The Small Business Guide to Holiday Mania

The National Retail Federation says that 20 to 40 percent of yearly sales for small and mid-sized retailers takes place within the last two months of the year, meaning lack of preparation could cost your business up to 40% of its annual sales. While this may seem daunting, the right strategy can help you conquer the frenzy and have your most profitable season yet. These tips are designed to help guide your small business through the busiest and most wonderful time of the year.

Start early

Don’t let big wigs get the jump on your holiday promotion. Holiday marketing will begin as early as the first week of November, so it’s recommended to start rolling out your email marketing around that time. That means seasonal campaign plans should begin to finalize in October. Following this timeline gives you ample opportunity to learn how your consumers respond to each of your campaigns. Split test different images and text to see what performs best among your target audience. With this extra lead time on customer reactions, you can guarantee higher success rates when holiday shopping kicks in after Thanksgiving.

Conquer email campaigns

It’s important to have variety in your email campaigns, but remember quality over quantity. Flooding the inbox of your customers will lead to unsubscribes, and even worse for your email system, spam reports. One email a week during the holiday season should suffice for making an impact on consumers and raising awareness of your holiday promotions. Personalized emails typically perform better, and have higher open rates when the subject line includes the recipient’s name. Gift guides, such as “gifts for her” or “gifts for Dad,” are a great way to make it simple for customers to keep your products on their holiday shopping list. Don’t forget to reward your loyal customers as well, using targeted email campaigns to give them specialized discounts as a thank you for their year-round loyalty.

Optimize your website

If your business utilizes online retail, don’t forget that your website will need holiday preparation as well. Online merchants should expect to see significantly higher traffic during the holiday season. To avoid a system crash and potential loss of customer data, try to consult with your website provider’s technical support to ask how you can update your site for high volumes. It’s likely you can make a few quick fixes like decreasing files size or optimizing your external JavaScript. You can also use the free Google Page Speed Insights tool to test your online retail site for potential stress. And no matter what, be sure to back up all of your information and transaction history, in case you do experience technical difficulties.

Nurture your social media

Don’t let yourself slack on social media during the busy season. Plenty of customers will turn to social media sites for quick access to information about your business. Take a few minutes to check your business pages on Google, Yelp and other directories to be sure your address and holiday hours are correct. Updating your graphics with a festive touch will alert customers you are in holiday mode, and keep them on the look-out for posts about discounts and promotions. Pay attention to your mentions and tags on social media and make an effort to respond to as many as possible. Interacting with customers will help develop strong relationships. To help boost these interactions, try using posts that encourage your audience to start a conversation by asking questions that elicit a response (i.e., “What are you most excited about this holiday season?” or “What’s on your Christmas list this year?”).

Prepare the brick and mortar

Decorate, decorate, decorate! Nobody wants to shop in a place that looks like it’s run by the Grinch. Plus, the holiday charm will help shoppers get into spending mode. Be sure to define the work schedules for your employees well ahead of time, and hire extra help if necessary. Don’t overlook especially busy days such as Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and the days before and after Christmas when finalizing shifts. Scheduling can be tricky with seasonal travel, and you don’t need the extra stress of employees not being available to fill their shifts. Give advance notice to your customers if you will be adjusting your hours between Thanksgiving and Christmas as well.

Be the host with the most

Hosting a holiday event is a fun opportunity to increase awareness of your small business for the shopping season. Promote a special evening for customers offering accelerated discounts, food, and a little bubbly to bring on the holiday spirit. If you include a giveaway at the end of the night, you get the opportunity to acquire new emails for your holiday campaigns by having customers fill out tickers to enter. Fronting the extra money for an event can be scary, but the increased traffic, brand loyalty, and email acquisition gained is sure to pay off in the end.

Compare and compete

You can count on your customers doing their research, and you should, too. Don’t waste your time with a 5% discount. Shoppers want to be spoiled, so make sure your pricing is competitive within your market. Generally, it is more profitable to give higher discounts on individual items than on storewide sales. Also, offering additional luxuries is a great way to give your small business a leg up on the competition, such as in store pick up and gift wrapping. You will want to compare your return policy to other businesses’ in your market. If you only offer store credit while a competitor offers cash returns, you may be driving consumers in the wrong direction.

Remember to keep records of your holiday sales, inventory levels, and high performing campaigns to utilize for next season. The holidays are a wonderful time to be a small business, so have fun with them!