Another year over, eh? How did that happen? Seems like only yesterday we were enduring one of the wettest summers on record. Hopefully, it was a great year for you and your business (despite the weather).
It’s been another fantastic year in Donut Land. All of the sites – Start Up Donut, Marketing Donut, Law Donut, Tax Donut and IT Donut – continue to grow in profile and popularity, with visitor numbers reaching new highs with each passing month.
The Start Up Donut alone now receives thousands of visitors a day and even though the rate of growth this year has exceeded all our expectations, we have ambitious plans for next year.
Important websites and organisations, including www.gov.uk (the government’s main information portal), The Prince’s Trust and Start Up Britain, now refer their site visitors to Donut sites for more information, while a range of local councils, universities, chambers of commerce and business support agencies (aka Donut Partners) have their own version of The Start Up Donut. (Want to find out how you can get your own version of this site?)
What provides the most satisfaction is the many kind comments left by visitors about how useful they find the site. A lot of hard work (by a small but dedicated team) goes into making sure this site works properly, looks good and remains informative, engaging, accurate, fresh and in tune with the needs of people who are starting up or running early-stage businesses. Of course we welcome your ideas, so please let us know if there are things you think we should be covering.
A special thank you to all our sponsors for their support this year. Many thanks also to the legion of experts who freely share their knowledge and experience, particularly those who provide content which helps to ensure that our blog remains a popular source of information, advice and inspiration. Many busy people also spare time for interviews for articles for our monthly newsletter, for which we are also very grateful.
A big thank you also to our every-growing list Donut Partners – we value the faith you show in the Donuts and look forward to working with you next year and beyond.
Finally, a massive thank you to our readers for using this site in 2012. Whether you were thinking about starting a business and were looking for inspiration or you were starting a business and needed practical advice, we hope you found what you were looking for. Happy Christmas and here’s to a fantastic 2013.
All the best – The Start Up Donut Team
2009 has been a hectic year for the Start Up Donut. Since launching in July, we’ve been working non-stop to bring you new features, articles, interviews, tips, blogs and advice on starting and running small businesses effectively.
We’ll be recharging our batteries over the festive period, so @StartUpDonut will be away from Twitter until Monday 4 January and this will be the last blog post until then. The Start Up Donut website will be available throughout that time, so you can still get your fix of start-up advice.
Christmas underpins profitability for the whole year for most stores. When it comes to preparing for the Christmas season online, “the early bird catches the worm” as they say. Before you know it, the rush to service orders has replaced any consideration on how to optimise sales. Here are some seasonal tips from SellerDeck and some e-store owners to help you get ready.
Prepare marketing ideas early
Whatever your Christmas marketing plans, run some small-scale tests soon. Establish what works, and refine it. If search engines matter to you, optimise in plenty of time.
Keith Milsom at http://www.AnythingLeft-handed.co.uk advises, “We plan ahead for promo emails to various customer groups as they take a while to prepare. We also boost PR with a press release in September.”
Can you handle the extra traffic?
If there is anything worse than having no orders, it's having more than you can handle. This just produces dissatisfied customers.
The average etailer gets 30% more orders in November/December. Make sure you can cope with the increase. This includes web hosting, and extra staff for packing.
Bill Stevenson of www.spicesofindia.co.uk advises ordering extra stock and advertising for temporary staff in September. “Last December visitors fell, but conversion rates tripled. We ran out of many Christmas gift sets and could not get new stock. This year we will order a lot more.”
Sort your logistics
Make sure your logistics supplier can cope. To avoid missed deliveries, let customers select delivery to their work address.
Robert Johnston of www.gentlemans-shop.com adds, “We email customers their parcel tracking details and confirmation of delivery date. This dramatically reduces calls about deliveries.”
“Don't be a bah-humbug! Decorate your site and get into the Christmas spirit,” says James Auckland at www.lunaspas.com.
Find creative ways to mark the season. Put gift ideas on your home page, and stock Christmas-themed items. Remember to change the pages on Boxing Day.
Last minute shoppers
Cite a final ordering date for Christmas delivery on every page - highlight when the deadline has passed. You’ll need different dates for home and overseas orders.
Drop customers a reminder email, e.g. must order by end of tomorrow for delivery outside Europe.
Customers in a rush
Most online shoppers are in a hurry, particularly at Christmas. Help them out with a search capability that can match by category and price. Text-based searching is no help when you want a gift for less than £10 for your eight-year-old niece.
Another aid for rushed buyers is a gift-wrapping service. It can also increase your margin.
Upsell to maximise the opportunity
Where gifts need additional items such as batteries, ensure they can be ordered together. Suggest similar gifts, and incentivise extra purchases with offers like 'buy two and get one free'.
James Auckland again: “Thank your suppliers, as well as your regular customers.” Good supplier relationships can help resolve problems. Consider offering discount during January to suppliers and good customers.
Keep a sense of humour!
Robert Johnston once had an irate customer repeatedly phoning on Christmas Eve, “about the delivery of his father’s missing present. He accused me of ’ruining his Christmas‘. Just as we closed, he called to apologise. His sister had signed for the parcel, and dad’s present was already wrapped and under the tree.”
Advertise January sales
Plan your January sale early. It gives ‘value shoppers’ a chance to clear all that dead stock for you.
Finally, book a well-earned rest for February. You will probably need it. Just beware of tour-operators trying to up-sell you to something more expensive!