#HolidaySales Tip #7: Don’t Reinvent The Wheel To Get More Sales


It’s an idea that strikes every retailer around the holidays – to invent something so unique that customers just have to flock to stores to buy it.

But like we saw in our previous blog on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, getting a share of people’s already fragmented attention isn’t always a linear path; especially around the holidays. What’s worse, in the time you take to get your ‘killer idea’ through, you tend to lose customers who simply get impatient during the holidays and just shop elsewhere in the meantime.

Here are some of the merits of working in seasonal batches over trying to develop one-of-a-kind products.

Novelty Fades Faster Than You Imagine

The era of mobile digital has fundamentally changed the way we shop.

Shopping used to be a straightforward experience – walk into a store, browse and buy. But as confirmed in Nielsen’s U.S. Digital Consumer Report, it’s a completely different story today.

Now before the salesperson starts their sales pitch, people are already turned to their phone for ‘expert’ opinions. From price comparisons, research on complementary items, referring to lists, reading online reviews and using online coupons, you are light years ahead in the decision curve the minute you step into the store.


Adding to this, a Google executive said, “More Google searches take place on mobile devices than on computers in 10 countries including the US and Japan.” Overall, the company also acknowledged in Q4 2014, US mobile queries (tablets + smartphones) were roughly 29 percent of total search volumes across the entire industry.

What this means is people are constantly discovering novelties. It’s practically being thrown at them every minute! In such a constant rush of the ‘instantly new’, your new product idea faces two challenges:

It May Not Make The Cut
This may sound like a harsh pill to swallow but in the race to the holidays better this pill than impending losses after the season ends. Sure, your new product idea may be great on paper; it might even look cool and have some interesting utility. But all three factors (concept, design and utility) are completely subjective. While you may consider your idea a winner (and there’s no reason why you wouldn’t) but customers may be enamoured by something shinier, something more unique or simply something quirkier than your newest idea. 

Its Novelty May Not Last

This is a genuine problem faced by every product during the holiday season. Even established products that have shown promise during the year may not be hot sellers during the holiday season. But unlike your new idea, no additional time would have been lost in design and production, thus allowing the seller to shift focus to another product that is showing more demand.

New Is Good. Cheap Is Better.

The long-standing debate on this subject has led to polarising opinions. On the one hand, there are artisanal craftsmen and handmade goods creators who feel that a price tag alone is not enough to sway customers during the holiday season. On the other hand, sellers with larger inventories and robust distribution networks are convinced a strategic drop in prices during the holiday season is guaranteed to win them a better share-of-wallet.

While neither side of the debate is wrong, one does tend to be more accurate than the other – customers are looking for the best deals around the holidays and to a certain extent will compromise on the ‘latest’ deal for the most cost-efficient one. This hypothesis is also being tested out by some of the bigger retailers, including Amazon itself. The retail monolith is so convinced that price will be the deciding factor that it has taken a punt on the idea in perhaps the unlikeliest market of all – electronics.

Right now, Amazon is selling its cheapest tablet ever at just $49 and offering them as a six-pack! In fact, to offset how ludicrous this offer sounds, it’s even throwing in the sixth tablet, free.

Now while smaller sellers shouldn’t (and couldn’t) use this example as a benchmark, there is one thing to learn from this example – the willingness to experiment with pricing.

Have A Frank Chat With Your Vendors


Setting up your inventory for the holiday season is all about being able to have the right products at the right time. There are different ways to figure out which items from your inventory during the year will make an impact to your holiday sales (we’ve discussed this in detail in our first blog of this series).

But once you have sorted out which products you want to push, the next step is to talk to your vendors to understand the production cycle for each of those items. This includes having a discussion about:

Time For Production
During the year, getting your supplies restocked may be a bit more relaxed. That’s because you have time to move those items off your shelves and you’re not competing with too many other offers at the time. But during the holidays, every day matters. So, even if a certain item seems popular but takes a longer time to produce than an item, which is slightly less popular, opt for the faster item.

