It might seem too early to talk about the C word, but if you’re an ecommerce brand, you’ve probs been thinking about, planning and implementing your Christmas to do list for months. And if you haven’t, we’re not going to tell you off, but maybe get on that ASAP.
I’m not an ecommerce business owner, but as a copywriter and content creator working with small businesses, I know this time of year can be a real juggling act. But y’know, some of those balls could actually do with being dropped.
I’m also not Mystic Meg, but it’s pretty likely that Christmas 2022 is going to look a little different to Christmas 2021… for many reasons. And that means that small businesses are going to have to shift a little when it comes to creating, marketing, and selling their wares.
There’s not going to be as much space to take risks, so this year we’re learning from past experiences and making more sensible decisions. We asked a whole bunch of lovely small businesses about things they did in the run up to Christmas last year, which they’re defo not doing this time around.
1. Meg won’t be making precise postage promises
We will not be promising orders are going to be dispatched on X date. We currently have a 2-4 day backlog, which we clear about once a month, but with Christmas it’s only going to get worse. Last year we said your order will be dispatched the next working day – we just can’t do that this year.
Meg runs No Frills Knitting, a lovely Bristol based knitting supplies shop. She sells all sorts of yarn, needles, patterns and so much more in her Bedminster shop, and online too. Have a browse of her Instagram @nofrillsknitting while you’re here.
I think it’s good to not make promises you can’t keep when it comes to postage. How long it takes for a package to arrive is kind of out of shop owners’ hands over the festive period – literally and metaphorically – and if you’re running a physical shop as well as online, you can’t always get to the post office when you hope to.
It’s good to keep expectations low and to encourage customers to buy gifts in really good time – make that as obvious as possible on your website, and start marketing for Christmas early, making sure to include postage info.
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2. Anna won’t be pouring time and love into intricate festive products
I hand-painted candles last Christmas, and while they were popular and I love the product, they took far too much time for the price I could realistically charge for them.
I will be sticking to products that can be made in batches rather than individually or manufactured by another local company. I’ll also be getting my 2023 calendar finished and sent to print waaaaay before the end of November.
Painstakingly crafted Christmas items are lovely, but as Anna said, the time it took for her to paint those candles didn’t really match up to the price she could charge for them. Batch-made products are much more cost effective, as well as having them ready well in advance.
3. Barbara won’t bother creating Christmas-specific gifts either
I’ll be steering away from creating new designs for products suitable as gifts. My creativity always makes me fall into this trap, and it’s stressful as there’s never enough time to do a completely new product justice. Instead I’ll be looking to re-package existing lines in seasonal ways.
Barbara Gadd from Vintage Patch sells vintage and secondhand clothing, handmade and upcycled items, and iron-on repair patches to jazz up your worn-out clothes. Find her on Instagram at @vintagepatchstyle.
You don’t have to have a specific Christmas-themed range. Repackaging or organising your existing items into gift categories on your website is a great way to present your products to people in a different way, and encourages people to buy them as Christmas gifts.
4. Lauren won’t be investing precious time and money in a lifestyle photoshoot
We did a dedicated lifestyle shoot for social media last year. It was hugely labour intensive, and whilst we loved the shots, the longevity just isn’t there.
I suppose I will get some use out of them this year, but our range has changed (and will change again over the next year) so ensuring that they’re still relevant after the Christmas they were shot for is quite hard.
I’m quite lucky in that some of the brands we stock do their own Christmas shoots and we can use those.
Lauren Coles runs Charnwood’s Child, selling beautiful quality kids’ clothing, toys and books with natural and imaginative play at the heart of the design. You can also find them at @charnwoodschild on Instagram.
With a regularly changing range of products, there’s a risk that photoshoots will have a short lifespan, especially if they’re Christmas-themed. Creating timeless shoots without too much focus on specific products, or using the brand’s own photography is a great solution.
5. Betsy won’t be trying to showcase all 400+ products
We won’t be trying to showcase everything we make over 6 weeks of social posts, when we make over 400 products. It was hard work and basically confusing for our customers. This year we’re going to focus on a top 10 of best sellers with some support products dotted in.
Trying to get every single product on social media in the run up to Christmas is unrealistic, unless you have a very limited range. I think Betsy is right to only showcase their bestsellers, as long as she makes it clear to her audience know that there are lots of other items to see on the website.
