Saturday, September 20, 2008

For Sellers The Scramble Is On

The scramble has begun for many online sellers as they make final preparations for this years holiday selling season. With all the many task of current inventory evaluation (seeing which items can be discounted), holiday web site preparations, product production itself and of course advertising it’s easy to become overwhelmed.

For those that started early, they are on the down hill run of these preparations but for those just starting their holiday preparations, it’s going to be a very busy time for them. The obvious question for these folks is “How to get it all done and not loose my mind at the same time”?

Here are some things to keep in mind as you design your plan of attack.

Having sufficient inventory will most likely be your biggest problem. We all know how long it takes for us to produce our products. With this in mind, you should set aside enough time each day for production so that by November 15th at the latest, you have 85% of all the stock you will need for this years holiday selling season. The remainder 15% can be addressed at a less hectic pace.

With the ever increasing number of online merchants that are our competition, Marketing and Advertising your online store during the holidays is an absolute necessity. How much and where is the question. Keep in mind that if you spend your time and advertising dollars marketing to every person on the internet, you will most likely only see very marginal success.

It’s kind of like this. Many think that using the “Shotgun Approach” will gain them the most sales. For stores like Wal Mart and other mega stores this is correct but for those of us that sell in the handmade – handcrafted market, it just doesn’t work. We need to market and advertise to customer who are most likely to purchase our types of products. If you are a butcher, you aren’t going to market to vegetarians. The same is true here.

To get the biggest bang for your marketing and advertising time and dollars, you need to place your name in front of people who want, or are most likely, to buy our products. This can best be done by marketing and advertising in and on places that promote and draw shoppers actively seeking handmade and handcrafted products.

We have a very unique advantage these days when it comes to marketing and advertising if we just take advantage of it. I don’t know what percentage of products for sale across the internet are commercially mass produced compared to those that are handmade or handcrafted but I would be willing to bet that commercially mass produced products far exceeds the types of products we create.

With this in mind, why not take advantage of it. More and more consumers are becoming fed up with the poor quality and high prices of commercially produced products and are actively seeking products that are distinct with quality and are priced reasonably. Our tight economy is making shoppers more cautious about what they buy these days. Let’s give them what they want.

Although large search engines like Google, Yahoo and the like will of course be used significantly by shoppers this holiday season, there is a very large group of shoppers that will be and have been turning to Specialized Shopping Directories and similar sites. Because of this, Specialized Shopping sites, often called Niche Shopping Sites, will be used significantly more this holiday season than ever before.

If nothing else, those of us that create and sell handmade and handcrafted products certainly fall into a Niche category so why not market and advertise with this in mind and make use of this fact. Putting your marketing and advertising time and dollars into raising your visibility on these types of web sites will pay off much greater in the long run.

Now there are two different types of Specialized (Niche) Shopping web sites. First are those that actually allow you to sell your products from their web site and those that are strictly designed to point shoppers towards stores based on the shoppers needs. These are true Shopping Directories.

Most of us sell on more than one venue already so I don’t think I need to elaborate about selling venues. A word though about true shopping directories. One of the biggest advantages they have in relationship to drawing customers is that they usually have stores listed in them from many different sources. This allows the shopper the ability to see wider diversification of stores than any particular selling venue will have.

Another factor to consider here is that true shopping directories are unbiased when it comes to the stores listed in them. Let me explain. Selling venues are always skewing the search results of shoppers towards those stores that pay them to do so. That doesn’t mean that true shopping directories don’t have advertising available for their listed stores and yes this advertising is designed to give those advertisers a higher visibility. After all, that is what they are paying for. True shopping directories however don’t manipulate their search features though. If a shopper uses a specific search term, the search results will show every page and store that matches or incorporates that search term in it. Not based on the amount of money any particular store spends at the directory but based on what is actually listed in the directory. That is why in true shopping directories, and particularly those that also use categorizing, like most of them do, the real advantage of advertisers pays off by advertising within the actual category at the stores listing point. There ads will actually be seen more often because if their store description is written properly, their store (and its associated ad) will be coming up in more searches and their store will have greater visibility as shoppers browse through the listed stores.

Here is another factor to take into consideration. Most shoppers realize they are being manipulated by most search engines and many types of directories and are getting sick and tired of it and they are looking for places that aren’t saying to them. “You really don’t know what you want so we’re going to show you only what we want to”. This type of shopper manipulation is beginning to back fire on search engines that use it. No one likes to be called “Stupid” and that is exactly what many of these types of web sites are saying to shoppers. Oh, they spin it around and say we are making the search experience better – one of the new expressions used today. Shoppers are more than capable of deciding what they want and making their own decisions. This is one of the big reasons for the ever growing increase in the use of true shopping directories.

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Keep these things in mind when you are about to spend your advertising dollars.

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