Customized or personalized products are one of the benefits of selling handmade. It doesn’t work for everyone but selling products that shoppers can put their own touch on is something that’s hard to come by with big companies.
If you sell customized products that take longer than a few seconds to customize, you may be wondering how you’d ever make it work at a craft fair. Not to worry! I’m here to help.
Below are several ideas to get your wheels turning and decide if you can make craft fairs work for you.
1) ACCEPT CUSTOMIZED ORDERS BEFORE THE EVENT
An important aspect of craft fairs is to let your existing customers and fans know to come visit you. During your promotion of the event, let your fans know, and even the event organizer, that you’ll be accepting customized orders from ___date to ___ date. The organizer of the craft fair may help spread the word by mentioning your pre-event order opening on their social media pages.
The days before a craft fair are hectic enough so be sure you set a time limit otherwise you may end up with orders you can’t fill. Placing their orders now and picking them up at the event allows them to save on shipping, check out more of your work as well as some other local vendors.
If you wanted to ramp pre-orders up a little more, offer a slight discount to those who order within your time frame and pick up at the craft fair.
Tips to cover your butt:
- Take payment for the orders as they’re placed – you don’t want to make a bunch of customized product and not have people show up to claim or pay. Take the orders as an online order and allow them to choose a free shipping option and make a note in the order that they would like to pick it up at the craft fair.
- Create a policy for those who don’t show up – in case someone places an order and then forgets to show up and claim it, have a policy in place. You may want to state that they will be charged shipping and receive the product via mail if it’s not picked up before the event is over. Or you could allow them to pick the item up from you if you don’t mind customers coming to your home.
- Send out a reminder email – keep each pre-order customer’s email in a folder so you can send a group message out a day or two before the event, reminding them of the dates/times/location and to show up.
- Create a pickup system – you don’t want to be neglecting new customers and shoppers at the event so be sure you keep your pre-orders organized. Collect important information during orders, such as first and last name, so you can package, label and organize them so they’re easy to find and don’t get mixed up during pick up.
2) ACCEPT A LIMITED AMOUNT OF CUSTOMIZED ORDERS TO BE MADE & READY AT THE EVENT
Another great way to create some hype around the event is to offer customized, made-on-the-spot orders at the event…but only for a limited time. Perhaps custom orders could be:
- For the first 10 orders of the day – this will give you the most control over how many you accept
- Between certain hours – for example between 10am – 11am you’ll accept custom orders that will be ready that day. This one could get tricky if there’s a mad dash of shoppers or a lull in traffic during your set hours.
- For those who print off a coupon from your website – you would need a way to keep track so you have a good idea of how many people are thinking about claiming their on-the-spot custom order. If you’re getting lots, you can shut the offer down.
Tip to cover your butt: Be sure to add a small disclaimer that creation times may vary. If each item takes you 5 minutes to personalize and you’re accepting a maximum of 10 orders, you may want to state that depending on order volume, completion times may take anywhere from 5 – 50 minutes.
Customizing your products at the event can help create some interest among the shoppers. An artist in action always draws attention as people want to see what you’re making and how you make it.
3) ACCEPT CUSTOMIZED ORDERS TO BE PICKED UP LATER
If you have a helper or your products are quick to personalize, you may be able to whip up custom orders while people shop. If not, you could offer later in the day, or next day pick up if it’s near the beginning or middle of the event. It’s an option that won’t work for everyone but if a shopper is planning to come back tomorrow or lives close by, they may not mind coming to visit you hours later to pick up their customized product.
Tip to cover your butt:
- If the event is charging an entrance fee, be sure to check with the organizer before you offer this. You want to ensure they offer a stamp or ticket to people who want to come back to pick up so they’re not having to pay for entry twice.
- Also be sure to get the numbers of customers who place an order and are making a trip back in case you fall behind and their product won’t be ready in time.
4) ACCEPT CUSTOMIZED ORDERS TO BE SHIPPED LATER
If you want to keep your customized sales up, you can allow shoppers to place their orders at the event and have them shipped. It’s a really good idea to cover shipping costs, as that’s one of the perks of shopping at craft fairs as opposed to online; no shipping charges. It can eat into your profits a bit but hopefully you get enough orders to make up for it.
Tip to cover your butt: Ensure that you take payments on the spot and make a clear ‘no refunds’ policy. As mentioned earlier, you don’t want to be making customized items that people change their minds on later and you can’t re-sell.
5) ACCEPT CUSTOMIZED ORDERS ON AN ORDER-TO-ORDER BASIS
You can’t predict how many orders you’ll get or how busy the event will be. If you don’t want to commit to one or the other (made on the spot or shipped out after) or putting a specific amount you’ll accept, announce that you’ll be offering on-the-spot customized products on an order-to-order basis. If it’s busy, have customers fill out a shipping form. If it’s slow, take on more made-on-the-spot orders.
6) OFFER NON-CUSTOMIZED ITEMS
Although your business may operate entirely around customized products, I would encourage you to brainstorm some other products you can offer that fit with your brand but don’t require your customization.
