Picture this: The holiday rush has ended. The frenetic excitement of another massive shopping season has died down. Now we can all take a minute and breathe a sigh of relief as we look at the our sales numbers for the past few months. You did it… and did it well. Congratulations.
But now is no time to rest on your laurels.
Just because the holidays are over does not mean your profit windfall has to be over too. Sure, it is most likely going to decrease a bit but by keeping your sales momentum going you can draw the decrease out over the next month or so. (Or you can sit back and watch it dramatically plummet. Your choice!)
Look, I know you are tired, the holiday months can be extremely draining, but we are talking about continuing to make above average sales here – that’s worth putting off your vacation for another month, isn’t it?
Luckily, keeping your sales rolling doesn’t require much extra effort. It’ll involve some initiative (which we know you’ve got because you run a successful eCommerce store) and the normal amount of work you do for promoting sales and specials for your store. Think of it more as a continuation of your holiday promotions rather than a whole new set of work and ideas.
In this article, I’ll lay out the things I do with my stores and you can take the ideas and apply them to your products and markets.
You might think that it would be hard to persuade people to buy right after they’ve done so much holiday spending. But quite often people don’t get what they really wanted as holiday gifts… or just not every single thing. Because they’ve been doing so much of it over the past few months, they are used to spending at this point… and now they have the chance to spend on themselves.
That’s where your “after holiday” profits come from. You’re offering discounted gifts for bargain hunters and for people to give to themselves.
Here are some things I do to keep the profits rolling in after the holidays:
Whatever sales you were running to get more out of the holidays will help also you get more out of the post holiday season. I re-frame my promotions so they are centered around the idea of “The Perfect Gift You Didn’t Get” or “Get What You Really Wanted This Christmas” or something to that effect. As long as the discount is good (I’d go with at least 10%) you won’t need to do that much convincing to get people to feel entitled to buying themselves a gift.
You will also want to get the word out about your post holiday sales via newsletters.
Again, frame it around ‘The Gift You Really Wanted But Didn’t Get” or appeal to the bargain hunters with something like “Huge After-Christmas Discounts”. One of the headlines I intend to use this year is “The Most Awesome Christmas Gift You Didn’t Get”. That particular newsletter is going to be focused on a single product but it could work for multiple products or even your entire store depending on how you want to frame your offer.
Get on the phone with your vendors.
Again, I know you did it just before the holidays to check stock, now it’s time to do it again. As I’ve said in articles past, getting to know your vendors is a good investment in your business. You don’t have to be buddies with them, but it’s good to be on a first name basis and have them happy to answer when you call. Being able to strategize with your suppliers is a great way to get more out of both of your businesses.
Ask your vendors what products they still have a lot of stock on and promote these products as overstock sales. Have a “Post Holiday Blowout Sale” or , “Holiday Overstock Clearance”, etc. You might be able to get a bigger discount on these products if your vendor is motivated to sell them. Let them know what you plan to do – show how you’re going to promote the products – so they can see how quickly you plan to move them. Remember – they’ll be interested in keeping their sales up too! If you can show them a way to do that they’ll be open to helping you achieve those sales.
Don’t be afraid to propose ideas. A good vendor will take a vested interest in your store because they know the better you do, the better they do. The worse they can do is say no, so if you have an idea put it out there. It may not be accepted “as is” but it will open a dialogue between you and your supplier and give you the chance to work together.
Use your store blogs to capture more interest.
Put up blog posts about your post holiday discounts. These can be very similar to your newsletters. Also post your single product promotions. Be sure to put nice, big pictures of the products you’re discounting and make the coupon code stand out so people don’t have to read the entire post or search your blog for it. The more you can put out there and the easier you make it for people to use, the more your post holiday season will be a success.
Along those lines, use your social networks to get more people into the bargain craze or the “I’m buying it for me” mindset. I use sites like Twitter and Facebook to promote my holiday sales and so I’ll also be using them to promote my post holiday sales. Whatever avenues work for you during the holidays should be approached afterward as well.
Network, network, network!
Now I’m going to switch it up a bit and I’m going to go back to what I said earlier about strategizing with your suppliers. When you talk with them you’ll probably come away with a few ideas you didn’t have before. This happens when you talk with other business owners, you get new perspectives. So a great thing to do in the New Year is to join a mastermind or attend local business meet-ups.
