Let's face it – there are slow months in all retail settings, even on Etsy. You can be frustrated during those times or you can be productive and do things you don't have time for at any other time. Here are my “Top Ten List” of things to do when traffic is slow in your Etsy shop. I have put them in the order that I would complete them. For example, I would do marketing before anything else. If it's a slow period, there's nothing you want more than to generate sales and marketing is your best chance of doing that.
1. MARKETING AND PROMOTION
Now is the time to work on driving traffic to your site. Use Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to get more exposure for your shop and your items. If this seems too overwhelming, choose a popular item in your shop and market the heck out of it. Pin it to different boards on Pinterest, photograph it in interesting ways and then post the photos to your Facebook, Twitter or Instagram account. Offer a coupon code for free shipping, a percentage discount or a fixed dollar amount discount.
The 80/20 rule says that you should spend 20% of your time creating a product and 80% of your time marketing or promoting it.
2. OPTIMIZE YOUR LISTINGS with SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
SEO is ever changing and you need to keep up with the trends. Go through listings that haven't sold and check your Title, Description and Keywords. These are the 3 areas that search engines “look” to find out what product you are offering. Become a SEO expert. For example, did you know that Google uses the first 20 words in your description to find your product?
If you aren't sure what key words to use, do an Etsy search for that item and see what shows up on the first page. Go through those listings and see what keywords other sellers have used for the same item. If they are showing up on the first page, they are probably using keywords that buyers are using.
Can you tell it's all about SEO? If people can't find it, they can't buy it.
3. OPTIMIZE YOUR LISTINGS WITH BEAUTIFUL PHOTOGRAPHS
We shop with our eyes first so make sure that you have photographs that lure buyers in and make them want to purchase your item. If you look at listings that have not sold and you have optimized SEO, there's a good chance that the photographs are not enticing to buyers. You might say your product is awesome, but buyers need to SEE that it is awesome.
Search for similar items on Etsy and see how your photograph compares to other sellers. Would you choose your item over theirs? If not, then rephotograph your item.
4. PLAN FOR THE FUTURE
Now that you have your marketing in place, your listings are 100% for SEO, and your photographs are beautiful, it is now time to think about the future. Why is this #4 and not #1? You must have a strong foundation to build on, so you must have your shop set up to be successful before you move on to the future. You live in the present and plan for the future. That being said, everything I do is geared toward the future.
You must be in the right mindset to plan for the future. Martin and I hold our “business” meetings in the pool during the summer and on our walks in the winter. It's amazing how productive and creative we can be when we aren't distracted by cell phones, emails, orders to be packed up, convos to be answered, etc. Take the time to plan for the future – new products to offer, other streams of income (blog, website, etc.), marketing campaigns, ways to be more efficient, saving to expand your shop or business, etc., so plan for the future, but do your best in the here and now.
5. NEW LISTINGS
Adding new listings keeps your shop fresh and new. This is another aspect of SEO – the more active your shop is, the more it will shop up in search engines and the higher it will show up in Etsy searches. New shop owners have to work hard to build an audience and make sales, but it is possible. If you have a product people want, it will happen so don't be discouraged if you are new and haven't made your first sale yet.
The more unique your shop is, the more you will sell so don't be afraid to be creative and try something new.
6. CREATE or FIND NEW PRODUCTS
Take this time to be creative and create new products. If you have a vintage shop, take the time to look for unique items. This is the time to do what you love, which is why you are an entrepreneur. Most of us are here to make money doing what we love.
You are unique and your shop needs to reflect that!
7. UPDATE BRANDING / MARKETING MATERIALS
You don't need to spend money hiring someone to “brand” you. I am saying just think about what your shop and your packaging and your social media says about your shop. Is it hip and trendy or cool and retro or is it classic and elegant.
Think about your packaging – does it reflect your shop? How does it represent you? I am not saying to go out and buy boxes with your name written all over them. What I am saying is that you need to use materials that reflects your shop. It can be as easy as using new packaging instead of recycled boxes with tons of writing and stickers on them (use those for storing your items, not for shipping them). You can be eco friendly and reuse boxes, but make sure they are presentable and clean.
Also, will your buyer be able to find you again if they want a pair of earrings to match the necklace they purchased from you? If you have a sticker with your shop name on the jewelry box you sent a necklace in, they can find your shop again. It may go in the trash when they get it, but it might also be put in their jewelry box or given as a gift to someone who loves it so much, they want another one. It's not easy to gauge if your name on packing is effective, but considering successful retailers put their name on their bags and boxes and sometimes even the items they sell (designers such as Louis, Kate, Tory, etc.). I would take this to mean that packaging must play a part in their marketing efforts.
Think about the invoice you send to a buyer with their purchase. Is there a message or coupon code included? If not, you should add one. We give a coupon for return customers to encourage them to come back to our shop. Insert a personalized thank you note with each order or orders over a certain dollar amount if there isn't time to do every one.
There are many ways to represent your shop without spending tons of money. Be creative! Be unique!
8. UPDATE YOUR FINANCIALS
This was my biggest obstacle when we started our Etsy shop – spending the time tracking our sales and expenses. Martin made sure that we had a good accounting system in place and it has made our lives so much easier. Does it take time? Yes. Is it important? YES. This is critical because you need to make sure you are making money – after all, that's the point. You need to make sure you charge enough shipping to cover your expenses – including the cost of the box, shipping label, packing materials, etc.
Take the time to get your accounting system up to date, organize your receipts so that you are ready for tax season, etc.
Be sure that you keep track of what you make and what you spend. You must have good records for the IRS (Internal Revenue Service). For some reason, they don't like a bunch of receipts kept in a shoe box.
9. ORGANIZE YOUR OFFICE AND SHIPPING AREAS
Taking the time to organize your office and shipping areas ensures that you are productive when you are busy. You will also be more efficient. After all, “Time is money”. These are the areas that can really be ignored when there are never enough hours in the day.
I love organization so this would be one of my favorite things to do, but I know it's not going to help me sell anything. So why do it? Because it saves time when you don't have to spend 10 minutes searching for what you are looking for. It also alleviates frustration because you will know when it's time to order items that are running low (read how we keep track of our shipping inventory below). For example, if I can find boxes, shipping labels, the fragile stamp, etc. when I am shipping an order, I can ship it out quickly which makes our customers happy and ends in good reviews. If you read our reviews, at least 50% of them say the item was shipped quickly and packed well.
We inventory our shipping supplies monthly. We also order packing materials in bulk to get the best price, which saves our customers money on shipping. However, this will depend on how much you can invest as well as how much room you have to store extra shipping supplies. When ordering boxes, we order 25 – 50 at a time (unless it's a special size). We order 2-3 bags of peanuts for every roll of bubble wrap).
10. COMPARISON SHOP
“A penny saved is a penny earned.”
Saving money is making money so take the time to comparison shop and make sure you are getting the best price on your supplies. Can you save a significant amount of money by buying your office or shipping supplies in bulk? We purchase a box of packing tape that has 30 large rolls of tape in it for $56.41 ($1.88 per roll). If we bought each roll separately, they would be $3 or more each (that's a savings of at least $33.59. Since we order at least 4 boxes a year, that's a savings of $134.36 per year. Is there a less expensive way to produce an item while still making a quality product?
I hope this helps you to be productive when your shop is quiet. This will keep you from feeling frustrated and will help to motivate you to keep going to make your dream of being a successful entrepreneur alive. I'd love to hear from you if you have great ideas on what to do when your shop is slow!