Plans to Make More Money from this Holiday Shopping Season
Q4 Baby!! Its almost that time of year when Pretty Merch rings all day and Etsy customers start blowing up my inbox. I can’t wait!
Last year I didn’t really prepare for the fourth quarter and I definitely left a lot of money on the table. This year I’m going into it with more of a plan to hopefully make enough money to pay for loafing around for a few months.
The majority of the prep work will be digging into data which I’m a total dork for.
Use What Worked Last Year
Each platform that I sell on seemed to have some products that took off in their own way. There is one shirt on Amazon Merch that made me $650 alone and a few more that made over $200 each. I had a few journals take off on KDP. Etsy had some mugs almost feel like they went viral. One mug was actually featured on People.com, but that one was taken down sine because I was playing a little too deep into the grey area of trademarks…OOPS!
So for all of you that were on Merch or these other platforms last year, pull up the historical data. Dive into the sales and stats from October-December to see what was selling the most and scale that up.
Merch by Amazon
If you had AMS ads running last year, you can and should pull the search data from this time period to see what people were searching for the most. I, unfortunately, did not use it then, so my only Merch research from Q4 2018 is the sales from then.
Above is a little snippet of the sales I did from mid-October through the end of December 2018. First, notice that shirt on the bottom with $658.32 in sales. I’m going to take that one design and try to do a few more versions of it. Then I’m going to go through all of the other shirts that sold at least 5 times and do the same, starting with the highest sellers and working my way back.
The 2nd step is to make use of the multi-upload tool on Amazon. Almost all of the products sold during this period were standard t-shirts. That’s really all I was focused on listing last year for the sake of maximizing my uploading time and I also wasn’t that high of a tier yet.
This last week all of my old designs have been converted to the multi-upload tool. Amazon didn’t automatically add the other styles, so I just have to go in and turn on premium tees, v-neck, tanks, hoodies, etc. and choose colors and pricing. I think the v-necks and zip hoodies should make a killing this year.
Last year was my first Q4 really on Etsy. I only started using it in mid-November 2017 so I didn’t have that much time to put up anything to really make money. I was happy with those numbers last year, but I was only part-time so I do expect do to way better this year.
We’re going to look at 3 places here to figure out what to focus on.
Scroll down past those numbers in the stas page and you’ll see the search terms section. This gives you all of the search terms that brought people to your listings. A quick glance here will give you an idea of any new designs you might want to make or any tags you might want to add to any listings.
This year Etsy released a search analytics tool as well. I don’t love it since it is slow, you can’t download the data, and you can’t fun filters on search queries. Still, it is a ton of data.
I like to sort by impressions, visits, and revenue to figure out what to do next. If there are a lot of impressions for certain keywords but a low position, then I’ll need to fix those listings to get them to appear higher.
You can also use this data to think of new niches or product ideas that you don’t already have. Somehow people end up on my Etsy listings searching for keywords that have nothing to do with my products. I’ve taken those keywords as ideas for new shirts and guess what, they sell!
Etsy changed the advertising recently so this isn’t as easy to go through as it used to be, but the data is still there. What you should be focusing on here are the best converting products and the duds.
For the products that converted the best, see if there are any tweaks you can make like keywords optimizing, pricing, or images. Open up the search terms to see exactly what customers were shopping for. If you see that “High Order Rate” check mark on any of the search term pages, use that for your benefits.
Then you look at the duds. Did you spend a decent amount of advertising something that didn’t convert at all? Turn off the ads on that so your budget can go towards the products that actually make you money.
Now it’s time to go over what actually did sell last year and see if there were any trends or evergreen products I can focus on. There have been some products in my best sellers lists that have made some decent profit just by taking that design and throwing it on another product. Some of my best sellers are mugs I make based on shirts people bought.
Other PODs (Redbubble, Cafepress, Zazzle, TeePublic, etc)
These other POD sites won’t really give you a ton of data, but you should still dive into each one to see what worked last year. Since you just went over all of your keywords in Etsy and Amazon Merch, you should have a better idea of how to tweak your listings to show up in more searches on these platforms too.
You should also have seen some trends into what has been selling the best for you on Merch by Amazon and Etsy. If those designs aren’t up on Redbubble, TeePublic, or any other POD sites, get them up now.
If you don’t have the time to upload to each POD platform, I HIGHLY recommend checking out Orbitkit to streamline the process. It might be worth signing up just for Q4. I would bet it pays for itself and then some.
Max Out Amazon Merch Uploads
Merch by Amazon is likely going to be your biggest moneymaker during the holiday season. Whatever tier you are on, try to max it out before Q4 hits.
And when I say to max it out, I still think it is worth saving a bit of room for any last-minute trending ideas. Who knows, maybe everyone on Reddit will decide to storm the North Pole instead of Area 51 and you miss the boat on that trend.
The first batch of uploads you should be doing should be turning your successful t-shirt listings into other styles with the multi-uploader.
After that, you should be focusing on variations of what has worked well in Q4 last year or has been great sellers all year round for you.
