Colorful paper strips and confetti on the ground

On the 12th day of Christmas my true love gave to me…  or so I could sing each time I see a 12 Days of Christmas Sale during the holidays.  These sales events are pretty abundant during the holiday season with small shops.  And why not?  They’re the perfect way to make shoppers interested in your products.

This type of sale also gives you a great reason to reach out to your email subscribers and audience daily.  For twelve days.  What a fun sales model that wouldn’t really work for any other holiday.

Although I’ve clicked on a couple of these sales over the years and even bought an item or two (even though my Christmas list was finished), I never imagined setting a 12 Days of Christmas Sale up in my shop.  Until this year.

Close up of glittery ornament with the text overlay "The why and how of a 12 days of Christmas Sale"

The Why…

After looking over my sales for the last couple of years, I realized that December is my worst month of the year.  Customers are shopping for Christmas items and gifts – not planning children’s parties.  Most can’t even think about the year ahead or January birthdays yet.

In December, I usually just sit back and enjoy a month of rest.  My family is busy with Christmas preparations too and I’ve worked hard this year.  I deserve some downtime.  It also is a great month for creativity.  I take advantage of the extra time and use it to create new designs for the shop.

But, after many years of seeing poor December returns, I’m tired of it.  It’s not a great way to end the year or kick off January.

So this year, instead of just sitting back, I want to do something to improve them.  I start to think about what kinds of things my customers buy this time of year.  And what kinds of paper goods and gifts do they need to make their celebrations special.  There has to be something that I can design to keep them returning to the shop.

The problem is that creating a new holiday collection can be daunting.  It’s needs to be done early and follow the current trends.  This is why large companies hire teams of designers to work on this project in January and February.  They use researchers to predict the trends and create an assortment of products.  I’m usually just trying to stay afloat with the Valentine’s Day orders let alone ready to worry about the next tree decorating season.

As a team of one, it’s hard to create designs for the next holiday season so early.  A 12 Days of Christmas Sale provides a great tool to prepare.  It helps you stay organized and gets your creative vibes flowing.

This sale concept gives a structure to figure out the Christmas designs I want to create. Then, I have an automatic way to promote these products for the holidays.  As someone who has failed to create a buzz with their holiday product collections over the years, this was an excellent framework to use.

For my 12 days of Christmas sale, I brainstormed 12 different design ideas or categories.  For some of the sales offers I wanted to include just one product and others I wanted to promote a category of products.  Both can be done and I recommend planning a mix of each.

Choose products or designs that can be made in mass and delivered quickly to allow for scaling.  You would hate to put a specific necklace on sale, have customers purchase a large number of necklaces as gifts and not be able to fulfill orders.  Right before the holidays.

There are many other benefits for this kind of sale too.  Any sale helps drive more traffic to your shop.  People who might not normally stop by or click on the link will come check it out.  Even if these shoppers don’t buy, this is your chance to turn them into loyal fans.  This special type of fan usually returns to your shop at a later date and purchases for another reason.  Remember, to grow your shop, your main goal is to build a loyal fan base of customers excited about your work.  This is one way to do it.

Before launching your 12 Days of Christmas Sale, make sure that you have clear sign up offers for your newsletter list and social media accounts in your shop.  You could add a photo of the sign up offer to your product listing, put a link to the landing page in your product description or have a pop-up appear if you have your own website.  You might even want to create a special holiday freebie for signing up for your mailing list.

Writing a Christmas list with hot cider

The How….

To start planning for your own 12 Days of Christmas Sale, you need to brainstorm what products you would like to sell.  For our shop, I thought about different Christmas designs that customers would be interested in.  For example, my brainstorm list included gift tags, Santa letter, elf letter and teacher cards.

If you aren’t sure what your audience is interested in around the holidays, ask them.  Send out a survey or put the question on social media.  Your customers love to share their ideas for future designs.

I’ll admit the idea of 12 different products seemed daunting at first.  If you find 12 days of sales overwhelming to organize, you could cut the sale period in half to six and make a 6 Days of Christmas Sale.  Doesn’t have the same ring, but it could work.

Another idea is to take a completed item and break it down into a smaller piece. For example, if you make necklaces, you could sell the necklace as a finished product and then you could sell the beads in a DIY kit.  Or create a matching bracelet using the same beads.

Not all of the items that you include have to be Christmas themed.  It’s fine to include gift items or things already in your shop as part of the sale.  I only designed Christmas items because our stationery items aren’t usually purchased around the holidays.  They are pretty specific to the kind of event you are hosting and didn’t seem appropriate to include.  If you sell more generic gift items, though, you should create your sale around those.  Then, you wouldn’t need to make a separate holiday collection.