If you’re a little stuck on what to offer, download the free chapter: MAKING PRODUCTS THAT PROFIT found on this page. It’s important to give your shoppers different price points to shop from so they not only see the value in your main meat-and-potatoes items, but they also buy more often, buy more with each purchase (instead of customers buying one item, they buy 2 or more) and you attract more new customers by giving them an entry level product to purchase.
You could create an entirely new product line (without customization options) or you may offer customizable products as is (as long as the product looks good with or without customization). If a customer wants to add a personalized touched to the product, you can charge them an additional fee, otherwise they can wear or use the product as is.
HOW TO DISPLAY
Show Shoppers Prototypes
Don’t rely on photos of the customized items. Make a few prototypes using more popular names or designs and create a clean display with them. You want shoppers to be able to envision how the finished product will look; size, texture, shape, etc.
You can create an entire display out of “display only” items but it is a bit of an art. You want people to understand exactly what it is you’re selling and that you do have lots for sale, even though there are only a few products on display. To do so, you want to have clear signage and enough products to create interest and get shoppers to stop. If they can see everything with a glance as they walk by, they won’t bother stopping.
Make use of Signage
Signage is going to be key, as you want to intrigue shoppers but not leave them clueless. Without the proper explanation, a table with prototypes and samples may confuse people. So find a clear and quick way to communicate your message to shoppers through signs.
If you have several details to communicate, try following the layout a word document would with Titles, header 1’s, header 2’s, bullet points and if needed, paragraphs.
That way your signage has a clear message in the title so people immediately understand what you’re selling. From there, the headers, bullet points and text can further explain any other key details without overwhelming shoppers with a long paragraph of text.
CUSTOMIZE YOUR FACE CREAM (Title)
Tailored to your Skin Type (Header 1)
Choose your: (Header 2)
You’ve likely made hundreds of different types of products through allowing each customer to customize them. Hopefully you’ve taken photos of those sold products as some shoppers may need a little guidance on what to choose, if you offer several options. Since you can’t pre-make and display them, consider creating a flipbook or photo album for shoppers to browse through.
Tip: Keep it at the end of your table or someplace slightly out of the way so shoppers looking at pictures aren’t blocking your display or preventing others from shopping your table.
Create a System
Just because you’re not filling your entire table or booth up with products for sale, as most vendors do, doesn’t mean you can’t create a fun and exciting display.
If the majority of your craft fair display is going to be centered on taking custom orders, make it fun for the shopper. Set up your table so it walks them through the process. Just like Subway walks you down the line as you order your custom made sandwich.
Signage will be key here and again, you want your table to look full.
Set it up with the flow of traffic so that when people approach your table from the front doors, they first see the finished product and then as they move down the table, they go through each step of ordering.
For example your table and signage may be set up as follows:
An eye-catching display of your personalized products; the finished products they can own if they continue through the steps. Keep this section clean and un-cluttered. It can get messy looking real fast if you don’t have a direction and plan for your display. Not sure what a zone 1 is or why you need it? Download my e-book for the tricks major retailers use to sell millions of dollars worth of product in a day. Download the free chapter to learn the essentials of creating cohesive collections that will setting up your zone 1 a breeze.
For example: if you’re selling customized luggage or handbags, you may create a composition showing off each style of bag you offer and examples of monogram fonts and placement. The composition would create a line that leads the eye to the next step.
For further explanation of how to effectively use Line & Composition, check out our most popular article: WANT TO STAND OUT AT A CRAFT SHOW? TRY THESE DISPLAY TRICKS
This will be the very first step in the ordering process and likely where they would choose the product they want to personalize. If you offer different types of products, have an example of each. Or if you simply offer one product in different options (such as color or material), show the options here.
Since you don’t have to stock up on completed products for the craft fair, it would be a good idea to stock up on the products that are ready for customization after orders are placed. This gives you more stock to fill up your table, allows the customer to see the product they’re buying (minus the personalization) and helps them visualize and choose their customization.
For example: if you were selling personalized stamped jewelry, you may have rings, bracelets and necklaces displayed here for people to shop through. If you were selling personalized necklaces only, you may have the different types of necklaces displayed so that shoppers could pick out the chain length, pendant shape and type of metal.
If your products are larger and you don’t have the room to house the inventory that’s for sale, you could simply have your pieces numbered or named in zone 1, so the shoppers choose their item from there. If you have room to bring stock, keep it behind the table and pull it out when shoppers are ready to start customizing. If you aren’t able to bring your customizable inventory to the event, simply add a field on the form for the shopper to enter the name or style number of the item they want.
Word of caution: Find a creative and attractive way to display the options. You don’t want to have a beautiful display in zone 1 only to be followed by a lackluster order process on the other side of your table that decreases the value shoppers put on your products.
Your display at a craft fair is all about perceived value. You want people to get a good first impression as they look at all the details (i.e. your tablecloth, signage, props, products, etc.) and before they flip that price tag over, to have put a higher value on your products than you’re charging. That’s the trick to making more sales.
