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Slowdowns and Slumps - When to freakout, When to take action, and What to do about it.

Steady sales ... it is the goal ... it is the dream ... and it is also somewhat of a fairy tale!  If you look hard, sometimes you don't have to look hard, you can consistently find a business person complaining that they are experiencing a slowdown, that their shop is dead, they wonder if it is the end ... Seasonal ups and downs are normal, should be expected, and your season may not be Christmas!

First, every business throughout the year, experiences ups and downs.  Those ups and downs do not occur at the same times for all shops ... even shops selling almost identical things don't always experience ups and downs at the same time.  Your competitors may be reaching a different market than you or have brought a previous customer base with them.  Do not kill your shop comparing it to other similar shops.  Base your fluctuations on your own shop visits, not another shop's visits.

All businesses should keep track of their sales and visits to their shops.  It is up to you if you would like to do this daily, weekly, or monthly ... I don't recommend any longer time frame than monthly, and I really don't recommend checking your stats multiple times a day.  However, if you see that your sales have gone up or down on a daily, weekly, or even monthly basis it doesn't mean your shop is dying.  When accessing your ups and downs, always compare them to the previous year during the same time frame.  I do not expect for my shop to perform the same from July 1st-July 7th and December 1st - December 7th ... I also do not expect my shop to perform the same from December 1st-7th and December 25th-December 31st.  When evaluating the health of my shop I always compare the same dates this year with those same dates of previous years.  If you don't have a year's worth of history, then you just don't have enough data to compare. 

If you don't have a year's worth of data, does that mean you shouldn't pay attention?  No, not at all!  New shops need to focus more on what things are getting attention.  Do you have one product that is out performing another?  Do you have a product that is ignored?  Evaluate the differences and similarities in these products to see what things you can change or try to replicate. 

If the website you sell on has made some changes, and your sales drop off for a week, it does not necessarily mean that these things are related to each other. 

Am I saying that you need to wait an entire year before you act?  Not at all.  But you need to give things time enough to see results before you make sweeping changes.  The only time it is appropriate to make sweeping changes, is if you are re-branding or completely changing product lines.  Or if the website you sell on announces a definite change that you need to react to.  For instance, if the website announces a fee increase and you need to raise your prices ... then do it ... all at once ... but consider making price adjustments only once per year to account for anticipated changes throughout the entire year.  For instance, everyone in retail expects UPS, FedEx, and USPS to announce shipping increases in January ... this is not a surprise ... The USPS used to also make changes just before summer but has seemed to integrate those annual changes into the January rate hikes.  If your suppliers tend to increase prices in March, you should account for those anticipated changes also when you adjust your shipping.  Customers do not like coming into your shop and your prices fluctuating every week or every month.  Your pricing should include enough cushion that you can easily absorb a 5 to 10% increase ... if your pricing can not handle a 5 or 10% increase for fees, supplies, or shipping, then your prices are not high enough.

If you think that you need to make changes to your SEO, work on improving the SEO for 10% of your items ... no more.  Then you should closely monitor the items that you made changes to, for at least 4 weeks before changing the other 90%.  The only exception would be if you see a huge difference in visits to your shop that are coming from searches.  If the huge visits to your shop are coming from another source other than search, then the changes that you made to your SEO are likely not what caused this increase in views and sales.  And, even when you make SEO adjustments, I do not recommend adjusting the most popular items in your shop.  If an item is getting your highest views and sales, do not mess with what is working for you!  Anytime you work to improve SEO, it should always be on the items in your shop getting the least amount of views.

When you are tracking sales, views, what items are popular, etc ... you need to keep Etsy or Shopify or wherever it is that you sell.  There are factors that you need to account for when you are tracking data that these sites do not keep up with.  Those things include, when you get sick, when you take a personal vacation, when you launched a new product, when you redid your shop photos, when you removed a product line, when you tweaked your SEO.  All of these things can have a huge impact on your stats, but would not be recorded, so it is up to you to make those notes!

Tomorrow I will be talking more about record keeping and where and how I keep notes!


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