With the holiday shopping season right around the corner, wouldn’t it be nice if you had a few extra tricks up your sleeve that would ensure your small business really maximizes its money-making abilities? That would help you be high on your holiday shoppers’ lists?
Well, who wouldn’t want that?
In this post, we’ll explore some of the ways you can make that happen. But first, let’s look at the holiday shopping numbers to see why catering to these shoppers is so important for your small business.
Holiday Shopping Trends
As of 2014, holiday shopping was up 4% from the previous year, bringing in more than $616.1 billion in the United States. The National Retail Federation’s Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz even said, “…Holiday sales in 2014 are the best we’ve seen since 2011.”
Markets like clothing and accessories were up 4.4% over last year, while sporting goods, hobby, book and music stores jumped up 7.2%.
In 2015, things continue to look up as eMarketer forecasts that retail sales in the US during November and December will increase 5.7%, which is significantly more than the year before.
So with all of these positive, warm and fuzzy feelings in the air, doesn’t it get you excited to plan your holiday strategy this year?
If so, you’re in luck. This list of eight brilliant ideas to increase holiday shopping season sales will help keep your business as busy as Santa’s workshop.
1. Start (or Re-Start) Your Loyalty Program
Having an active loyalty program that rewards repeat customers is essential to holiday shopping success. But, why?
A study from KiteWheel showed that one in four customers were frustrated by not being recognized as a past or current customer, while another study from Experian showed that 75% of U.S. companies with a loyalty program generate a positive return on investment.
So, since we know that customers want these types of programs and they are more often that not worth the costs associated with launching and maintaining them—the next question is how to go about setting one up.
Your loyalty program will depend on the type of business you’re in, but should go beyond discounts for repeat customers. Think about unique perks you can provide for your most loyal clientele, and study what your main competitors are doing as well. Consider offering incentives like:
- Buy X get X free punch cards
- Free gift/refills or upgrades/early access for loyalty club members who cross a spending threshold
- VIP access to part of your business that is only available to loyalty card holders who’ve reached a qualifying status
Need more on this particular topic? This post shares some of the best articles on customer loyalty and retention.
2. Personalize the Customer Experience
Whether your business is part of a larger franchise or is a one-of-a-kind, you have an opportunity to create a unique customer experience that’s personalized for the patrons that walk through your door.
This is significant during the busy holiday shopping season because a study from Digital Trends showed that 73% of retail customers said they preferred to buy from brands that used their personal information to make their experience more relevant.
That’s about one of every three shoppers saying, “Hey, I’d like it if you made me feel like a human being rather than another number on your daily sales sheet.”
Personalizing the customer experience often means doing many small things that accumulate into an overall amazing customer experience.
We’re talking about things like:
- Referring to your customer by name
- Having dedicated customer service staff (especially during the hectic holiday shopping season)
- Remembering preferences of regular customers and anticipating their requests
- Helping customers with tasks like carrying bags to their cars, holding the door, or even providing complimentary personal touches (like throwing in free birthday candles for that client who just ordered a sheet cake.)
Making these small tweaks for your customers can add up in a big way. Do the things your competitors can’t to create an experience that makes your customers truly appreciate your business.
3. Accept Various Forms of Payment
With new EMV chip cards now the norm (yes, magnetic strip cards are being phased out) and shoppers leaning more than ever on various forms of plastic for payment, keeping your business in a cash or check only format means you could be turning away valuable customers who are ready to spend.
As of 2014, research showed that 33% of Americans have 1-2 credit cards—and that only 27% of POS purchases made in 2011 were paid for in cash. That being said, it’s a good idea to prepare your business for various forms of plastic.
Keep in mind that you can expect to pay between $2-$4 on every $100 spent in credit card fees, but remember: That small fee pales in comparison to the dollars you’re sending away by not accepting various forms of payment.
Not sure where to start? Using a simple tool like Square makes handling these payment methods via a mobile device easy and seamless.
4. Celebrate Small Business Saturday
This year, Small Business Saturday falls on November 28th, 2015, and is a great time for you to capitalize on your unique offerings. The movement to celebrate local small businesses is no joke—more than 88 million people supported Small Business Saturday last year.
