Do you hear what I hear? If what you hear is the familiar jingle of holiday music blaring over the din of your local shopping mall the second Halloween comes to a close, then the answer is yes. It’s that time of year again—that season when shopping centers worldwide gild the lily in an effort to boost holiday cheer . . . and can you blame them?
This is the best time to jumpstart the shopping frenzy that will make up a huge percentage of most retailers’ sales for the entire fiscal year. It’s a time to maximize on profits and fill the coffers so that you can tide your business over through the dreary late-winter months when consumers tighten their belts.
For big names like Macy’s, Walmart or Target, this is a time of guaranteed prosperity. Contrary to popular belief, however, many consumers are seeking not only a less harried holiday shopping experience, but also more personal and meaningful gifts from local businesses. The trouble is: they can’t buy your products if they don’t know about them.
So, how are smaller business supposed to keep up with companies who have teams upon teams of people managing their holiday shopping analytics and marketing strategies? Below are a few failsafe tricks for making sure that the only red you see this December comes in the form of Santa’s velour pajama-suit.
1. THINK LIKE YOUR CUSTOMER
Consider what you look for when holiday shopping: big deals, attractive packaging, convenience, and reassurance. Here are a few easy ideas for making that possible without breaking the bank:
Sales Packages – What’s the best thing about getting that tiny wish list item you’d been hoping to receive most of all? Getting a whole bunch of fun stuff that goes with it!
The beauty of stores like Bath & Body Works is that you can go in and grab a gorgeous pre-packaged gift with lots of coordinating items at just about any price range. By offering your customers sales bundles that pair your corresponding products, you make it that much easier for them to turn your store into a one-stop shop (and purchase more of your goods). One very clever example of this strategy is a local brewery that makes their own rustic growler carriers and fills them with growlers, a growler fill card and other brewery swag. The options are endless as long as you’re ready to use your imagination! The best part is that you can throw some of your weaker sellers into the mix to help unload them at a minimized loss before the end of the season.
Shipping Ease – One of the most troublesome factors for holiday shoppers is feeling secure that their packages will arrive in time for the big day. In addition, the National Retail Federation asserts that free shipping can often make the difference between a purchase and a lost opportunity. You’ll go a long way in converting a call or click to a sale if you can guarantee shipping delivery dates (and offer free shipping wherever possible).
Social Media – Your potential customers spend just as much time online as you do during the holidays, so it’s a smart idea to take advantage of your social media outlets. Some ideas in this regard include offering a small gift or discount in exchange for a “like,” inviting customers to send in images of themselves using your products so that you can post them on your feeds, or putting together a fun holiday teaser of some of your best products. Essentially, this is free advertising with the added bonus of involving your customers in the fun.
2. OPTIMIZE YOUR ONLINE EXPERIENCE
When it comes to online shopping, customers need one thing: the ability to find what they’re looking for quickly and efficiently. If they have to wade through multiple pages and drop-down menus to find that scarf that everyone is wearing, they’re going to get frustrated, give up, and grab something similar the next time they’re at the mall. Here are a couple tips to help ensure this doesn’t happen to you:
Home [Page] for the Holidays – Your home page is the first thing online shoppers are going to see when they visit your site, so make sure you make it count! Feature your big-ticket items front and center, including links to purchase; spotlight your sales bundles in a banner; or offer up your top-five gift ideas for Mom, Dad, Wifey and Hubby. No matter what you do, make it look festive, and avoid overcrowding your customer with too much information.
Enable Shopping on the Go – This should be a no-brainer, but even major businesses miss the mark here: if your site isn’t mobile friendly, you’ll miss out on more than a few sales opportunities this season. Shoppers are BUSY this time of year. They will be doing a good percentage of their shopping in the break room at work, while on the treadmill at the gym, or on their iPads while the kids watch Claymation holiday specials. At the very least, you need to make sure that your home page is simple, easy to navigate, and includes images that scale reasonably on a small screen.
Suggestive Sales – Whether you’re offering promotions, introducing a new product release or highlighting sale packages, there are many ways to use pop-ups, banners, and online ads to best suit your needs: time a pop-up to appear with your best discount when a consumer tries to exit the site; create a flashy holiday banner that scrolls through your seasonal promotions; purchase an online ad on a site frequented by your target demographic. With a few simple adjustments to your site, you’ll be on your way to increased sales in no time.
3. REWARD LOYAL CUSTOMERS
Now is the best time to make customers who love you fall even more deeply in love and then spread that love around to all of their friends . . . and with the holiday spirit in full swing, this shouldn’t be very tough to do:
Thank You Pages – These offer a great opportunity for businesses to sneak in one final call to action or enticing offer, so take advantage of them intelligently. Options include inviting customers to sign up for emails and subscriptions, rewarding orders with future discounts, offering special perks for inviting friends and family, and more. This is also a great time to incorporate any analytics that evaluate user preference—show customers products like others they’ve viewed or offer them products that complement the purchase they’ve just made.
Holiday Email Campaigns – You should have a pretty good customer email database built up, so why not use it wisely during the holiday season? Get creative about how to introduce your holiday promotions, plan a strategy for releasing your emails leading up to the end of the year, and write them out ahead of time so that you’re not caught off guard during the holiday rush.
In addition, you’ll want to consider what time of day you send out your email notifications. Most email blasts go out early in the morning, while most consumers don’t typically read their emails until after dinner. If you don’t want to see your promotional materials get lost in the shuffle, plan to release your emails when your target demographic will be most likely to read them.
Work Your Community – This tactic is especially helpful for smaller local businesses. You will go a long way in endearing yourself to the local populace by simply making your presence known in a supportive or fun way. Try sponsoring a local group, getting your coworkers together to attend a local event, contributing to a local charity, or partnering with another local business to cross-promote your products. You can even team up with multiple local businesses to put together a holiday “bazaar.” Even something as simple as attending school or church functions in your area can become a big deal to people who aren’t used to seeing involvement from local business owners very often.
4. QUALIFY AND QUANTIFY
In the months leading up to the holiday surge, you need to be determining not only what products are going to fly off the shelves but also the amount of these products you will need. Customers focus their attention during holidays on must-have items, so your best bet is to narrow your focus on driving your top-selling products. This will help to both maximize your profits up front and minimize markdowns and returns as the season comes to a close.
At the same time, you’ll want to curb the supply of full-assortment items that are less popular. These products steal investment dollars from your big sellers and tend to carry a higher risk of post-season markdown. Clear these items by offering discounts early, when you’ll be able to unload them at 20-30% off as opposed to 50-75% off later on. Bonus: with these items off the shelves, you’ll have more room to focus on the bigger-ticket items that customers are really looking for.
NOTE: A study by the National Retail Federation found that up to 40% of customers each year begin their holiday shopping as early as October. As you look forward to next year’s holiday sales season, remember that the surge toward yearly profits doesn’t have to be a scramble—by taking advantage of sales strategies listed above as early as September, you’ll rake in the advantages of marketing to those early shoppers . . . and pull out less hair in the process.
Need help with marketing strategy for the holidays and all year round? Contact the team at 10twelve today!