5 Tips for 2021 Holiday Sales
Holiday sales are key times for maker-based businesses. This year is filled with unique challenges and makers need to be ready to adapt. If you plan to operate the 2021 holiday season like years past, you are setting yourself up for increased obstacles and decreased profit. This article will discuss the current state of the 2021 Holiday market and 5 Tips on how to navigate it successfully.
The State of the Market
The 2021 Holiday Market is shaping up to be a unique environment to navigate this year. After spending the past 18 months trying to recover from a pandemic, consumers are eager for normalcy and the economy is having some growing pains while it tries to stabilize.
There are 3 key traits that make selling this year different than years past:
1: Supply Chain Crisis And Shortages
It is no secret that the supply chain is suffering from severe bottlenecks as companies begin to recover and rebuild their inventory after a stagnant and unclear 2020 sales season. This bottleneck is having ripple effects across ALL industries and markets.
You should plan your product catalog and delivery around supply chain shortages and shipping delays. This applies to BOTH domestic and international materials or orders. Due to raw materials and land transit backlogs, even local distributors are falling victim to the supply chain crisis.
2: Rising Costs
Due to the supply chain crisis, you should anticipate rising costs for materials and shipping. For companies rushing to get inventory on their shelves before the holiday, they are being hit with much heavier shipment costs which will result in higher prices for the consumer. Also due to supply and demand, companies know they can charge more for space on their delivery trucks or for the goods on their shelves. Consumers are eager for a "normal" Christmas this year and will pay a premium to get what they want when they want it.
3: High Customer Expectations
Customers always have high expectations, especially when it comes to the holidays. You can expect to feel the pressure from customers even higher this year. Most shoppers are feeling an intense need to recapture the holiday season after the 2020 covid holiday restrictions. This means eager moms trying to package up two years worth of magic for their kids before they get too old or families seeing each other for the first time in over a year wanting to go big with meaningful gifts. On the flipside you have a large percentage of consumers still trying to recover from the financial and employment hits that came with 2020. For these consumers, they will be highly sensitive to making sure they get the most out of their limited budget. When you add in the fact, that most of these shoppers have had little customer-service interactions over the past year and a half you can expect to have a lot more messages, phone calls, and customer guidance than you may have been used to in the past.
Keeping the state of the market in mind, let's dive into the 5 Tips for Your 2021 Holiday Sales!
1: Plan Ahead!
Due to the supply chain crisis, potential material shortages, and delivery lead times the most important thing you can do this season is to plan ahead.
Plan your Supplies: Start this holiday season, by planning out all your required materials and workshop accessories to buy ahead of time. While it is common for makers to only buy certain materials once an order is placed, that can be setting you up for incomplete orders this year. For several vendors, what they have in stock now is all they will have between now and the end of the year. Do not assume you can wait until an order is placed or a black friday sale hits to stock up on everything you need. Going back to a customer after they placed their order to offer an alternative solution or style is an easy way to lose a sale or get a negative review.
Plan your alternatives: If your budget, business model, or storage does not allow you to stock up all your materials of choice now - have alternatives ready! For every material, adhesive, blank, or vendor you need to fulfill your holiday product catalog find an alternative. I recommend creating a spreadsheet that lists all of your materials and miscellaneous supplies and matching it with an alternative in case your go-to is no longer available. For example, do you use our dark red mirror for an ornament? Maybe you list our bright red mirror or maroon mirror as an alternative? Do you normally buy your 3m adhesive sheets by the roll from someone on Facebook? Where else can you get those sheets in a bind? What other adhesive could you use if 3m is completely unavailable?
Plan your Plan B: On top of making sure you have your materials and alternatives planned, make sure your workshop and tools are covered as well.
