According to the National Retail Federation, retail sales in November and December of 2016 are expected to increase to $655.8 billion, about 3.6 percent higher than last year.
This is great news for retailers regardless of size. However, if small businesses want to remain competitive with larger retailers, they will need to plan ahead to ensure that they are thriving this holiday season instead of just surviving.
Here are some ways that small businesses can prepare for the 2016 holiday season and set themselves up for success:
1. To improve the customer service experience, hire seasonal help if you need it.
Many larger retailers will hire seasonal staff to help them meet the increased demand during the holiday season. Some smaller businesses try to avoid this in an effort to save money, but in the end, not having adequate staff can end up hurting your sales and leaving your year-round employees feeling over-worked and stressed during the holidays.
Even if you are an online business without a brick-and-mortar location or a company that makes most of your sales online, you may still want to consider hiring extra staff to help ensure that your customers are getting the best service possible.
The modern consumer expects fast and efficient customer service, so it is important for small businesses to hire additional staff to help meet seasonal demand if necessary. In fact, according to a 2015 Global State of Multichannel Report, 97% of global consumers report that customer service is an important factor in brand loyalty, and 62% have stopped doing business with a brand after experiencing a poor customer service experience.
This makes it vital for brands to ensure that holiday shoppers have a positive customer service experience, which often requires hiring on more seasonal staff to help customers, restock inventory, and fulfill orders.
2. Use affordable digital marketing strategies to attract more holiday shoppers.
Many small businesses have significantly smaller marketing budgets than bigger retailers who can afford to print ads and pay for television spots. The good news is that digital marketing strategies are not only affordable but also effective for attracting new customers as well as keeping your current customers up-to-date about any special holiday promotions. Small business owners should take advantage of online marketing tactics to reach their target market this holiday season.
One of the digital marketing channels that small businesses can use to keep in touch with current customers while also reaching out to new leads is social media.
One survey actually showed that 66% of Black Friday purchases resulted from social media interactions.
Social media campaigns are often easier for small businesses to develop and deploy than other marketing tactics because they are cost-effective and relatively simple to implement.
3. Make sure that your website is easy to navigate and mobile-friendly.
According to a report from Merchant Warehouse, 42% of shoppers use retailer websites to research products before they make a purchase. If customers find your website difficult to use or they are not able to find what they are looking for quickly, they may become frustrated and look elsewhere.
That is why you want to ensure that your website visitors can find the products and information they are looking for quickly by making improvements to your website so that it is easy to navigate and simple to make a purchase in just a few clicks.
Small business owners should also make sure that their website is mobile-friendly, so that consumers browsing and shopping from their mobile devices can also have a positive user experience. Mobile shopping has grown over the past few years, and more and more consumers are using their mobile devices to make purchases during the holiday.
In fact, mobile traffic during key holiday shopping dates has grown anywhere from 40-80% year over year.
If small businesses want to remain competitive with larger retailers, they will need to make sure that their mobile website is easy to navigate for holiday shoppers.
4. Ensure that your inventory levels are replenished.
There is nothing worse than having a demand for your product but no supply. If small businesses want to stay competitive during the busy holiday shopping season, it is important for these companies to ensure that they have enough inventory to meet increased seasonal demand.
The key to keeping inventory well-stocked is planning ahead. Look at actual sales from past holiday seasons and trends in your industry in order to develop projections for the upcoming holiday. Having enough inventory to keep your customers happy can be the different between just surviving the holidays and truly thriving.
Making sure that you have the funds to purchase new inventory is another important part of planning ahead. Some small businesses may find that they do not have the funds on hand to replenish their inventory for the holiday season, especially if they have just experienced a period of slower sales.
This is where a business line of credit can come in handy. With a line of credit, small business owners can have the funds on hand to make sure that they always have products in stock during the busiest shopping seasons of the year.
5. Offer special promotions to show your appreciation and keep customers coming back.
Yet another way that small businesses can thrive during the holiday season is by showing a little gratitude for their customers’ business. Everyone loves a promotion, deal, or coupon that allows them to get the most for their money. Small businesses can show customers that they care and appreciate their patronage by offering special promotions during the holiday season. Customers will be more likely to return to your store for future purchases if you offer them a coupon or discount for future purchases.
In addition to boosting your holiday sales, these special promotions can also help influence later sales by building brand loyalty. Consumers are more likely to return to your business if you show them how much you appreciate their business. Whether you offer a discount on later purchases or a series of promotions as part of a customer loyalty program, showing your customers that you appreciate them when they choose to purchase from your business this holiday season business is a great way to foster brand loyalty and turn a one-time customer into a life-long brand advocate.