Welcome to Curious Business
Every Friday, I post a small insight into running Curio City and/or Blue Hills Editorial Services. My most recent posts are directly below. You can also start with the first post, or use the subject labels to the right to home in on particular topics. Feel free to comment on anything that interests you.
Friday, November 11, 2016
Where's the Grinch Hiding?
After working my patootie off in October to clear November's decks for action, I'm unexpectedly twiddling my thumbs. This is shaping up as the worst November ever.
Things stirred to life a little later than expected on Nov. 11 and perked along a little below expectations through the 16th. On Nov. 17, sales fell to zero, and over the next four days I only netted $135 when I was expecting $1,500.
It sure seemed like something must be wrong. Everything tested normal in three different browsers on three different machines, and the few orders that did trickle in indicated that there weren't any technical problems. Traffic didn't look like a problem as I was getting a healthy 400-500 visits a day. There were no security warnings and the address bar lock icon was locked -- there was nothing to frighten people away. My product assortment is a little weak on new stuff, but I'm very well stocked on proven sellers like Christmas ornaments, Switchables, and lighted beanies. Last year I sold well over 100 beanies and had trouble getting enough stock. This year I think I've sold eight so far with 120 sitting in the cellar. There had to be something wrong...but what?
On Tuesday it occurred to me that I ought to test the mobile version, since nearly half of my visitors arrive on mobile devices. I wish that inspiration had struck earlier; mobile's always an afterthought to me. Turned out that menus weren't working right and my site was impossible to navigate on a smartphone or tablet. Finding something wrong was a relief -- tech problems can be solved. But mobile traffic converts at such a low rate that I could lose all of it without noticing (and very likely did; it's probably been broken since August). Even without the smartphone people, I should still be seeing 6-8 sales per day from proper computers. I kept testing and poking and prodding and everything kept looking stubbornly normal. My developer graciously solved the mobile problem during the holiday week, so at least that's back online now, not that it will make much difference.
Regular readers know that I was counting on Christmas to erase most of my debt. Instead the hole got deeper while my daily advertising costs exceeded sales. The mysterious drought might be ending. Tuesday and Wednesday both delivered five (small) sales, and today's Black Friday has been pretty good so far, thanks to one big camo cap sale. A heroic December could just about salvage the season. I don't see any reason to expect that, but it's not out of the question. If I can match last year's performance over the next three weeks, I'll be bloodied but still standing going into the new year. If I fall back into the doldrums it's going to be hard to see a way forward.