Variants In Design
In case the items you’ve chosen come in multiple variants, take a long hard look at each variant and evaluate if you need to produce each of them at the same quantity you would through the year. For instance, clothing should always be produced in all its colour ways since people prefer choice when it comes to things they wear. But if you are producing a phone cover, you don’t have to offer it in say 12 colours. Just pick the top 3 or 5 highest selling ones and focus your production cycle on those items.

Speciality Items
There will always be certain items on your list, which are complicated to produce, but are too popular to ignore. Discuss these items with your vendor and see how you can shift around schedules to fit more of these items into your next production run.

Multiple Commitments
You have to understand and accommodate for the fact that your production vendor (especially if they are based in China) will be dealing with multiple sellers’ schedules before the holiday season. Be frank and ask them to give you a realistic time estimate for your shipment, based on their other commitments.

If any of these factors run into a roadblock, be prepared with a Plan B or an alternate vendor who can take the load. Also, it’s prudent to keep one or two smaller vendors on standby to take over your production schedule just in case something goes wrong with your primary vendor.

Account For Extra Shipping Time


This feels a bit counterintuitive – why should shipping during the holidays take longer? Given the extra demand, shouldn’t it be as fast if not faster? In theory, this is correct. But the on-ground reality is vastly different. The pre-holiday season rush is perhaps the most telling on most major logistics and delivery companies with literally millions of shipments being generated and moved at approximately the same time of the year.

This makes it natural for certain shipments to be delayed, misdirected and in the worst-case scenario, misplaced by the cargo companies. While shipping may seem like it has little to do with the actual production, it still accounts for time. It therefore has to be added to the production equation and thus product decisions have to be varied accordingly.

What’s Next?

Now that you have a better understanding of managing your production runs for the holiday season, it’s time to get the word out to your followers on social. In our next blog, we’ll look at how to reach out to customers on social media.

In the meantime, just remember that picking the right products to manufacture is as important as selling them during the holiday season. And by optimising every minute of the manufacturing process, you give yourself more time to focus on selling and thus maximising your returns.

Ideas for Creative Agencies & Brands – #23

Laser Cut Fashion

laser cut fashion example

The intricate designs enabled by laser cut textiles are no longer an exclusive novelty for the haute couture runway scene. The bold fashion statements enabled by laser cutting are now within the grasp of the everyday consumer, with leather, silk and other textiles ideally suited to the digital manufacturing process.

Delicate patterns reminiscent of fine lace and needlework lend themselves well to laser cutting, but as we can see in the image above, bold shapes and iconic imagery can be just as effective.

With some clever design thinking, laser cutting has also enabled more exotic materials to become wearable garments. The wooden t-shirt below by Pauline Marcombe uses laser cut panels attached together with wire, transforming what was once a rigid material into a malleable interlocking form of modern body armour.

laser cut fashion wood shirt pauline marcombe

Why would you turn to laser cutting for brand promotion? For one, the eye-catching impact of these fashion items invites attention and a healthy curiosity… but also, thanks to the laser cutting process, there is much scope for design freedom and customization at a price that is accessible to the consumer.

How can your brand stand out amongst all the other fashonistas using the Ponoko Personal Factory? Let us know in the comments below. For more ideas for Agencies and Brands, see the other posts in the series.

Let’s Talk Ideas

Ponoko designs & makes promo products from scratch for event marketers.  Hit us up for a free quote.

Free Design & Quote »

Laser Cut Self Portraits

Laser cut Frida, unicorns, boxes, signs, and a new Kickstarter!

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Above are Frida Kahlo earrings. They are laser cut and hand painted wood like Ponoko.com‘s own Birch Plywood, and come from Ave Rose Collections.

