Tis the season to be jolly, especially if you are a small business.
The holiday season is nearly synonymous with shopping season, and with consumers ready and willing to make purchases (especially those that are on the larger side of things), it is important that you are ready to capitalize on this opportunity.
In this article, we will talk about the ways you can make the most out of the holiday season and increase your business’ profit line.
- Split the Holiday Season
- Participate in Shop Small
- Sell, But Not Explicitly
- Partner with Others in Your Community
- Host Special Events
- Get Ready for Cyber Monday
- Offer Special Services
- How to Get Seasonal Shoppers to Return When the Holidays are Over
Split the Holiday Season
We often talk about the holiday season as one long stretch (and this article is no exception), and Black Friday/ Cyber Monday get most of the media’s attention. But remember that there are multiple aspects of this season, including:
- Boxing Day
- New Year’s Day.
There’s also recognition of the changing seasons (end of fall/start of winter).
Depending on your customer base, you might target some of these milestones and markers, while ignoring others.
For example, traveling is common during this period of the year, so if you count families as a large part of your customer base, consider sales surrounding items that make travel easier or more entertaining.
If you’re in a college town, recognize that finals are a stressful time for students and offer items that help students prepare for their exams while taking some time to relax.
Participate in Shop Small
With the popularity of big box stores and the increasing dominance of large internet retailers, the Shop Small initiative (also known as Small Business Saturday) is an attempt to draw shoppers’ attention to locally-owned businesses.
Though the specific date varies based on the calendar year, Small Business Saturday typically occurs the Saturday following Thanksgiving and Black Friday. You are probably already open for business that Saturday, but you might still consider setting up promotional materials advertising Small Business Saturday.
This encourages the shopper to keep your business in mind as they get ready for the holidays and begin purchasing gifts for their friends and family members. To get the word out, you might consider:
- Putting up posters
- Passing out flyers
- Sending out email newsletters
- Posting reminders via social media.
Remember, the holiday season for stores begin earlier and earlier, so be sure to stay up to date as to when you should start your advertising efforts.
Sell, But Not Explicitly
Small Business Saturday is not a new initiative, but it certainly does not hurt to remind people that they should consider stopping by your store during their shopping trips.
However, remember that the best way to attract customers is to not sell them stuff. Yes, the key to increased sales is an increase in the number of customers you serve, but when creating your marketing materials, you’re focusing instead on how you can help your customers.
Generally, you can see the effectiveness of such tactics in the area of content marketing — by curating a host of content that you think your target demographic might find interesting; you’re creating a story for your customers. Hopefully, your customers see your potential and buy-in (both figuratively and literally).
For example, your bookstore might sell books, but when you host events (such as workshops and book signings) and post about them on your social media accounts, you’ve branded yourself as a community gathering place where people can get books, yes, but also meet people, gain knowledge, learn a new skill, and so on.
This activity ties into your brand, which includes the story that you tell about your business.
Finally, don’t forget mobile marketing. You don’t need to get fancy — perhaps you might start simply by sending text messages to customers who have opted-in to your updates list. There are plenty of excellent resources on the web to get you started.
Partner with Others in Your Community
You might offer a great selection of goods and services, but by partnering with others in your community, you might be able to offer unique experiences, bundles, and so on that appeal to holiday shoppers looking for something special for their loved ones.
For example, if you’re a catering business, consider partnering with a bookstore to host a themed dinner around a certain cookbook. Participants get a night out, good food, and a copy of the cookbook.
Furthermore, doing something like this kills two birds with one stone: people cross an item off their shopping list (or they’re able to treat themselves) while also spending their money on not one, but two, local businesses.
Host Special Events
In addition to being open for regular business, you might consider hosting special events during Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, or any other special days you decide are important to your client base.
For example, on Small Business Saturday, you might offer free coffee to visitors that come by in the morning, host giveaways or bring in special guests (for example, a bookstore might host a children’s storytime or host a book signing with a local author).
Such events encourage people to get out and participate — you can think of it as the analog equivalent to customer engagement in the digital world.
Get Ready for Cyber Monday
Is your digital presence up to snuff? If not, perhaps it’s time to take the leap and get started with digital commerce. By doing so, you can take advantage of another sales holiday: Cyber Monday. Make sure that your website has everything your customers might want, your e-commerce system is up to snuff, and you have the inventory to support your sales.
