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Your Business Should be Planning for Holiday Sales

3 minutes Read

Holiday Best Practices

The 2014 holiday season is expected to bring in almost 20 percent of the retail industry’s total annual sales. This prediction from the National Retail Federation means that many small companies are eager to capture a portion of this holiday spending this year.

To finish this year strong, now is the time to iron out any company wrinkles that could stand in the way of successful holiday sales. Use the tips below to identify opportunities for last-minute improvements that could help you make the most of this important season.

Identify your choke points. Think back to last year. What got in the way of maximizing holiday sales? If you ran out of a best-selling item, lost customers because of long checkout lines, or missed out on marketing opportunities like Small Business Saturday, this is the time to make important modifications.

Make staff part of your company. Demand is high for qualified seasonal help this year, and with a little training you can improve the skills of anyone you hire. Make the time to familiarize hires with key details of your company such as your unique value in the marketplace, features of your lead offerings, and competitor profiles. Also insist that hires know the locations, online or in-store, of products so that they can assist customers with finding what they need.

Plan for customer service issues. Frazzled customers with last-minute requests, lost packages, and other service glitches are a holiday given. Making a plan for assisting customers who are upset will minimize the impact of these situations on your holiday potential. Train staff (particularly new hires) in how to diffuse situations and route customers quickly to the right resources. Remember that an upset customer, handled properly, can become a loyal advocate of your business.

Delight your customers. Shoppers have more choices than ever about where to make their purchases. Encourage them to choose your business by enhancing their experience with your brand. For instance, offer a secure bag check so they can shop hands-free, create a supervised kids’ play area, pass out energy bars and bottles of water, or set up a massage chair in a quiet corner.

Review your website. Comb through your website for dated content, broken links and missing products or images. Run sample product searches to see if the site returns accurate results. If you have an e-commerce site, test the checkout process to make sure it works smoothly and securely. You may want to share this task with a trusted friend or business contact. People outside your company may be able to be more objective about their experience with the site.

Streamline in-store checkout. Scrutinize your checkout area to determine the best way to move people through their transactions. Do you need a credit card-only line? Would it be helpful to have one employee bag purchases while another rings them up? Will you have one checkout line or multiple lines? Customers will appreciate clear guidance on where to go and how to pay.

Differentiate. Now is the time to promote what’s special about your business and give people a reason to shop with you instead of a competitor. Are your products made locally? Are you an exclusive dealer of a sought- after brand? Are your products preservative-free or made daily? Promote your unique value on in-store signage, in marketing materials and on your website. Be sure your staff can communicate your differentiators clearly.

Boost your marketing efforts. Use one or more of these strategies to bring traffic to your store and website:

Special events. Draw in business with special offers tied to shopping holidays like Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Small Business Saturday. Or create your own special event with a tie to your core offerings. For instance, a day spa might offer complimentary foot massages for weary shoppers or free makeup consultations. Give participants a discount on any items they buy on the day of the event.

Social media. Use social platforms and location-based services such as Google Maps and Yelp to drive traffic to your store. For example, if you know an item is in short supply, post Facebook and Twitter updates when new shipments arrive. If you run a restaurant, use Yelp to offer a free appetizer to shoppers within a certain radius of your store.

Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising. As the gift-giving season heats up, more and more people will go online to search for specific products. Search engine and Facebook ads that feature best-selling products and hard-to-find items can put your company on the radar when shoppers are ready to buy.

Loyalty offers. Encourage repeat business by offering a coupon for a return visit or a gift card when shoppers reach a milestone spending level. For example, at checkout you might pass out vouchers for $10 off the next purchase or provide a $25 gift card with every $250 in spending.

Product bundling. Make it easy for gift givers to stay within their budgets by bundling products into packages at different price levels. For example, a women’s boutique might bundle costume jewelry sets for $25; a glove, hat and scarf combo for $50; and a shirt and sweater set for $75.

 

Photo credit: USBFCO/shutterstock.com

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