After the jump, unicorns, boxes, signs, and a new Kickstarter… (more…)

How To make a Laser Cut Local Landmark

City of Bath Georgian House flat-pack model


Miniature models of local landmarks are a popular choice when it comes to souvenirs and keepsakes. In this example, the iconic Georgian terrace houses from the city of Bath in the UK are recreated with loving attention to detail.

Available as a flat-pack kit of three neatly stacked cosy homes, you can choose from either 1.5mm card or 3mm poplar ply, and the straightforward assembly process will only take a few minutes.

Laser cut architectural models are the ideal choice to make use of tab-and-slot construction techniques that allow for quick and easy construction, often holding together without the need for glues or adhesives. Basic elevations of the structure can be traced out in your preferred drawing program (inkscape is a Ponoko favorite) and prepared for laser cutting. Take the guesswork out of designing with interlocking slots using one of several freely available tools and plugins. For a landmark or object with a more sculptural form, 3D models can also be sliced up into panels or interlocking sections that are just right to send to the laser cutter.

Once you have the profiles and parts that make up your object, arrange them neatly within one of the Ponoko laser cutting templates and add useful notes or assembly tips as etched details. The Ponoko guide to keeping laser cutting costs down contains important information that will save you time and money, so be sure to read through before starting to avoid common (and costly) pitfalls.

It can also be nice to add a little something extra to the assembled model. The Georgian terrace kits by Bob Kann come supplied with a little light to install inside, so that there is a warm welcoming glow that completes the homely feel.

via Bob Kann

Bare Bones of Laser Cuting

Laser cut skulls, elephants, a broken clock, and some abstraction!

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Above are Calavera skull charm bracelets. They are laser cut and etched from mirrored acrylic like Ponoko.com‘s own and come from Guy Blanco.

After the jump, elephants, a broken clock, and some abstraction… (more…)

Ideas for Creative Agencies & Brands – #22

Laser Cut Pop Up Text


It makes sense that with many promotional products and messaging items, the choice of typography plays a major role in whether your messaging gets through to people. One way to literally stand out from the crowd can be to create something that looks interesting and encourages a simple physical interaction, all within the text itself.

This eye-catching example of 3D text with a difference came from the forward-thinking fashionistas at Anthropologie. The event invitation would have looked appropriately refined and stylish printed onto white card, if only a more traditional approach had been taken. However, the simple transformation of laser cutting a portion of the font outline completely changes how the recipient reads the message. Each word can be folded out to stand proud from the surface, making perspective, light and shadow all contribute to a more memorable sensorial experience.

Could your corporate messaging take on a whole new impact using the Ponoko Personal Factory? Let us know in the comments below. For more ideas for Agencies and Brands, see the other posts in the series.

Let’s Talk Ideas

Ponoko designs & makes promo products from scratch for event marketers.  Hit us up for a free quote.

Free Design & Quote »

How To Find Open Source Design Files

Design resources that help you get started with laser cutting


The learning curve can be a steep one for some people when it comes to wrapping your head around digital manufacturing. Not only do you need to understand how to design for CNC, 3D printing or laser cutting; starting from scratch is daunting and design resources can be hard to come by.

In an attempt to de-mystify the process of digital manufacturing, Obrary takes inspiration from the changes enabled by the Open Source movement and has set up a resource supplying design files and code for anyone to use or improve on. Their motto is “Making it easy to make.”  They do that by providing the Maker community with a library full of open designs and a series of eBooks full of information about the making process.  The site has open designs from Makers from across the globe.

“Beyond improved sharing of design resources, new design approaches and engineering patterns are enabled”.

Users are encouraged to make their own tweaks to the designs, learning by trial and error in much the same way that made development for the Raspberry Pi so popular.

Have you ever wanted to build a cage gear mechanism? They’ve got one of those. How about an adding machine or even something simple like a robust shelving system… these are but a few of the designs that have been made freely available to the Obrary community. The design file package includes a number of file types including CAD files, interchange files (DXF, PDF, etc) and CAM files.  So you should be able to find a file format that fits into your manufacturing process.

