you online…in a typical eCommerce fashion…not by seeing an item on your social media account and having to email you to purchase…that will deter sales.

 

 

START AN ONLINE STORE

If you don’t have a way for customers to buy from you online, start looking at your options now so you have plenty of time to build a smooth functioning and beautifully designed online shop.

 

Online shoppers want convenience, so having people email you to purchase won’t cut it.

 

Sure, you can make some sales that way. But you’ll lose a lot more sales by not having an online shop that allows shoppers to buy with a click of a button.

 

Etsy is a platform that makes it easy for handmade businesses to get set up and start selling. But there are also many other options.

 

Check out:

(Links are shared again at the end of this article)

 

 

Connect a shop to your social media account

If you have a following on social media, you may consider a service such as Ecwid, which allows you to create listings on their platform, and then connect those listings to your Facebook or Instagram account so your followers can shop right from your social media page.

 

>> Check out Ecwid to add a shopping cart function to your social media account

 

There may even be the option to sell through ONLINE craft shows this holiday season. So make sure your business is set up to be able to participate in those.

 

Here’s how: HOW TO SELL THROUGH ONLINE CRAFT SHOWS

 

 

IMPROVING AN EXISTING ONLINE STORE

If you already have an online store, consider a few improvements and/or updates for it so you’re prepared for more online shoppers for the upcoming holidays:

 

Mobile Friendly

Over half of online shoppers have made purchases using a mobile device (source), so it’s important your online shop not only looks good when viewing on a phone but that it also functions properly.

 

If you use a platform such as Etsy, they take care of making your shop mobile-friendly.

 

But if you have your own website, hop on your phone and click around to check how each page looks and functions.

 

>> Is the text large enough to read on a mobile device?

>> Are links spaced far enough apart to make clicking easy?

>> Do pictures and text align properly on the page?

 

A mobile-friendly website not only pleases your shoppers, it also pleases Google.

 

Google ranks websites that are mobile-friendly, higher than those that are not.

 

Here’s where you can get started by checking if your site is mobile-friendly and taking next steps: TEST YOUR SITE TO SEE IF IT’S MOBILE-FRIENDLY

 

 

Fast Loading Times

A speedy website is also beneficial when it comes to SEO (search engine optimization). Google will rank slow loading sites lower, and shoppers won’t wait longer than a few seconds for a website to load.

 

If you have your own website, start looking at ways to improve its speed now. The faster it loads, the longer shoppers are likely to stay on your website and click around.

 

 

Shipping Options

If your customers are local, you may be able to arrange some safe meetups to deliver your products. However, the majority of your sales will require shipping, so consider the following:

  • Shipping fees – how much will you need to charge to ship your items to a variety of locations? If the shipping fees are high, you may want to consider slowly raising your prices, starting now, to factor a portion of those fees into your retail prices so shipping fees don’t seem as high.
  • Shipping deadlines – it’s important to let shoppers know when cut-off dates will be for taking orders, so you can be certain they’ll receive their items before Christmas. Shipping is already delayed due to Covid so you can imagine it will be really delayed when you add the volume of parcels that are shipped during the holidays, which is likely to be even higher this year with fewer people traveling to see family in-person. Create a bit of urgency by adding a banner to your website, or using your Etsy announcement section to suggest placing orders early to ensure gifts arrive on time.
  • Rush shipping – consider if you will offer the option for customers to pay for rush shipping and what the cost will be for each location. You must factor in, not only the additional cost the post office charges, but also, the added cost of your time and gas money to make an extra trip to the post office.
  • Shipping schedule – to be more efficient, you may want to plan which day(s) of the week you’ll ship items so you’re not running back and forth to the post office every day. This will factor into your turnaround times, which shoppers should be aware of. If you only make a post office trip once a week, you’ll have to tack an extra 1 to 7 days onto the postal service’s shipping time to allow the time you require. As mentioned under “rush shipping”, if an extra trip is required because a customer wants their item sooner, you should charge the customer extra.
  • Shipping supplies – do some research to determine where you can get the best prices on shipping supplies. If you must order them online, be sure you do so early. You may need:
    • labels
    • boxes
    • tissue
    • tape
    • marketing material (e.g. get postcards, business cards, coupon codes, etc. printed)

 

Quick Checkout

The checkout process should be streamlined so it’s quick and easy. Any glitches, typos, etc. can make shoppers question the security of your website and placing an order with you.

 

Also, be sure to provide information to the customer after they complete a purchase.

 

A confirmation email is essential. If a customer completes a purchase online and doesn’t receive a confirmation email, they’ll be wondering if you received their order or if their payment went through.

 

When you set up an online shop on a platform like Etsy, they take care of streamlining the checkout process and sending confirmation emails for you.

