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Nine Simple Mistakes That Can Slow Holiday Sales

By Aron Hsiao  on November 08, 2016

This time of year, there's a lot of "how to" and "to do" advice for sellers about making the most of the holiday shopping season. But what about the things that you shouldn't do if you want to make the most of the sales boom?

In fact, there are some "don'ts" that go along with the "dos" for most sellers. Here are nine mistakes sellers commonly make that can negatively impact holiday search rankings, conversions, or transactions.

Remember that your shoppers may celebrate a variety of holidays—and that each celebration can vary by culture and region as well. Failing to be sensitive to diversity can cost you sales or lose you a shopper's goodwill after the sale at this time of year. (Image: © bst2012 / Fotolia)
  • Displaying or sending a culturally exclusive holiday greeting. Including positive messaging in your listings or purchases is a great idea, particularly during a festive time of year. Dashes of color and some kinds of images can add much to shopper enthusiasm. Be careful, however, to ensure that your version of "festive" is inclusive enough to be festive for everyone. Bright colors and messages like "Thank You for Your Purchase!" or "Season's Greetings, Whatever Your Celebration!" are great—but avoid culture- or religion-specific messages, and don't go over the top. Remember that there are many cultures celebrating a variety of holidays at this time of year, and that some shoppers may even find it to be a difficult or lonely time. Be sensitive to shopper diversity—it's better for business in the long run. That goes double if you sell internationally.

  • Failing to include key product details in your listing title. Though this will vary by category, it's almost universally true that shoppers are in a hurry at this time of year. They're more ready than usual to buy, but less ready than usual to sift through hundreds of listings trying to find yours. They're pounding out searches and then moving on quickly, so include things like gender, numeric or standard sizes (S, M, L, XL, etc.), principal materials (denim, leather, stainless steel), in your listing or page titles. Many shoppers simply type everything they're looking for into the search box ("men's black leather jacket size xl") so if you don't use this space to zero in on shoppers you're targeting, you could miss out on sales.

  • Failing to use item specifics when you create eBay listings. Be sure to enter the same information using the item specifics drop-downs on eBay's selling form. It may seem redundant to provide these things twice, but there's a reason for it: while some shoppers use the search box to narrow their search, others others use eBay's filters to target particular products. Fail to target both kinds of shoppers and you could be hidden from half of your audience.

  • Failing to offer expedited shipping. As the weeks pass this time of year, shoppers become more and more antsy about shipping times. Many shoppers hate to cut timing close, particularly when shopping for something that is either a gift or that will be important to festivities. Offering expedited shipping as an appropriately-priced option enables shoppers to buy with confidence when they otherwise might not.

  • Sticking to a "no returns" policy for your sales. Even if you rarely see returns or use a "no returns" policy throughout most of the year, having a "no returns" shipping policy in November and December tells buyers that you don't have confidence in your product. During this season, when many want to be sure that "it's right the first time," showing a lack of confidence in your goods can result in a "no sale" decision.

  • Including unneeded disclaimers. The same is true for long lists of disclaimers and complicated terms in item descriptions. If you've been burned in the past, it's understandable to be "as clear as possible" in your description, especially when you're trying to minimize trouble for yourself during a busy season—but being overcautious can be counterproductive. It's better to have to refund one problem than to lose ten others because you scared shoppers away. Say what needs to be said and no more—returns happen, so don't use item descriptions to compensate for past bad experiences, especially during the holiday season.

    This extreme example illustrates the problem—eBay's mobile app has made it too easy for some sellers to rush through product images without much care. Your products may be factory new and perfectly fine—but this is not the sort of image that is going to lead to a holiday purchase, no matter how great the price. Yes, it's busy and you're in a hurry—but slow down and show shoppers goods they want to have under their tree. (Image: Public Domain)
  • Images that underrepresent or poorly represent your product. More than at any other time of year, the products that you show in your listings right now should look good, because everyone wants shopping experiences at this time of year to be smooth, positive, and—if possible—perfect. They're using your images to paint a mental picture of what their holiday experience with your product will be. Retire or re-shoot tired, old, or second-rate images. Put your cleanest, most perfect product or package on display. Make it look good.

  • Failing to fulfill quickly. Leaving your buyer hanging—even for just a day or two—in late November or December is a bad idea. First, because impatience and worry levels are running high and any delay will tend to color shoppers' impressions of your goods, and next because if your parcel doesn't turn up promptly, shoppers may simply buy elsewhere in the meantime and return your product later. Because of the busyness of the season, "later" can mean a headache days or weeks down the road. Be sure that you get things out the door on schedule, and message on any shipping delays.

  • Delivering "new" items that don't seem new. For similar reasons to those outlined above, now is not the time to be delivering products with dirty, damaged, or open packaging, or with minor flaws, then expecting buyers not to notice or to accept your apologetic assurances. Deliver new goods looking new and used goods in the best possible condition (clean, tidy, well packaged, and so on), particularly now.

This list doesn't certainly include all of the potential holiday season no-nos for sellers—but it includes some of the most common mistakes that are likely to affect your sales funnel, conversions, and transactions—and they're some of the easiest to avoid.

Keep them in mind and ensure that you're not leaving sales on the table or customers unhappy due to simple mistakes that can easily be avoided.


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