How To Prepare Your Online Store For The Holiday Season

If you’re a home-based, online seller, you may or may not have been through a holiday season before. IF you have you know that it’s generally a lot busier than the rest of the year, and that you need to prepare for it if you want to get through it without a ton of stress.

If you haven’t been through a holiday season before, you might end up finding out that your business is a lot busier than it normally is, so take this advice about getting prepared that the Artisan Shopping Directory members suggest.


get your online shop ready for the holiday shopping season


Some of the links in this article are affiliate links that will pay me a small commission if they’re used to purchase something. To see the entire affiliate policy click here.


Table of Contents


beaded sequin ornaments

Set goals and schedules ahead of time.

Set Clear Goals:

Look at your previous years’ business to see what kind of revenue you can expect, and set goals based on how much you want to make this year. This can help you figure out how much inventory you’ll need to buy as well as how many boxes you’ll need for shipping.

Analyze Past Data:

Check last year’s notes about what worked and what didn’t, then adjust your plans based on that. If you didn’t keep notes from the previous year, plan on doing it throughout the selling season this year so that you have something to look back on next year.

Check on shipping dates:

Look up the shipping schedules that the post office is using this year and make notes about the cutoff dates for different types of shipping. Mark those dates on your calendar so that you can turn off different shipping methods to prevent people from buying things too late to ship on time.

Sheri from Sheri Sew SweetOpens in a new tab. says “Post your order deadline date everywhere. Your banner, your announcement, add it to the front of your descriptions, make an info graphic and put in 2nd photo slot, even add text on your thumbnail image if needed, and send it out to your email list.

“With the new slower First Class (Ground Advantage) you may need to adjust the date earlier this year.

“Have Priority and Express shipping options available in any listings that you are willing to ship past your deadline.

“When you get orders past your deadline, message the customer to be sure they saw when the item will ship and the estimated arrival date and offer cancellation if they didn’t read the notices you posted. Most times they did read and are fine with after-Christmas delivery.

“While you may not have time to offer the Gift Wrap option, even adding an extra ribbon etc. Making it look more “gift ready” is appreciated by customers.”



Get your shop and website ready.

SEO Optimization:

Make sure that you have holiday-related keywords in the appropriate spots, or gift-giving keywords for products that would work for presents.

But be careful not to do it too close to the holidays. Jennifer from Upcycle Quilt ArtistOpens in a new tab. says “Don’t completely revamp your shop right before the holidays. Small tweaks and pictures updated is fine, but don’t change all your tags to be ‘under the tree’ ‘Christmas tree presents’ ‘ stocking stuffers’ etc.”

Update Product Listings:

Make sure that you have enough supplies to make all of the listings that you have in your shop, and that the details of the listings are correct.

Patricia from Dell Cove SpicesOpens in a new tab. says “Now is not the time to be trying to come up with Q4 product ideas. I know a lot of people may disagree with me on this. But the reality is, by September, your window has pretty much passed. By the time you research the marketplace, source & get the supplies in hand, get a mock-up made, make sure you can produce it at a profit, get the photos shot, do the SEO work and get the listing up and live and advertised – you’re looking at late September to early October. So don’t stress. Focus on your strengths and the SEO work – and start working on holiday products for next year in January. (You think I’m kidding – but I’m not.)”

Holiday-themed Graphics:

Prepare any graphics that you’ll want to use for the holidays, like your shop banner or sale graphics ahead of time so that they’re ready to go when you need them.

Tracey LipmanOpens in a new tab. says “Start preparing the tweaks you are going to be making to your shop and your listings now, so you are ready to upload them fast. Listing copy, banner images, seasonal listing photos, order by XX date images, any other info graphics, keywords research etc. These things take time and you (hopefully) won’t have time once you get busier later on this year.”

Holiday Hours:

Decide if you want to close your shop completely at some point during December so that you can enjoy the holiday season without working right up to the last minute.

Patricia adds “if you’re on Etsy, set up an auto-reply. Say when you’re online (open) and when you’re not, and use that message to point to your FAQ.”