 

Whether you have your own website or are using a platform like Etsy, be sure to include important information in your order confirmation email.

 

Let customers know if they’ll be receiving another email when their order is processed or once it has shipped. You may also state general turnaround times (e.g. orders are shipped within 5 days of receiving them), and how to get in contact with you if they have any questions.

 

 

 

STEP 2 – PLAN PRODUCTS

 

Not only do you want to plan collections for your existing products, you may also want to explore new product ideas, based on consumer trends.

 

 

HOLIDAY COLLECTIONS

According to reports, consumers really want to feel the holidays this year. The colors, the scents, the prints, etc. of your holiday collection should scream “holidays”.

 

Product collections are so powerful.

 

Just think about the last time you were actually able to walk through a mall when spring collections hit the floors.

 

After all the dark colors, heavy fabrics/knits, spicy scents, etc. of winter, walking past a store filled with pastel colors, lightweight fabrics, floral prints and scents, etc. completely changes your mood. All of a sudden, you’re excited for warmer days, picnics outside, flowers blossoming, etc. and you want to see how the store can help get you ready for spring.

 

When colors/prints/fabrics/scents/etc. are used strategically, they can evoke an emotion from your shoppers.

 

When shoppers feel something because of your products, they’re more likely to buy.

 

When’s the last time you purchased an item that didn’t make you feel good?

 

Check out: HOW TO CREATE A HOLIDAY COLLECTION FOR YOUR HANDMADE BUSINESS

 

 

HOLIDAY PRODUCT TRENDS

When it comes to product trends, I’ve already covered:

 

But there are likely to be even more new trends when it comes to 2020’s gift-giving and holiday shopping.

 

Based on recent reports and consumer habits, these are a few predictions:

 

 

Decorating

More people may be stuck at home for the holidays this year, so there’s likely to be more interest in holiday decorating. The following items may be appropriate for your business.

 

Holiday-themed:

  • Candles/incense/room sprays/etc. in holiday scents (e.g. gingerbread, spruce, spiced cider, etc.)
  • Table décor
    • Placemats
    • Napkins
    • Table runners
    • Tablecloths
    • Centerpieces
    • Candles
    • Napkin rings
  • Outdoor décor
    • Lights
    • Lawn décor
    • Door hangers/wreaths
    • Garlands for stair railings
  • Tree décor
    • Lights
    • Garlands
    • Ornaments
    • Tree toppers
    • Tree skirts
  • Home décor
    • Candle holders
    • Vases
    • Signs
    • Tea towels
    • Dishcloths
    • Bath towels (e.g. hand towels for the guest bathroom)
    • Soaps
    • Etc.

 

Hosting

People may still be hosting small gatherings in their home, which may require items such as:

  • Table décor (see ideas above)
  • Bar items
    • Serving trays
    • Bar glassware
    • Pottery or wooden bowls for drink garnishes (e.g. limes or mint)
    • Bar signs
    • Napkins
    • Paper straws
    • Coasters
  • Baking & cooking
    • Cutting boards
    • Charcuterie boards
    • Serving trays
    • Wooden spoons and spatulas
    • Aprons
    • Oven mitts
    • Potholders
    • Cookie plates & tins
    • Cookie cutters

 

Gift giving

Of course, keep gift-giving in mind when planning products for your holiday collection. You may want to consider:

 

Budgets – Most people will be on a budget this year when it comes to holiday spending. So it’s a good time to think about entry-level products and down-selling. Here are 2 articles to help with that:

 

Also consider how you can sell more products, without having to work more: HOW TO MAKE LESS BUT SELL MORE

 

You may even look into the option of offering payment plans if you sell higher price items such as original art.

 

It’s important to remember not to slash your prices at the expense of your business.

 

Always ensure you’re profiting. These will help:

 

Also consider, you still have customers who have maintained their level of income or even increased it. So there will still be holiday shoppers who are ready and willing to pay regular prices and to splurge on gifts this year.

 

Be sure to have something for everyone with tiered pricing.

 

 

Non-typical gifts – Consider that some people may forgo typical gift giving all together. That may influence the products you offer or how you market your products during the gift-giving season.

 

For example, my husband and I have decided to forgo giving each other gifts this year and are planning to buy one bigger gift for ourselves…something we both want or need for our home. We’ve also discussed with our families that we should plan something a little different this year and maybe put the focus on spending time together, baking yummy treats, and cooking delicious meals, instead of opening gifts Christmas morning.

