A Shop Audit for Craft Sellers
Welcome to Episode 15 of the Craft Seller Success podcast. In this episode I will be talking about how to preform a simple audit on your craft shop. This can really help you spot potential problems, ways to improve or expand your business and give you a better understanding of how your shop is doing.
Links to the printable checklist are at the bottom of the page.
Listen to the Shop Audit for Craft Sellers podcast here, download it for later or read the transcript below.
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To see the other episodes available – Craft Seller Success Podcast Main Page
This is the Craft Seller Success podcast from Tin Teddy. Episode number fifteen – A Shop Audit for Craft Sellers
Welcome to the Craft Seller Success Podcast – helping craft sellers sell their crafts
Hi, I’m Deborah Richardson from Tin Teddy.
In today’s episode I am going to talk about performing an audit on your online craft shop.
If the word “audit” is sounding a bit alarming to you, perhaps conjuring up images of dreary business stuff, don’t worry. This is YOUR shop audit and you can make it as simple or complex as you choose.
An audit can really help you spot problems in your shop as well as ways to improve.
This type of shop audit will work well for various sorts of online craft shop. Though, of course, you may need to adapt some bits, or ignore some bits, to suit the sales platform you are using.
At the bottom of the page you will find a downloadable checklist to help you perform your own shop audit. The points I am going to talk about in this podcast follow that checklist. So if you want to go print it out now, please do, I will wait.
This is my own version of a shop audit. I recommend adapting it to suit your own business as there are so many types of craft sellers, selling so many types of crafts, in so many different ways.
When do you do it?
I do a basic audit of my online craft shops every 6 months and a more in-depth business audit every year. I make a note in my planner so I know when they are due. You can, of course, choose a schedule that suits you. If you have more than one shop then you might want to do a shop audit for each.
You will need:
To perform your shop audit you will need a pen and paper, or a notebook. Or you could use a word-processing or other writing program if you prefer.
Unless it is a super-fast fix, like a typo, I would recommend not trying to sort out or change things as you go along. Instead, write everything down so you can tackle it properly when you have finished.
You may want to use a checklist such as the one I have created for this podcast (links at the bottom of the page), or you can create your own.
Make notes of things that you want to change, improve or add as you go along. You can then create an organized, prioritized list to get these things done. See Episode 14, Goal Setting for Craft Sellers to help with this.
So let’s get started…
I divide the business into 7 sections. You can work on one at a time or all in one sitting, as you prefer. There is a little bit of crossover between sections now and then.
The 7 sections I use are – Products, Shop, Sales, Pricing, Marketing, Branding and Other
How many products do you currently have on sale, and how many products do you have on sale on average?
Some craft sellers will have consistent stock levels, perhaps because they make things to order. Others of you will have stock levels that change considerably over time. Try to get some sort of idea of your average and whether having over a certain figure helps sales or not.
What is your best seller?
Check your sales stats to see what does well for you. This may be a particular product if you sell copies of the same item over and over, or maybe a particular line or type of product. So if you sell animal figurines, you might notice that say, cats sell much better than dogs.
What is not selling well?
Also look at what isn’t doing so well. Are there lines that need extra attention to try to increase their performance? Do you think you would benefit from discontinuing some items to concentrate on others?
Note where you could add value to existing products.
Look at ways you could add value to your products. Check out episode 7 which is 9 Ways to Add Value to your Craft Products, for lots of ideas.
Do your products reflect current trends?
It is worth having a bit of an eye on current trends. Look at magazines, blog posts, news sites and tv shows that relate to your niche.
Be careful not to concentrate too much on trending things, remember that some trends come to an end very quickly indeed.
In 2013 rubber loom bands were huge. Millions of children and adults spent the summer creating bracelets and other squishy creations with the tiny rubber bands. Many stores and sellers began to stock loom bands. Soon they were available from every conceivable outlet. Even my local betting shop had a sign in the window saying they sold loom bands!
