Guest Blog: Special Topics in Calamity Business – Top Ten Tips to Bring in Online Holiday Shoppers

Corinna Buchholz of  the top selling Etsy Shop piddix is back with some more tips on running a successful indie bizness for Special Topics in Calamity Business As one of the top 10 handmade sellers on Etsy, Corinna has plenty of tips to share and will be contributing a regular monthly column for the next few months.

By guest contributor Corinna Buchholz


For the first time ever, online shoppers plan to spend more than half their holiday gift budgets (53%) buying presents online rather than in person. Their top reasons for shopping online include finding better prices and selection, taking advantage of free shipping, and greater convenience. With just a couple of small changes to your online craft store, you can make sure that these shoppers not only find your shop, but also fill up their virtual shopping cart with your goods.

24 Advent Calendar Pouches from nuvonova

1. Call your sale a sale. If 2008 was the year of holiday cutbacks, 2009 is the year of holiday bargain hunting. More than two-thirds of shoppers plan to look for bargains, and google has found that phrases such as “discounts” and “holiday free shipping” are trending heavily. In addition to offering sales in your shop, include terms for which budget-conscious shoppers may be searching such as “coupon” and “sale” in the beginning of your item descriptions and shop announcements so that the search engines can find you more easily.

2. Don’t make them ask. With so many options available online and Christmas fast approaching, most shoppers will not take the time to ask questions and wait for your response. Tell a potential customer everything they may want to know about your item including shipping dates, customization options, sizing, and turn-around time. Think of the most common questions you receive and include them in your item descriptions or in an FAQ that is prominently featured in your shop.

3. It’s all about the shipping. The number one question a potential client will have, especially when buying from an independent retailer, is: will my gift make it in time for Christmas? Research guaranteed shipping services, such as USPS flat-rate priority mail, and come up with the last day someone can comfortably order an item from you and still receive it by Christmas. Be sure to account for the time you’ll need to get the package ready. Then make these purchase deadlines the first thing people see when entering your shop, specifying different dates for international and in-country buyers. As Christmas draws closer consider offering “free express shipping” on all of your products by rolling the additional expenses into your item’s price.

Handcrafted Christmas Card by Studio Flower Power

4. Know what’s hot. While most shoppers plan to spend less money this year on gifts in general, there are a couple of categories that are bucking that trend. Greeting cards, candy and food remain popular, in large part because they have a personal element to them but are also budget-conscious. Gift cards are also on the increase, so adding a gift certificate option to your shop may work well. Also think about items that you can describe as “family-time-friendly” such as DIY craft kits. Other descriptors to use that play on current themes include “the perfect stocking stuffer” or “a great hostess gift.” Buyers are also looking for more practical items this year, with clothing topping many lists of giving trends.

5. Be in it for the long haul. If you find yourself swamped with orders, it may be tempting to cut corners to get items out the door. Ideally, though, every new customer you make during the busy holiday season will become a satisfied repeat customer. Consider hiring holiday help (or bribing family members) to make sure that each package you send out reflects your high quality and standards. Or if extra help is not an option, set realistic goals that you can manage yourself so you don’t end up with dissatisfied customers and negative feedback that could be hard to overcome.

Candy Cane Heart Fine Art Print by Zuppa Artista

6. Organization is key. You do not want to receive an email from a customer on December 24th—or worse yet December 26th—wondering where their package is. If you don’t already have a good system for tracking orders, now is the time to start. You can download a free worksheet or create a simple one yourself in excel or even on a lined note pad to keep track of details such as when an order was received, any special notes the buyer included, and what date it was shipped. Trust me. Don’t rely on scribbled-napkin-notes and the hope you’ll remember everything. The five minutes it takes to set up a simple system will more than pay off down the road.

7. Communicate. Buyers will be extra-nervous about receiving their purchases quickly during the holidays. Send an email within 24 hours outlining exactly what your customer should expect as far as packaging and shipping times, along with any tracking details you may have. Most of the email can be set up as a template beforehand to save time.

Japanese Washi Tape by Pretty Tape

8. Keep track of packing supplies. Envelopes, shipping tape, and other supplies are much more affordable if you purchase them ahead of time or in bulk. Shipping supplier Uline, for example, has a delivery estimator, with most products received within 3-4 days. If you prefer to use recycled supplies such as packing peanuts, allow extra time to stock up as much as possible before any rush may hit.

9. It’s not too late to advertise and promote. The busiest online shopping day is not cyber Monday, as some may think, but actually two weeks later in mid-December. Buyers wait for the absolute last minute, hoping to grab the best deals. If you sell on etsy, check out their December promotional calendar and nominate your goods to be featured. By now you’re past most editorial deadlines, but it is possible your favorite blog (like Indie Fixx) may have a December advertising opening, or look into Project Wonderful, google ads, craftgawker, or other online resources that can offer almost immediate response.

Homemade French Vanilla Hot Chocolate Mix by Teton Cocoa Company

10. Don’t promise the moon. I know too many stories of a great shop that was hit all at once with a ton of sales—whether it be from a blog feature or holiday rush—and then they couldn’t handle it, resulting in incredibly grumpy customers and negative feedback. Better to under-promise and over-deliver than vice versa. Keep your “last day for shipping” reasonable for your (and your family and friends’) sanity. If at all possible only sell items you already have made and in-stock. If you start to get overwhelmed consider closing down your shop for a couple of days to catch up. And get comfortable saying no when necessary—especially to time-consuming customizations. Above all remember that the holidays aren’t all about selling and shipping. With a bit of prep work, some promotions, and by setting realistic goals, hopefully you’ll have some time to enjoy yourself as well.


  1. Thank you for a great set of useful tips. As a first year holiday seller, I appreciate your tagging and ship by advice – and will add it to my shop listings!

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