The holiday season is prime time for small businesses. In November and December alone, small and mid-sized retailers can expect to conduct between 20 and 40% of total annual sales, according to the National Retail Federation. And the volume of sales related to holiday shopping doesn’t appear to be slowing down. In fact, holiday retail sales have increased since 2009, according to Statista, with an estimated 3.8% increase in 2017 to continue the trend. An increase in sales projections points to positive growth and new opportunities for small businesses to capture revenue through strategic marketing initiatives. Thoughtful marketing strategies are critical to attracting, retaining and engaging your customers this holiday season. Focus your marketing strategy on these four critical areas:
Tune Up Your Digital Presence
Digital options have ignited revenue in e-commerce, with an estimated 17.2% increase in online sales from 2015 to 2016. And, even if the final purchase is from a brick and mortar location, the Mobile Marketing Association anticipates 87% of those sales are impacted by mobile. This means for small businesses digital strength is vital.
Optimize your website. Create a user-friendly experience by ensuring load times are quick and website navigation is straight-forward. Slow load times or difficulty using your website can mean the difference between a sale for your business or your competitor’s.
Keep mobile in mind. Browsing a website on a desktop versus a tablet or smartphone can be a very different experience. As part of your website optimization, make sure shoppers can easily navigate your site on mobile devices by being visually appealing and easy to navigate on smaller screens. This may even present an opportunity to use location services to direct geographically-specialized deals or opportunities.
Use your social media. According to a 2013 Crowdtap survey, nearly 65% of shoppers use social media to find gifts. Market your small business through a variety of social media channels by advertising smart gift guides and must-have lists that focus on all of your great products. Be sure to also keep accounts current and engaging by starting up conversations with your customers and answering questions in real-time.
Leverage email marketing campaigns. Create a holiday newsletter that can help highlight events, sales, and special products. Outside of a newsletter, generate a holiday season marketing campaign to entice customers to click through to your website. Examples may include a bargain of the day, exclusive discounts, or personalized special offers. The secret? Ensure recipients are greeted with a personalized message that communicates they are special and valued, according to Susan Ward, a four-time recipient of the Small Business Influencer Award.
Offer Irresistible Deals
The holiday season comes with a deadline for gift-givers, and creatively engaging shoppers, paired with the need to buy a significant number of gifts on a timeline, helps small businesses win customers.
Use a theme. Play on the holiday’s 12 Days of Christmas and offer a giveaway for 12 days (or, similarly, the Eight Days of Hanukkah). Engage further by entering customers who participate on social media in a drawing to win a prize, or calling for donations to a local charity. Be sure to clearly communicate the opportunity to customers – both what they can win and what the rules are.
Save procrastinators. Part of holiday shopping for many is procrastinating. Offer a last-minute deal on popular items and build on the innate sense of urgency that comes with the approaching holiday.
Offer bundles. This deal allows customers to save both time and money with a bundle set of gifts. For example, a bundle may take care of a few family members. Gift wrapping or festive packaging can also help customers engage. To meet the needs of more customers, offer several options with different price points to accommodate all budgets.
Offer free and reliable shipping. Large retailers provide free and efficient shipping, which means competing with businesses like Amazon may require making similar offers to your customers. Build in holiday shipping times to your marketing plan, and remind customers as they approach deadlines for on-time arrivals.
Focus on Relationships
Find ways to make personal connections with your customers.
Encourage user-generated content and ideas. One prime example of this is the famed red cups Starbucks releases for the holiday season. The coffee company asked users to submit designs on Instagram, and selected winners to be featured on the cups. This campaign engaged with customers globally, garnering 1200 submissions from 13 different countries. It doesn’t take a global brand to do this. Challenge customers to add a festive touch to your logo, storefront, or social media page, and post the competition in your store or on your social media profiles.
Say thank you. Take the time to thank your loyal customers. Special discounts for top customers are a great way express appreciation, but even a printed thank you card conveys the same message. Demonstrate your appreciation and gratitude to your best customers as the year ends.
Use native advertising. Sponsor advertising content to appear on a platform to not only share valuable content, but also drive more customers to your brand. Native advertising is content that mirrors the site where it is published, such as sponsored Buzzfeed content that reads like another Buzzfeed article.
Inspire Holiday Magic
Offer inspiration. Solve gift-giving conundrums for customers with inspiring gift guides and lists that highlight unique ideas, or organize them by category, like stocking stuffers. These smart ideas also provide quick content for your business to share across social media sites and in email campaigns as another point of connection.
Team up with other small businesses. Not only is this kind of partnership part of the sentiment of the holidays, but it also represents an opportunity to cross-promote your business – and support another small business. Businesses that offer complementary products (like wine and cheese) can include coupons or vouchers for one another’s products, or a cluster of businesses can partner to host a sidewalk sale or shopping event.
Give back. Perhaps the most magical holiday inspiration is supporting a local charity. Donate a percentage of sales or designate a day to give back to a cause you and your business support.
Host an event. Nothing is more festive than a holiday party, and your small business can benefit from hosting one. Collaborate with other small businesses to create an event – including food and entertainment – that will encourage families to spend a festive evening tackling their holiday shopping (at your small business, of course). Or, host an event at your location, ideally with a connection to your core offering. For example, a bookstore could host a holiday-themed story time, or a craft store could present a craft tutorial.
With these core focuses built into your holiday marketing strategy, you’ll position your small business to engage with customers both on and offline and drive sales this holiday season. And, those customer relationships may even continue after the holiday shopping craze.