And one nice feature of the site is that all of their designs and eBooks have the same license – Creative Commons-BY-SA.  This is a truly open license that even lets you sell products made from the designs.

“…making, building, and collaborating, not because we have to, or because it’s research, but because it’s so fun.”

Already a digital maker? Use the comments form below to tell us about other resources that were useful when you were just getting started, and how you’ve taken these skills and design adaptations into the Ponoko Personal Factory to turn them into reality.

See more collaborative designs and handy resources at Obrary.


How To Help Your Client Launch a Kickstarter Campaign

Head off Crowdfunding questions with these useful tips and resources


Crowdfunding campaigns give entrepreneurs, artists and businesses a unique opportunity to test the viability of their ideas. Yet for many, the thought of running a Kickstarter campaign can be a daunting prospect.

So how can you help de-mystify the process, and give your client the tools and support they need to embrace all that Kickstarter has to offer? Let’s take a look at some of the contributing factors that enable campaigns to reach – and indeed exceed – their funding goals.

Choosing the right platform
The first question to ask is whether or not this method of raising funds is actually suitable for your business proposal. Each crowdfunding platform has its quirks and benefits, and in the example of Kickstarter, many submissions do not even pass the approval phase. It is well worth taking the time to identify which crowdfunding option best suits your business model and potential project outcome.

Don’t be dazzled by dollar signs – just because there are campaigns raising millions of dollars does not mean that every campaign will be an overwhelming success. For the majority of campaigns, a few thousand or even just a few hundred dollars over the target amount can be a big deal.

Be prepared to work hard
Although crowdfunding has been shown to be surprisingly lucrative for some, successful outcomes are not guaranteed. It takes more than just having a bright idea; you have to know your project very well and be prepared to put time into every stage of the funding process. Understand that for every hour you spend (and there will be many!) on preparing the campaign, there will be just as much time required to maintain and promote the project through to completion. Yet even then, your task doesn’t end when the countdown stops. Assuming you are sitting on a pile of money after a successful campaign, you will need to get moving on production and manage the distribution of rewards to your backers.

There is a misconception that a crowdfunded campaign is something that can be done on the side, in your downtime or on the weekends. This is simply not true… one thing that all successful campaigns have in common, regardless of funding levels or project outcomes, is that the campaign itself was a full-time commitment.

There is a strong social media component to the Kickstarter process, with communication and personal interaction playing a large role in backer satisfaction. It can help to remind yourself that Kickstarter is not an online store, even though some backers continue to treat it like one. Integral to successful campaigns is the way people love to feel like they are involved in making things happen. This is a different consumer experience than traditional online shopping, and with careful planning you can use that to your advantage. Choose a variety of rewards including smaller contributions that can help keep people interested in your progress, even if they aren’t in a position to commit larger amounts of money during the campaign. These potential future customers can become informal brand ambassadors through their own social media activity, expanding your reach before the campaign reaches its conclusion.

Be realistic
Not all campaigns are successful, and that is ok. The reasons why a campaign does not reach its funding goals can be quite varied, and are sometimes just as mysterious as to why other campaigns dramatically exceed expectations. When setting up a crowdfunding campaign, plan out how you will navigate through both failure and success, so that your business can continue to evolve beyond the campaign timeline.

Don’t be shy – a Kickstarter campaign is a lot to take on, and it is perfectly ok to seek out help. In fact, many services are popping up that enable a streamlining of each aspect of the campaign. Gathering and processing information beforehand will help to protect you from nasty surprises and also empower you to fully exploit successes and opportunities should they come your way. Here are a few to start you off:

The Ultimate Guide to Crowdfunding
Presented by Shopify, the ecommerce solution of choice for many successful campaigns. This thorough walkthrough over 23 chapters covers all the key considerations to be aware of before taking on your own Kickstarter campaign.

