The summer has just started. That means you have plenty of time before the busy holiday online selling season arrives, right? Wrong.
Fall will be here before you know it, and you’ll need to have your product listings ready to go, as Black Friday and Cyber Monday near. Both days are huge for online sellers.
Last year, buyers spent $816 million online on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, according to researcher comScore. On Cyber Monday, the Monday after Thanksgiving, consumers spent $1.25 billion. On Thanksgiving, a day traditionally reserved for family gatherings and big meals, buyers spent $479 million online. Shoppers are again expected to start buying early, and you want to be ready.
Below are a few ways you can prepare for the upcoming selling season to make your holidays a little brighter—and less stressful.Back-to-school season can provide insight for the holidays, especially if you sell items aimed at kids or teens
Mid to late summer is the prime time to get started on preparations for the holiday online selling season. Some sellers start even earlier, notes Rebecca Miller, an eBay seller of more than 12 years.
“Some people start preparing for the next holiday season as soon as one holiday season ends,” she tells us. That’s when these merchants look at sales figures to review what sold well, what inventory they invested too much in, what they should avoid next time, etc. They also analyze the mistakes they made and how they can prevent these the next time around.
For Miller, the best time to start preparing for the holidays is July and August. “That’s when I really start going,” she notes. “You can see the selling season then, it’s so close.”
The ramp up begins with back-to-school season, she explains. During this time, you can find a lot of good products and insight into what will be hot for the holidays, especially if you sell items aimed at kids or teens.
Miller recommends talking to the kids and teens you know to see what brands and items they like—and want. Moms and dads might be in search of these items when November and December roll around.
“You really need to keep your ear to the ground,” Miller continues. “Check out what’s trending on Amazon and eBay, too.” Sites like eBay Pulse can be helpful here, as can trade magazines and seller forums.
Stick to what you know
But as you’re investigating potential trends, be careful of drifting too far from your area of expertise, Miller cautions. If you jump into selling products you don’t know much about, without thoroughly researching the market, you could end up with a lot of excess inventory—and you could lose money. This is especially true of clothing.
“You could come across a well-known brand and buy [a lot of items], and then come to find out that you bought the wrong color, or the wrong style,” Miller explains. “You were on the right trail, but you were blinded by the brand.”
Then you’re stuck with inventory that might not sell, even after the holidays.
Find sources of inventory, add holiday cheer
When you decide what you’ll be selling online, start looking for reliable product sources—and place your orders early, says Stephanie Inge, eBay education specialist and the founder of the Dallas eBaybes & eMales. Waiting too long could mean that the supplier you seek out in November or even late October won’t be able to take your orders because he’s out of stock or running low.
Have your holiday listings ready go live on Nov. 1 for eager shoppers who want to get the people on their lists crossed off quickly
Inge also suggests you start updating any listings you used last year that you know you’ll use this year, and start adding a seasonal cheer to your items with a holiday-themed template. If you have an online store, start thinking about changes to the home page that will make it warm, cheerful and “holiday-y.”
You also want to start updating your customer service policies and remind customers that you’re happy to combine shipping on multiple purchases and willing to ship to gift recipients—and consider offering gift wrapping as well, Inge continues.
As you’re making changes, emphasize your excellent customer service and fast shipping, she adds. The holidays can be a stressful time for buyers, and they’ll welcome the idea of working with a seller who will make their shopping experience easier.
Inge notes that you should have your holiday listings ready go live on Nov. 1. This way, eager shoppers who want to get the people on their lists crossed off quickly will have your inventory at their disposal.
Stock up on packing materials
You should also start getting your packing supplies together. To do this, you don’t have to spend a lot of money. In fact, you may not have to spend any money at all, Miller tells us. She reminds us that stores are often happy to give online sellers the boxes, air pillows, packing peanuts and other packing materials they get in shipments to their stores.
Giving them to you will help stores get the items off their hands at no cost. Just be sure to ask for their permission before going Dumpster diving.
Consider visiting a few types of stores, too. Furniture stores are a great source of packing supplies for larger items. Department stores are good source for smaller packaging.
Get the help you need
Finally, as you’re preparing for the upcoming selling season, consider joining an online sellers’ group on Facebook or in your community, Inge adds.
“Groups offer support, motivation and camaraderie, which are all very important to an eBay seller’s success,” she says.
How do you prepare for the holiday online selling season? Tell us in the comments below.