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Holiday Preparations:A Year-Long To-Do List

The holidays are coming! The holidays are coming! As an online seller, your preparation for the holiday season should begin much earlier in the year than it does in your own home. Spring is for increasing your inventory. Summer is the time to load your virtual shelves with all those new items and spruce up your shop. And the Fall is when you should put the final touches on your holiday sales plan. For a jolly season and a jingle in your pocket, we offer you a few suggestions for your holiday to do list.

Stock Up, Clean Out, Organize: Refresh and increase your inventory and create new artisan items. Many shops use the entire first half of the year to shop for holiday inventory. Research your items so you are prepared to write clear, concise and informative descriptions. If you're an artist, decide what you will offer this fall, make your project lists, start gathering your supplies, and get to work on new pieces.

Dig for Keywords and Phrases: Keywords are crucial to successfully selling online. Words are the tools people use to find a `thing' or its related content online. Dig around in your Ruby Lane online sales reports from last year and see what words or phrases were popular during the holiday season. The reports show the search terms used by visitors who found, and clicked on, your listings. Sprinkle these words and phrases naturally throughout your shop on your About Me page and item descriptions.

Add Items For The Search Engines: ­ Did you know that it can take up to 3 months for a newly-added item to be picked up by the major search engines? It's true, so you don't want to be adding your best items on November 1st, only to have them picked up by the end of January. Ideally, you want to have them added by August or September. Some of our veteran shops begin in July.

Ads and Postcards: If you plan on advertising your shop in print publications, you need to prepare now. Decide on the publication, determine due dates for artwork/copy, get it ready and sent off as soon as possible. Order postcards for your fall mailings.

Shop In Your Shop: Take a virtual walk through your shop. Read the About Me page and item descriptions. How is the wording? Have you made any changes in the past year to the type of items you sell? Is this reflected in your shop information pages? Do you need to make changes to your personal information such as address, phone or email? Have you become a member of any organization that relates to what you sell or make? If so, is this noted on your site? If you have a customer testimonial section, is it up to date? Do you need a fresh look? Is it time for new photos? Are your current photos in focus, too dark or too light and are they the correct size? If not, take new photos and replace the old ones.

The Paper Side: Take an inventory of all paper type supplies including shipping materials, tissue paper, peanuts, boxes, receipt books, flyers, business cards, ribbon, tape, and thank you notes. Make a list and place orders. If you use graphics such as a logo or specialty artwork, take another look at it. Does it need sprucing up or a major change for the holidays?

Snail Mail: September and October are good months to send out postcards to your customer base. We recommend you mail to past and present customers and anyone who has shown an interest in your shop. The humble postcard is a fast, easy and reliable way to get the word out about upcoming sales, new stock or just to stay in touch as the holiday season draws near. If you decide to wait and do a holiday greeting be sure to send it a little earlier than most traditional holiday cards, to catch people in time to visit your site and make a purchase. You can send a traditional card through snail mail - and if you do, we recommend you consider making it stand out. Make it fun, colorful, unusual - try specialty papers, etc. Make it an important statement about your shop.

Email: You might choose to do an email greeting instead. While these are easier and less expensive to do, they have much less impact than something tangible, can be quickly deleted, and might even be viewed as spam by those weary of jam-packed in-boxes. The holidays are still a time for reflection, so make sure your message is sincere, and not just a sales pitch. You might want to thank them for their business or tell them how much you have appreciated your relationship and to wish them a happy and peaceful holiday season.

And Happy Holidays (very early) from Ruby Lane!