- Order spare parts that you may need now for your laser cutting machine or other workshop tools
- Connect with a local facebook group to find other machines you may be able to borrow in a pinch (ex. Glowforge Houston)
- Be kind to other makers and be open to trading and lending machine time, parts, or materials if the need arises
2: Optimize Your Product Catalog
During the Holiday Season, you have a short amount of time to maximize your orders and profit. To do this, you want to streamline your holiday offerings based on materials and effort. It is a common practice to list any and all products during the holiday and wait to see what sells. By starting with a large catalog and reducing based on demand you run the risk of stretching your materials and assembly time too thin. Instead optimize your catalog with the below strategies:
Prioritize Consistency Over Variety
What products do you know you can reliably produce based on available time and materials? Are there products that rely on similar materials or assembly methods? Pare down your catalog to similar and high producing items. Do not try to appeal to every shopper at every price point in every style. While it may not seem like it, pivoting from one disparate style to another creates a strain on your assembly process and your mental bandwidth.
Create Up-Sell Opportunities
It is much easier to convince an existing customer to buy an additional item, than to attract a new customer. Ask yourself, where can there be added value to your catalog? Remember most holiday shoppers are shopping for multiple people as well as for their own home and enjoyment. You can create several different products that encourage additional purchases or larger cart-sizes. Here are a few of my favorite examples:
- Custom Gift Tags: Encourage customers to add a custom gift tag or stocking tag to their order. Don’t have time for a custom tag? Offer a standard gift tag or stocking tag design that they can personalize themselves.
- Family Bundles: Create a bundle for customers to purchase one for the whole family! When offering bundles, don’t be discouraged by offering steep discounts. Typically, just showing the option of a family bundle, or quantity bundle increases conversions even if there is no financial incentive or just a small incentive.
- A Gift for You: Offer a free-gift or a slightly discounted gift for the shopper to add to cart when purchasing a certain product or bundle. For example, include a free ornament for any order over X amount.
- Opening Gift: Do you have a custom gift that may not be ready in time for the holidays? Or maybe the shopper has purchased a gift that can’t be “opened” on Christmas day like a trip or a car. For those people offer an “opening gift”! An opening gift could be either a stock item such as an ornament or a smaller-customized item like a keychain. The great thing about opening gifts is that they give you an add-on option but they also give you an option to still capture the business for customers who inquire too late for a custom piece to arrive by the holidays.
Adapt to Last Minute Trends
Every year there is that must-have gift that no one knew about. Track your own product sales to see if you have an unlikely winner. If you are lucky enough to have an runaway product, be ready to capitalize on it with increased marketing, adding to a bundle, or upgrading it with a personalized option or additional material selection. Don’t forget to keep your pulse on other holiday sellers, there could be a product or file you can easily integrate into your current catalog too!
3: Set Early Commissions
If I am being honest, this article should have come out right after Halloween so the time for early commissions is already filling up! However, these are still some helpful tips for anyone who is also struggling with the transition from spooky season to winter holidays!
Securing early commissions is a great way to ensure your materials, labor, and delivery. The more commissions you book early in the season, the more time you have to plan where your focus needs to be to round out your holiday sales season. In an ideal world you could book your entire sales season with early commissions and only offer easy standard products during the rest of the season online.
To encourage early commissions, try the following:
Communicate your timeline to customers now and frequently: Use your social media, product listings, and email list to notify customers that you are accepting commissions, have a limited number of slots available, and that commissions will close by X date. You should also communicate when orders should be finalized to guarantee a Christmas delivery date. This transparency in communication will create a sense of urgency in shoppers and they will appreciate the notice.
Book Commissions at Craft Fairs and Holiday Markets: Too often I see crafters ask for non-custom ideas to sell at craft markets. Customized products should be just as much a part of your in-person markets as any other standard product. At your booth, have a separate display with examples of customized products. This display can include product examples, pictures, lookbooks with options, and more. You could even communicate your commission timeline and delivery to further illustrate the urgency to get their commitment before they leave your booth. The key to success is to take payment for any commissions right then and there! You can do this by having a special form and electronic payment to confirm a commission request. I recommend using Jotform or having a pre-set product listing on your ecommerce site to process the commission details and payment in-person. Do NOT tell shoppers interested in custom pieces to just email you when they get home. Putting off a shopper’s commitment is saying goodbye to a sale.