How To Make a Successful Kickstarter Campaign
Using the Pebble Watch as a case study, this detailed investigation looks at how a 24 year old guy’s project with a goal of $100,000 became a $10 million record-breaker.

Tools for Kickstarter: Planning Calculator
A handy tool from Reuben Pressman, you can generate a quick overview of whether your numbers will all stack up. The calculator also includes a valuable Incentives component that will help to resolve the allocation of backer rewards.

Social Media services: Backercamp
Communication and Marketing for your campaign will get a huge boost if you call in the experts to lend a hand.

Manage your Mail: Green Inbox
With so much content flooding your clients’ email and social media, direct personalised messaging gets through to people and saves you time.

Look your best on camera: Elevant Productions
The influence a refined video clip has on campaign success rates is huge. Get it right first time for maximum impact on the small screen.

Case Studies: Success Stories
Also from Shopify, this breakdown of eleven campaigns highlights what they did right and what they did wrong, providing many valuable insights.

Analysis and Infographics
In-depth analysis of campaign metrics, trends and a very handy infographic that helps to navigate The Untold Story behind Kickstarter Stats.

The task of setting realistic goals, achievable rewards and establishing effective communication with backers is often more complex than people first anticipate. By investing a little time in making the most of these resources, the entire campaign experience becomes a whole lot more manageable. Don’t underestimate the impact that thorough preparation can have. By approaching your campaign with the knowledge that you are prepared for any surprises that may pop up – whether they are positive or negative – you will be ready to rise to the challenge.

Are you using the Ponoko Personal Factory to produce rewards for a campaign? Let us know in the comments below and we’ll discuss the best way to help you reach your funding goals.

Moodlight, The Worlds Emotions On Your Desk


Another Ponoko customer has exceeded funding on kickstarter in record time! Conner, the maker of the Moodlight, had originally pledged to raise $935. Within 17 hours he had over achieved funding by 139%! The current total is at a whopping $3,323 with 14 days left to go! Where it will end? It appears the sky’s the limit.

The Moodlight changes colour depending on the aggregate emotions found online. A daily sample of 2,600,000 tweets are used to help determine what the mood is.


This is a great idea and would make a great tool for people who work in the world of Digital Media or Marketing, having a constant update of the emotion without having to stay connected to the twittersphere at all times.

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The beautiful Moodlight is constructed using 5.2mm Birch Veneer Core and 3mm Opal Acrylic from our US catalogue.


Head over to Kickstarter and take a look for yourself, and why not drop in a pledge while you’re there.

If you’ve got a gem of an idea and you’re looking for advice on how to make it a reality, check out the rest of the Ponoko site and feel free to ask us any questions.

#HolidaySales Tip #6: Breeze Through Black Friday & Cyber Monday


At first glance, the term ‘Black Friday’ has a slightly menacing ring to it, possibly the title to the latest horror zombie film. On the other hand, ‘Cyber Monday’ sounds like another name for Judgement Day from the Terminator series – a day when the machines finally take over the world. Thankfully, the truth is a lot less ominous but not entirely scare-free, if you’re a seller.

That’s because Black Friday signifies the unofficial start of the holiday shopping season. Held a day after the Thanksgiving holiday, this tradition dates back all the way to 1925 when Macy’s held its first Thanksgiving Day Parade. As for the name, that actually has a reason to make you smile – Black Friday is so named because business was said to be so brisk on this day that it actually pushed many retailers back into profit or into ‘the black’ as they say in business terms.

The term ‘Cyber Monday’ is a relatively new phrase, making its debut on November 28, 2005, in a Shop.org press release entitled ‘Cyber Monday’. Since then though, it has come to signify a push by retailers and marketing companies alike to persuade people to shop online. And from one look at numbers, they clearly didn’t have to push very hard. In 2014, Cyber Monday online sales grew to a record $2.68 billion, compared with the previous year’s figures of $2.29 billion.