But a year later and the craze was over. There are still some die-hard fans enjoying the loom bands, and many people, myself included, have a big box of the bands left. But there was an awful lot of sellers who ended up with vast supplies of the bands, and no sales.
I’d recommend having a few trending products, but ensuring you also have some “long-term” lines too, to fall back on if the trend ends.
Yes, even unicorns might one day be out of favour!
Look at your competitor’s ranges – are you on a par?
Check out what your competition is selling. I am certainly not suggesting you just copy them, of course, but it does help to know what you are competing against.
How does your current range of products stack up? If you sell knitted hats and gloves but notice that all your competition offer scarves too then maybe this is something you could consider. Things like that.
Note any ideas for new products
As you look at your shop, do you see any potential gaps in your ranges? Make notes of ideas to research for future products.
For example, if you currently sell felted hats for men and women, could you branch out into children’s hats too?Are there products that would complement your existing lines?Click To Tweet
Consider the overall look and feel of your shop.
What jumps out at you when you look at your shop’s front page and product pages? What catches your eye first.
Because it can be very hard to assess our own shops, especially as we are very familiar with them, you may want to ask a friend or family member to have a quick look and tell you their initial impressions.
Things you might spot could be:
- areas of dense text that might be hard or daunting to read
- colour cast on your photos – this can show up easier when you are looking at multiple pictures rather than just one at a time
- missing pictures
- redundant content such as announcements of sales that have finished
seasonal content that is no longer current – talking about the last dates for Christmas posting in January looks strange
- missing content – no link to your new blog? No mention of your upcoming fair? No clear section for your many Christmas lines?
Is your contact page up to date?
Double check addresses and email links are still correct. Have you included links to social media you use? A friendly, professional and easy to use contact page is a real asset to a shop.
Is your about page up to date?
Most online craft shops have some sort of About Us, About Me, or similar page. Again check that the content is up to date. If you have done something relevant to your business lately, ensure it is added. So if you recently were featured in a magazine, had a particularly important order or won a prize, pass on this info to your visitors.
Are your policies up to date?
You may have one combined policy page, such as for an Etsy shop, or have divided them up into a few separate pages.
Look at your shipping policies – are they working well for you? And for your customers? Is there anything you should look at in more detail?
Look at your returns policy. Does it comply with your legal requirements for where you live and where you ship to? How does it compare to your main competition? Remember that a customer friendly returns policy can win sales, and is a very easy way to get a wee boost over your competition.
Look at any other policies you have in place and ensure that you are complying with any other legal requirements of where you live or sell. For example:
- If you sell food products do you have any necessary licenses, quality control etc, and are you saying that you do
- When selling to the EU, and especially if you are in the EU, is the physical address of the business clearly to be found within your shop?
- If you sell toys or children’s products are you following necessary legislation? Are you reassuring potential customers of this?
- If your products comply with national or international standards, are you letting customers know?
Do your pictures pop?
Do they look attractive and inviting. Can you clearly see what they are pictures of? (I am always surprised at how many people have photos with so much of the item cropped off that you can’t tell what on earth you are looking at!)The better your photos, the better your chances of attracting a buyer.Click To Tweet
Are you showing off all aspects of the item?
Remember that your potential customers can not pick up the item and look at it like they could in a shop. You need to show them everything they would want to see so that they can get a really clear understanding of what you are selling.
If you have a 3d object you logically will need at least 3 or 6 pictures to show it off properly. Most items need more.
- Bags need pictures of the inside
- Ceramics need pictures of the base – especially if you have signed it or have a label there (which you probably will have, as it is beneficial to do so)
- Bath and beauty products will need a close up of the label to show it complies with legal requirements
- Pendants need pictures of the way the chain fastens
These are all examples of pictures that are often missing from listings.
Remember too that if you don’t show the back of an item, people may assume it is because the back is messy and you are trying to hide it! Picture it, even if it is plain and boring, to remove any doubt.
Have you included something in one picture to show the scale of the item?