Offer Early Bird Incentives: Encourage early commitments by offering a special discount or free gift for any custom orders placed by a certain date. Having trouble filling your custom slots? Feel free to market an incentive for any committed orders throughout the entire holiday season. You can market new available slots, last-minute slots, etc. Just continue to communicate your willingness to take on new requests and customers will respond accordingly.
4: Minimize Waste
With rising costs and long lead times, it is critical to operate efficiently now more than ever. Wasted materials, service, and effort leads to wasted profit.
Avoid unnecessary waste with the following tips:
Avoid Wasted Materials:
- Plan and optimize your material cuts using a tool like workshopbuddy
- Create product offerings that are specifically made to use the scrap pieces from your larger products. These can be earring studs, gift tags, ornaments, etc.
- ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS DO A TEST CUT
- For laser users, even when recommended settings are provided every laser is different based on maintenance and lifecycle. Never assume the settings will work and cut your entire project at once. Always do a small test cut and adjust as needed.
Avoided Wasted Service
- Create response templates using social media and e-commerce tools. Most platforms allow you to set up automatic messaging and to store generic responses for frequently asked questions. Identify your most commonly sent responses and set them up as stored messages.
- If you don’t have a service to store canned responses, create a word document or spreadsheet of all your template responses to easily copy and paste as needed.
- Communicate product offerings and store policies clearly and frequently. Put as much information as you can on your product listings, product pictures, checkout screen, etc. The more communication customers have access to the less likely they will be able to claim they were unaware in case an issue does occur. It will also save you time from re-typing a response when you can instead redirect the customer to a specific part of your website or order form.
Avoid Wasted Effort:
- Be sure to save all your settings and files in a designated place. If you end up troubleshooting a new material or design have a place with those notes and the process you followed.
- Pay attention to your packaging. With shipping delays your packages can be in transit longer and handled by increasingly burnt-out carriers. Spend that extra time and money to securely package your order and minimize the risk of goods arriving broken. Remember during the holidays, a broken product may not be able to be replaced in time for Christmas day. This means customers may be more likely to request a refund instead of being willing to wait for a replacement.
- Create an assembly line or process to complete similar tasks in order. Instead of completing one individual product at a time, it may be more effective to complete products in batches. For example, do all the cutting for 5 signs at once and then move on to the painting or assembly. Your brain and body will appreciate completing like-tasks together instead of hopping from item to item.
5: Maintain Momentum:
Maker businesses often take a much-needed break after the holidays. You can take a breather and still capitalize on your recent exposure for future sales.
Return Campaigns: Create a marketing campaign to encourage new orders for upcoming events like valentine's days or birthdays. Here are some ideas to encourage returning orders:
- Include a thank you note with a discount off future orders
- Email New 2022 product launches or valentine's day gifts
- Send a follow-up email inquiring about their most recent order and showcase some new items they may be interest in
Don’t Turn Away Late Orders: Did someone miss your store cut-off or asked about a commission too late for a Christmas arrival? If you are transparent about the delivery period, encourage late inquiries to place an order for later delivery. You could offer an opening gift to be delivered by Christmas while they wait on the final gift to arrive after the holidays. For customers that aren’t interested in that option, follow-up after the holidays and see if they would be interested in having that custom product in time for valentine’s day or an upcoming birthday/anniversary.
Turn Corporate Gifts into Personal Gifts: If you happen to secure a corporate account, see if you can include your store information in the gift packaging. Ideally you can include a post card with product information and even offer a discount specific to those employees. Worst case scenario you should be able to at least provide a business card or branded tag on your merchandise. Corporate accounts are a terrific way to expose your business to new customers who have already enjoyed your work.
It is an exciting time to be a maker-based business and a shopper of maker-businesses! Whether you are a lasercutting business making custom signs or a vinyl crafter selling cute décor now is the time to take your business from a side hustle to a holiday powerhouse. We hope our tips help you maximize your holiday sales potential and save you from unnecessary headaches.
To stock up on your holiday laser-cutting materials and laser-ready acrylic sheets shop our selection at www.houstonacrylic.com!