For example, I regularly attend local meet-ups in Philadelphia. Just by listening to other business owners talk about what they do or how they handle certain things gives me ideas that I can apply to my stores. No one is an island and no one knows everything. Passing ideas back and forth with other business owners is one of the best ways to expand how you think about your store and sales process.
Just as you might be able to spot an issue or offer a new idea to someone else, they will be able to do the same for you. Having someone outside your business look at what you do can give you fresh perspective that can totally change your approach.
Whether it is a new tool that you find will help you get better rankings, a different line of thought around your Pay Per Click advertising, some constructive criticism about your site design, learning how others create and distribute coupons and sales, etc – joining a business owners group is another good investment in your business.
I’m pushing this because the groups are out and ready to accept new members but a lot of eCommerce store owners think these groups are for Internet Marketers primarily focused on info marketing. Not only is this not true, it wouldn’t really matter if it was because…
You don’t have to work strictly with other eCommerce store owners! I mastermind with a group weekly where I am the only eCommerce person present. Sometimes the best advice or ideas come from people who are not enmeshed in the same things you are. They are not in the same box, let’s say, as you are so they can just throw ideas out there that aren’t constrained because they are not dealing with the same things you are on a daily basis. A broad range of views can help open up your way of thinking, which can lead to new ways of doing business.
So that’s it. Those are my main sales tricks for after the holidays. This is an oft-overlooked opportunity to sustain your holiday sales momentum and these are the basic steps I take to get the most out of my own products post-holiday. You might find some other things to do based on your specific business and product lines and I suggest you do them all and I bet you to continue profiting – even after the holiday rush has ended.
- Continue your holiday sales but re-purpose them for the post- holidays.
- Promote your post holiday sales through your newsletters.
- Talk with your vendors and find out what items they have a lot of stock on.
- Promote the items with a lot of stock as overstock sales.
- Promote your sales with blog posts and on your social networks.
- Join a mastermind or local business meet-up group to continue expanding your ideas.
I put the entire presentation and a few bonus strategies together in a simple to download eBook that you can read, implement, and re-read at your own leisure.
This is a 34 page pdf book that goes through each of the conversion strategies I employ on all my eCommerce Stores. Every aspect and tactic is covered and explained. I don’t simply tell you what to do, I explain the psychology behind why it works. This way you understand why certain things work while others don’t and you can come up with new ideas tailored to your specific market.
This is learning conversion the smart way… actually learning it rather than just listening to it.
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You want to get the most out of your store this holiday season, right? You need to start preparing your store now so everything is in order and no customer is left behind.
But what should you do? Where do you start?
Start with my live training Christmas in July webinar, this Thursday July 29th at 8pm Eastern.
Register here: http://www.eComIncubator.com
Watch as I take you through every step of my holiday planning and copy my techniques to have the most profitable holiday season your store has ever had.
Every webinar attendee gets a free downloadable copy of the presentation and a handy Christmas in July Action Plan Calendar to keep you on track from August right up through January.
This is a totally free event, sign up and register now to reserve your seat to celebrate Christmas in July!
Register here: http://www.eComIncubator.com
To your store profits,
One of the questions I get asked over and over is what shopping cart platform I most use and recommend. Over the past few years I’ve tried a number of carts and found a few that I’m very happy with. There is one though that stands ahead of the crowd in my opinion.
There are plenty of powerful carts that can be customized but most of them are so complicated even simple tweaks need to be done by a developer. ShopSite is simple enough for a person with no experience to jump into and start building. If you have HTML knowledge you’ll quickly be able to start customizing the templates or building your own. ShopSite templates work off simple calls to include files which makes them easy to work with so you can build your store the way you want it.
So that’s my answer to one of the most common questions I get. I’m happy to elaborate if anyone has questions, post a comment.
I also have a recommendation for ShopSite hosting. I use Lexiconn for my ShopSite stores. They are fantastic and that is not an exaggeration. I’ve never had to wait more than a half hour to get a question answered and any issues that have popped up have been fixed in less than 24 hours. They’re helpful and the hosting is high end.
There are other ShopSite hosts out there that are cheaper, but the level of service Lexiconn offers is worth the extra, it’s only like $20 more, per month. They offer a few add-on modules that I recommend including the Order Status Module and Product Review Module.
If you’re thinking about going with ShopSite, check out Lexiconn. This is my affiliate link: http://www.lexiconn.com/affiliates/clickthru.cgi?id=audreykerwood
Again, I’m happy to answer any questions. Choosing a platform is a big decision and making the right choice from the start will save you time, stress, and money. So do some exploring and make sure the cart you go with has all the features you need and any others you want.
