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Sales for All Seasons

Adapt your online offerings to attract shoppers at the holidays, and all year long.

Although the online marketplace is open for business 365 days a year, many sellers wonder whether the annual holiday periods (such as Memorial Day weekend, Fourth of July or Christmas time) are a boon or bust for sell-through rates.

While it’s true that some buyers will take a break from online shopping during seasonal celebrations, long-time sellers have found there are still plenty of opportunities to increase sales amid our favorite festive occasions. Here are some strategic selling points to ponder as you manage your holiday sales and keep your sales flowing for all seasons.

Rotate your stock

Perhaps the most significant key to maximizing sales around the changing seasons and celebrations is to strategically position items of timely interest. For example, since Memorial Day often heralds the onset of the fun-in-the-sun season, be sure to have those Summer-related goods prominently displayed within your virtual store or auction listings. Then, as Independence Day approaches, shift your offering emphasis to patriotic and even election-related goods. And, speaking of elections, remember to make the most of election cycles, as those are the times many folks seek vintage election memorabilia.

Whatever the season, event or holiday might be, you can expect buyers will be inclined to purchase relevant goods—either current or vintage—that embody the spirit and celebration of the moment. Of course, be sure to get a jump on other sellers by placing and advertising these goods before the season or event arrives. Since buyers have learned the importance of staying ahead of the crowds, be especially attentive to helping them with their holiday-related purchases, making those available several weeks ahead of time. Oh, and be sure to consider the time it will take to get those goods into your customers’ hands—make sure they can have them in time.

Have your listings end in time to complete the transaction and deliver the goods to your buyers before the holiday arrives

Holiday-friendly auctions

These days, when buyers are looking for that certain something to help them celebrate an event or occasion, many will turn to eBay for a fast find and a quick fix. Of course, this is a perfect venue for you to offer items, even if you already sell at a dedicated Web site of your own. Extend your sales reach and store or brand awareness by listing on eBay, especially during holiday periods, where you stand the chance to increase your clientéle long after the holiday has passed.

Now, when you decide to list seasonal items on eBay, be sure to give special consideration to the duration of your auction. Plan to have your listings end in plenty of time to complete the transaction and deliver the goods to your buyers before the holiday arrives. Bidders and buyers at eBay focus their attention on listings that will ensure the items can be in-hand in time.

And, be attentive to the buyers’ desire for shortened auction durations such as a five- or three-day run. These are the sorts of listings that usually entice buyers to bid on or buy your items, knowing they can wrap up business quickly rather than wait out a seven-day or even those seemingly unending 10-day stints. Then, don’t forget the immediate drawing power of a Buy It Now listing that helps those particularly antsy buyers to grab the goods immediately.

Planning a perfect ending

A matter that often seems puzzling to sellers is whether it’s good business to attempt to wrap up fixed-price and auction sales on an actual holiday date—that is, after pushing away from the Thanksgiving table, do folks settle in and surf eBay? And, is it true that some people actually log on and shop on Dec. 25?

Apparently, they do. In fact, I actually took time last November and December to monitor eBay auction activity and was astounded to see so much active bidding on the respective holidays, finding that auctions ending in the evening fared better than those closing earlier in the day.

So, although folks actively shop online all year ’round, it’s generally not prudent to target an actual holiday date in an attempt to close a high number of sales. The results can be hit or miss since the added holiday activity can sometimes hamper timely response from your buyers, potentially causing them to delay their payment for items won.

Be sure you and your buyer agree to the shipping method and delivery expectation before the package leaves your hands

Instead, consider straddling the holiday, so to speak, enabling shoppers to find your goods before, during and after the day has passed (for auctioning, this would suggest listing an item on, say, July 1 with a closing date of July 5 or July 7). By this method, you’ll be more apt to catch the attention of shoppers who browse before the holiday, those who might find some surfing time during the holiday and those who will resume their online hunting after a calendar event has passed.

The need for speed

Holiday shoppers (especially those purchasing during the annual winter gift-giving season) are often in need of fast service. Help take the stress out of their shopping by accepting instant payment, e.g., credit cards or other online payment methods, so the transaction can be completed in minutes. Then, consider offering special shipping services to these buyers (such as FedEx Overnight, UPS Second Day or USPS Express Mail) if the goods need to be received before a holiday. The availability of easy payment and fast shipping options could determine whether a buyer will purchase from you or shop elsewhere. And be sure you and your buyer agree to the shipping method and delivery expectation before the package leaves your hands.

Post-holiday sales

Finally, consider this: Just as retail venues seek to clear out holiday leftovers, so, too, should you cater to the online post-holiday shopper. After a holiday passes, sellers can typically find a resurgence of buyers still interested in holiday-related goods or looking to get the jump on the next celebration. Rotate emphasis of timely goods, adjust your overall offerings accordingly, then cater to the season just-past as well as positioning for the next season on the horizon.

About the author

Dennis L. Prince
Dennis L. Prince has been analyzing and advocating the e-commerce sector since 1996. He has published more than 12 books on the subject, including How to Sell Anything on eBay...and Make a Fortune, second edition (McGraw-Hill, 2006) and How to Make Money with MySpace (McGraw-Hill, 2008). His insight is actively sought within online, magazine, television and radio venues. Opinions expressed here may not be shared by The Online Seller and/or its principals.

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