Notes from Australia

Even online retailers need a break

If you own or manage a small ecommerce business, you likely want to enjoy a holiday occasionally. But, if you’re like me, you worry about the implications of closing the business while away, with no deliveries.

Holiday closures can be costly. They impact immediate revenue and profit. And it typically takes time to build sales afterward. Shoppers do not come back, irritated you weren’t open when they needed your products.

I’ve experimented with staying “open” during my vacations, with business as usual, versus “closing” and informing visitors with a banner and product page messages that no deliveries will occur for several weeks. For me, this is usually in June or July (during the Australian winter) as well as during the Christmas and New Year period.

Holiday closures can be costly.

Christmas sales

The lead-up to Christmas Day in Australia is our peak summer entertaining period for corporate planners and consumers.

Over the Christmas 2016 to New Year 2017 period — from roughly Dec. 25 to early January — a month before launching My Event Décor on January 31, 2017, my previous website (My Wedding Décor) remained open. It was business as usual.

A year later, I closed My Wedding Décor and My Event Décor for 28 days for a vacation.

But it cost my business.

The period December 22, 2017, to January 19, 2018, (when I was closed) recorded a 55-percent drop in average daily revenue compared to December 22, 2016, to January 19, 2017, (when I was open).

Fearful of experiencing another decline in sales, I “shut shop” the following Christmas for just 19 days (December 20, 2018, to January 6, 2019).

Currently I am enjoying a long-planned, 25-day holiday in Europe. But this time things are different.

Business as usual

I’ve chosen not to place holiday closure alerts on the home page or the product pages as it dissuades consumers from making even casual inquiries, let alone purchases.

But I’m not answering the telephone. If shoppers call, they will hear my voicemail message telling them my holiday dates and to email their questions.

I’ve trained my assistant to answer queries, fulfill orders, and manage deliveries. I have not trained her to estimate and provide quotes (from event planners, for example). So I am still doing these every couple of days. And I have placed our entire rental range under a blackout period while I’m away.

Thus, apart from the voicemail message on my phone and the rental blackout period, My Event Décor is operating as usual. Comparing the period that I have been away on holiday to date (June 23 to July 11, 2019) to the same 18-day period last year, sales have grown by 36 percent.

Google Shopping

I’ve addressed how Google Shopping has helped my business. I began advertising on that platform in August 2018.

While I am currently away, I’ve cut my Google Shopping ad spend from $10 to $1 per day. Comparing the period June 1 to July 11, 2019, to the previous 40-day period (April 21 to May 31, 2019) my conversion rate has fallen by 22 percent yet my overall revenue has grown by 11 percent, and my average order value has increased by 55 percent.

The next time I’m on holiday, I intend to continue my normal Google Shopping spend and offer my rental products as usual. I’ll have a fully-trained assistant by then. Perhaps sales will be even higher!

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