We’re speeding headlong toward the shopping trifecta:
- Black Friday – November 29
- Small Business Saturday – November 30
- Cyber Monday – December 2
Are you doing all you can to make sure you get your share of the dollars that will be spent that weekend? Statistics show that some businesses do up to half their annual business during those few days.
First, you need to be framing your to-do list in the right context. While the day after Thanksgiving, Black Friday, has traditionally been considered the official kickoff to holiday shopping, that’s changed somewhat. It’s controversial, but at least part of Thanksgiving Day (or afternoon or evening) now launches shopping and “deals.” And for a lot of shoppers, there’s a lot that says these shopping-focused days are increasingly blending into one long event.
Although many customers love the excitement of that weekend and will concentrate their holiday shopping efforts then, customer shopping habits are really as varied as they are. The task of the business owner, then, is to be prepared for everything. Think of it in three, and possibly four, big buckets: Pulling in customers between now and Black Friday; maximizing your influx of customers over the Black Friday-Small Business Saturday weekend; and keeping your sales up through the holidays and end of the year.
If you don’t already email your customers regularly, start now. Or send post card reminders to start the countdown to the big shopping weekend. Up your social media game: Use Facebook and Twitter to tell customers about new items, unique and/or holiday items and discounts/specials you’re offering between now and then. Now is the perfect time to use Instagram and Pinterest, if you aren’t already. Check out some social-holiday tips at socialmediatoday.com.
Create a sense of urgency and excitement. It’s a fine line between holiday overload and knowing how to tap into holiday anticipation to pace your marketing efforts for the next 10 weeks or so. Do you have a loyalty program? Do you offer a gift card? These show no signs of declining in popularity. Layaway has also come back in a big way. Not every business, especially smaller ones, can do this. But if you can, consider offering it.
In the meantime, make sure your inventory is up and your shelves stocked. Spruce up inside and out. Are you hiring extra help for the holidays? Be sure they are well trained on your procedures, especially in customer service. And even though you’re generating sales now, don’t be afraid to promote what you’ll be doing /offering that post-Thanksgiving weekend through things like flyers. Take advantage of Small Business Saturday ("Shop Small”) marketing materials, and remind customers of your extended hours, for example (if that’s the case) throughout the weekend.
Experts say that marketing for Black Friday-Small Saturday weekend should be different from what you’ve been doing during the run-up and at other times during the year. Remember that one of the distinct advantages your business has over larger ones is the quality of the experience you can provide customers. Things like music, scents and refreshments all contribute to a fun and relaxing environment that makes customers want to linger and shop. Discounts, special holiday items, giveaways, contests will all help bring them in. If you can extend your hours, especially if you’re in a high-traffic area, by all means do it. Can you offer free gift wrapping? Click here for some tips from cpnusa.com, including getting ready operationally and behind the scenes.
After the “big weekend,” don’t assume the momentum of the holidays will automatically carry your sales. Continue marketing, especially emailing customers to pull them back in with offers and specials. This is the big push through the end of the year, and as every business owners knows, customers will be looking for just the right gift or bargain right up until the last minute. And then there’s post-holiday shopping, too, with shoppers looking to spend holiday cash for the best deals of all.
Whether your business is strictly ecommerce or offers online shopping with brick and mortar, hopefully you’ve already optimized your site for mobile shopping. If not, do it now: Customers will be shopping in droves from their smartphones and tablets. Two biggies for shopping online continue to be returns and shipping. Obviously, smaller businesses cannot compete with big retailers in these areas. So offer what you can. Perhaps free shipping is your Cyber Monday/weekend offer. At the very least, make the return process easy.
In fact, make sure the entire customer experience is smooth and flawless: Make sure all links, discount codes and checkout processes are working. Clearly list prices and bundles. Review your navigation. Don’t let customers get frustrated and move on: Offer customer service support by phone, so that your customers get help and/or resolution immediately.
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