If you think a product is worth $20 only to find out it’s actually $50, how likely are you to buy it? You’d probably have to talk yourself into that sale if you really liked it.
If you put a value of $50 on a product and find out the price is $20, how likely are you to buy it? Much more likely right? There’s no talking yourself into it. In your mind, that’s a steal of a deal and why wouldn’t you buy it. Get shoppers to put a high value on your products by paying attention to all the little details and creating a killer display.
You can do this through packaging too, which is explained in the free sample chapter: MAKING PRODUCTS THAT PROFIT (download it now for free). But increasing the perceived value involves more than just your products and packaging. It comes right down to the way you dress and talk…you’re a part of your booth too! You’ll learn all about this in my e-book, which will teach you tons of valuable craft fair lessons.
Now that your shoppers have chosen the product they’d like to personalize, you can walk them through the personalization process. If you simply need their name or the word(s) they want added, this step may just be a form they fill in. But if you offer several different options for them to choose from in the personalization process, you may have two or three more steps.
Clipboards with pens and forms can be placed at the beginning of this process. And of course, be sure they all match your branding. If you use bright candy colors throughout your business and products, cover the clipboard in colorful fabric, buy some bright colored pens and add your logo to the top of your forms. Now walk them through the process of ordering.
For example: if you offer pillow covers for children’s rooms that can be customized with the child’s name, you may have had customers choose the pillow cover in the first step. Next you may have them fill in a form as they move down the line and choose their:
- Felt color – swatches on a board for them to choose the color their want their letters to be in.
- Thread color – you show them examples of thread colors you offer so they can choose to match the thread to the felt or make the stitching stand out in a contrasting color.
- Font style – a sheet of poster board may be displayed with the different types of fonts you offer.
- Name – the final step, they fill in the spelling of the name they want to appear on the pillow.
At the end of the line and table is the payment zone where they hand you their product, along with their order form and you tally up their total. You may want some signage here that states the FAQ’s customers may have:
- How long does my order take?
- How will I receive my order?
- Do you accept returns or refunds?
Be sure you collect all the information you need on their order form as well. You may want to include a field for:
- First & last name
- Phone number
- Email address
- Mailing address
This is where you can offer your non-customizable products mentioned above and explained in the sample chapter MAKING PRODUCTS THAT PROFIT. My favorite way to explain your Zone 3 is to think about the candy bar and magazine section of a grocery store. I didn’t come to the grocery store to buy gum, but while I’m in line, I may as well grab some. And I didn’t have any intentions of purchasing a magazine, but while I was waiting, a few headlines caught my attention and now I want to read the articles. For a few bucks, why not add that to my cart too?
Keep your shoppers occupied while you ring up or package their order. Smaller items that compliment your products can be an easy add-on if the price is right.
For example: the following would fit perfectly in a zone 3:
- Lip balm for a vendor selling bath & body products
- Luggage tags or coin purses for a vendor selling handbags
- Gift boxes/tags (since many people give jewelry as a gift) or smaller items like key chains for a vendor selling jewelry
Make it Easy for After Event Orders
Offering customized products at a craft fair may make your booth really popular since there aren’t many vendors doing it. But, if you find that sales are slow that day, don’t write craft fairs off completely. They may be beneficial for marketing to your target audience and making future sales.
People generally head out shopping with the hopes of walking away with something in their hands so they may shy away from placing orders they have to wait to have shipped. But that doesn’t mean they’re not interested in what you’re selling. Be sure you have business cards ready to hand out or flyers encouraging them to find you after the show. As mentioned in this article, it’s a good idea to get them on your list too!
Try to track how many orders you receive after the event are due to the event. You could put a field in your online order form or simply email any new customers and ask if they don’t mind telling you how they came across your business.
- Always, always take their payment with their order. Even if they’re just going to browse your neighbor’s table while you complete their order, you don’t want to risk them getting distracted, forgetting or changing their minds and being left with personalized product you can’t sell.
- Don’t get distracted. If customizing orders on the spot is going to keep you so busy that you ignore shoppers or become stressed out, focus on selling pre-made or non-customizable products. Otherwise you could send the wrong impression to shoppers or make it easy for theft.
- Be prepared with an organized system so you have all the details you need to contact the buyer or ship the item as well as keep all their order details accurate.
- Allow the buyers to write down the personalization they want. It’s easy in a busy environment to mix up letters or not hear someone properly. If you have forms for shoppers to fill in, they’re sure to get the wording accurate and any errors are on them, not you.
Regardless of what you’re selling, craft fairs will always have a trial and error process to them. As you introduce new products or lines, you need to adjust and play around to see what works and what doesn’t. This will be especially true when you’re selling customized pieces, as you’ll need to find what works best for your business.
You may find that your zone 3 or non-customizable items do better than you thought and decide to expand that side of your business for craft fairs. Or you may find that people love customizing their products at the event and don’t mind picking them up later so you decide to hire a helper to take orders while you customize. You never know what craft fairs will throw your way so keep an open mind and don’t be afraid to play around.