But so many people set up a website (which is no mean feat!) and then . . . nobody turns up to look at it! Why?
Well, there's so much more to it than "just" setting up a website. If you've already got a website, or an online shop on Etsy or Folksy , consider these ten top tips for increasing sales:
1. Check your site is easy to use and navigate and that your shopping cart is working properly. If you haven't got a shopping cart, get one! PayPal is easy to set up and there's no upfront fee. The buttons can be customised so the customer can enter personalisation details like names or colours. Test the site out as if you were a customer, and/or get an honest friend to have a go. Ask for a warts-and-all review from them. You can also ask for reviews of your site on a forum. Try UK Crafts Forum
2. Your photographic product shots absolutely must be the best you can make them. A decent point-and-shoot camera is a good basic tool (keen photographers will want to upgrade, but won't need the tips in this section!). Use the macro setting for close-ups, use natural daylight and not a flash, crop and edit your photos (you may want to make the image brighter, or change the colour slightly). Use a contrasting background (preferably white, if it works with your product) and don't clutter your shots if you're doing lifestyle shots. Your product should be the star!
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3. Have a blog and update it regularly. There are some pointers for getting search engine visitors to your website via your blog on this post - your blog is useful in the search engines, as well as being a social tool, a showcase for your new work and your platform for showing the world the back story of you and your business. I'm a big fan of blogging and I know from experience it helps sales.
4. Use social media to get your name "out there". Don't spam people with link after endless link (you won't generate much interest that way), but instead get involved in conversation with people. You don't need to use all social media (you'd never get anything else done!) but certainly consider Twitter and Facebook. The key is in the name - it's called social media for a reason, so interact and try to post something of interest to your followers.
5. Promote your website at any events you do, such as craft shows, wedding fairs, etc. Talk to customers as they browse and make sure they're aware they can buy from you online. You may find some of them become customers several months down the line - and some of them may even become regular customers.
6. Use every opportunity you can to promote your website. Always have business cards on you. Tuck a few in your purse or even make yourself a keyring pouch to hold them! You need to be able to whip one out at the drop of a hat! Consider having a range of your product photos printed onto the reverse of business cards or on postcards as they can then be like a little product catalogue you can show interested people. Look at Moo - you can have a different design printed on the back of every card.
7. Get your products in magazines! Start with specialist or niche magazines - they're more likely to use you and it's a gentler introduction to how popular your products might be (the bigger magazines can produce a level of interest that can be hard to keep up with). Check each magazine before submitting and see where your products might fit in - do they have a shopping page or a "what's new" page? Email the editor or features editor with your offering. Think craft, sewing, cat, dog, wedding, car and even caravan magazines - but make it relevant (and think about the time of year it might be published, too). This might even make you think even more creatively about your range of products.
8. Talking about your range of products: is it fresh and current? Update your range on a regular basis and consider if your products are something that people do actually want to buy. If things are going slowly, you might want to do some market research into what's selling for other people. You can do searches on Etsy and Folksy for similar items - what type of products are people buying? You can also find out a lot by reading blogs and forums. Don't ever copy someone else's design, but you can get a strong feel for the type of thing that works.
9. Provide excellent customer service and you'll find you get repeat customers. By excellent customer service, I mean: post out your items as promptly as possible (I know handmade to order can take time, but your customer should know exactly what to expect and in most cases you should aim to exceed their expectation); wrap items well; respond to any communication as quickly and efficiently as possible; apologise and make things right if you've made a mistake. See if there are any ways you can go the extra mile - it usually impresses.
10. Be persistent in all your efforts. A successful website will not happen overnight. Keep on doing all the things you're doing (and do them well) and you will - eventually - see results. Apart from magazine coverage (which can occasionally be a massive short-term boost and often results in a longer-term boost too), doing all these things should ensure you see a gradual but steady increase in visitors and sales.
Good luck with your website! If you have any tips, feel free to share by leaving a comment!