For holiday shoppers in your area, it’s not only a day for them to support local businesses, but it’s a chance for them to come together as a community to celebrate the area’s distinctive retailers.
To maximize your Small Business Saturday, get started early by:
- Planning a special event for the day like live music, a celebrity host, or a special item on your menu
- Offering a one-time-only discount for people supporting your business that day
- Promoting the news about how you’re celebrating on social media, your website, and at your locations
- Registering on the official “Shop Small” website
Need proof it’s worth participating in? Here’s a case study.
5. Partner with a Non-Profit
The holiday season is all about giving, so partnering with a non-profit is one way you can help customers feel good about their purchases.
That might mean donating a percentage of all sales during a certain span of weeks over the holiday shopping season, or collecting donations of physical goods on-site, like food, toys, or clothing items to be given to a charitable organization.
Not only does this allow you to do something meaningful for people in need, but it also lets both organizations reach new audiences as you promote the partnership via media outlets and your individual contact lists.
6. Enable Customers to Buy Gift Cards Online
No matter what business you’re in, you can make it easier for customers to purchase an item from you by selling gift cards to your business online—if not multiple products as well.
But even if gift cards are your sole online offering, enabling this revenue stream means more ways for you to boost sales this holiday season.
The gift card industry is booming: More than $100 billion is spent on gift cards annually, and 83% of corporations use gift cards as an employee incentive. Can you afford to miss out on that market?
Think about it like this: Say you own a restaurant and an out-of-state sister wants to buy her brother a gift card to his favorite place to eat in town. Without an online option, there would have to be a lengthy back-and-forth between email or phone calls, and then the time delay as you wait for a check to show up in the mail, upon which you can then mail her the gift card. Wouldn’t it be simpler if this whole process could happen online?
Sites like Squarespace, BigCartel, and Shopify are relatively low-cost options that allow you to handle online purchases directly through a custom-made website.
7. Plan Holiday Shopping Promotions
Throughout the holiday season, it’s a good idea to change up your promotions to keep customers coming back for more.
Maybe one week you offer a buy one get one free promotion on a specific item, while the next week you list a different item at a deep discount. Adding variety to the deals you offer means you’re providing more reasons for customers to come back and shop around again.
Possible ideas for promotions include:
- Bundle discounts to pair your low-margin items with high-margin items
- Gift card discounts (Buy $25 in gift cards, get another $5 free)
- Discounts for customers whose purchase reaches a specific amount (like 10% off purchases over $50)
Study the trends and you’ll notice which promotions are more effective than others.
8. Start Early
Time flies, and before you know it, the holiday season will only be a few short weeks away—which is why you need to start planning your holiday strategy right now. But that’s not the only reason.
Holiday shoppers are getting started earlier than ever, with the National Retail Federation reporting that the average holiday shopper completing 53% of his or her shopping by as early as December 10th.
For the people who were still waiting to wrap up holiday shopping, it was indecisiveness, input from friends and family, and financial restrictions that had kept them from making purchases earlier.
Starting early means you provide greater options and incentives for those ready-to-buy shoppers who know what they want.
Your Holiday Shopping Season To-Do List
Now, it’s possible that not all of these options will work for your business, but if you start thinking about how you’ll maximize the holiday shopping season today, you won’t be left scrambling mid-December when many shoppers are already crying over their wallets.
As a quick review, here are a few options you need to consider right away to get ready for holiday shoppers:
- Get a loyalty program up and running
- Train your employees to provide a high-quality, personalized experience for customers
- Create your strategy for holiday promotions and Small Business Saturday
- Plan how you’ll market and spread the word about your holiday deals
- Upgrade your payment processing to accept EMV chip cards and various forms of plastic payment
- Consider an online store or at least a means for customers to buy gift cards online
- Think about a charity you’d like to support and how you could partner to promote a collaboration together
With your plan in place, you can dedicate your time and energy to managing all of the other pressing elements of the business rather than being stressed out about what holiday opportunities you’re missing.8 Genius Ways To Make Your Small Business More Money This Holiday Shopping Season Rob Wormley