If at all possible, ensure that you’re ready for mobile commerce as well. This is an expensive proposition, but given the fact that people are shopping online more and more, and people are doing so using their tablets and smartphones with increasing frequency, this might be a good area of investment for your business. Why should Amazon have all the fun?
Offer Special Services
Are there any services that you can offer that would add value for your customers? For example, can you provide gift wrapping services? Can you offer bundle deals? While consumers are prepared to spend during the holiday season, people still like to get the most bang for their buck, so if you can increase the added value of shopping with you for your customers, you can likely see higher revenues.
How to Get Seasonal Shoppers to Return When the Holidays are Over
We’ve covered tips on how you can take advantage of customers and their increased likelihood to spend during the holiday season, but wouldn’t it be nice if you could keep even some of your foot traffic returning when the holidays are over? Here are some tips to help you do this.
Remind Your Customers Why It Is Beneficial to Shop Locally
You are probably well-aware that small businesses cannot compete with big box stores and internet retailers when it comes to price, but there are lots of reasons why consumers might overlook the slight increase in price that comes with shopping at a small business:
- Better, more personalized customer service
- Contributing to the local economy
- Supporting unique businesses that contribute to the vibrancy of the local environment.
Essentially, you will want to remind your users that while they might be spending a bit more, it is money that is well-spent.
With the holiday season, you’ll naturally have a larger audience for your message, and by getting the word out and reminding people why small business is important, people will think of you when it comes to making their post-holiday purchases.
Maybe it’s asking too much to expect someone to completely give up the convenience of Amazon, but maybe they’ll make an effort to channel even some of their funds to your store.
While larger businesses can compete successfully based on pricing, you as a small business can retain customers by taking a different approach. There are benefits to being small, including one of the most important factors as to whether someone patronizes a business or not: customer service.
As a small business, you’re able to offer your customers an experience that cannot be met by corporations. Relationships matter to people, so own your small size and focus on the added value that comes from being a small business.
Be Prepared for Returns
After the holidays, you can expect a large number of returns. How you handle this can influence your business’ bottom line. While it’s not ideal to have to handle returns and offer refunds, you can certainly make lemonade out of lemons.
Consider offering discounts to those who purchase something when they come in to make a return. Or set up your store to encourage impulse purchases, and so on.
Regardless of how you choose to handle returns, you’ll want to make sure that you have a top-notch return policy — for example, you might want to consider extending the period during which you’ll accept returns.
Remember also that returning items is generally not the most pleasant of experiences, so if you can offer up excellent customer service, you might incentivize the person to return to your store in the future. Train your staff well, and be flexible with any problems your customers might have.
Offer Post-Holiday Discounts
Sales work during the holiday season, but they also work during the post-holiday season. Here are some options you might think about implementing:
- When someone comes in to make a sale during the holiday season, consider handing out coupons in conjunction with their receipts. By doing this, you might encourage people to make post-holiday purchases for themselves.
- Figure out what some of your top-selling items were over the holiday period, and consider offering discounts on those items.
- If you run an ecommerce store, consider targeting those with abandoned carts. These people have already expressed higher levels of interest in certain items, so try to capitalize on this in January. With a new season in mind and more disposable income to spend on themselves, people might be ready to treat themselves.
- One variant on offering post-holiday discounts is rewarding frequent shoppers. If you have this information available, January is a great time to reward those who have made a large number of purchases at your store.
Run New Marketing Campaigns
Just because the holidays are over doesn’t mean that it’s the right time to ease up on your marketing efforts. In fact, you should probably continue on, if not increase your efforts. There are two reasons for this:
- Giving people gifts cards are increasingly common, so you can spur people to cash in their gifts by offering specials and deals that, in conjunction with what people consider to be free money, are too good to pass up. Yes, you don’t gain additional revenue per se, but there’s the potential that, lured by sales and great deals, people spend more than is available on their gift card.
- While many are reeling from their holiday spending (and cringing at the sight of their credit card bill), people do have more disposable income now that they don’t have to purchase as much. People are also more likely to indulge after the holiday season, which many find to be wonderful, yet stressful. As such, you can certainly target those looking to treat themselves, especially with deals that just can’t be passed up.
The holidays are one of the busiest times of the year for retailers (including small businesses), and in this article, we covered ways in which you can capitalize on this season to ensure that your revenues are sky-high.
However, there are parts of the year that don’t feature an abundance of holidays, so we’ve also included tips and tricks for converting your holiday shoppers into returnees.