Did anything come up in your research from the last steps to give you ideas for new designs? Well, then those should be your next batch of uploads.
Still, have room to upload more? It couldn’t hurt to upload some seasonal designs now. Don’t go overboard with Thanksgiving, Hannukah, and Christmas shirts though. They do only have a small window of opportunity to sell and there is plenty of competition.
Holiday shoppers seem to be willing to spend a little more money now. You should take advantage of that to bring your royalties up.
I’ve actually been testing out selling standard t-shirts for $21.99 on Amazon Merch and it doesn’t look as if the volume has gone down. The total royalties have definitely gone up though!
If you have a lot of designs up and you want to quickly change the prices on Amazon, check out MerchFlow. It’s a free Chrome extension that will bulk edit prices across your Merch listings.
With Etsy you can just change prices from the listings page. Click the checkbox for all the items you want to increase the prices of, then “Editing options”, then “edit prices.”
I’m going to leave pricing alone for the other POD sites as well as my Shopify store for now.
If you’re going to mess with your pricing, I recommend keeping track of the original price and the new prices in a spreadsheet. You might find the new price does well after the holidays, but if sales drop for a design you may want to remember which ones changed so you can go back and change them to the original prices.
Etsy and Shopify Store Images
I don’t have any specific data or studies to prove it, but it looks like the Etsy and Shopify POD stores that give their shops a holiday makeover seem to do really well in Q4.
I’m sure it is all psychological for customer shopping habits, but shop owners swear by changing the designs of their stores to fit the season. Yeah, it would be smart for me to do this all year round, but I think it would drive me crazy constantly doing that. Maybe when I can afford a virtual assistant.
But, this is Q4, so I’m willing to do the work!
Etsy will get the biggest makeover. The first and easiest part will be making a holiday-specific store banner. I’m still trying to determine if I’m going to have a sale or not since that should be mentioned in the banner. Canva should be a good place to do that for free and still look presentable.
Next, I’m going to spend way more time than I want making Christmas and holiday-themed mockups for the main images on the listings. This is where I wish I didn’t suck so bad at Photoshop because I’d be able to knock these out in no time on there.
Instead, I’m going to take advantage of that Placeit account that I keep spending money on. They have tons of options for all seasons so it won’t just be the same flat lay design with a wrapped gift in each listing.
Shopify I’m not going to spend all of that time on mockups, but I’m looking into different skins for my Shopify theme that have a festive look and I’m going to place holiday banners around the site.
I always have automated ads running for Etsy, Amazon Merch, and KDP books but now is obviously a time to bump up the budgets and see if there are any changes to make to optimize these ads for Q4. Also, I usually strike out pretty badly with advertising to my Shopify store, but I’m giving it another go this year with a more targeted approach.
Etsy changed their whole advertising system recently, which I hate since I just optimized my ad spends and budgets. They are saying that the ad platform uses AI to learn about your products to optimize your ads on Etsy and Google, but it takes some time and data.
For the next month, I’m doubling my daily budget on all 3 of my Etsy stores, crossing my fingers that this gives them more data to optimize the ads quicker. I’m tracking my daily conversation rates in a Google Sheet to see if there are any trends.
If there is a significant increase in conversions and I’m seeing a good return, then it might make sense to max out the ad budget and pray I don’t get destroyed in ad spend.
Advertising Merch Shirts on Amazon
I think it is a good idea to set an ad for all Merch products once they go live. You don’t have to set a high cost per click, but just have something small running to collect data on keywords.
My ads have been running year-round which means that I can pull reports to see what keywords customers have been searching that have been leading them to my shirts.
To do this yourself, sign in to your Amazon Advertising account. On the top left of the screen, there is a three-line symbol (I think they call it a hamburger). Hover over that then go down to “Reports.”
Note – You can only pull the previous month and current month’s data. I have a monthly reminder to run the report and keep all of the information on my computer.
This report helps with finding keywords customers are searching for that lead them to your products. This is the only way you can get Amazon to really share keyword search data with you. This has two functions you can use for your Merch account.
One – Do you see any keywords leading to your products that you aren’t actually optimized for? Example – There are a lot of searches for “pitpull puppy shirt” but you never have those words lined up exactly that way in a listing? Well, edit a listing to have that exact match to see if it brings in more shoppers searching for that since you’ll now be a more targeted listing.
Two – I’m running automatic ads to all of these shirts. You can pull the best search terms to make manual ads focusing specifically on the keywords that look like they convert well.
Advertising KDP Books
Last year I only heard about KDP low/no content books in October. I uploaded a decent amount in November and made about $1,000 without knowing what I was doing and zero advertising. You know I’m changing that up this year!
This is basically the same strategy that I’m using for the Merch shirt advertising except here I’m going to start creating more versions of ads like sponsored brands ads and sponsored display ads.
Yes, this is stuff I should have been doing all year, but with Q4 here it is time to try everything to squeeze out as much money as possible.
I’ve lost way more money advertising to my Shopify store than I’m willing to admit, but I have learned some lessons at least.
