It may only be October, but if you’re selling your books through our app for Shopify, or even entertaining the thought, now is the time to think about holiday shoppers and the unofficial shopping ‘holidays,’ Black Friday and Cyber Monday. If you don’t prepare now for holiday sales, you may wonder why you didn’t sell nearly as many books as you’d hoped.
Yes, I know, Pumpkin Spice has only just started to invade our lives and I’m over here telling you to get your Shopify store holiday ready. Maybe not what you’d hoped to hear.
But why else would you click on a blog post about holiday sales? Remember that Boy Scout motto ‘be prepared’? Well, you would do well to make it your own motto.
Before you run off to join the Boy Scouts, I’ve got 13 tips to help you get your Shopify store on track to sleigh the holiday shopping season! See what we did there? Slay…sleigh...holidays…get it? Great!
Holiday Sales, Booksellers, Print-On-Demand, and Shopify
This holiday sales prep guide focuses on our Shopify App users, but we can apply most of the advice here to any author or creator with an interest in boosting their holiday sales.
If you are an author and haven’t look into our Shopify App yet, I encourage you to consider it! Here’s a post from last year with a lot more info about Shopify and our Lulu xPress App. We also host a landing page with information about Shopify for authors and we wrote an entire guide to help new authors become true authorpreneurs!
Okay, that’s out of the way. Time for our holiday sales guide!
#1 – Start Now
It’s October. In less than 90 days, the holidays will be over and we’ll all be preparing for 2020. We’re less than 60 days from Black Friday and Cyber Monday!
If 60 days seems like plenty of time to create and enact a marketing strategy, you’re great at this or you’re wrong. If you’re not sure where to start, you’re in luck! Lulu has an in-depth Marketing Toolbox with loads of information and advice to help develop a marketing strategy.
Focusing on your holiday sales and looking toward the holiday shopping days ahead, I cannot say this emphatically enough: start today!
#2 – Audit Your Product Pages
Did you know online sales for Black Friday 2018 increased by 23.6% over the previous year? The trend of online shopping isn’t going away soon either. For Black Friday 2019, your first move to prepare will be an audit of your product pages.
These are the pages a buyer will land on before they buy your book. I’m sure you carefully reviewed them when your books launched and they look great. But for holiday sales prep, great won’t cut it.
Before you even think about how to get more people on those pages, take a hard look at the page and make sure:
- The copy is accurate and up to date
- All links on the page work correctly
- All images have alt tags
- Add some holiday flair
Point 4 need not be a full rework of the page. A light touch is fine. Here’s an example from one of our landing pages. If you’ve seen our journals page before, you may note that we added two additional size recommendations and put a holiday-themed graphic in the header. Your own holiday product page updates can be this simple.
#3 – Mobile First
As you check your product pages for accuracy and you add a little holiday theming, remember that mobile users are the largest growing segment of Black Friday and Cyber Monday shoppers. For your Shopify store, which boasts upwards of 50% of their sales from mobile devices, having a beautiful and easy to navigate mobile store is even more important.
Everything you do MUST be mobile-friendly.
Shopify helps with this, offering free mobile-friendly shop designs and checkouts, but you really want to make sure your entire site is mobile optimized.
#4 – Prepare Your Site
How much traffic does your online bookstore get on a normal day? The hope would be to multiple that traffic many times over during the holiday shopping season. But can your site handle that increased traffic?
Do some load and speed tests to see how your site performs and look for improvements. Tools like Load Impact are great for testing the durability of your site.
#5 – Contingency Plans
We all know that shipping is a challenge around the holidays. And since Lulu is making your book on-demand, the natural ebb and flow of orders mean what usually takes 2 days to print might take 4 as we near the holidays.
If you can, keeping some books on hand to fulfill orders that run into shipping or production issues, are lost in transit, or for any other issue that may arise is a great idea. We can boast about our 99% accuracy in order fulfillment, but that 1% of the time we don’t meet our goals, you can be ready.
#6 – Planning Your Discounts
Go look through your sales data and pick out the book that has sold the most in the last 12 months. That’s the item you should discount.
Even if it seems counter-intuitive, offering your most popular book at a discount will entice more readers to buy a book you already know is well-received. And when you discount best product, there’s more room in your shoppers budget to consider a second book (maybe one that hasn’t been selling as well?). The goal here is to leverage a popular title as an enticement to attract readers. Think carefully about how you frame that sale too. Something like “Save 50% off the list price on fan-favorite Your Book Title” really catches a reader’s attention, were as “Save 50% off the list price on Your Book Title” does less to aid the shopper’s decision.
#7 – Email Strategy
But how do you frame that sale you might wonder? Start with email!
Your email strategy around the holidays should focus on a single book. It most likely will be the most popular current release, the one you just put on a discount. With a product to target, you’ve got additional material to help make enticing subject lines.