Christmas packages with pretty embellishments and the text overlay "The how and why of a 12 Days of Christmas Sale"

Once you have ideas on what you would like to include in the sale, write down each item or item category in one of the days.  You can download your free printable 12 Days of Christmas Sale Planner here.

Your calendar can include individual items (such as a piece of jewelry), a category of items (such as holiday notecards) or a mix of sales items.  We selected Christmas themed items and collections for the first eleven sale days.  Then, on the twelfth day I put our winter invitations on sale.  Many customers wait until the last minute to get ready for January and February celebrations, when they should be doing it in December.  I wanted to encourage earlier planning of these events and remind them to place their orders now.

However you decide to organize your sale, make sure there is one item or category on each day.

Next you need to set up your sale on your e-commerce platform.  If you sell on multiple platforms, I would set the sale to all of the platforms, but I recommend just promoting one of them.  Sending your customers to too many platforms just confuses them.  Pick the platform that you want your mailing list to be shopping from regularly and send them there.

If the products that you wish to include in the sale are not listed yet, you need to add them to your shop.  Do this as early as possible in your holiday shop preparation.  This let’s your listings gain traction in Etsy’s algorithm or on Google SEO.  The little bots need to come and read your listing multiple times to realize that it’s there.

I try to post holiday items in July and August if possible for the upcoming Christmas season.  This year, I added our Valentine’s Day designs to the shop in September and they already started selling in November.  I didn’t even know people were looking for them then.

If you rely more on organic search findings, then the earlier you can add the product the better.  It can take a full four months for new listings to truly start appearing when customers search for them.

You can set up your sale on individual products using any e-commerce platform.  For Etsy, you set up the sale through the Marketing tab.  You can select individual products that you’d like to put on sale and the length of each sale.  You would need to choose a different product for each day and set the sale for that specific day.

For Shopify, you would manually need to change the price of the product that you would like on sale.  Then, when the sale day is over, you would change back the prices.  You can find out more information about setting up sales in Shopify here.

Once your sales are set up for the twelve days, it’s time to promote your event.  This is where your email list becomes important.  You can set up 12 individual days of emails to your list promoting each item.  In each sales announcement, you need to let customers know what product is for sale and a link to the product.  Be sure to include a photo and information about the product too.  If you use an email marketing service, such as Mailchimp, you can find templates to help you design your sale announcement.

You also should create an announcement email telling customers that about your sale.  You can send it a few days ahead of time to create excitement and make sure your loyal fans are checking for your emails to see the daily deal.

Social media is another place you can promote your sale.  Instead of just telling your followers what’s on sale, you can use the sale as a chance to gain more newsletter subscribers.

First, announce the sale a few days in advance to your social media followers.  Let your followers know that you’ll be having an Exclusive 12 Days of Christmas sale only available to your mailing list subscribers.  Then provide links to your mailing list.  While the sale is going on, remind your followers about the promotion and that they need to sign up to your newsletter list to find out about the day’s deal.

This is a great way to convert social media followers to mailing list subscribers.  It’s where you want them to be anyway.

At the very end of the sale, consider following up with a thank you email to your mailing list.  Let them know how much you appreciate their business and wish them a wonderful new year.  You can also tell them about events, promotions and new products you’ll be offering next year.  You have their attention from the daily sales emails, so it’s the perfect time to let them know again how awesome your shop is.

I know that sounds like a lot of stuff.  And to do it right before the holidays…  To be honest you can set up your 12 Days of Christmas sale in the summer.  If your items are ready to go, you can write your promotional emails and schedule them for the 12 days of sales.  It doesn’t matter when you set them up, just when you send them.

Final Thoughts…

In order to run a successful 12 Days of Christmas Sale, it helps to have an email list to send the promotions too.  This sale is less successful when announced on Etsy Announcements each day or your Facebook business page.  Not saying that you can’t do it this way, but the results aren’t quite as awesome.

If you don’t have a robust mailing list yet, you need to focus on building one so you are ready for the next holiday season.  You can find lots of ideas for adding subscribers and creating content to send your list here.

The other key to a really good sale is to plan ahead.  You need to understand what items you want to promote and why.  Your year-long planning calendar should include all of your sale events and you need an overall marketing goal for each of them.

When you add sales at random (totally guilty) or because Etsy just flashed an announcement telling you to (it’s very persuasive), they are just a sale.  They won’t have a real purpose to your overall business growth.  Sales are great tools to get customers in the door, but they need to also help build your shop.

You will find the most success with this type of sale by planning ahead.  Know what you want to sell, how you want to promote it and how many sales you hope to make.

Now go get them this holiday season!