Right, now that we have the history out of the way…let’s move to the present. As we mentioned earlier, both Black Friday and Cyber Monday do bring with them a certain sense of apprehension for sellers because come these two days, people don’t just flock to buy stuff, they practically rampage to get ahead. And businesses need to do everything they can to batten down the hatches and prepare for this wave of customers.

Don’t wait to start planning

Just because the sale isn’t for a few weeks, doesn’t mean you can put planning off until later. If you hope to make the most of these two days, here are a few tips to bear in mind:

Customers start researching earlier than you might expect

The holiday season can be as stressful for a customer as it is for a seller. And when you add FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) to the mix, you’re left with an anxious customer who starts scouring the web and stores to fill up his gifting list as early as he possibly can. In fact, according to research from NFR last year, every year , 40% of customers begin researching and doing their holiday shopping as early as October.


That’s why you need to prepare your holiday sales at least a month or two in advance. And as soon as you do, you should begin letting customers know so that those eager to get a head start on their shopping can begin making a beeline to your business. In fact, don’t be afraid to throw in a few gift ideas of your own. Ideas like these help push the procrastinators into shopping early.

Know exactly what your sale will look like

A holiday sale is not a piñata where you just throw in a bunch of items and let customers grab whatever they can when you open up the sale. You have to carefully consider which products to include based not just on their performance through the year but also based on which items might tend to be more popular around the holidays. One way to do this is by creating a ‘sales map’, which outlines your sale items, lists inventory for each of them and includes approximate shipping costs and delivery estimates.

Learn to create a contingency plan

Now, we don’t want you to imagine the worst, but planning for a few unexpected situations won’t hurt. For instance, what if your website goes down? Do you have social media messages in place to curb frustration and offer an alternate shopping route? What if your shipping company can’t deliver? Do you have an alternate company on standby? Is the email explaining the situation drafted and ready? Without plans like these, valuable hours are lost just reacting to the situation rather than responding to it. Always remember to hope for the best, but plan for the worst.

Be realistic in your ability to handle demand

There’s an iconic scene in the movie ‘Jingle All The Way’ where Schwarzenegger strolls over to the action figure stack and confidently picks up one, only to be blitzed by scores of other dads all scrambling to get their hands on one. While it was funny to see the brawny actor be tackled to the ground, being railroaded by customer demand during the holiday season isn’t as much of a laughing matter. To avoid it, here are a few simple precautions you need to take:

Test to ensure your website can handle a surge in traffic.

It happens to the best among us – too many simultaneous website request rush in at one time and boom! Your website comes crashing down. While this does take a LOT of traffic to happen, it doesn’t mean it won’t. Just to be sure, you should use tools such as LoadImpact.com or Blitz.io to ensure your site is robust enough to handle any spikes in traffic.

Test your brick and mortar store for demand surges too

If you or your team create your product yourselves, then you need to plan a new production schedule to cope with the demand on these two days. This may mean putting non-sale items on a temporary production freeze as a means to free up some time to put together the other items that are going on sale. Alternatively, you may need to ramp up production hours or start working on added production runs right away to keep stock in check.

If you rely on a supplier, you need to have a frank chat with them to ensure they are able to cope with your increased supply requirements. Also, you need to double check on the delivery schedules to ensure there are no bottlenecks, which leave you with shelf stock but limited, inventory.

Don’t be afraid to get creative
Remember, on these two days there are literally thousands of brands competing for the attention of customers. If your brand hopes to stand out from this noise and make an impact, you have to leverage your creative skills. Here are some basic tips:

Build banners and hero images specifically for holiday sales


It’s a proven fact that people respond better to images. And during the holiday season, showing someone the perfect gifting idea is potentially the best way to lead to a sale. To achieve this, a well-designed and well-placed banner can often help do the trick. Try to use you product as much as possible and keep the copy crisp and to the point.

Another key area to focus on is the header image on your homepage. Given that it is the first thing customers see when they come to your site, it is a great place to grab those first few seconds of attention and guide them to your best-selling products.

