Colorful ice cream cones covered with sprinkles for summer

Oh, summer how I love thee.  Summer is one of my favorite times the year.  It’s a chance to relax, hang out with family and play outdoors.

The one thing about summer that can be tough, though, is that sales in your online shop can be slow.  Like really slow.  If you don’t plan ahead with some creative summer marketing, these months can be difficult to keep growing.  

But, the good news is that you can use the theme of summer to come up with new ways to interact with your customers.  You just need to get creative.

Here are some of my favorite creative summer marketing ideas that I’ve used over the years to keep my current audience excited and boost my summer sales despite the season’s usual slowness.  

Homemade fruit popsicles with the text overlay "Marketing 101: Creative Summer Marketing Ideas for your Online Shop"

Take your Products on Vacation

Do you ever find that your products stay cooped up in your studio space all year long?  Since we sell digital products, most of them remain on my computer unless I print them out for a photo shoot.

Summer is a great time for your products to break loose.  If you have a vacation planned, why not bring them with you.  Wear your new pair of earrings while dancing on the beach.  Showcase your digital art prints with an actual mountain backdrop.  And take pictures.

Customers love to see all of the amazing places you travel.  Instead of just showing them you on vacation, intertwine your products to make them a part of your trip.  It’s a great way to promote your creations and showcase them being used in a different way.

Join your Customers’ Vacations

There was a wonderful coffee shop in Virginia that had red paper coffee cups with their logo on it.  Customers would take their red paper cup with them all over the world and bring back photos of themselves “drinking” coffee using this paper cup.  The photo wall showcased pictures of the coffee cup in front of the Eiffel Tower, Taj Mahal and Great Wall of China.  It was a pretty impressive promotional tool that didn’t cost this coffee shop a dime (except maybe for the cups, which they would have had to purchase any way).

Ask your customers’ to take your products on vacation this summer.  For our shop, I love to see where customers are writing letters from or the styling of their summer celebrations.

If you don’t have a product that travels well, you could create a basic promotional item that you send customers as a thank you and encourage them to take it on their trip.  A postcard or sticker with your logo could go all over the world without much effort.

Most importantly, ask customers to send you their photos.  You can share them on social media and your business can travel (even if you can’t).

Add Summer Props to your Photos

If your product photos need a refresh, summer might be the time to add some new props.  Customers purchase products they can relate to. Using summer props such as beach themed items, packing paraphernalia and things from nature (flowers, pine cones, twigs, etc.), you will connect with their senses.

Choose some product photos that might need a refresh or are part of your summer collection.  Take some new photos using the summertime props.

Or you could take your products outside.  Use natural elements such as sand, rocks, woods and plants as your background.  Your customers might see your products in a whole new light.

Go Local

Summer is the time for festivals, pop-up shops and farmer’s markets.  These outdoor events are the perfect place to find new, local customers.

Rent a booth and set up shop at your local event.  Choose an event that your potential audience will most likely attend.  Then, sell.

If you find that sales are slower, at least collect email addresses.  No matter what, it’s worth it to build your mailing list and make new local contacts before the holiday season.  If done correctly, you could participate in a holiday event and, if you have contact information, invite them to attend.

Holiday Sale

Everyone loves a sale.  Take advantage of the summer months to host a themed sale based on a summer holiday or event. 

One of our biggest sales my shop holds every year is our Fourth of July sale.  We close the shop for completing orders during this holiday, but customers still love to shop.  They understand that their order won’t be delivered until we reopen.  Their reward – a massive discount!  It’s our biggest sale of the year. 

You could also host a temperature based flash deal.  Choose a day when the temperatures are ridiculously warm – maybe in the 80s – and offer a flash deal based on that temperature.  So, maybe 80% off a digital design or buy one get one when it the temperature gets to 90 degrees.  Then you can use social media to do your countdown.  It’s a fun way for customers to cool off and beat the heat.

Other summer events that you could create sales around include Labor Day, Back to School or Christmas in July.  I love the idea of hosting our 12 Days of Christmas Sale, but in July.  This sale idea lets customers stock up on holiday designs early.  I know, but if Hallmark can unveil their Christmas decorations in July, we can certainly sell Christmas designs.

Host a Class

Summer is the perfect time for learning something new and fun.  Customers have extra time and are looking for a break from their ordinary schedules.

If you have a skill that’s related to your products – such as jewelry making, crocheting, cupcake decorating, art print making – consider teaching a class about it.  You can create your class and your own school on Teachable.  Then, your audience can take your course.

You can teach classes about almost any creative and business skill these days.  And people want to learn, so it’s a great way to grow your business.

Although you could charge for the class, one idea is to host it as a free promotion during the summer months.  Then, you could add a fee for the class after the summer is over.

The best part about creating a class around what you do is it’s longevity.  Your class will still be there for your audience to sign up for and enjoy for many summers to come.

Create some Signage

Have you ever noticed how much chalkboard signage appears in the summer?  I love these chalkboard placards I see when walking around small towns.  The owners of these shops get so creative with their messaging and art.  They’re so much fun.

Although you don’t own a brick and mortar shop, it doesn’t mean that you can’t create your own chalkboard signage too.  I love taking out the sidewalk chalk each summer and making beautiful designs and quotes.  Or you could purchase yourself a large chalkboard or sign placard that you could draw your designs on. 

Instead of displaying these designs outside my “shop”, I take photos of them and post on social media.  These miniature works of art are very shareable and my customers get really excited about them.  And my shop.  

