Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Year End Fun with Charts 2015 Edition

When I looked back at this year, there was a lot more changes that happened than I had anticipated, and a few that I had anticipated that didn't happen.

Let's talk about you!

Honestly, you, my lovely customers, make this store.  You make it fun, you make it an adventure, and your support is second to none.  

This first map shows orders.

While this second one shows views.

It's really exciting to see these maps expand every year, as more and more customers find their way here, many of them by recommendations from you!

What Sold

Some of that was (another) shift in business focus. You can see last year's charts here, and they help show the percentages of various types of items sold in my shop and how that's evolved over the past 7 years that  NightBlooming has been open.  Our products have continued to expand, but as I'm still just one person, that expansion always results in the contraction of other sales areas.

Hair colors continued to climb as our top products, and that also is indicative of a larger shift in the store: more herbal products and fewer hair accessories.  It isn't that I don't love making hair accessories, but they are much more time-consuming and user-specific.  For example, someone might pass on a stick or request a custom order of one because it's half an inch too short.  With a pot of salve, it's a bit more one size fits all.  Focusing more on herbal products let me actually do more with the time I have because it's more productive across a larger scope.

Our sales were down a bit (by about 200 orders), but that is in part because I turned down all custom orders this year.  On the plus side, you can see how much more even sales were compared to the spikes from the year before.



Still not sure why August is my lowest month, but it always is.  The most important thing here is that this felt more sustainable.  I was busy, sometimes really busy, but I never felt so overwhelmed I didn't think I could handle it, which was the tune of almost all of 2014.  I feel that NightBlooming is in a much more solid, sustainable place to continue to grow from!

What was Favorited?

A lot of this data is similar to the charts above:

Hair colors come in strong, but they're all trailing Selkie.  With the attention on the Fund campaign, Selkie brought together customers new and old and really let us make some huge improvements to efficiency. Moondust Dry Shampoo and our Hair Salve Trinity Pack both stick around in the top 10 listing favorites for the store. 

Overall, NightBlooming was down a little bit in favorites, views, and sales compared to last year, but the pace last year and the year before that were simply unsustainable for one person who has a real, full-time day job, and is trying to break into a third career.  

What Changed?

Labels, Photography & Branding

We made some exciting upgrades this year!  While implementing these changes has caused a small dip in overall production, I think the investment is setting NightBlooming up to ramp up even past where it was before. 

We continued to update our branding and photographs, making more of our products harmonize with high-quality, professionally printed labels.  The labels are really a massive unsung hero in freeing up time.  I used to print them on full sized label sheets on our home printer and then cut out each and every one by hand.

Now, the labels are professional designed (being married to a talented graphic artist doesn't hurt!) and printed at a print shop on pre-cut labels.

The end result is that I get to peel and stick.  There is a decent cost associated with it, but I feel that the higher quality labels are well worth it.  They look better, feel better, and are oil and water resistant, so the label isn't ruined if a single drop of oil escapes.

Calculated Shipping & New Shipping Labels

If there's one thing that might have had the biggest impact on making my time more productive, this is it.  I haven't charted out the exact time savings, but a decent guesstimate is that the simple act of getting the most adorable printer in the known world, using calculated shipping, and using Etsy's automated "yes please send the tracking number so I don't have to hand-enter it and screw it up" probably saves me at least 3-5 hours a week.  That's 3-5 hours that I'm able to use to stay on top of current stock and working on new projects.

We were even able to get NightBlooming avatar stickers printed to pretty up the new labels!

Filling Machine

This little thing is a godsend.  I really cannot stress what a massive, massive quality of life change this machine has been for me. And that is thanks to you!  So many of our loyal customers were our first backers on the Selkie Campaign and helped spread the word.  

There's a short video here that shows how much time the filling machine takes off of filling bottles of Triple Moon Oil, and I'd wager the time savings for salve are even more.  I sincerely am able to be so much more efficient with this astounding little contraption, so thank you for making the Selkie Campaign a resounding success!

Selkie Became Reality

Selkie was one of those products I wanted to do forever, but the experimentation, front-end work, and front-end cost were huge compared to other products.  When Etsy reached out to me to participate in the pilot of their Fund campaign, my first thought was "Perfect, I can finally finish that henna book!"  Alas, that was not to be.  The cost of printing it four color was insanely prohibitive and Etsy demanded that Fund could only back a physical product.  So the henna book got shelved, and Selkie stepped to the forefront!

As you can read on Racked, we were one of the first stores to reach our goal and even surpassed it, allowing me to make environmentally (and shipping cost friendly) refill pouches!

We Purchased our Biggest Supply Order Ever

When a customer reached out to me and told me that her sister could help me get Yemini henna, organically grown and amazing in dye content, I was excited.  With some trepidation she then told me that the community it came from was quite poor, and they couldn't afford the cost and production to put it into sealed bags with foil.  Which was perfect!  One of the things I hated about that route was all the wasted packaging from all the packets of henna I'd open when making our herbal hair colors. A couple months of correspondence and a few thousand dollars later, and I'd made the largest supply purchase in NightBlooming history- 64 kilos of some of the best henna I've ever had the pleasure of using.  You'll find it in our color blends, but you can also get it pure and unblended here.

Monthly Custom Oil Blends & Signature Oil Subscriptions Launched

When looking at the natural oil samples and Custom Oil Blends we offered I kept feeling like there had to be more, that, for some reason, customers weren't really connecting with the possibilities. After asking around, the resounding response was "I love the idea, I'm just not sure.  Can you do it for me?"  Well, sure! And so each month I introduced a Custom Oil Blend of the Month, and you loved it. So much so that the next step was to introduce our Signature Oil Subscription!

So it was an exciting year, and I couldn't have done it without you!  I have a lot of new and exciting things coming up, but this is the looking back post.  We'll do another one for looking forward that'll contain all stuff you can expect in the future!

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