 

New traditions in gift-giving still leaves some opportunities for your business (see “making memories”)

 

 

Making Memories

As mentioned, 2020’s holidays are likely going to much different and people are going to have to start some new traditions. Keeping that in mind, here are a few product ideas:

 

Decorating – People want brands to help them take the holidays to the “next level” (source). Decorating the home always kicks off the holidays but it’s more likely to be a big family event this year and people may want even more holiday décor to make their entire home feel festive, since it’s where they’ll be spending most of their time.

 

Activities – Hopefully grocery stores will be prepared this time around and there won’t be any shortages, but who knows, there may be a lack of baking supplies again, which will put the kybosh on typical baking traditions. You may help your customers start new traditions with DIY kits. For example:

  • Learning to knit using one of your DIY kits (or even encouraging people to knit winter accessories to donate)
  • Making a piece of pottery for holiday dinners with a DIY pottery kit
  • Making their own soap with DIY kits, which they can then give as budget-friendly gifts

 

I’ve explained how to create DIY kits in this article: 10 WAYS FOR A CRAFT BUSINESS TO MAKE MONEY DURING THE PANDEMIC

 

And here’s a helpful article on how to start a subscription box: How to Start a Subscription Box Guide (which is a great way to sell your DIY kits).

 

 

 

STEP 3 – MAKE IT FESTIVE

 

It’s important to go above and beyond for the holidays. In other words, don’t simply list new products in your online shop; alter what surrounds those new listings too.

 

Here are a few ideas to make your business more festive for the holidays:

 

 

Offer Gift-Wrapping Options

Consider that many people won’t be seeing loved ones this upcoming holiday season and will likely want you to ship your products directly to the gift recipients.

 

You may offer an option for them to add a personal message through a gift card, or to wrap the item in gift-wrap paper.

 

These options are a good way to up-sell (check out: HOW TO USE UP-SELLING TO SELL MORE HANDMADE)

 

Factor in the cost of materials, your time to gift wrap the item or write the card, and add some extra on top for profits. That total should be the extra charge customers must pay to have their item gift-wrapped.

 

Remember to look for materials at wholesale prices to save some money and avoid having to set your prices too high (*there are some tips under “tactic #2 in this article).

 

 

Festive Images

Update the home page of your website or the cover photo of your Etsy shop to an image that will give shoppers holiday vibes.

 

You don’t want to transition to holiday images too early, but you could still add a subtle holiday reminder on the home page of your website or in the announcement section of your Etsy shop.

 

If you have a website, you could start with a holiday section at the bottom of your home page that links to a holiday inspiration post on your blog, or to a page that’s starting to showcase some of your holiday products. At the end of summer, that section may move to the middle of the home page, and then make it to the top during fall.

 

You may also want to update your product listing photos to add some festive flair. Even if your products remain the same for the holidays, you can simply swap in a new background or props.

 

For example, instead of photographing an item such as soap on a plain background, one could add a few festive props. Perhaps the bar of soap could be placed next to a gift-wrapped box, or be surrounded by a few Christmas ball ornaments or sprigs of evergreen.

 

 

Festive text

Closer to the holidays, you may want to update your welcome message to be a little more festive and to get people thinking about the holidays.

 

It may still be important to include a message about how your shop is taking extra measures to ensure the safety of its customers (more ideas on that here: HOW TO HELP YOUR HANDMADE BUSINESS SURVIVE A CRISIS).

 

If you have your own website, you may also consider adding a banner to the top of the site reminding people to order early to accommodate longer shipping times in 2020.

 

You can use a tool such as Hello Bar to quickly and easily add an eye-catching banner (*When you click the “Hello Bar” link, watch the white banner pop down and catch your eye).

 

You could also create a few blog posts to inspire your shoppers.

  • Give them gift ideas for each person on their list (gift suggestions don’t all have to be your products. You can feature products made by other small businesses; they may share your blog post with their audience, sending new potential customers your way).
  • Share decorating ideas
  • Inspire them with ideas for starting new holiday traditions

 

Stay on-brand, but don’t be afraid to write non-promotional content that helps out your website visitors, rather than sells to them.

 

If you need more ideas for your blog or newsletter, check out 356+ NEWSLETTER IDEAS FOR YOUR HANDMADE BUSINESS (*that will also work as blog ideas).

 

 

Festive Offers

If your profit margins allow, consider running a sale or two before the holidays. (For help with improving your profit margins, check out THE SUCCESS PLANNER)

 

It’s unlikely the typical Black Friday shopping extravaganzas will happen this year, so prepare for Cyber Monday.

 

It’s beneficial to run sales when consumers are expecting them, but I also find it helpful to run sales in the “off-seasons” so you’re not competing against every other business’s sale.

 

 

I hope this article sparked some ideas for your handmade business!

 

 

LINKS MENTIONED IN ARTICLE:



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