Simply decorated Christmas tree in wintry cabin

Believe it or not, the holidays are coming.  Our area just had over 3 days of weather under 80 degrees and I keep finding red leaves on the road.  I promise, it’s right around the corner.

And with the holidays come shoppers.  Hopefully, for your online shop, lots of shoppers.  I’m talking a holiday rush where they charge through your doors all at the same moment ready to buy.

Of course, for a small online shop, this can be good and bad.  If you handcraft a lot of your product line, you might be overwhelmed by the sudden demand.  And the need to receive it before December 24th can be stressful.  Especially when you’re depending on the postal service.

On the flip side, the holiday rush brings buyers.  Lots and lots of buyers.

And many times, these buyers are first time customers who are ready to spend.  So the holiday rush is a great way to grow your business and end the year on a positive financial note.

Pretty white wrapped packages with holly and the text overlay "How to get your online shop ready for the holiday rush"

But before you can enjoy the holiday rush time, your online shop needs to be ready.  And it’s never too early after September 1st to brush off your shelves and prepare for holiday sales.

Here are some important things to do to get your online shop ready for this season’s holiday rush.

Add Holiday Themed Products

In order to participate in the holiday rush, you need to have products to sell.  Now is the time to fill your inventory and add product listings.

There’s always a question about when to add holiday product listings.  After many years of trying to figure out the best timing, I’ve concluded that it’s never really too early.  I always try to add these listings by the middle of September.

The SEO and keywords of any new product listing takes a number of weeks to get recognized by Etsy Search and Google SEO. 

I’ve seen the failure of a listing getting recognized when I’ve posted it to late and it sold better in it’s second season than it’s first.  It can take awhile for a product listing to be found by the search engines.

So, the earlier you list new holiday products the better.

Also when choosing the products to add to your shop, think beyond just holidays.  Winter themed items are just as popular this time of year and will take you beyond just December.

For my stationery shop, I always add some new holiday and winter party themes.  I do find winter is more popular, though, and has a longer reach into January and February.

Not sure what products to add? 

Check out the current trends and figure out what types of products your customers are shopping for.  The more you create items that your customers want to buy, the more successful your shop will be.

Make sure you add products at different price points too.  Many shoppers are always on the hunt for stocking stuffers as well as large gifts to put under the tree.  They’ll purchase these little trinkets in bigger quantities to make sure they have something for all of their family and friends. 

So, be sure to offer customers gift ideas that will fit all of their price points.

Stock up on Supplies

If you create handmade products, now is the time to stock up on supplies. 

Just like anything else in life, things run out.  You don’t want to be in the middle of the holiday rush and realize that you need something to complete an order.

Figure out what supplies you’ll need and order from your vendors now.  Try and estimate how many orders you’ll have this season.  Usually I look at the previous year and add about 25 to 30%.  Sometimes, I’ll even double it if I’ve increased my marketing efforts.

If you discover that one of your supplies can’t be found, now is the time to adjust the product.  You’d hate to have to make adjustments once the holiday rush has begun.  (This is coming from experience.)

Homemade gift wrapping

Tidy Up your Shipping Station

If your shipping station is a bit chaotic after the summer, this is the perfect time to tidy it up.  Organize your boxes, envelopes, packaging supplies and other mailing labels.  Figure out how many more supplies you’ll need to get you through the holiday season and ORDER NOW.

Purchase additional shipping supplies now to prepare you for the holiday rush.  Don’t wait until you run out of shipping supplies or you’ll pay retail in a local shop or not be able to source them at all.

It’s never fun to realize that you’re out of envelopes or a specific box size when an order needs to go out.  I’ve found myself sorting through our recycling bin trying to find the right box to reuse because I hadn’t ordered the correct supplies.

What’s even worse?  When you have to tell a customer that you can’t ship their product because your shop’s shipping supplies weren’t prepared for the holiday rush.  Been there and I can say from experience that it’s pretty awful.

Be smart when it comes to shipping supplies.  Order two to three times as many packing supplies than you normally do.  That way you’ll be ready for any sized holiday rush that comes through your doors.

Customers also appreciate beautiful packaging this time of year.  Consider adding a decorative label or sweet kraft box to your product packaging to make it extra special (and ready to gift upon arrival).  You could also add a gift wrap option to your listing to make it even easier for gift giving.

