While it may be the middle of summer, retailers are always thinking about their busiest season of the year: the holidays (and no, I'm not talking about any Christmas in July sales your team may be planning). No matter what you or your customers celebrate, October, November, and December prove to be the most wonderful—and most stressful—time of the year for retailers.
Knowing that the seasonal rush will soon start to come to your stores, why not plan ahead? Preparation is the best way to have an effective, efficient, and profitable holiday season. Here's how:
1. Extend Your Season
The holidays keep creeping up earlier and earlier each year which means you should plan to start earlier than you ever have before. Don’t feel limited to December; November offers some great promotional options too. These include Small Business Saturday, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday. Decide how you want to position your brand around these days and leverage their name recognition to work for your advantage.
2. Provide a Holiday Gift Guide
Have your marketing team create an inspiring yet affordable holiday gift guide. These can be really fun to create and shouldn't take a lot of time or research; with these guides, you’re speaking from experience and including things you use and love. No matter what your niche is, you can find festive ways to offer gift suggestions for a variety of audiences (ie: gifts for mom, nephew, BFF, etc). Don’t forget to include specific price points and promotions in your list. That helps in creating a straight path to checkout, less shopping cart abandonment, and fewer post-holiday returns.
But remember: don't go overboard on the number of recommendations. The whole point of the gift guide is to make life easier for your customers. Keep your gift suggestions to around ten to keep people from getting overwhelmed
Lastly, don’t forget to promote your gift guide on social media as well as emailing it to your subscriber list. Having a printed copy available at the POP is a nice touch as well.
3. Participate in Holiday Exhibit Shows
Reach new customers by renting a booth at a local holiday event to showcase your products and share your holiday promotions. November and December represent the peak season for local artisan and craft shows and these events are generally an affordable and effective way to meet new customer’s the old-fashioned way—face-to-face. A definite perk of these events is that you a captive audience. People stopping at your booth will want to hear the story behind your product and the brand. It’s also a great opportunity to conduct some market research. You’ll have a large number of people interacting with your product and brand over the span of a day or two and it’s the perfect chance to capture feedback.
Want to generate some booth buzz? Consider offering a giveaway at the event! It will help draw interest from passersby and give you a chance to collect email addresses. Also, ask customers to follow you on Facebook, or your most-optimized social media platform, to help you grow an online following.
4. Reward Your Loyal Customers
What better way to celebrate the holidays those shoppers who always have your back? Give your long-time and loyal customers something special, like a sale that is exclusive for them. Consider hosting an after-hours wine-and-cheese event in your store and invite your VIP customers for a first look at the holiday product selection. Send them home with a copy of your holiday gift guide and a coupon for a future purchase. This is a great way to show this select group that they’re remembered and valued.
5. SEO for the Holidays
Make sure you start thinking about your SEO and keyword strategy sooner rather than later. Though most websites make cosmetic changes to their sites for the holidays, this is a tip about the written content on the site. During the holidays, people are searching for different kinds of information than they would at other times in the year. Writing SEO-friendly content that provides that kind of information will lead to more traffic to the site. This means incorporating specific phrases and keywords and holiday-themed landing pages for those doing any searching for gifts. You can also optimize these seasonal products with the appropriate keywords and descriptions.
Remember that shoppers are looking for convenience with their holiday gift buying. When writing copy for your website, don’t forget to increase emphasis on local shopping or free shipping options to entice customers to shop with you.
Even one small change towards holiday preparedness can make a big impact on your bottom line come the colder months. But if you’re looking for a bigger change that could mean long-term longevity and winning the sales battle against online super-stores during the holiday season, it's time to explore how you can compete and win in the Amazon world.