Are you thinking about taking time off this festive season?

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Then let’s talk about how to manage your website or store, as well as orders and social media, over the break and why not to turn off your online store whilst you are on leave.

Think first about WHEN you might take time off.

Post-Christmas Sales – Don’t switch off!

You might hate the sale season but what about your customers? Are they going to be looking for a bargain?

It is totally reasonable to want to spend time with your family over the holiday period but maybe it would be better to take your big break at a quieter time of the year. The whole post-Christmas sale chaos is becoming more and more prominent in the online space as well as in bricks and mortar stores. Online shoppers don’t want to miss out on the buzz of grabbing a bargain in the holiday sales, but the problem shoppers face when they go online to indulge themselves after Christmas is that so many online stores are closed, in holiday mode, or simply empty.

Why not be the salvation your shoppers are looking for?!

Consider your products and customer base before you plan when to take your holidays. If you are selling stationery, swimwear, towels, holiday luxury items, school related items like bags, kids wear, even hair clips, (and the list goes on…) December – February might just be the time you could be making the most of online spending – not closing your doors. You can choose when to take a break.

Have your cake and eat it too

Even if you decide to take a break with family and head to the beach for a week there are ways you can still carry on business without closing your doors.

We love this advice from Marissa at Omiyage.

I try to make sure I get a week off in summer and again around Christmas (she is in Canada). This will be announced via social media, blog and on our website about one week in advance. Personally, I don’t like shutting down the shop while we’re on vacation. I think that it takes a lot of work to get a customer to your shop and there’s really no guarantee that they will remember to come back later. Also, you really have no control over blog /media features – during our summer vacation last year, Omiyage was featured in a major Canadian magazine and the orders came pouring in. Had we closed the shop, chances are a lot of that business would have been lost.

I use Hello Bar to post a notice at the top of our site indicating that all orders placed during our vacation will ship on date X and repeat this information on our News section, Checkout page, Order Confirmation emails… pretty much everywhere and anywhere I can. 

In terms of social media, these days it’s really easy to check in with Facebook and Twitter a few times during your vacation via mobile phone or take your customers on vacation with you by posting a few images on Instagram. Just set yourself a daily time limit and don’t waste your time off glued to the internet! In terms of blogging, in the past I’ve ensured that blog posts were pre-written and scheduled to be published over the holiday, and I know that many bloggers line up guest bloggers during their downtime. However, I think that blogging is taking a bit of slower turn and so, if you’ll only be gone for about a week, you could get away with not blogging. But, if you are taking a long vacation (lucky you!), it’s probably a good idea to schedule a few posts here and there – you could even do a selection of greatest hits and repost your most popular posts.

I LOVE THIS ADVICE! As an avid online shopper there is nothing more frustrating than stumbling across a Facebook page and falling in love or receiving a recommendation of a great business only to find their online shop is closed for the next 2-6 weeks. I am busy and forgetful, with too many things on my mind, just like your customers, so chances are we will never be back in the shop again. Bummer for me and you!

This isn’t even because I’m upset with the shop owner – I just simply won’t remember to come back when they open up again. All consumers are busy, overloaded with information and are unlikely to check back with you when you re-open shop.

Stock Levels

I hear you saying but if I go away and my stock is all bought and sold out, then what?

It’s one of those “If I earn more money I’ll have to pay more tax” issues, you think it’s a problem but it is not. If you list all of your available stock and it is sold out by the time you return from holidays – isn’t that awesome?! Isn’t that a much better holiday than if you had closed the shop and not made a cent? Sure it might take you time to build up your stock again but you will now know that telling customers they have to wait for orders to be shipped doesn’t stop them buying.

And you should be full of inspiration to get stuck into it after a refreshing break.

HOT TIP: Don’t list stock you don’t have. Coming back from vacation and having to spend a day packing and sending items is very different than needing to spend 5 days making new stock for 12 hours a day. You don’t want to ask people who have already waited for their orders to have further delays.

Lost connections

By closing your online store over the holiday period you can so easily lose all of the online connections you have worked so hard to build. If your shop is closed and there are no products visible to the public for a few weeks, you can lose your search engine rankings as you no longer have keywords or images to index or to send people to.

Online traffic directed from features in magazines or other websites/blogs will be sent to an empty page or worse a broken link. Is this how you want to portray your business to new customers?

Media, offline stores and other businesses use the quiet holiday to plan for the months and year ahead. If they are out scouting the internet for new ideas, new products to stock or new business prospects and your online presence is blank or closed you’ve potentially just lost yourself the exposure and sales you have been striving for all year.

Social Media

As Marissa stated above, it is not hard these days to “check in” with your social media accounts while you are away. It can be a fun way to engage with your customers if you take them on a mini holiday with you.

Keep your interaction short – even if you are sharing family snaps with friends on Facebook – keep the business side of things to a minimum so you get to take advantage of the time away. To help make the most of the short amount of time each day (or every couple of days) write yourself a rough plan before you leave home. Set out what you want to post about and when you want to do it. You can set up scheduled posts on most social media platforms now but even just having a plan means you can log on, post a few things and get back to being with family.

Take an unplugged holiday

Make a note of your absence but don’t close your shop. Note your absence on your website, at the checkout and on your contact page, something like “We are unplugged and on holidays, but we assure you that your enquiry is important to us and we will be replying to all enquires on x date”. This lets the customer know that you are not ignoring their issue and that they can expect to hear from you on a certain date.

Give yourself a day or two. If you are arriving home on the 3/01/15 put the x date as 5/01/15. This gives you time to sift through the spam and prioritise the enquires. If you happen to get to your emails on the 4th you are just going to win brownie points with your customers.

Set an out of office email so that anyone emailing you knows why you are not replying to them. Same deal as a above, state that you are away and give details about when people can expect to hear from you. Remember to turn it off! It is not a good look when a customer gets an autoresponder suggesting the shop owner will be back in the office on 05/01/15 and it is already 02/02/15!

Make it known on social media but don’t make to big a deal out of it. Your customers need to know, anyone trying to email you needs to know, but people on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram are (to be really honest) unlikely to notice you are gone. Let people know the information about shipping and dates of delivery etc, let them know when you will be returning, but don’t make a big deal about it as then potential customers could be put off from buying as there is such a hoo-hah about you not being around. Don’t apologise a thousand times for being away on your return, just get back into being present and sharing your business with the world.

Make the most of the time off

If you are anything like most creatives, we know that time spent relaxing and unwinding is often really time spent plotting and planning your next amazing idea. That is fabulous but if you must “work” while on holidays let it be creative play. Take a notebook and a pen instead of pulling out your laptop every time you have a thought worth saving. Read that book you have had on your nightstand for months, even if it is business related. Allow yourself the time to reflect on your business, your ideas and your goals.

But most important be present with the people and the experiences around you. The world of business will be waiting for you when you return so make the most of your time away and let it refresh you. Enjoy your family and friends and sleep in (if the kids will let you!).

 What has been your experience in taking time off from your business?