Create Holiday Branding

One of my favorite parts about holiday shopping is the holiday decorations.  I love walking into a local shop and being embraced by the Christmas joy around me.

Expressing that same holiday warmth can be difficult in an online shop.  Customers can’t walk among the decorations as they browse your products, sip hot cocoa at your holiday open house or delight in the sounds of Christmas music.

It’s just them, your shop and a computer.  Fun.

Bring a little more holiday cheer to your online shop this season by creating your own holiday branding.  Add a top banner photo with holiday colors and product photos.  Change your shop icon to a holiday version.  Move your holiday product category to the top.

Even though your customers aren’t physically visiting your shop, there’s lots of ways to make it feel like the holidays virtually.

Check out other ideas for branding your shop for the holidays here.

Offer Free Shipping

One of the things that holiday shoppers are always looking for is a deal.  Everyone likes to save some money.  Especially around the holidays.

Offer holiday shoppers a little extra bonus this season with free shipping.  Make a minimum order amount to encourage shoppers to purchase just a little bit more.

In addition to making bigger sales, Etsy is also now rewarding shops that offer free shipping to customers.  If you have a free shipping offer to your customers, your shop will appear higher up in Etsy Search.

Not sure how to budget in free shipping with your prices?  Check out our free shipping tutorial to learn more about offering free shipping to your customers.

In addition to making sure you can afford to offer free shipping, make sure you also know the latest ship dates before Christmas.  You’d hate for an item not to arrive in time.

Research the USPS website to check on last shipping dates by Christmas and notify customers in your shop announcements.  Don’t risk it.  It’s never great for your customer reviews if an item promised by Christmas doesn’t arrive.

Host a Holiday Promotion

If you find that your holiday sales aren’t as robust as you’d like, try hosting a holiday promotion (or two).  Last year I held my first 12 days of Christmas sale (although, mine turned into more like 10 days). 

This sale was a lot of fun to put together and customers were really excited to follow the different promotions.  It also increased my traffic and sales during that two week period.  

If a 12 days of Christmas sale seems too complicated, there are lots of other holiday promotions that you can host during November and December. Here are some of my favorite ideas:

Holiday Kick Off Sale

Black Friday

Small Business Saturday

Holiday Stock Up

12 Days of Christmas Sale

You can also put different types of items on sale that you want to move. 

For example, closer to Christmas, I put our holiday notecards on sale.  Everyone needs a thank you note after the holidays.  This promotion gives customers a chance to stock up.

With your holiday promotions, plan ahead.  Don’t just randomly decide that you want to hold a sale one weekend in December because you feel like it.

Write out your promotions schedule on your marketing calendar and promote your holiday sales to your audience.  Holding a holiday sale itself won’t be successful. Your customers need to know about them.

Write a Holiday Blog Post (or Two)

Tis’ the season for writing some holiday blog posts.  Even if you don’t like writing.

Choose a product or two that you want to promote and write a blog post featuring that product.  Consider the type of blog post that you want to write.  Some blog posts that work best around the holidays are a DIY project, gift guide, round up, free printable or even a recipe.

Your holiday blog post should include at least one product from your shop (with links) and be a topic that can be shared easily on social media. Include vertical pins to increase sharing on Pinterest.

Then, start promoting your blog post.  Holiday blog posts are a great way to spread word about your products, increase organic traffic and find new customers.

These wonderful marketing pieces can also spread news about your products and shop quickly.  Check out ways to market your holiday blog post here.

Having trouble coming up with holiday blog post ideas?  You can find my list of creative holiday blog posts that you can write for any type of creative business here.

Pretty wrapped holiday packages with the text overlay "Is your shop ready for the holidays?  How to get ready for the holiday rush"

Make a Strategy for Last Minute Shoppers

No matter what your opinion of last minute shoppers, every business has them.  Those customers that wander into your shop a couple of days (or even hours) before Christmas and then want a large quantity of handcrafted goods shipped out immediately.

Many times these orders don’t work out because of the time it takes to craft the goods or shipping times with the post office (even overnight seems to take too long).  But, it’s a good idea to brainstorm a strategy to use with these last minute shoppers so you’re ready.

