Once the Halloween rush ends, many businesses shift into Thanksgiving-Christmas-New Year’s mode. (Some start even before the Halloween decorations get put away, which can induce “already?” grunts from consumers.) It’s a must for small businesses to plan ahead and take full advantage of the holiday season, to ensure positive experiences for customers and that sales are maximized. Here are a few ways for small business owners to approach the holidays.
It takes planning, organization and communication to truly capitalize on the seasonal window. As Emma Siemasko writes for Grasshopper, there are several common goals that small business owners should have this time of year:
- “Make people feel comfortable and cheery at the brick-and-mortar store.”
- “Increase sales, especially for holiday gifts.”
- “Tell the brand story and increase brand awareness.”
- “Say thank you and show appreciation to loyal customers.”
- “Give back to the community.”
- “Invest in company culture.”
- “Get marketing and press attention for creative initiatives.”
- “Bring business contacts together to spread positive cheer.”
Understand the stakes
New small business owners will need to develop a feel for the end-of-year opportunity. One option that can provide a boost is collaboration. Erica Nicole writes about this for The Huffington Post, noting the National Retail Federation’s statistic of small- and mid-sized retailers earning 20 to 40 percent of their yearly sales during this time.
“Holiday shoppers can make or break your annual sales target,” Nicole explains. “With this in mind, consider innovative promotions (e.g., BOGO, loyalty rewards, and incentives with purchase) to move more inventory. If you operate a seasonal business, consider pre-selling and packaging services for future redemption. If you offer services, partner with a complementary (not substitute) local company and co-market, respectively. Not only will you reach a new audience, the business you partner with will do the same. Co-marketing, when done correctly, is a win-win.”
Get web presence in order
Online shopping should be a focal point for any small business, but a clunky site may be a major roadblock for holiday sales. As Nicole Fallon Taylor writes for Business News Daily, “No matter how much of your sales come from e-commerce, it’s important to provide a seamless, fast web experience for your customers.” She cites a 2015 Radware report that showed the negative results for having a slow website: “… 57 percent of consumers will abandon a site that fails to load after 3 seconds.”
“Small e-commerce companies can’t afford to lose this kind of business during such a busy season,” Taylor writes, “so be sure to address any lags or missing features on your website and identify potential sales trends for the season.”
Be mindful about mobile
It would’ve been hard to process the rise of mobile technology in regards to sales just a few years ago, but it’s now an integral avenue to reach customers. Michael Jones explores this for the Mobile Marketing Association, writing that mobile made up more than half of online activity regarding holiday sales in 2015.
“There’s no doubt that shoppers feel comfortable searching for products and stores on their smart devices,” he writes. “In fact, Target learned that three-fourths of its guests start their shopping on a mobile device. As retailers learn more about customers’ online and on-the-go preferences, they can better tailor the experience. … The most important thing to remember when it comes to mobile and your stores? Be present. Be where your customers are. Mobile is the best way to be both online and in-store — often at the same time.”
It doesn’t have to be November and December to make charitable efforts and donations. But Nicole offers a quote from Charles Dickens to illustrate the importance of charitable giving: “No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.”
“While your goal is to increase sales this holiday season, don’t discount the importance of authentically giving back,” she explains. “If you support a local cause, now is the time to donate a percentage of sales to charity. You’d be surprised what can happen when you commit to a company culture of giving.”
This could be regarded as an easier-said-than-done idea. A new small business owner may be reluctant to hand off major tasks at a crucial sales period. As Siemasko explains for Grasshopper, preparing employees for these moments can go a long way.
“Don’t just ask people what they think — be ready to delegate,” Siemasko writes. “Assign tasks quickly and efficiently to move your holiday planning along. The holidays are a time of panic, so make sure you’ve prepared your employees. If you expect a huge change in sales, an onslaught of reviews, or a spike in customer service calls, then make sure your team is ready. Above all, coordinate. Use a project management tool (like Basecamp or Trello) or use a shared calendar to make sure your team and your partners are on the same page.”
Here’s another way to get strategic about holiday sales. For businesses that have longtime customers, there could be patterns to examine from previous seasonal purchases. That information can be helpful in personalizing advertising and discounting efforts, as H.O. Maycotte advises in a story for Forbes.
“For example, if you’re a fashion retailer, and you have a customer who buys dresses and women’s shoes every four to six weeks from January through October, but adds men’s outdoor clothing and accessories to the mix every November, you can personalize offers to this customer based on this pattern,” he explains. “Similarly, if you’re in the restaurant business and you have a loyal customer who comes in like clockwork every Friday night throughout the year and spends a hundred bucks on dinner, but who spends five hundred on each of the three Fridays between Thanksgiving and Christmas, maybe it’s time to think about sending offers related to large-group holiday dining.”
Developing a plan for the holiday season should happen well before the season arrives. Getting an advertisement in the jumbo, 10-pound Thanksgiving Day newspaper is valuable, but a well-thought-out marketing plan will require more than that. As Eric Samson writes for Entrepreneur, underprepared business owners may take a conservative approach in advertising, “because they haven’t yet tested their latest creatives.”
“Before they know it, the celebration is over and they’ve spent a mere fraction of their overall budget,” he explains. “To get a head start on the holidays, marketers should promote ads weeks in advance of the shopping season. Doing so gives them ample opportunity to try new copy and images to learn how consumers react. With enough lead time, they can optimize their creatives to guarantee profitable performance when it’s go-time. By promoting your holiday sale early, you get first-mover advantage. This helps your prime buyers to choose you as their default shopping destination for the holidays.”Business & Finance Articles on Business 2 Community