Christmas is by far the busiest time of year for buying and selling handmade. Lots of designers and makers depend on Christmas sales for the majority of their income, and on Folksy around a third of all sales happen in the weeks leading up to Christmas – peaking in weeks 49 and 50 (or between 1-16 December). If you get your Christmas preparations right, you’ll be ready to make the most of this short but fruitful sales period. Here are some tips…
The early bird catches the press
When it comes to Christmas press, it pays to be prepared. Monthly magazines start putting together their Christmas issues in the summer – this year our first press requests started coming through in August. Here at Folksy we begin working on our Christmas gift guides in September (although we keep adding to them right up until mid-December), so to catch maximum press coverage, your products need to be designed, made, photographed and listed early – if you haven’t already listed your products in August, start listing them now!
Have the right photos ready
When journalists approach us at this time of year they have normally either found products they are interested in featuring or want us to submit suggestions for their Christmas gift guides. In both cases they need us to provide good, high-resolution images. Sometimes although we start with a long list of possible products, only one or two will make it into the publication, and quite often none of the products put forward end up on the pages. This is normally down to the images not being good enough.
To maximise your chances of being featured you need a good selection of high-quality, high-resolution images available and ready to send straight away. Some magazines want lifestyle images while others need cut-outs (a photograph where the background has been removed so the product can be placed directly on to a page). Use your five allotted image spaces on each listing to show the different types of photos you have available, and try to have a lifestyle image and a cut-out shot for each product.
As a general guide print publications need photos to be:
- at least 1000 x 1000 pixels
- 300 dpi
- no larger than 8MB
- measure at least 10cm x 10cm
It’s a good idea to stock up on your items before the Christmas selling period kicks in. Christmas sales generally start to ramp up around week 45 – or the beginning of November – so having as many products as possible made and ready to go before then leaves you free to focus your efforts on promoting, packing and posting. Try to plan your Christmas range so there are products and prices for different pockets – from small stocking fillers to big gifts. Use the quieter summer months to create your pieces (making in batches can be a more efficient way of working) and order all your supplies, so you’re not caught short when you really need something.
Optimise your titles and descriptions
Set aside some time to review your listings and see if you can make them more relevant for the Christmas period – having the right product titles and descriptions can hugely increase your chance of being found by Christmas shoppers. Think about how how people will be searching for gift ideas, and how you can help your product show up in their searches. If they’re looking for a present idea for a baby, for example, they might type ‘gift for babies’ into the Folksy search – if, in your item description, you’ve written that your product would be ‘a great gift for babies and newborns’, your product should then return in their search. Likewise, lots of people look for stocking filler ideas at Christmas, so if your product would make a good stocking filler, add that to the title and description.
Make sure you include all the information a buyer might want – dimensions, material and colour are all essential. As well as making the decision to buy easier, this will also ensure your product shows up if people search by any of those criteria – someone might not search for a ‘deer hand warmer‘, for example, but they might search for ‘green linen’, in which case having those keywords in your title or description will push your product into their search results.
Reach your perfect Christmas shopper
With so much competition online, any particular product only has a small chance of showing up in generic searches on Google (a search like ‘handmade Christmas present’, for instance). It’s much more likely to show up in a specific search though, so it’s worth focusing your efforts on improving your results here. To give you an example: Christmas Shopper No. 1 searches for ‘Christmas stockings’ on Google, while Christmas Shopper No. 2 searches for ‘hand-printed mini stockings‘. These stockings by Linen and Lisle only have a small chance of being seen among the thousands of other products in Search 1, but rank very highly in Search 2. Crucially, Christmas Shopper No. 2 is probably more likely to buy Laura’s stockings than Christmas Shopper No. 1 because they match their specific criteria – plus, as their original search specified ‘hand-printed’, Shopper No.2 is more likely to value craft and be prepared to pay a higher price for something made by hand by a skilled designer/maker.
So take some time to really think about who your perfect customer is, what they like and what they will be searching for. Again, for Laura’s stockings the perfect customer is likely to be someone who appreciates contemporary craft and design, covets fabrics, patterns and beautiful interiors, and likes Fair Isle prints, Folk Art and Scandinavian style. In which case, including keywords which relate to those in your product title and description means your perfect customer is more likely to find you during one of their online searches.
Pinterest is the second biggest referrer for Folksy and a very effective way of getting your work in front of Christmas shoppers. Good photos are critical to getting your work pinned, but so are titles. That’s because when someone ‘pins’ your product from Folksy, Pinterest takes the product title and price from your listing and automatically uses this as the pin description. A lot of Pinners leave this description unedited, so if you make your product title relevant, descriptive and compelling, other Pinners are more likely to find it and repin it on their boards. More people pinning your products = more people likely to buy it. A word of warning though, Pinterest does not look favourably on titles filled with irrelevant keywords and warns that “pins with generic, keyword-stuffed descriptions may be demoted in search”. Incidentally, the same is true for hashtags and Pinterest cautions that “having too many of them in your descriptions may negatively impact your ranking“.
With so many products on the market all vying for the attention of Christmas shoppers, you can put yourself ahead of the competition by offering special incentives like next-day postage, gift-wrapping, personalisation and special discounts (for instance, free delivery for a limited period or 10% off all orders in November). A lot of people like to get their Christmas shopping done in one go, so encourage them to buy as many of their presents as possible from your shop by offering free postage on additional items. Promote any special offers in the listing description and across your social media channels.
Make your postage fast and inexpensive
Speedy delivery is always important but even more so at Christmas – buyers won’t order from you unless they are sure it will be delivered before Christmas. One of the reasons many shoppers choose to buy from the big online retailers rather than independent makers is because they trust them to deliver on time. So reassure buyers their purchase will be delivered quickly. Be clear about the shipping times on each listing and state your last shipping dates for different countries. If you can post something the same day, do, and grab a surge of late sales by offering last-minute delivery as an option. It’s worth taking a few minutes to go through all your listings and make sure the delivery periods are correct. Try to keep your shipping costs as low as possible because expensive postage is another reason buyers give for choosing to buy from larger online stores rather than buying directly from makers.
If you’re expecting to send a lot of items you could sign up to the Drop & Go service from the Post Office, and spend less time standing in Christmas Post Office queues and more time selling – plus if you catch one of their promotions Drop & Go can save you money on parcel postage.
Communicate your Christmas message
It’s especially important to keep up your social media presence leading up to the Christmas period. Take some time to plan a simple social media strategy for Christmas. A good goal to aim for is to post between two to four things each day, and to alternate the kind of content you post – so rather than spamming people with your products, share things you have found, run competitions, show people what’s going on behind-the-scenes, give them glimpses of your beautiful Christmas wrapping and packaging, shout about your special offers, and generally be merry and bright!
(Featured image: Red Deer Hand Warmer by Charlotte Macey)