March 2021 - Today’s Online Craft Shows Offer More Than You Think
Sue Monhait
Gift Biz Unwrapped
Woman shopping at an online craft show

Do you remember the days when we could pack up our handmade products and head to a craft show across town or in another state—barely giving it another thought?

Those were the days, weren’t they? Hopefully, by the time you’re reading this, they’ll be on their way back in your area … but keep reading because times have changed in a good way!

As 2020 saw in-person craft show opportunities canceled, many of them moved hastily and temporarily online. Enter 2021. Complete with a new perspective. To the relief of all, in-person opportunities are re-emerging. But also, a new breed of shows is here. Opportunity is knocking with online craft shows!

Reflecting back, a lot of makers were frustrated and upset by this shift to online craft shows, and rightfully so. Attending in-person shows meant that you could interact with customers as they experienced your products up close and personal. You could communicate back and forth so easily and see immediate gratification in sales. It was difficult to see any benefit in moving the shows online.

But what’s actually happened is a whole NEW consumer shopping opportunity has arisen. However, don’t make the mistake of thinking virtual shows are just an online version of a farmers market or craft show. They are a lot more than that! So much more that I place them in an entirely separate category. It’s a powerful alternative that provides brand new customer prospecting and selling options.

I believe in this opportunity so strongly that I’ve partnered with Holli and Robert for the At Home Craft and Gift Shows this year. I recently interviewed Robert of At Home Events on the podcast. We talk through our observations of virtual shopping shows, why they are different, and the benefits they bring.

Here are a few of the key points.

A New Audience

When you participate in face-to-face events, you’re limited to the people who choose to (or are able to) leave their house and travel to the show. That usually means only people from a limited geographic area will attend the event. At a virtual event, you have the potential to connect with (and sell to) people from all over the country! Talk about tearing the box wide open on sales potential!

More Engaged Environment

Attendees at local events often stroll through the aisles, not really knowing what they’re looking for. It’s a fun way to spend an afternoon, meet up with friends, and of course, pick up some new-found treasures. (I’m definitely NOT knocking face-to-face shows here at all. I love them!)

But with an online event, attendees are more likely there with a plan — and usually with their credit cards in hand. The intention of online activity is much clearer. To browse and buy.

Great for New Makers

You’ve been to in-person shows where many of the booths are filled to the brim with product. And as you know, it takes a lot of time and money to produce all those items — not to mention creating a professional and polished booth display. Newer makers simply don’t have the resources to do that. But at a virtual event, you don’t need loads of product and can eliminate the worry of over- or under-estimating how much to bring. You just need a moderate array of pieces to display and be ready to fulfill orders when they come in.

I encourage you to consider adding a virtual shopping show to your plans this year. Remember, this is not a trade show where you’re looking to find wholesale partners. This is direct to consumer, where you pocket the full profit and reach people you would never touch any other way.

As you plan for your virtual shopping event, keep these helpful tips in mind:

  • Display like a pro. Displaying products online isn’t as challenging as it might seem. The most important thing is to use professional-looking photos. You can do this yourself with great (daylight) lighting and a simple, solid white background. And it can be done on your phone in one afternoon.
  • Up your description game. Keep in mind that shoppers won’t be able to touch your items, so the more descriptive your product details are the better. Include the usual information like size and weight, but also include how it feels, smells, or tastes, if applicable. Check out these product description tips for ideas.
  • Focus on bestsellers. If you try to display everything you sell, you’ll either fall into overwhelm or you’ll confuse potential buyers. Only choose the items that have sold well in the past or that are appropriate for the season. They can always go over to your website if they want to see more.
  • Work your network. The online event host is counting on you and all the other exhibitors to let your audience know about the event. Share about it on your social media networks and to your email list and trust others will do the same. That’s part of the magic of these shows.

Our recent times have been challenging and a struggle for business owners everywhere. That’s an understatement I know. Yet what’s blossomed out of this devastation is a market primed for this new structure. Customers are now very familiar with buying online, clicking a button, and being seen on screen (zoom). Overall there’s a new comfort level with virtual interactions. You, as a business owner have potential unlike ever before to use this to your advantage and I personally invite you to jump in.

If you’re looking for an event to consider, check out the At Home Craft and Gift Show. I’ve got a special offer for you too. To get 10% off your first booth, use code GiftBiz10.