Overhead photo of pink lemonade in mason jars with the text overlay "Marketing 101: Creative summer marketing ideas for your online shop"

Write Seasonal Blog Posts

As many know, I believe blogging is an essential tool to your marketing strategy.  It’s a great way to build community and share your products with your audience.

If you continue writing your business blog during the summer months, I recommend creating seasonal blog posts.  These types of blog posts are very sharable and Pinterest loves them.

Choose seasonal topics that you can also promote your products with.  For example, if you have a line of jewelry that’s perfect for wearing at the beach, you could write a blog post about accessory ideas for the beach.  Then, add these jewelry pieces as part your post’s round up.  

These types of blog posts are a more natural way for your audience to learn about your product.  They also are more easily shared, which makes it more likely to find new customers. 

As we all know, outright selling never works.  You need to build a relationship with your audience and sell through suggestion.

Blog posts allow you to do both.  To get started, brainstorm different topics that you could write about featuring your products.  Some ideas might be Fourth of July, vacation, barbeques, summer camp or the pool.

After you have your topic ideas, see which ones could feature your products most easily.  Then, start writing (or hire someone to write for you).  Link up your products to these posts.  Promote them on Pinterest and other social media channels.  You’ll be surprised how excited your audience gets when you give them ideas for how to use your products.

Run a Giveaway

Everyone likes to feel like a winner.  Especially your customers.  The summer is a great time to host a giveaway.

Giveaways can be hosted in many different ways.  You can collaborate with a group of other bloggers and business owners.  (This helps make the prize package or amount even greater.)  Or you could set up the giveaway for your own business.  (You need a bigger audience for this kind of giveaway to be successful).

Before hosting your giveaway, decide on the platform you want to host it from.  You could use social media – Instagram or Facebook are great, your business blog or even someone else’s blog who doesn’t mind you piggy backing on their audience.  (Many successful bloggers charge for this service now, so don’t be surprised if you ask and there’s a substantial fee involved.)

You will also need to choose a theme – summer is a theme in itself, but you probably want to get more specific – and a prize.  The prize needs to be AWESOME!  You could choose a gift card to your shop, product from your shop or a gift card or merchandise from somewhere else.

For example, I’ve participated in wildly successful giveaways where the group gave away a new camera.  We all contributed a small sum of money and it was used to buy this really cool prize.

Next, you need to set a date to run the giveaway and make sure you have a clear goal on what you want to accomplish.  It might be more Facebook subscribers, mailing list sign ups or Instagram followers.  Choose the goal before you set up the giveaway so you know what you’re asking participants to do.  If you want to build your email list, but are asking people to follow you on social media, your giveaway won’t be very successful.

Whatever your goal is, make sure it’s clear before you begin.  Giveaways are energy packed and you can lose your purpose in all of the excitement. 

I recommend doing research on the state and federal guidelines for running giveaways as well as the platform that you choose.  A lot has changed since the days we used to run giveaways on Facebook every week to get more followers.

Also, check out some of these amazing tools for running social media contests.  They are sure to make organizing your giveaway a lot easier.

Hold a Contest

And I’m not talking a wet swimsuit contest here.  If you aren’t as keen about hosting a giveaway, you could hold a contest.  I love contests because they get your audience involved with your shop in a different way.

A contest isn’t as much about gaining new followers (although, you will probably get a few), but engaging your current audience.  Your contest could be anything from a vacation photo contest to best sidewalk chalk drawing.

When choosing a contest theme, you want something related to the summer that’s easy to participate in.  The contest shouldn’t cost your audience anything and they should be able to use materials from home.

After you create your contest concept, you need to decide on the prize.  You could share all entries on your social media (a participation prize) and then offer a small gift card to your shop for the one with the most likes.

You will also need a plan for promoting your contest.  If your audience is big enough, you could send an announcement through your mailing list. Then, you can accept entries in your email.  Or you could make an announcement on social media with a way to submit entries.

Whatever way you choose – have fun!  Your contest will keep your audience involved with your shop during the long summer months and make you more memorable in the long run.  

Throw an Event

If your goal is to grow a local audience, consider throwing an event this summer.  I know… but I’m an online shop.

I get it.  But, it’s good for online shops to have a local presence too.  Your local audience will sometimes be your most loyal fans.  See if there are any other shops that you have something in common with – such as a boutique jewelry shop, art gallery or bakery.  You could partner with them to throw a themed event that supports both your businesses.

Don’t have a another shop to partner with?  Depending on the kind of event that you want to host, you could rent space at your local co-working place or your local park.  Another idea is to partner with other artisans and online shop owners to host a small business fair.  It’s always fun to get the business community together and summer is a great time to do it.  

Final Thoughts…

Just because it’s summer doesn’t mean that business has to slow down.  If you use some creative summer marketing ideas, you’ll turn summer from the slowest months of the year to some of the briskest.

I know marketing your online shop can be overwhelming, so start your summer marketing plan with just one or two options.  Choose something that you can accomplish and you will enjoy doing.

Then, set it up.  Choose a date to run your promotion, tell your audience about it and be ready to see the sales come in.  And even if business is still a bit slower during the summer months, these marketing ideas are also a way to keep your shop front and center when your audience is a bit more distracted.

And if you’re looking for more ideas for writing your first marketing plan, check out our free First Steps to Marketing course.  It has everything you need to create your first marketing plan that you can use in the time you have and grow your shop.

Here’s to a wonderful summer ahead!  (And I’m talking business wise… yeah, that’s right, business wise.)

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