Designing in a New Year While Remembering Sales of Christmas Past

Designing in a New Year While Remembering Sales of Christmas Past

As the old year (2017) was coming to an end, I saw my Zazzle sales drop off drastically. This was not unexpected. After spending 10 years designing and selling products at Zazzle, I know what to expect in January.

For me, sales for the Christmas season begin to pick up in October, but it’s not unusual to sell holiday items in September and even in August.  For this reason, I begin updating my Holiday Store at Zazzle long before then.

Each year when I begin a new journal – yes, I am old school and like to write down my earnings each day alongside my design plans, blogging ideas, and personal needs – I skip ahead in my new yearly planner to the month of July and write down what worked / sold for me the previous year. I do this while it is fresh in my mind.
oval photo Christmas ornament
For instance, I learned that customers like the new cube ornaments. I sold quite a few of those. They also prefer oval-shaped ornaments. Card sales were not all that great, and the cheaper, glossy photo cards sold best. There is not a lot of money in any of those items, but if I sell enough of them, the royalty amount climbs.

Certain tree skirts sold well, as did a few corporate cards. This does not mean they will sell the same next year. Affiliates could have picked up those items, and that is why they sold. Next holiday season the same items may not be chosen.

Certain products may sell over others, and certain designs may sell above others.  I make note of this.   I’ve made a lot of ornaments, but many of them never sell. A few select ones seem to be popular each year, so I promote those and pretty much ignore the rest.  I don’t design with the idea that, “more is better”.  It really isn’t.

Products Suddenly Not Available

Products suddenly going out of stock is something that happens more and more regularly at Zazzle, and it’s causing me to change my way of designing. Zazzle has loads of products now for us to use, but all too frequently a product will be “out of stock”. Okay, that is business for you – it happens. But Zazzle is not up front with us about when and more importantly IF that product will come back.

The first best example of this is when Zazzle gave us the Keds sneakers to design on.  Who remembers the frenzy?  This was many years ago, and designers went nuts designing these cute tennis shoes.  They were adorable, especially the ones for little kids.  I even opened a whole new store to fill with the new Keds.  I can’t remember how long they stuck around and then they all went away.  No more Keds.

I have one envelope design which sells extremely well for Christmas and suddenly, just as Christmas sales were ramping up, all envelope paper was sold out!!! – I ended up with no envelope sales for the season. It was discouraging.  Zazzle asked us to not promote envelopes – but it was way too late for that.  I had definitely been promoting this particular envelope, and it had been promoted the year before as well.  We can’t just remove all the promotion that had been done! I’m sure I was sending customers to a product that didn’t exist.

The newer ties were an excellent example. I went ahead and made many of the new ties that come in various widths. They were not easy to design for as there were three templates that needed to be adjusted. But, I figured customers would appreciate the choice of width. Some time later they were OOS (out of stock) and we got no definitive answer as to when or if they would be back. In fact I believe Zazzle said they would eventually be back. After waiting a few weeks, I removed all my new ties and re-made them as the older model tie. And I set all my new ties to “hidden” – just in case. After a few more weeks, with no ties back in stock, I deleted all the new ties. What a waste of my time – making them and then re-making them, and finally deleting all that work!  Those ties have never come back.

Skipping the New Products Doesn’t End the Trouble

The frequency of products going OOS is disturbing.  I am so unsure of what will stay and what will simply disappear one day, that I am sticking to what sells and has been around a while. If I do design on a new product, I make only a few and wait to see if they sell. If they do, I will bother to make more. If not, I ignore them and go back to my regulars.  But I am not always safe doing that either.

We can also lose products that have been around a long time, but suddenly they are OOS without any explanation. My Christmas envelope, mentioned above, is the latest example. In fact when I asked in the forum “if they would be coming back at all” I was answered with a “what makes you think that they won’t?” Are you kidding me? Experience for one thing. But I didn’t answer, I dropped it, and set all my envelopes to hidden – and I lost a lot of money in sales over the holiday season because I couldn’t sell that envelope.

envelope sales

Currently my envelope is #7 on my list of best-selling products in the Holiday Store.

Above is a screen shot of my best-selling all time products in my Holiday Store, and the envelope I speak of is #7 in the list.  It is currently the seventh best seller even without selling any this year!  So yes, it is one of my top sellers.

Speckled Paper Anyone?

Here is a fun fact:  I began at Zazzle in 2007 and in all the time I have worked there, as far back as I can remember, the “speckled paper” choice on stationery and letterhead paper has been “out of stock”. It has been YEARS since that paper was available yet it shows up as a paper choice (not available) still to this day.

This is why I stick to what seems to be safe to design on. And, don’t get me wrong, I am not down on Zazzle. Zazzle is an innovative company that has provided many amateur and professional designers the opportunity to make money by working at home.  I am one of them, and I am grateful, but I’ve come to understand some things about Zazzle – or should I say I’ve come to realize there are things I will never understand about Zazzle, and I work accordingly.

Spend Your Designing Time Wisely

Back to the reason for this post.  We could all use a few more hours in the day. Designing wisely, to bring sales, should be a main focus. After all, we all need to make money. Keeping tabs of what does well year by year is a good idea, but changing things up can be helpful as well.  Don’t listen so much to others, or spend too much time chatting on Zazzle related groups.  It’s always best to do your own thing and try to be unique. Eventually you will discover what customers like about your designs.

We can easily see our best selling products in the Zazzle stats area of our accounts. I prefer to also write down what I experience as a reminder for deigning next holiday season.

Trends change, but people always love to personalize gifts.  Zazzle is the best place to do that. It may be the huge sales Zazzle has these days that keep Christmas sales going well into the new year for me. The beginning of every year continues to bring sales on Christmas items. (Zazzle’s constant big sales have caused me to re-think my pricing also.)

Do not waste time designing lots of products that may not be around tomorrow, or that you don’t plan to promote yourself.  Find out what works best for you when it comes to making sales, and stick with it.  Keep track over the years and learn from the experience. Happy Zazzling!

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Posted on

January 24, 2018