Labor Day and then Halloween is right around the corner. You know what else is? The craziest 6-8 weeks of your life known as the holiday season. It’s the time of year the cash rolls in and every customer you meet is unbelievably happy (ok, most of them).
While you probably have thousands of things to do (I know I do!), I’d highly recommend putting some time into making sure you’re going to run an automated sales generating machine this holiday season. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been neck-deep in holiday cheer. And I wanted to share 10 tactics I’m putting in place to make sure my holiday season is a success. Whether you operate a food truck or product business these tips can help you maximize revenue in this important time of the year.
10-Step Action Plan to Wildly Increase Your Holiday Food Sales
1. Get the best online ecommerce platform
To make it easy for your customers to shop online, you must have an easy-to-use ecommerce store. My personal favorite is Shopify. I’ve used it since February 2014 and will never use another platform. It handles everything for me: new products, promotions, shipping, credit card processing, apparel, and more. Now, if you’re happy with your current system, you can keep it — just make sure it’s usable, there are no hard-to-understand sections, etc.
2. Put your retailers in an email list
Three months ago, I had an epiphany. If I email all of my customers, why aren’t I emailing all of my retailers? It’s obvious, right? I ship to about 45 retailers across the country. The rest of my retailers are handled through a distributor. While I have yet to send holiday promotions with coupons, I have had the most success with seasonal flavor emails. If you make any special flavors or gift items for the holiday season, put your retailers into your email provider and send them a big-ol’ blast email. It saves you time, doesn’t look spammy (in fact, it looks professional), and watch the orders roll in. The email to my retailers is scheduled for November 10th – is yours?
In case you’re looking for an email provider, I use MailChimp – it’s free for up to 2,000 subscribers unless you want some of the fancy bells and whistles.
3. Write down your holiday email plan
Speaking of email marketing, you need to have a plan. If you wake up on Thanksgiving thinking, “Oh my god, I need to send an email blast to my customers for Black Friday!” you are already too late. (Plus, who wants to work on Thanksgiving?). Write down the following: When you want to send the email, what the content is, what the promotion is, if you need photography, setting up the promotional code in your shop etc. Then, schedule out a day to work on it all at once. For a quick cheat-sheet, here’s my email marketing plan for the holidays:
- Black Friday Starts Early – Tuesday
- Black Friday Email Early Friday Morning – November 27th
- Reminder Email sent Monday morning – November 30th
December: (not quite finalized)
- December 8th – $10 off a full variety pack
- Possible email in here….
- December 18th – Free Shipping Day (first time I’ll have tried this)
I do this because it works. Sure, I may lose a handful of email subscribers, but if I double my sales from email marketing, I’m a happy business owner. Pro tip: If you need help building your email campaigns, Fiverr is a fantastic resource on the cheap for images and email marketing layouts. Plus, ThemeForest has beautiful templates, too. Simply copy/paste into your email provider.
4. Utilize your other mailing list (direct mail)
This strategy is new for me this year. As we continue to ship more orders, my list of physical mailing addresses keeps growing – just above 800. It won’t cost me more than $100 to send a mailing to all of these houses who have purchased from me before to get them to re-order. Some of them already do, but sometimes more than just an email reminder seals the deal – and boosts my sales.
To get started with direct mail, head over to Vistaprint, design your postcard, and upload your list of mailing addresses. They take care of the rest for you. If you don’t want to mail a postcard, try a flyer or small booklet if you have a lot of products. Make the coupon or promotion specific to your direct mail campaign so you can track its success.
I’m sending one campaign out between Thanksgiving and Christmas – the prime time for my online store – and consumers to buy last minute holiday gifts for friends and family near and far. If it goes well, I’ll increase my direct mail campaigns next year.
5. Setup abandoned cart emails and (maybe) re-targeting
You know when you add something to your cart online and the phone rings? You’ve “abandoned” your cart and will never purchase again. Ok, maybe not. But, your customers have the same problem, too. To re-capture their attention, send an abandoned cart email an hour later and then the next day offering them a promotion to seal the deal.
Another option is to run an exit-intent pop-up. This is where your browser knows your customer is leaving and shows a pop-up with an email capture and promotion. This has been the most effective strategy for me. Here’s what my exit-intent pop-up looks like:
To get one of these, I use PicReel. It costs $14/month, but it pays for itself in a month – and I get my customer’s email address. It’s a win-win. You do not need a Shopify site to use this tool.
You can also run re-targeting. That means show display ads or Facebook ads to people who have visited your site but not converted. This is why you keep seeing pictures of those jeans you were looking at the other day. The downside to re-targeting for food business owners is it can get expensive. With small average purchases, your profit can often be eaten up by the cost it takes to bring the customer back. Proceed with caution, but always test to see if works for you. To get started, Google has a Retargeting platform through AdWords or you can use PerfectAudience or AdRoll.
6. Pre-pack holiday gift items
While many people believe holiday sales are all about revenue, the most important metric to me is customer service and delivery times. It’s one thing to have $5,000 in holiday sales and happy customers, but it’s another to have $50,000 in holiday sales and have angry customers.
To make sure holiday items ship when they need to, pre-pack your most popular products or gift packs. Look at what you sold last holiday season and increase that by 20% – your holiday sales always seem to go up (not a bad thing). And then the best part is the reaction of satisfied customers — “That was SO fast” and “I can’t believe it’s here already”. Those are customers for life.
7. Run Time-Sensitive Promotions
Looking to score big with the promotions you setup earlier in this blog post? Run time-sensitive promotions. This works because it creates a sense of urgency – a fear of missing out – on your best deals. “One Day Only” and “Ends in Two Hours” are great ways to let your customers know they better jump on it.
I haven’t tested much with time-sensitive promotions, but when I do, they seem to be a hit.
8. Improve your website’s photography
When I took new photography (that’s right I did it myself, following this amazing Shopify tutorial – total cost $68), my sales grew – from customers and new retailers. When your product looks beautiful, you command credibility. And in the food business, since your screen can’t be licked to taste your product, you have to create “drool-worthy” photography to create the desired emotions in your customer.
9. Partner with other food producers
Do you just sell mustard? Well, yes. But you could sell gift packs of other products made by your foodie friends. If you all put up the same gift pack, sales might be strong enough that you’d do several gift packs next year. This holiday season, I’m hoping to explore this concept with 2-3 Vermont producers. This not only increase exposure of other brands, but gift packs increase your average order value. And when your AOV (fancy, huh?) increases, your overall store revenue increases and you have to “find” less customers for the same amount of revenue. Less effort? Yes, please.
10. Open a pop-up shop
If money were no object, I’d do this in a heartbeat. A pop-up shop is where you open up a retail location for 2-3 months then shut it down. It helps the landlord get some rent while he finds a longer term tenant. If you launch a pop-up shop, you have unleashed an animal that will take up tons of your time. It’s like another business. If I were to do it, I’d write my own business plan, secure staff, and decorate the shop – all on a budget that makes me money. Sounds like a pipe-dream, but your reality could be different. You may loose money on the whole thing. Or, you could have ten amazing shopping days that cover expenses for the whole season. This strategy requires a lot of time, money, and resources. Make sure you’ve done your research.
Analysts say this is supposed to be one of the busiest holiday shopping seasons to date. Use a handful of these strategies to boost your holiday sales in retailers and online. And don’t be afraid to try something once, see what works, and adjust. As Mark Cuban says, you only have to be right once!
What ideas do you have? Good luck with the 2020 Holiday Shopping Season. Hopefully the holidays aren’t canceled this year!