Gift Returns Process:

Make sure that your policies are clearly stated so that people know if they can return things, and how long they have to do that. Since a lot of people won’t know if the things they’re buying will be returned until after the holidays, decide how you’ll handle requests for returns or exchanges if they come in after the holidays are over.

Customer Loyalty Programs:

If you’ve been thinking of starting a customer loyalty program and you can do that on your website, consider doing it now to encourage people to buy more.

Data Backup:

Back up all of your shop data before the holidays start (click here for an article about how to back up your Etsy data.)




Get your family prepped!

Take care of family obligations:

Paula McNultyOpens in a new tab. says “I like to plan ahead to check off some of my family life to-do list to free up time for the busy season. Getting doctor, dentist and other follow up appts for myself and my family all done before October, car maintenance, some of my own holiday shopping done and taking care of the stuff I’ve been putting off all year, so all I need to take care whilst I’m busy is the daily family to do list.

Prep meals ahead of time:

Kelly from Kimmer and Co.Opens in a new tab. says “Save time by planning some (or all) of your meals for the busy weeks to come. Consider meals that you can make ahead of time and freeze. I like to make soups, stews, chili, quiche, casseroles, and sauces in larger quantities and then freeze into multiple meals.”

Shop for your own presents early:

Andrea from My Very Crafty LifeOpens in a new tab. says “Do your own shopping ahead or at the very least make decisions on what you are getting because hopefully you will be too busy to go do a bunch of shopping! This applies to decorating as well if you do. Any time after Halloween is valid to get it done so you can enjoy it.”

Prepare your kids:

Maria from Jari Jade CreationsOpens in a new tab. says “If you have small children at home for the holiday rush, have a plan in place for a sitter, or plan to work during nap time! Have someone come to your home to help with the little ones. Plan their meals ahead of time so you’re not scrambling when they get hungry.”



Get stocked up early.

Inventory Management:

Make sure that you have enough supplies to get through the holiday season without having to make emergency supply purchases.

Tracey LipmanOpens in a new tab. suggests “If you are going to be selling online and at fairs at the same time, prepare as much stock as possible during the summer downtime, so you are fully loaded for your year-end fairs. This way you can run both online and in person sales at the same time during the (hopefully) busiest time of the year.”

Sally from Top Dogs GearOpens in a new tab. suggests that “If you sew with Christmas themed fabrics each year, consider marking your calendar with the dates that your fabric suppliers will be listing their new festive fabrics. Fabric suppliers can pre-order their Christmas fabrics at different times of the year, so having a reminder in your calendar can help you to be super organized with ordering your Christmas fabrics.”

Janick from NeaOpens in a new tab. says “If you do consignment, make sure to refill the stockists’ items between mid-October to November! You definitely want them stocked up BEFORE December comes along, to maximize sales.”

Prep your shipping supplies.

Debbie from Natural Body ComfortOpens in a new tab. says “Order and stock up on all packing supplies. Prepare product inventory as much as possible ahead to help facilitate fast shipping times.”

Dougie from ShadowMythsOpens in a new tab. agrees. “Order your packing supplies early and in bulk so that you don’t have to wait around if you run out.”

Work ahead:

Angela from Marang StudiosOpens in a new tab. says “I’ll be making components to my products ahead of time so I have them ready to finish products when ordered. I also keep a wall-sized production calendar up so I know how busy the days/weeks ahead are going to be (I run a 4-6- or 6-8-week production time on custom orders). Then I can plan and work ahead to not be so crazy at the due dates and closer to the holidays.”


Post office packaging supplies for sale

Plan your marketing for the holiday season.

Keep a calendar:

Offer Discounts:

Plan the holiday discounts and promotions that you’ll want to run and set up a calendar so that you know when to send out emails and social media posts.

Andrea from My Very Crafty LifeOpens in a new tab. says “Do a sale in October if you do them, to get orders in early. I like to offer 10-15% off but delivery isn’t guaranteed until closer to the holidays. This lets me get the orders that I need (possibly made too) but not be rushed so badly I can’t function.