Many people find it hard to picture an item based only on written measurements. Include a ruler or item to show the scale in one of your pictures to make it easier for your customers. Or, even better, show the item in use.
For example, for small products like jewellery a ruler is often used.
With many small products, you can include a picture of an adult hand holding the item.
For large items, you might place it on a dining room chair, hold it, stand by it or place it in a furnished room.
- Bags can be carried
- sweaters can be worn
- mugs can be held up
- hats can be on a life-size mannequin
- books can be shown being read or used
- pet products can be shown near the intended furry user and so on
Check your main picture looks good if cropped into a thumbnail by your search system.
Look at your main competition’s pictures. What do you like about them, what do you dislike? If they look a lot more professional than yours, what can you do to bring yours up to speed?
Do you include any lifestyle pictures? These are pictures that are meant to show the product being used. This can help the visitor better imagine themselves using the product, and help convince them that having it will make their lives better!
- Show your mug with steaming coffee, ready to be drunk
- A picture of a rosy-cheeked girl, in the snow, but warm in her lovely hat and scarf
- A dog who is clearly very happy to play with his new toy
These pictures can be used for all sorts of marketing uses as well as in your shop listings.
Have a look at big brand sellers to see how they make use of lifestyle photos to help sell their products.
Pictures are one of the most important parts of a product listing. They really can make or break a sale.
I will be talking much more about great product photography in a future podcast, of course.
Check your links
In surveys, one of the things that most annoys people who are using the internet is broken links. Take time to check your site’s links.
If you are using a marketplace site like Etsy, eBay or Amazon Handmade, most of the linking will be handled by the marketplace owner. But do check links in your listings that you have added, and any links to external sites such as your social media.
If you have a standalone site then there is the potential for other links to be faulty. Have a thorough poke about, especially checking links that could potentially lead to out of date or non-existent content.
If you have links to affiliate sites, be sure they are still operational and that the products linked to are still available.
Make a note of your shop’s fees
Be sure you are up to date on what fees your online craft shop incurs.
If you use a marketplace site, check for monthly subscriptions, listing fees and final sale fees.
If you subscribe to a subscription type plan, such as Shopify’s monthly fees, double check you are still on the best plan for your particular shop. You may be able to save money or greatly improve your shop by changing to a different plan.
If you paying for extras such as Etsy’s new Plus add-on, Shopify add-ons, WordPress plugins and so on, review them to see if you are still using them. Are they are still offering value to your business? Do you wish to continue with them?
Most sites will incur some sort of payment provider’s processing fees. Check you are up to date on what they currently are.
If you are paying for hosting and/or domain names, you might want to do a spot of research to see if you are still getting the best value for money for your particular requirements.
Do you still feel your current online selling solution is the best fit for your business? Are there things that frustrate you? Do you feel limited in some way? Is there a target market that you do not feel you are able to reach?
Think about things such as:
- Can I offer the promotions and sales packages that I want to?
- Am I restricted by rules that govern this type of shop, that are holding my business back?
- Is this shop solution right for the type of branding I want to have?
- Does this type of shop compete well in today’s market?
- Am I happy with my shop?
- Are there things I would like to do but can’t with this shop solution?
What is your average sale value?
Do customers buy one item or many? Is there anything you could do to encourage multiple product purchases? For some craft products, this is very hard. For example, people are rarely going to buy more than one large hand-made quilt at a time. If, however, your products lend themselves to multiple purchases, are you making it easy for customers to do this? Will they get a shipping discount? Would it be worth offering a price discount for multiple purchases?
Consider whether you can upsell items that compliment your products.
What are your average sales per year/month/week/day?
Be sure you know how much your shop is taking. I strongly recommend doing accounts on a very regular basis, once a week minimum, so as to be sure you are always aware of how you are doing.
Making a note now of your sales will allow you to easily compare at the next shop audit.
Does your shop have seasonal swings?
Look at your shop stats to see if you can better understand when they occur. The longer you have had the shop, the easier it is to see this, of course. If your shop is very new you will not yet have the data to allow you to do this.