6. Isabella won’t be exhausting herself making Christmas products
This year I have decided not to make and sell any Christmas products – I will offer online tutorials instead. The reason being is that it was exhausting on top of my other offers.
This year I decided to go for ‘less is more’ and see if by concentrating on less offers I can give more value and better experience. I have also decided to bring back live workshops which have basically stopped since the pandemic. I believe in and crave real connections with creative women.
Isabella is a macrame artist who helps people explore their creativity and mindfulness through her workshops, as well as helping other artists to build successful businesses. You can find out more on the Isabella Strambio website, or on her Instagram @_twome.
I think it’s great that Isabella has identified what aspect of her business she values and enjoys more, and is focussing on that. Offering online tutorials in the run up to Christmas will be great for those of us who like to make gifts to give to loved ones, as well as those who like to give experiences as gifts.
7. Kate won’t be booking the big name shopping centre Christmas market
Emma and I did a market in Cabot Circus and it was a total flop! It has though taught me to reflect on what events would be beneficial to me.
At the time I thought, “yeah, Cabot Circus… Christmas… it’s a winner,” but it turned out no one was in the mindset for buying handmade there. So many comments about things being overpriced (pffft). It definitely wasn’t the right setting at all. One good thing though is that we snuck off and got spicy warm cider.
Christmas markets must feel like a great idea if you’re a product based business – people are heading there to buy Christmas gifts, right? Cabot Circus in Bristol is filled with high street chains, so people probably head there for mass produced stuff, rather than lovingly handmade products from a small business.
The type of market and location make a huge difference to whether you’ll sell or not, so it’s best to put some time into researching, and ask for recommendations from your small biz pals too.
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8. Hannah won’t be busting her butt to make Christmas-themed jewellery
Last year, I created a limited line of earrings for charity – they were snowflakes and holly berries, all beautiful and hand-pressed in brass, and £4 from each pair were going to go to Crisis or Samaritans, depending on the pair you bought.
Anyway, I made a total of £12 for charity and I still have a bazillion pairs of Christmas earrings that no one wants, even if they were for charity.
My lesson? People don’t want to buy earrings they can only wear at Christmas – I won’t be wasting my time with festive designs this year, just the usual!
It’s such a lovely idea to create a Christmas product with proceeds going to charity, but that also makes it extra disheartening when you don’t sell many. It’s lovely to have festive items, but really, timeless products are better for both business owner and customer in a lot of ways, as they can be sold and used all year.
9. Amy won’t be going all-out during a quiet quarter
For the first time in my greetings card business, I haven’t designed a new Christmas range. For 2021, I went big: new products, updated products, professional photography, stocked up on packaging, signed up for online markets, featured in gift guides.
Although some things did sell OK, it was a pretty quiet Q4 for a lot of time investment.
This year, I’ll be focusing on sorting my website, SEO, growing my email list, and wholesale. Plus, observing how Christmas shopping habits shift this year, and ideally selling most of my existing stock.
But I’m mainly using this season to get my business positioned well for 2023.
I love how Amy is actively learning from past experiences to improve her small business. Going all-out with her Christmas range last year didn’t produce the results she hoped for, so why would she put that much effort in for another year? Focussing on her website, email marketing and wholesale this year will show benefits all year round.
10. Militza won’t be panic buying ads or holding competitions
I will be trying to stay clear of two things: first, ads, particularly Facebook and Instagram ads. In the past I have panicked and bought ads that do not deliver.
Second, putting too much effort into Instagram – I agree with Aime, I will do the bare minimum to keep it alive and most certainly will not be running an Instagram contest/competition.
Instagram is a tricky one, especially right now. We’ve written a whole dang blog post about it – 35 small business owners tell us why they’ve fallen out of love with Instagram in 2022 – and I’m sure since that was published, there are a bunch more reasons.
It’s good to show your audience what you’ve got and to connect with your community, but with engagement as it is, it’s probably better to invest your time and money in other things, like email marketing – read our blog, Here’s why small businesses need email marketing.
Perhaps it’s time to have a little think about what you were spending time and money on in your small business this time last year which didn’t give much return, and then go forth and get your Christmassifying underway 🎄