You’ve got a lot of opportunities with email; it is consistently the best way to earn new customers and make sales around holidays. Luckily, Shopify has a blog post with some great email ideas. If you’ve got an email strategy in place, I encourage you to look at Really Good Emails, a company dedicated to finding the best in emails. They offer free access to and commentary on thousands of emails.
Remember what I was saying about starting now? Email is a perfect example. Start creating and scheduling emails as soon as you have a product and discount plan ready. Even before then, if you’re so inclined. Emails like a Prepare for Black Friday email to tease discounts are great to send early and resend as the shopping days ramp up.
#8 – On-Site Advertising
We need not complicate your author website. A home page, contact page, blog, and product pages are all you need. That’s enough. In fact, it likely makes on-site advertising even easier.
With just a few pages to update, doing some holiday-themed hero or sidebar images should be relatively easy. Tools like Canva are great for helping you create those images. You definitely want a new graphic for your home page and ideally for your product pages too.
If you have the ability with your site and design tools, a distinct holiday landing page is a great idea too. That can help you save time creating a lot of graphics and provides a single page you can link to from all your advertising.
#9 – Word of Mouth and Influencers
In the lead up to the holidays, the praise of an influencer in your genre can go a long, long way. People like to know other real people (not the marketing department for some large corporation) recommend a product. The value you can get from a little word of mouth can be explosive.
Unfortunately, it can be unpredictable too.
The best you can do is an attempt to reach out to other authors and influencers. I suggest offering them a free copy of the book for a review or similar. Trading posts is another way to build a connection with your fellow authors—it’s also a way to share networks rather than poaching another author’s readers.
#10 – Use Tags (AKA Pixels)
This gets a little deep into some technical aspects of marketing. If you’re unfamiliar with Tags and Pixels, you’ll want to read up on their history and significance. You’re also in luck because Shopify has its own general holiday readiness guide and includes a blurb about placing Pixels in a Shopify based store.
What it all amounts to is increasing your ability to track behavior on your web pages and social profiles. This may not help you this year, but next year you’ll be glad you gathered all that data.
Imagine you sent 25 emails during the holiday season. Let’s say one of these emails did significantly better than the rest, leading to more opens, clicks, and sales than any other email. You’d want to know that right? That’s the benefit of tracking data—you’ll have data to show what works and what doesn’t.
#11- Draw Inspiration From Peers/Competition
How many other authors do you know? I will guess you’ve got a decent contact list with other authors your friends with, worked with, or met at events.
Go look at their websites and bookstores!
What are they doing for the holidays? Anything unique that catches your eye? Maybe your peers are using a clever pop-up banner to promote a sale. Maybe they’ve got a nice little slide-in that reminds you about their choice sale item this season. Or maybe they’ve written a satirical blog about the evils of Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals.
Whether you get inspiration or ideas from your peers (who are also your competitors), you’ll see what other shoppers are seeing out there.
#12 – Know Lulu’s Deadlines
When we turn our calendars to October, everyone here at Lulu also reaches for our giant coffee mugs. Because this is crunch time for us too. We know how much it matters that your readers get their books quickly.
Print-on-demand means there will always be ordering, fulfilling, and shipping timelines to contend with. For most orders, we get books printed and delivered in just a few days. But as we near the holidays, those deadlines will only tighten.
We got you covered, though, with our Holiday Shipping Planner.
This Google Sheet includes information at the product level about how long we expect printing and shipping to take for all shipping methods available. And we’ll update it considering any changes (say an early season snowstorm) so you’ll have a consistent resource for production and shipping times.
#13 – Maximize Your Shopify Potential
Shopify is an amazing company. If there is one thing authors (and to larger degree readers) have lacked, it is a means to sell (and buy) books that doesn’t start with “A” and end with “Prime Shipping.”
As I’ve said before, there’s nothing inherently wrong with selling on Amazon. But there’s nothing particularly great about it either. You might get 10x as many sales, but if you earn 15x less per sale, are you really getting ahead? The answer is yes, you’ve got all those books in readers’ hands that wouldn’t otherwise be there.
But if you’re ready to cultivate your own fans and earning the revenue you deserve from your sales, you are in the perfect position to become a Shopify merchant. Why? Because Shopify is more than just an ecommerce engine.
It’s a WordPress like web-platform with Apps to customize and hone your site exactly as you see fit. With Shopify’s App store, you can achieve a staggering level of customization without coding knowledge at all! It’s the perfect way to start your own bookstore or self-publishing business.
Bring on the Holidays!
Make this year a winner by maximizing your profits, your reach, and your new readers. That means taking on a multi-platform, multi-faceted approach to marketing. There is no one-size-fits-all solution, but by using Shopify and Lulu’s xPress App to manage your orders, you’ll earn the highest revenues and exercise complete control. And what better gift could there be than a list of new contacts, new buyers, and eager readers waiting for your next email, blog post, or book? I can’t think of anything.
Paul is the Senior Copywriter at Lulu, responsible for all the words you see on our site (misspellings included). He also manages the community site – http://connect.lulu.com/en/ – and in his free time, he’s an avid reader and short story writer.