Being aware of when your seasonal booms and lulls occur can help you improve things like:
- how much stock you have made up
- the quantities of supplies that you hold
- how much packaging material you require
- how to ensure you don’t have issues with outside commitments
- which lines to concentrate on for creation and marketing
- numerous aspects of your marketing
- social media scheduling
- blog post writing
- and so on…
What is your average profit margin per item?
It is really worth knowing your profit margins. Check out the podcast episode 11 – Setting a Product Price for Craft Sellers for more information on how to work them out.
If you have products that have very tiny profit margins, is it worth considering discontinuing them to better concentrate on the products that bring in more?
What is the pricing range for your products?
What is the most expensive, and the cheapest items you sell?
If you have a very wide range, would concentrating on one end of it benefit your business? So if you sell bags that range from simple tote bags at £10 up to complex handbags at £100, look at your sales figures. Do you sell more of one than the other? If so, perhaps it is worth concentrating on and adding more lines to that price point.
If you currently have a small range of prices, would it be worth considering adding some higher and/or lower priced items to attract other target markets?
Look at the span of the prices. If you have some high and some low prices, do you have some in the middle too? Do you think this would be worth considering?
What is your average price point?
If your items are generally at the higher end, is your branding and overall shop feel reflecting that?
If your items are mostly low priced, are you empathising what great value they are? And, of course, are you happy with this price, are you covering your costs properly?
Look at your competitor’s prices
How do you measure up? Remember that it is never beneficial to get into a price war with anyone. Before lowering your prices, always consider whether you can add value to your items instead – check out episode 7 – 9 Ways to Add Value to your Craft Products.
If your prices are much lower than your competitors, consider upping them. You could be losing potential profit unnecessarily.
Review your Postal prices
Are you using the best postal options for your products? Could you change the way you box or pack them to save postal fees? Of course, your priority should always be getting the item safely to the customer, but sometimes a small change can make a big difference.
For example. If you sell boxed earrings, and someone buys four pairs, it may turn out to be much cheaper to post them as a long. flat parcel with the boxes laying side by side inside, rather than piling them on top of each other to make a more square looking package.
Make a note to check the latest postal rates and ensure your shop’s shipping charges are still up to date with them. Changes in postal rates are usually quite well advertised so you can be aware of them as they happen. But double checking them when you do your shop audit will catch any increases you may have missed.
Review the cost of your supplies
If you are currently buying a small tube of glue every week, you might save money by buying the big tube once a fortnight instead. Think about the supplies you use and where you might be able to make savings.
If you don’t have some sort of inventory system for tracking the supplies you are using, consider it. Not all craft sellers really need one, but if you make items to order then it can really be worth implementing.
Check out episode 11, Craft Prices – Setting a Product Price for Craft Sellers for lots of useful information on how to set prices that sell and make you a good profit too.
As marketing is a huge subject, I am not going to be covering it in much depth in a shop audit. I personally do a marketing audit too and will talk more about that in a later podcast. The marketing section I am going to talk about here is specifically related to marketing within one’s online craft shop.
Is your SEO up to date?
The best practices for SEO, Search Engine Optimization, regularly change. Do some research into whatever SEO systems you are using. So if you sell on a marketplace site like Etsy, Amazon Handmade, eBay or Folksy, check out their seller’s handbooks or help pages to see what they advise. If you are not optimizing your products the way they suggest you risk missing potential customers who can not find you.
For most online craft sites you will benefit from a spot of research into the latest guidelines for Google search. Other search engines operate in a very similar way so you if you optimise for Google, you should be covered.
Look at your titles.
Have you made it very clear what you are selling? Have you included the most important key phrases that say exactly what this is?
Are your pictures named using keyphrases? Do they have alt text, where you can add it?
Look at your item descriptions. Have you covered everything the customer will need to decide to buy?