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I wrote about how in a The Net Effect article
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Follow the Money…
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To your profitable reading,
Here’s my new blog, a library of The Net Effect articles => http://audreytne.blogspot.com
eStoreOpoly is a family board game that makes eCommerce fun to learn for your whole family!
My fiancé Ben Mack and I wanted to share what we do online with my 15-year-old cousin Kyle.
What we came up with is a simple board game we call eStoreOpoly. This game is so easy, we’ve been told a 6-year-old enjoyed it!
Discover how fun learning the essentials of eCommerce really is. Don’t let the simplicity fool you… this game is crammed with exactly what you need to know to open your first online store, or get better conversion with an existing store.
This is Ben and I playing eStoreOpoly with a Stomper Local Meetup Group. Listen as we explain how this game supports my work as a distance learning teacher.
Please post any questions you have here as a comment. I’m really excited about the launch!
This is a reprint of an article I wrote for The Net Effect.
We all make mistakes. Whether it’s because we’re beginners who don’t know any better or we’re experienced storeowners having a “dumb moment” – it happens to everyone.
Of course you always learn from your mistakes but isn’t it so much better to learn from others so you don’t have to suffer the stress and/or profit loss to gain the knowledge? Absolutely. So here are my big eCommerce mistakes – we’ll start simple and go from there.
Some of these really are like duh… if you’ve made any of the same you can laugh along with me if you haven’t you can go right ahead and laugh at me while making a mental note not to do it yourself.
The first order I ever received was paid through PayPal. It was simple; I got the order notification followed almost immediately by the PayPal payment receipt. It was awesome; I was on top of the world! Previous to store ownership I had sold on eBay and everyone paid me through PayPal, it worked the same way.
The second order was paid via credit card and so was authorized for the order amount… but not automatically charged. Since I had never had a merchant account or payment gateway and in all my store building excitement I set them up but didn’t bother to learn anything about them, I didn’t realize I had to charge the card myself.
I lost $200 on that sale and only realized it when I went to look in the backend to figure out how to do a refund. I noticed it hadn’t been charged and the authorization had run out two days before.
Lesson learned, be sure you know how your gateway works or you may not be charging for your products.
About eight months into the life of A2 Armory I got an email from one of my vendors about a new Braveheart Replica Sword they just started carrying. The price was low and the sword was hot! I immediately added it to the store, created an eye-catching ad for the home page, sent out a newsletter, and put a banner ad on a bunch of ezine type sites (they were still worth something then) – all without considering how many other stores were doing the same thing or the stock my vendor had.
I was able to fill two orders, the rest turned into irate customers who didn’t want to wait six weeks for the next shipment. Not fun.
Lesson learned, always check stock before running a big promotion.
Finding a new vendor is exciting… all the new products and sales possibilities always put a smile on my face. But I don’t let myself get caught up and forget to make sure I know the vendor’s policies.
I once found a vendor with an awesome line of daggers and swords. I read all their sales literature and it seemed straightforward and acceptable. I added a bunch of their products to my site and since it was well-established orders for the new products started coming in right away. So far the new product line was performing exactly as planned.
I placed the first few orders and received an email from the vendor saying, “None of the orders placed meet the minimum order requirement for drop shipping and so would all be cancelled.”
So I get on the phone, fighting to keep my cool, to find out what is going on. Apparently the sales literature was incorrect and the drop ship minimum is $100. Each of the items I’d added cost me less than $40 – I couldn’t sell their products unless I packaged them together. All the yelling was for naught, they wouldn’t budge. So I ended up cancelling the orders and dealing with disappointed customers.
Lesson learned, don’t assume anything about your vendor or their policies. Double check everything – at worst you spend a little extra time on the phone, at best you save yourself hassle and upset customers.
A customer calls wondering what the charge from A2 Armory is on their credit card. I tell them who we are and what we sell and the customer says okay, he doesn’t remember ordering anything but he would sort it out. I say to please let me know if he has any more questions or needs more info about the order.
A few days later I receive a chargeback in the mail describing the order as fraudulent. I have no record of my phone call to send to the credit card company and the package has already shipped. The best I can do is refute the chargeback with my AVS information and the shipment tracking number, usually not enough for this type of chargeback.
