How small businesses crushed 2019 holiday sales

(BPT) - Mastering online sales reaps big rewards for small businesses.

Ask North Carolina-based business owner Ken Baker of Dream Big Printables. Baker’s decorative and inspirational art prints are sold on Amazon Handmade, where his business has grown over 200%. On Cyber Monday alone, more items were purchased in Amazon's online store from independent small and medium-sized businesses like Dream Big Printables than ever before on a single day. For Baker, sales were up more than nine times over a typical day, making Cyber Monday his best day ever.

Baker's experience is common among small and medium-sized businesses selling their goods in Amazon's online stores. Overall, it was a record-breaking holiday season for independent third-party sellers in Amazon's stores — mostly small and medium-sized businesses — with worldwide unit sales seeing double-digit year-over-year growth, surpassing a billion items sold.

For Tennessee-based small business Brittle Brothers, "Amazon has single-handedly taken us from a company 'getting by' to a company that is actually paying all our bills and having some extra to throw in the bank," says owner John Spalding, who was inspired by his great-grandmother's peanut brittle recipe to create Brittle Brothers.

Brittle Brothers' Amazon sales are up more than 250% over last year.

"Our best day ever on Amazon was Dec. 21, 2019, when we sold 164 units in 24 hours," observes Spalding.

How can your business crush holiday sales?

Plan ahead

You know the holidays are coming, so plan well in advance, ensuring you have adequate inventory, staff and preparation.

"Making the most of the holidays on Amazon for us was making sure we had enough inventory, so that we never ran out. On Valentine’s Day 2019 we ran out of brittle and lost 10 days’ worth of sales. We swore then and there that when the holiday season began in mid-October, we would not run out! And we didn’t," says Spalding.

Wisconsin-based Handmade Artisan Michelle Rutta of Your Heart’s Content agrees.

"Because we hand make our items, we need to work ahead of the holidays. We make our products year round just to fulfill orders during the holiday season,” explains Rutta. “It requires projecting sales, cash flow, labor needs, materials needed, purchasing materials and coordinating a production schedule. We do anything possible during slower months, including tweaking listings, taking awesome photographs, planning social media posts and designing new products. That enables us to better fulfill the influx of orders during our busy months."

Master social media

Having a multi-faceted online presence increases visibility — which is more important than ever when competing with everything else out there.

"We have Instagram and Facebook pages and make posts that encourage interaction with our followers. Through the snowball effect of sales, we've also had influencers take notice of us," says Rutta. "They purchase our products, feature them in their homes, post them on their social media platforms, then provide links where they get a small commission. It's mutually beneficial because they engage their followers and beautifully style our products in their homes."

Social media also goes in two directions: It’s not just about putting your face and products out there, but also watching what others are doing so you know what’s hot — and what’s not.

"We invest a lot of time learning the nuances of social media," explains Rutta, "as well as analyzing home decor trends."

Optimize your sales channels

For small businesses, learning how to use Amazon's tools and services makes a huge difference:

  • Baker boosted revenue for Dream Big Printables to two of his all-time best sales days using Lightning Deals on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
  • Baker also uses Fulfillment by Amazon — shipping inventory to Amazon, which then picks, packs, ships and handles customer service for his orders. This enables Baker's products to be eligible for free One Day Delivery. Amazon reported more than 100 million items sold by independent third-party sellers — mostly small and medium-sized businesses — were shipped with Prime Free One-Day Delivery over the holidays in the U.S.
  • Spalding expanded The Brittle Brothers' sales into Canada via Amazon.ca and plans to launch in the Middle East.
  • Dream Big Printables and Your Heart's Content boosted visibility with products featured in Amazon's first-ever Small Business Gift Guide, which drew in hundreds of thousands of U.S. shoppers.

To learn more about the millions of small and medium-sized businesses selling in Amazon’s stores, visit: Aboutamazon.com/supporting-small-businesses. To explore opportunities to build your business with Amazon, visit: Amazon.com/buildyourbusiness.

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