In particular, have you included:
- measurements, in both inches and cms – make it easy for the customer to know the size without having to convert themselves
- materials – Your potential customers will want to know what things are made of, plus your materials can be a selling point:
“Made from lightweight plastic”
“Featuring unique Japanese glass beads, unique to us”
“Luxurious alpaca wool for a cosy feel”
“Silver plated chain to beautifully match the pendant”
If your online shop uses tags or hashtags, be sure they include your most powerful keywords and phrases. Ensure you know how to use them in the way that the shop requires. For example, countless Etsy sellers struggle to be found because they have never taken the time to learn how to use Etsy’s tag system.
Don’t forget that all most of the text in your craft shop can be read by Google’s search bots. Ensure that your powerful keyphrases are where they should be.
Ensure you have links to your social media if you use it.
And be sure you have links to your shop from your social media too.
Are you running any promotions?
I will talk a lot more about promotions, sales and multibuys in a future podcast. For the purpose of a shop audit, I would make notes of what promotions I am using in the shop. I regularly look at my promotions, their effectiveness and so on.
Is your branding consistent throughout the shop?
Look at shop banners, avatars, logos, picture style and so on. Does everything work well together? Do you have a clear overall style and vibe? Will it appeal to the target market you are aiming at?
Is your branding up to date?
Does your branding reflect your current range of products? Many craft sellers change focus over time. If you used to sell industrial style metal art sculptures, but now mainly have crocheted bags, your branding will probably need to be rather different to appeal to your current shoppers.
Are you utilizing branding on your packaging?
Again, this is not something that everyone wants or needs to do, but it may be beneficial for you.
If you sell very expensive or very expensive sounding, products, be careful about the branding you use on parcels going through the mail. You do not want to attract potential mail-thieves.
Check out episode 5, Branding for Craft Sellers for lots more information on this subject.
Look at your packaging process
Are your parcels getting through safely? Have you had any complaints or potential problems?
Could you streamline your packaging process to save time or money? Such as posting less or more often, buying packaging in bulk or from a different source, or using a different packaging product.
Think about ways you could improve this important part of your shop.
Could you create cut-and-paste replies for speed and efficiency?
Do you have an up-to-date email signature on your business email?
Have you included some way for your shop visitors to sign up to your newsletter (if possible)?
Look at your workspace. Can you improve this to help your creation process? Can you reach everything you need as your work? Are you having problems keeping things tidy?
Are your supplies and finished products being stored safely and where you can easily find them? If you have had any problems with this, think about what you could do to improve things.
Finally, are your shop accounts up to date?
I will be looking at accounting for craft sellers in an upcoming podcast. Be sure you are recording your figures and are always aware of the general financial health of your business. Quite a few new sellers fail to do this and then, later on, discover they have been losing money for a while!
A regular shop audit can help you better understand your craft selling business, spot problems or potential future issues, discover new line, product and marketing ideas and improvements you could make.
Please remember that you do not have to do your shop audit exactly like mine. I recommend downloading my checklist (at the bottom of the page) and then opening it in whichever word processing program you like. Then adding, deleting and changing it to suit your own business. I have included a selection of popular word-processor file formats so you can be sure to find one that suits you.
Best of luck with your shop audit!
In the next episode of the Craft Seller Success podcast, episode 16 will be An Expert in your Niche. This episode will be out on the 13 November 2018.
Thanks for listening. Please subscribe to the Craft Seller Success podcast.
Check out www.TinTeddy.com for more Craft Seller resources.
Until next time, bye
The Craft Seller Success Podcast from Tin Teddy.
Featuring Deborah Richardson
Original music by Matthew French
Links to the Craft Shop Audit Checklist:
Shop Audit Checklist DOC format – Older versions of Word etc
Shop Audit Checklist DOCX format – New versions of Word etc
Shop Audit Checklist ODT format – LibreOffice and most wordprocessors
Shop Audit Checklist RTF format – Rich Text, most wordprocessors
Shop Audit Checklist TXT format – unformatted text