And even if you aren’t able to design these banners or site headers yourself, there are plenty of free templates and resources available to help you. Or if you are really pressed for time, consider hiring a freelance designer to put together something creative.

Stay prepared by planning your ads ahead of time

Creativity is not a faucet that you can turn on minutes before you need it. Especially when you need to churn out something really unique and eye-catching for Black Friday and Cyber Monday. That’s why it’s better to plan your banner and search ads ahead of time so that closer to the day, you can spend more time focusing on timing and placement.

It’s also important to remember that bids can get more expensive during the competitive holiday season depending on your niche. This means you may need to increase your bid price on certain keywords to increase visibility of your ads during this time. Now is also the best time to plan your holiday sale ad budgets as well.

Add suspense to your sale and try to build buzz

There’s little fun in just announcing your Black Friday or Cyber Monday sale. This simply lets people know that you are running a sale. But you haven’t given them a compelling reason to come.

Instead, what you can focus on is building anticipation. Start by sending out teaser emails, which offer snippet previews of what will be on sale. Use your social channels to post sneak peeks of your warehouse to show how much your overall stock is or how limited your stocks are for certain products (to drive home the ‘limited editions’ feel). By doing this, you retain top-of-mind recall for your brand and give customers something specific to look forward to at your sale.

Get down to the brass tacks of your website

Both Black Friday and Cyber Monday are now heavily driven by online traffic. This means your website is often the first place customers land. Given the high dependence on this medium, you need to optimize every pixel and squeeze the most value from every corner of your site, not just the shopping cart. Here’s how:

Design an easy-to-use website.

This may seem like stating the obvious. But if you’ve ever encountered a website that’s badly designed or difficult to use, there’s another Hollywood blockbuster which sums up your frustration at that point – Fast and Furious.

To get your website past this obvious stumbling block, here’s a list of the things you need to check for in your usability rundown:

How simple is the navigation? At this stage, you need to look at the design of individual navigational features such as menus, search boxes and sidebar widgets.

Is your site easy to read and understand? This includes every bit of text on your site from the product descriptions to the image text. You need to ensure you’ve used web-friendly fonts and that all necessary text is easy to zoom into. In terms of content, you must make sure all language is simple and the descriptions kept concise because a large percentage of your users will be reading the copy off a mobile device.

Are your design elements consistent? You need to check that all headers, subheads and body text are consistently designed in terms of colours and fonts. Each of these elements should also be placed in the right areas in order to maintain a consistent visual language. Also, they need to be the right size across the various pages of your site and adapt accordingly for different screens.

Is your website speed sufficient? This refers to the average time taken for a page to load on your website. If you have demo videos on your site, you need to check the load times for these too.

Is there a clear access to support? In the event that a visitor has a question, you need to ensure that he or she can easily contact your business for help. This is especially important during the holiday sale season when people have technical or aesthetic questions about your product simply because they are giving them as gifts.

Is your website user friendly? The simple act of being user friendly can have a significant impact on visitor retention. It also has a positive impact on conversion rates and even affects the overall size of checkout.

Keep optimizing your efforts

There is no magic bullet guaranteeing better sales during Black Friday and Cyber Monday. The road to success lies in your ability to simultaneously run multiple aspects of your promotional machine and optimise at every stage. Here are some of the things you need to consider for this process:

Focus on creating abandoned cart emails

Shopping cart abandonment is very real and a very serious problem. Especially during Black Friday and Cyber Monday. That’s because given the number of sites a consumers switch between during these two days, their attention span is severely limited and fickle. In fact, according to a report by Barilliance, the average cart abandonment rate during these two sale days was as high as 65% in 2014.

An easy way to short circuit this process is by setting up compelling abandoned cart emails. These emails are targeted based on the product (as much as possible) and offer clear, distinct reasons for them to come back and complete their purchase.

