Sunday, September 7, 2008

Being Ready To Sell More During The Holidays

Being ready to sell more during the holidays takes timing and preparation. If you haven’t already laid out your plan for the up coming holidays, it’s almost too late. Do you want to increase your sales, ad revenue, and ultimately your profits in a short period of time? Was your online storefront or website ready last year when the holiday selling season rolled around? The time to prepare for the Christmas holiday season is right now. Many retailers can sell as much in the few weeks between Thanksgiving and New Years Eve as they sell all year long. You may not be in this group but there isn’t any reason that you can’t significantly increase this years sales.

Let me begin by talking about a couple of things that might seem obvious at first but seem to always cause problems for those unprepared. The first has to do with inventory.

One of the criticisms of online retail businesses when the tech boom first started was they did not have the inventory on hand to fulfill the orders they received. There are as many different ways to manage your inventory as there are ways to paint your house, but you can minimize some issues up front and prepare for others.

To state the obvious is to say, have enough inventory on hand to fulfill all your orders between November 1st and December 31st, but that isn’t as easy as it sounds for a small business. You have to carefully plan your cash flow needs to be able to buy additional production supplies for inventory, and shipping materials over the holiday selling time period. Cash flow for small businesses is usually as tight as it can be, so make adjustments as early as you can, before you need the inventory and can’t fill all those orders.

The holiday season can be filled with family and fun (or something like that) but it can also take a lot of time you might normally use to post, do research, and everything else you do to maintain your store. Trying to do tech writing while your in-laws are visiting can be challenging at best, so be prepared in advance and ramp up your inventory levels.

Second, many online merchants have built in phobias about some simple yet effective merchandising and selling formats.

Use Gift Certificates, Gift Cards, and Coupons. As buyers have become more Internet savvy they have come to expect to find some good coupons or specials, especially around the holiday season. You don’t have to give away the store, but get a few promotional coupons ready to send out to your mailing list, or make them readily available on your website.

In addition to a few different coupons you should create some kind of gift certificate that your visitors can buy to give as a gift for later use on your storefront. You see these gift certificates everywhere because they are guaranteed revenue, cost almost nothing to produce, and each year a certain percentage go unused.

Provide Good Customer Service. This is probably the most important for customer acquisition or retaining those valued customers for future purchases. The issue of customer service is a standard item among small businesses but it shouldn’t be overlooked. Just plain good customer service can go a long way and much of the time is one of the lesser expenses of the fall season.

Answer your business email as soon as you can, return customer phone calls promptly, ship your products quickly, and offer a clear return policy your customers can understand. These are common issues but can quickly become out of hand when multiplied by a higher volume over the holiday shopping season.

You don’t want to be the last horse out of the gate when it comes to your marketing and advertising.

Your marketing and advertising plans should already be in place. In fact, you should be doing your final reviews of them at this time. Making last minute changes in an ad campaign can be disastrous and cost you untold sales.

One of the most over looked aspects of selling on line for many small business owners is their Credibility & Trust Factor. A lot of research and study has been done in these areas and the results show that even though more and more people become internet savvy, they still have difficulty buying from stores or businesses that are new or appear to be new. This is particularly true for buyers over the age of 40 or so. The average internet buyer may visit a new online store and use them for price comparison but when it comes down to buying, they will pay a couple of dollars more to purchase from a store that they have seen on line for some time.

This can create problems not only for new online store owners but for those that have been around awhile but haven’t really developed any real internet visibility. Granted, it isn’t logical for a small business to expect to have the online visibility of Amazon or some other big company but they can pre-position themselves so they appear to have been in business online for some time. Studies show that if your store appears to have been in business for a reasonable period of time, a buyers buying confidence in your store will be significantly higher. Even if you really have only been in business on line for a few months.

It does take time to develop internet visibility but being in the right places at the right times can expedite this process and your stores customer perception. It all about what the customer perceives. Not the reality. The idea is to get them through the front door. Your products and great service will keep them coming back.

Over the last several years there have been some significant changes in the way people shop. Particularly during the hectic holiday season. Although search engines are still used to find products, more and more buyers are turning to places like Shopping Directories to find that special item. It makes sense too. At a Shopping Directory, customers automatically feel more at ease. Their general trust level in any store listed in a Shopping Directory is higher since they believe that the directory themselves has done some evaluation and qualification of the store prior to allowing it to be listed in the directory. Another reason is that they have every thing in one place without having to bounce all over the net.

There are a lot of on line merchants that feel they have to spend a lot of money and focus only on the really big search engines and high priced directories to make sales. The facts are that you don’t need to spend exorbitant amounts of money and by being listed in specialized niche shopping directories pays off better. Most online buyers know what they are looking for and go to places where they are most likely to find the type of item they want.

You should be looking for those Niche Shopping Directories that don’t charge and arm and a leg and that will be drawing the types of buyers you are looking for. Another nice thing about these Niche Shopping Directories is that your store will not be lumped in with 10,000,000 other similar stores. It just doesn’t make sense to purposefully give yourself more competition than you need to. One final point of interest about Niche Shopping Directories is that they very often have holiday marketing and advertising specials running that can really stretch a merchants’ advertising dollars. As a final point about Niche Shopping Directories, in most instances they provide much better service to the merchant than the big boys do.

If you haven’t already downloaded our Free 30 plus page booklet of Marketing & Advertising Suggestions, Tips, Tricks and Ideas you can download your copy HERE

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