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Holiday Tips from ‘Seasoned’ Sellers

Top strategies for keeping the seasonal frenzy under control

Santa’s elves have nothing on you. Sure, you may not be hammering out toy trains or painting the faces of beautiful porcelain dolls to stuff under Christmas trees, but you are hard at work filling orders, wrapping items and making sure shipments arrive at their destinations on time to help your buyers and their gift recipients feel the warmth of the holidays.

But among all the rush of the holiday selling frenzy, wouldn’t it be nice to have one of those little elves explain exactly how Santa keeps all his deliveries in order, and keeps his recipients happy?

Well, we couldn’t score an interview with one of Santa’s elves–they’re just too busy this time of year—but we asked some seasoned online sellers to share some of their best holiday selling tips to help you keep everything under control this busy holiday selling season.

Give a little, gain a lot

Rebecca Miller, an eBay seller of more than 12 years, suggests including a freebie with your shipments to fill buyers with the holiday spirit, and make it more likely they’ll return to you at other times of the year when they need a gift.

Freebies are a great way to impress buyers, show them how valuable their business is to you—and a great incentive for them to leave positive feedback, the Top-rated seller adds.

“Who doesn’t like to receive a bonus gift in their package?” she says.

When Miller mails out toys, she includes a small item that would make a great stocking stuffer and complements the item her buyer bought. For example, if she sells a Sesame Street toy, she might include a few Sesame Street stickers, she says.

“A few years ago I sold a few Bratz dolls and accessories, and the dollar store had packs of Bratz lip balm. I bought some and included a few lip balms in the package when I mailed it,” she recalls. “The buyer was super grateful for the freebie, and it just cost me a dollar.”

Sure enough, her customer left Miller great feedback.

A lot of people get stumped on what to buy for someone. I know I do, so plant the seed

Spread the ‘fuzzy feeling’ of the holidays

Stephanie Inge, the founder of The Dallas eBaybes & eMales and an eBay seller of 13 years, suggests “bringing the holidays into your listings.” This means not only using holiday-themed templates, but also being friendly and thanking buyers for their business.

“Wish them a merry Christmas,” Inge adds. “Do everything you can to give them that fuzzy feeling to let them know that when they do business with you, they’ll have nothing to worry about.”

Being professional and cordial will reassure shoppers they’ll get their items quickly and as described. It will also help buyers remember you later on.

You can also boost buyers’ confidence by making gift-shopping easy, Inge continues.

“Try to plant the seed,” she explains. “Tell customers this will make the perfect gift for that special person. A lot of people get stumped on what to buy for someone. I know I do, so plant the seed.”

You may want to have a few suggestions for perfect gifts for mom, dad, siblings, or you could just simplify it to “great gifts for her” and “great gifts for him.”

And don’t forget that buyers might be feeling the time crunch as Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, New Year’s and other holidays near—especially last-minute shoppers. Inge suggests using this to your advantage by offering extra services that will save customers time, such as gift wrapping or sending a purchase directly to the gift recipient.

“During this time, people are in a hurry,” she notes. Having these options available to buyers might be what they need to decide to stop shopping around and buy from you, the seller who makes holiday buying easier.

Stick to what you know

Jane Carter, the owner of Carter Collectibles, says sellers should avoid unreliable shipping services.

“Buyers won’t thank you for the hassle,” she notes.

Instead, stick to shipping services you’ve used in the past that have proven reliable. She also suggests taking advantage of the discounts eBay is offering sellers during the holidays.

From Thanksgiving through Christmas Day, eBay will give sellers a boost in search results if they offer free shipping and one-day handling times. Sellers who do this will also get a 20-percent discount on final value fees. Top-rated sellers will get an extra 20-percent discount over other discounts they may also qualify for, eBay notes.

The promotion could give sellers more views, and it could definitely reduce selling fees.

A lot of (the rush) is going to be people shopping at the last minute

Act… fast

John Weaver, owner of Spa-llywood.com, a Web store specializing in travel-sized spa products and toiletries, has a simple suggestion: stock up.

“Be ready,” he says.

The days ahead will definitely be some of the busiest you’ll have, and you’ll have to work fast. You’ll need to fill orders quickly and run, not walk, to the post office. And when people have questions, answer them promptly, Weaver notes.

“People don’t like to wait,” he continues.

Tim Blair, co-owner of Wells Antiques and Collectibles on eBay, seconds that opinion. He says prompt shipping is always key during the holidays.

“A lot of (the rush) is going to be people shopping at the last minute,” he reminds us. “You need to ship it fast, because they’re probably going to want (the item) to arrive by the holiday.”

Offer free shipping

Weaver adds that offering free shipping might also be the bait buyers need to buy from you and not someone else. Why is this? Because when you offer free shipping, “the price you see is the price you pay, so there are no surprises—which is a good thing around the holidays,” when buyers already have a lot to think about, and expenses to make, he notes.

eBay seller and educator Skip McGrath also speaks highly of offering free shipping during this festive time.

“Normally I don’t like free shipping,” he admits. “The cost of shipping today is such that it’s pretty hard to make a decent margin or keep up a high sell-through rate with the added cost of free shipping. But the holidays are different. During the holidays people are less price conscious, and more about ‘I want it now.'”

He started offering free shipping during the holidays three years when the economy began struggling, and it proved to be a good move. “My sales with free shipping held up well, even in the poor economy,” he notes.

He also suggests storing items at Amazon fulfillment centers so Amazon will deal with the shipping, not you. “When you sell something on Amazon, they ship it for you,” he adds. “When you sell something on eBay, you just tell Amazon to ship it to your customer, but Amazon gives you its low corporate shipping rate, which is far lower than you can get on your own.”

These are just some tips to help you get the most out of the holidays for your business. Keep these in mind as you make your way through the final, frenetic weeks of the holiday rush, and we’re sure you’ll have a merry selling season. Who knows, you might even draw in new buyers who’ll come back to shop with you in 2012 when they need a gift for someone special, or even themselves.

About the author

Olga Munoz
Olga Munoz is editor of TheOnlineSeller.com. In addition to writing news and feature articles about e-commerce, selling trends, online marketing and other topics of interest to online sellers, Olga manages the site's social media efforts. A journalism graduate of Chico State, Olga says her favorite part of being a journalist is learning interesting facts that help put stories into perspective, attending industry events and meeting interesting people "that leave you smiling, even in tough situations." Opinions expressed here may not be shared by The Online Seller and/or its principals.

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