Keep testing your site and getting fresh feedback

Imagine being able to sit behind a potential customer as they navigate your site. Just think of all the wonderful insights you could glean from that process. But since it’s not possible to track down and physically monitor interaction with your site, the next best thing is to use a tool to do the job. One that we recommend is UserTesting. This tool lets you watch a random user go through your website and listen to their feedback. You can also get a video of the process in action. If you can repeat this process a few times, you may spot a few recurring kinks in your site and address them immediately before the sale days.

Get smarter results by using tracking pixels

If you use paid advertising such as Facebook Ads or Google Adwords, you should place retargeting pixels on your website so you can re-market to your holiday sale traffic. This may seem like digital stalking but on a day when every brand is out to get the most share of mind space and share of wallet, tracking pixels help you outsmart the competition.

Build with a ‘mobile first’ strategy in mind

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Consumers continuously shift between smartphones, desktops and tablets throughout the day. This means they expect their digital storefront and shopping cart to sync across all these devices. Proving this point, a 2014 IBM report claimed that mobile traffic surpassed desktop traffic on Thanksgiving for the first time. Plus, according to Custora, Black Friday and Cyber Monday weekend in 2014 saw over 26% of orders come through a mobile device. This means if your website isn’t fully set up for a seamless web experience, yow won’t just miss traffic, but revenue.

To minimize the chances of this happening, you need to begin by examining what your website’s UX looks like on a mobile device. You need to begin by ensuring your site is mobile optimised. Because as per a 2015 update by Google, websites that are not mobile optimised will actually be ranked lower by the search giant. Meaning that long before users decide your site is hard to navigate, they move on to your competition because they haven’t even found your site.

You also need to see if your mobile shopping experience is intuitive and leads customers to not just the right products, but also unobtrusively nudges them toward the products you want to push. Finally, you need to check the shopping cart experience to make sure the process is seamless and doesn’t have any glitches, which may lead to cart abandonment.

Mobile ecommerce revenue stood at $42.13 billion in 2014, and forecasts indicate that number could grow to $132.69 billion by 2018. By optimizing your site for mobile, you make it easier for customer to transition their shopping experience across devices and thus increase your chances of closing a sale.

Make social media matter in every way necessary

We now live in a world where consumers are more connected with the brands and the things they purchase, than ever before. The nerve centre of this interconnectedness is social media. But while connectivity is always a good boost for sales, sellers now have to be doubly careful to set the right level of customer expectation (especially on big days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday) and maintain full transparency during the process. Here’s some the key stepping-stones sellers need to tread to nail their social media efforts.

Build a spreadsheet to see the broader picture

Social media is not a one-trick pony. But just because there are multiple channels to choose from, it shouldn’t become a carousel either. To ensure you have the right marketing mix, make a spreadsheet of all the social channels you are present on and the ones you think you need to establish your presence on. Next, put down the number of hours you spend per channel on your active social accounts. Then put down an estimate of how much time you intend to spend on the new channels. This allows you to have a realistic overview of the time needed to maintain a successful social presence across channels. If the number looks too unrealistic given your other time commitments, then (take a deep breath) and consider dropping a few channels from your mix.

Have a mission for each social channel

Your brand needs are bound to change with every social channel. So, it’s a good idea to evaluate your messaging priority and brand objective for all your social media profiles individually. For example: your Instagram profile may be for sharing in-store customer interaction. Pinterest may be your online sale catalogue. And Facebook may be a mix of the two.

Last but not least, do a brand check

During a sale, a customer is looking at dozens of brands. To make sure your brand is not lost in the crowd or worse, giving out mixed messages across different social platforms, you need to ensure all your accounts speak the same language. This includes profile photos, cover photos, icons, bios and product descriptions.

In our next blog of the series, we’ll look at working in seasonal batches and getting your easy-to-ship products out the door faster. But for now, when it comes to planning for Black Friday and Cyber Monday, remember to plan ahead, stay consistent and adapt quickly. Do you have any tips for these big sale days?  Let us know in the comments below.