I call the customer and get no response, same when I email. I ask that he please either refuse delivery or send the package back so I at least get the product back. I follow up my original chargeback case with a letter explaining that the product had already shipped and the customer was not responding to my emails for it to be returned, hoping they would see that something was amiss. No good, judgment in his favor and I never heard from him again.
Lesson learned, handle all customer issues yourself. Don’t rely on your customer to fix it, do the right thing, or even understand what’s going on. Once you relinquish control it’s hard to get it back again.
There are problem customers who argue about restocking fees and return shipping then there are problem customers who threaten and/or waste huge amounts of your time.
I once had a customer who I’ll call Logan who fit into the second group. His first order from me was for a full armor breastplate and spaulders. He wrote me an email to tell me how excited he was to be getting his first real piece of armor and how he couldn’t wait to wear it, etc. It was nice – I like getting customer feedback.
After he received it I got another email. This one extremely hostile in tone saying the armor had cut him and was unsafe and if I didn’t take it back for a full refund I was going to be hearing from his lawyer. Whoa. I wrote back asking how he had put it on. After all the armor wasn’t sharp and if it was worn over something (as it is supposed to be) it would be very hard to cut yourself with. The response was more threats so I refunded him and paid for the armor to be returned.
A month later I got another order from Logan. It was for a sword and it was followed by an email asking if the blade was sharpened. I responded saying, “No, the blade is not sharpened but could still be considered sharp. Was he sure he wanted it.” The answer was yes, he was thrilled about the sword, he went on to say how beautiful it was and he was going to use it for display. Okay… I sent it.
Another nasty email asking if I knew what the word sharp meant. Once again my product was too dangerous and if I didn’t pay for it to be returned I was going to be in big trouble. I sent a semi-terse email back suggesting that Logan was handling the sword incorrectly and I would pay for the return again but he was no longer allowed to order from A2 Armory.
The next month Logan ordered again. This time he didn’t even get the chance to send an email about how excited he was. I cancelled his order immediately. He still tries to place orders from time to time but they are never filled.
Lesson learned, don’t deal with these problem customers – cut them off at the knees, they will only waste your time and money.
A couple months after the Armory started to produce a steady income I decided to open a second store. I brainstormed, did a bunch of keyword research, and found a few drop shippers. I ultimately decided to open a store selling a line of dishware. I was meticulous about all the demand research I did and went in full force to build the store.
I had gotten everything in place – all my products, the site design, the merchant account, etc and it was ready to go. I started promoting it through paid ads and went to work getting it to rank in the natural search listings. In total I spent about two months dedicated to this store… all without looking closely enough at the supply side of the equation.
That was a major mistake. Ranking for every term related to my product line and bidding on the top spot in all the paid listings was my drop shipper. Their retail prices were too low for me to compete with, in some cases even lower than I could buy the items for.
They were unsympathetic when I called about it, saying their prices would not change. It was suggested that I concentrate on other ways of marketing like mail order or print ads and not try to compete with them. Yeah, okay, that’s ridiculous and I just wasted two months of work for absolutely nothing.
Lesson learned, do not neglect to research supply. Demand can be huge but if you can’t compete with other suppliers it won’t do you any good.
Learn from my mistakes, these are all big time and money wasters that will frustrate you and impede your forward progress.
How have I helped you?
Jaunary 31, 2010 I’m launching my first home-study-course… It’s a 12 week eCommerce Incubator designed to get your store up and profitable in 3 months. The image attached shows a game Ben and I are just now finishing creating that will accompany this launch…
Can you help us with a favor?
PLEASE TAKE A COUPLE MINUTES to really help Ben and I out! Your testimonials are what allow us to tell others that I provide valuable teaching.
The winning comment number will be announced this Friday – January 22nd – at Midnight EST here on the blog.
THANK YOU for your testimonials!
3 kinds of testimonials, please pick whichever one resonates with you
1) Specific increase testimonial
“Audrey’s eCommerce Incubator increased my business from ___ to ____ …
This could be dollar amounts, traffic or any specific measurable result you can help us brag with
2) General recommendation testimonial
“I recommend Audrey Kerwood because…
3) Transformative testimonial
“Audrey’s teaching taught me to see X when I was seeing Y… and this helped me to ____
This is usually how I got somebody unstuck or really turned on their profits
Write from the heart… don’t worry about editing or anything. We’re grateful for your willingness to support us in public through your testimonial!
To your continued success,