Email Marketing:

Schedule your email campaign ahead of time so that you won’t need to worry about writing them while you’re busy. If you have sales planned, schedule the promotional emails to go out during the scheduled dates.

Wendy from Wendy Shray DesignsOpens in a new tab. points out that there’s a different timeline to take into account every year. “This year, Thanksgiving is ‘early,’ so there will be more days between Black Friday and Christmas eve! That will give shoppers a couple more days to buy before our cut off dates.”

Salina from The Dezign ShoppeOpens in a new tab. says “Get social media ready ahead of time and also emails to customers. Send your email list information 2 or 3 days before you post on social. That way they get your info first.”

Social Media Planning:

Make your social media graphics and post them using the platform schedulers so that you don’t need to do it when you’re busy.

Andrea adds “Start getting your social media geared to this without saying Christmas in September. Things like ‘great gift ideas’ or posting you shopped ahead for the holidays from other small businesses. Tips and tricks for holiday shopping success from small businesses can engage them without screaming Christmas, too. Finally, start posting your holiday deadline October 1. Personally, by the end of October I’m usually booked close to as much as I can handle, so I give tons of heads up. Don’t switch to ‘holiday shopping’ until after Halloween unless it’s a special sale.”

Ad Campaigns:

Think about whether you want to run ads or not and set up the dates and amounts that you want to start with.

Gift Guides:

Make some gift guides for your blog featuring your own products that you can post on social media or send out in an email. If you don’t have a blog, you can post these on social media and link to a shop section instead of a website.

Collaborations:

If you want to cross-promote, approach other businesses about doing that now before the rush starts!


Christmas gifts

Put seasonal extras in place.

Customer Support:

Have a clear plan for the additional customer questions that will be coming in during the holiday shopping season. Use an automated message to respond to people if your shop will be closed at any point.

Patricia from Dell Cove Spices says “You know those Etsy “frequently saved replies”? Spend a couple hours now and update those. Clean them up and make them ready to roll. And then copy and paste them into your own website’s FAQ, as well as on a separate document/file that you can just copy and paste into questions you get emailed to you (or on other e-commerce channels).”

Gift Wrapping Options:

If you want to offer gift wrap, set that up now and make sure that you have enough paper and ribbon or other things you’ll need so that you don’t need to buy more during the holidays.

For an article about how to set up gift wrap as an option on Etsy, click here.

Holiday Packaging:

Consider offering special holiday packaging, like stickers on the shipping boxes, or colored boxes. Order ahead of time, but also be on the lookout during the holiday shopping season for discounted packaging and gift wrap in neutral colors that can be used throughout the year.


nutcrackers

Think about hiring help if needed.

Employee Schedules:

If you need to hire holiday help, figure that out early.

Patricia from Dell Cove SpicesOpens in a new tab. says “Be realistic about how much you can produce – and whether you’ll need to hire part-time (or seasonal) help to offload some of your work. If you do, then hire them NOW. Get them trained well before the holiday rush. Do you need someone to help you handle the shipping out of orders? Deal with hand-writing thank you cards? Assembling gift sets? Get them in now and up to speed, so that everything rolls smoothly in November and December. The worst thing you can do is try to get someone in and up to speed when you’re a) drowning and b) exhausted.”


ornaments

After the holiday.

Don’t delete your holiday listings:

Sally from Top Dogs GearOpens in a new tab. says “Keep Christmas listings up all year round. Some customers like to get a head start on their Christmas shopping list and buy early.”

Do an annual recap:

I mentioned this above, but if you don’t do a recap of your holiday season, it’s worth it to do one. Write down things like what sales you did, what emails you sent out, which products started selling sooner than others, which ones sold best, etc. Having a record will help you plan next year.

Kara Buntin

Kara Buntin has run a profitable home-based business since 1999, and has a background in art, theater design, and cake decorating. She's a top Etsy seller with over 51,000 sales on Etsy and her own website, and helps other home-based business owners with their business goals and SEO. She founded the Artisan Shopping Directory website to promote the artisans who are members of her EShop Success marketing program.

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