The biggest mistake I made so far was setting up my entire catalog of products for advertising on Google Shopping. Sure, I’m “proud” of all my designs, but that doesn’t mean people buy them all. This year I’m going to only set up ad budgets for the shirts I know people have bought before and may buy again.
Facebook – not gonna happen. There just doesn’t seem to be enough margin in the POD products to make Facebook ads worth doing. I’m sure there are some niches that it works, but definitely not mine.
Pinterest ads might be a worthwhile option though. Pinterest users often do their gift shopping brainstorm sessions on Pinterest. I’ve also noticed a lot of my buyers organically visit my store from Pinterest. From early October until the end of November I’ll be running small campaigns to hopefully get my pins saved on potential customers’ boards.
Post to Niche Blogs
I have a couple of niche blogs that I use solely for hawking my merch products. I’ll add a post about how it works soon, but here is a condensed version of how it works:
- Create a niche website – Can be on a free hosted domain if you want
- Consistently add posts with “Top 13 Shirts for XYZ People”
- Link them to your shirts and better shirts, make sure you’re using an affiliate link though
Seems simple, right?
The bonus for this around the holidays is that if you are using an Amazon affiliate link, you’ll also get affiliate income from any other purchases people are making on Amazon. That means if someone clicks one of your shirts then checks out on a full Amazon cart of gifts, you get commission on all of that!
For Q4 I’m going to be focusing on making a bunch of posts that aim towards the keywords “Best Gift Ideas for ___”
Think about your own shopping habits around the holidays. Ever get desperate and just search “Best gift ideas for your neighbor” or something like that?
Now it is time to go through Etsy listings and make sure they are holiday ready by updating tags and titles.
There is no benefit of having “mom Christmas gift” in your tags in the middle of April, but starting in October this tag will be way more powerful.
Go through your listings and see which ones might make sense to have specific tags or product title changes made to catch buyers looking for holiday gifts.
Some examples of keywords you should try to add could be:
- gift idea
- Christmas gift
- gift for him/her/mom/dad/boyfriend/girlfriend
- unique gift
- original gift
- white elephant / yankee swap
Those are just some ideas to get the ball rolling.
You should track all of the changes you made so you can go back to your evergreen listing style after Q4 is over. Keep a spreadsheet with the original title, Q4 title, original keywords, Q4 keywords, original description, and Q4 description.
Keep that spreadsheet in a folder for next year so you can make these changes a lot faster on the existing listings.
If you haven’t been sending emails to your past Shopify customers all year like some people (me), it’s time to start the email campaigns.
Past customers are people that already have liked your products and decided to give you money for them. They are the most likely people to spend money again.
The email campaigns don’t have to be big and elaborate. It can just be a simple one that mentions a sale or gives a list of gift ideas for a person in your store’s niche.
Don’t spam your customer base though and don’t email anyone that hasn’t opted in to your marketing emails.
Sell Direct on Amazon
This is something I have been thinking about for a while, but haven’t considered really investing in until listening to a recent Merch Minds podcast.
There are some shirts on Merch that sell almost every day for me. Amazon is getting a nice cut of the proceeds there. What if I can send in my own shirts with the exact same design, no wait time for printing, and get a bigger cut of the sale?
That is definitely possible with FBA and an Amazon Seller’s account. I’m currently looking through my top 10 sellers and figuring out which ones might be worth having a bulk order made by Printful, Printify, or a local printer. I can send those into Amazon and have complete control over the listing.
If this works in Q4 then it could be something to invest in a lot more over the course of the year.
BONUS – Quick Money on Amazon
This is by far the best time to get into Amazon for retail arbitrage. It seems like most stores are trying to clear the shelves for the big-ticket items that will make them more money in Q4 which means a lot of stuff is on clearance.
I’m taking two days per week until mid-October to run around to all of my local retail arbitrage stores so I can have as much inventory in the FBA warehouses for all of that holiday shopping.
I’m really excited about the Q4 opportunities right now. This year I quit my job and have been attempting to do Merch full time which hasn’t totally been panning out yet, but I see the possible increase in Q4 sales to make up for the income I lose from my regular 9-5.
What are your thoughts on Q4? Did I miss anything here in my prep? Do you need any elaboration? There is that comment box below…
Were you moved by this article?
I just spent a few days writing this article hoping to help some people in the print on demand or online side businesses try to figure out how to maximize their profits in the fourth quarter this year.
I’ll never ask my readers for money, but if you haven’t signed up for any of the services below and plan to, please do so through my links where I’ll get either an affiliate commission or some other form of payment (ie free Etsy listings) from you signing up.
- Sign up for Printify
- Sign up for Printful
- Sign up for Etsy Sellers – Get your first 20 listings up for free
- Sign up for Orbitkit – Upload all of your merch designs to multiple POD sites all at once. Or just sign up for free to manage and track all of your designs in one place.
- Sign up for Merch Informer – probably the best print on demand/Amazon Merch research tool available (Use coupon code 2NDSCREENS to save 20%)
- Get free stocks from Robinhood and/or WeBull!