Visions of Christmas in July? Thoughts of Halloween in mid-summer? Is someone confused or jumping ahead on the calendar too far, too fast?
Not at all! If you’re a small business (or any business, really), you already know that when August looms on the horizon, your planning for holiday promotions should begin in earnest. But is it really necessary to start when we can still see fireworks in the rearview mirror?
Networksolutions.com sums it up nicely: Prepare now, profit later. This is especially when it comes to e-commerce. Here are a few thought-starters to get you going in the right direction:
- Who will be your target customers? Hopefully you’ve kept good records from past holiday seasons and over the past year that can give you a good idea who your potential customers are most likely to be.
- What will be your best-selling products? Look at your inventory; your best-sellers might be obvious. Or maybe customers were asking for specific things last holiday season. Do you have anything new to use in your holiday promotions? Talk to people, research online and look for trends in gift-giving this year that can give your customers yet another reason to shop with you this season. And plan ahead to make sure that you have enough product in stock. If you don’t have enough capital to purchase the amount of inventory that you believe you will need, now’s a great time to begin exploring your options for securing financing, like small business loans.
- Can you increase your reach? If you’re for some reason lagging behind in social media, by all means, play some quick catch-up on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and the like. Then use these sites to start an ongoing conversation with your customers, research trends and monitor competitors.
- Where are the pre-shoppers? The vast majority of holiday shoppers like to wait until November to do their holiday shopping, but an increasing number shop early, so see if you can attract some of them. Also, even those who shop later will begin researching gift items and deals right after Labor Day, so it pays to be out there.
- Can you adjust your budget? You may think you’ll get enough holiday sales with little spending, but don’t chance it. You need to spend money to make money. And holidays are not the time to skimp, when you’ll need things like longer hours, additional staff and intensified promotions in order to compete.
- Can you have your promotions all planned out? Make a list of promotions you’d like to run: BOGO (buy one, get one), spend more-save more, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, etc. Plug them into the calendar between Labor Day and New Year’s Day. List how you’ll market each one, any tools you’ll need, the multiple channels you’ll use and the timing for each. You can even start now working on (or outsourcing) your messaging and content.
A posting on shop.org’s blog picks up on some of these ideas and adds some additional ones in exploring how retailers will invest now for holiday 2013. As part of a 2012 post-holiday survey, the site asked retailers two important questions:
- Based on your experience this past holiday season, what ONE thing will you invest in this year for holiday 2013?
- Looking ahead, what ONE thing will you do differently for Holiday 2013?
Here’s what they’re focusing on—and what experts say you should be, too:
- Planning and assortment. Having enough of the right items available, especially for gifting
- Infrastructure. Server capability and site capacity; making sure capabilities cover multiple devices and platforms
- Marketing and promotions. Key words, all forms of search and personalized communication to increase conversion are among the tasks here
- Cross channel / customer experience. Holistic approach; making in-store and online experiences seamless; renewed focus on all touch points
- Mobile. Optimization, all things “tablet” and how to increase mobile ROI are all high on the list of priorities
- Fulfillment and customer service. Speedier and better delivery options, including adding a ship-to-store option, same-day delivery and free returns were all emphasized
And while you’re coming up with ways to make this year’s holiday season your best ever, you’ll want to put some extra focus on two core promotional tools. Email is one: Constant Contact offers terrific hints and tips for holiday email marketing. And don’t forget social media, covered by Dex One’s (dexone.com) social media insights for holiday promotions.
Image courtesy of Simon Howden / FreeDigitalPhotos.net