After my first two Christmas seasons, I realized that having some of my more popular designs in instant download format would provide last minute shoppers with an option.  I might not be able to create their paper goods for them, but they certainly could DIY them on their own.

Also, know your shipping deadlines and stick to them.  Don’t promise to send a package that won’t get there in time because you feel pressure from a customer.  It’s never a good idea to take risks with shipping around the holidays, especially when the reputation of your shop is on the line.

If you want to woo last minute customers, research expedited shipping options now.  Have an upgrade shipping package that can be easily added onto their purchase and price correctly.  You can even advertise that you offer last minute shopping to keep shoppers coming until the very last minute.

When it comes to shipping around the holidays, communicate shipping deadlines early and clearly.  It’s easier to say no to customers if you don’t have to think too hard about it.

Spruce up your Marketing Strategy

If your marketing strategy started gathering dust over the summer months, now is the perfect time to get back into gear.  Decide on the products and promotions that you want to market for the holidays and make a plan.

Check out these free marketing ideas to help you get started.

And remember that your holiday marketing strategy doesn’t have to be the same as the marketing strategy you use all year.  And probably shouldn’t be.

Create a holiday centered marketing strategy that includes promoting your holiday themed products.  You’re more likely to stand out more with your existing customers and engage with new ones.

Sign Up for a Holiday Craft Show

One of my favorite parts of the holiday season is the craft shows.  I love perusing these shows and finding local artists with beautiful and unique gifts to purchase for my special gift recipients.

Although my shop doesn’t currently participate in holiday craft shows (everything I make is made to order or digital), participating in a holiday craft show is a great way to get noticed by local customers.  Even if you don’t sell a lot of products. 

Instead of worrying about sales, focus on signing people up for your email list.  Adding a dozen or more potential customers to your email list can also make the a success. 

Check out your area and see what local holiday craft shows are there.  Spend a season attending the different craft show options and talking to vendors about their experiences.

If it’s your first show, start small.  Find a show in a local church or school.   The requirements for participation are a lot lower and a smaller show will give you a chance to get used to the ins and outs of a holiday craft show.

Also, ask around with other local artisans and see which craft shows they recommend.  Everyone has an opinion and there are always craft shows that shine above the rest.  Know what you’re looking for before you make your selection.

For me, if I worked a holiday craft show, I would look for a show that had easy set up.  The idea of dragging my products all over a school or church makes me cringe.  

Clear your Digital Workspace

Lately, I’ve found that my digital workspace has become very cluttered.  Whether it’s old customer orders or designs that I haven’t sold in years, my computer is starting to get very messy.

Keeping your digital workspace clear is important for your productivity.  Computers aren’t very happy when they lack the memory to function quickly.

Take the time before the holiday rush to clean up your digital workspace.  Delete files that are old or not being used.  Organize them into better desktop folders for easier access.

After you’ve tackled your computer workspace, work on cleaning out your email inbox.  Delete emails that are old and you don’t need to reference any longer.

I always try and star the ones I want to come back to.  Otherwise, I delete the rest of them.  No need to keep an abundance of junk email cluttering my inbox and my mind.

Organize your Inventory

In order to prepare for the holiday rush, consider keeping an inventory of your most popular products that are ready to be shipped.  This saves you time making the products to order.

If you do have a product inventory for your shop, take the time to organize it.  Make sure products are where you can find them.  Also, try and stock your most popular products to save time during the holiday rush.  

While you organize your inventory, double check that the quantities in your product listings match the quantities that you actually have.  It’s not much fun to over sell something online and realize too late that you can’t fulfill the order.

Final Thoughts…

The holiday season is one of my favorite times of the year.  From singing Christmas carols to attending holiday gatherings with friends, I love celebrating the holidays.

But, my shop doesn’t always enjoy the holiday rush period.  It has taken many holiday seasons to finally realize the things that I need to do to get ready for all of the extra customers.

By preparing early for the holiday rush early and staying organized, your shop will be more successful this holiday season.  In addition to making sure you have enough supplies on hand and products ready, focus on improving your marketing strategy.  Write a holiday blog post or two.  Add holiday branding to your shop to put it in the holiday spirit.  

Most importantly – connect with your customers old and new.  These are the people who will purchase your products and spread the word about your shop.  Treat them well and the holiday rush is on it’s way.  


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