5 Ways Local Business Can Compete and Win During the Holidays

The holidays bring the competition between small businesses and big box retailers to a fever pitch. It’s important to fine-tune a strategy, build community ties and cement your brand in shoppers’ minds as early as possible.

When it comes to competing with large retailers, local SMBs already have a lot in their favor:

  • The “shop local” trend shows no signs of slowing down
  • 78 percent of people prefer to shop small to mid-sized businesses, according to a study from the Edelman Trust Barometer
  • Digital advertising has helped level the playing field. This includes pay per click, search engine optimization, and local advertising channels – especially mobile options
  • Brand penetration is more effective and affordable when you create the right partnerships

Here are the top five ways to increase revenue for your business this holiday season – and strengthen your position all year round.

Partner with Leading Brands

Consider partnering with a national promotion like American Express’ Small Business Saturday. Since 2010 it has been encouraging communities to “shop small” at local, independent businesses, and giving those stores a competitive edge. By aligning with other small businesses in your area and partnering with AMEX, you can get the advantage of the marketing power of the big company, and at the same time join with other like-minded small businesses in your community.

Being Local Has Advantages

A recent Yodle survey finds that loyalty, convenience and community pride are key reasons people shop locally. While retail giants are successfully re-branding with hometown appeal, small businesses intimately know what makes their markets tick. Offering hyper-targeted holiday promotions by neighborhood and demographic can give you an advantage over larger competitors. Some examples include:

  • Specialty product discounts – Do competitive research and see if you can beat a larger retailer on the price of a specialty item. You may not be able to offer the same volume pricing, but consider a special sale on your most popular items over Black Friday weekend or Small Business Saturday.
  • Joining together with others in your area – Is it possible to join together with other merchants in your vicinity to have a Sidewalk Sale? Or, perhaps partner with another merchant to offer a free local coffee with an oil change. There is strength in numbers.
  • Social media marketing – An effective way to generate buzz now and all year long is to add personality and local flavor into your social channels. Run an Ugly Holiday Sweater contest and include a promo code. Ask customers to share a holiday memory or photo on Facebook. Run a promotion or special menu on Twitter. Get your products out there on Pinterest.
  • Direct mail advertising – A well-designed large format print, circular or coupon is a tangible reminder of your presence. In addition to shared direct or solo mailings, extra flyers can be stacked at the register, tucked into receipts or placed on car windshields. Your local Valpak representative can advise you on the best direct mail strategy for your business.

Focus on Your Niche

Hangers Cleaners was a small, Kansas City dry cleaner faced with competition from Proctor & Gamble’s Tide Dry franchise. Hangers chose to differentiate itself by putting quirky slogans on its clothes hangers, throwing street parties and marching in local parades, and eschewing storefronts in favor of free pickup and delivery service.  Remember the benefits that distinguish your brand from big box stores.

Mobile Continues to Drive New Business

If history is any indication, the Consumer Electronics Association expects at least 74 percent of people to use their smartphones for Black Friday shopping. Half of people visit a store within one day of doing a local search on their devices, and one in four holiday purchases was made on a mobile device in 2014. It has never been more important to have a mobile-friendly website that anyone can use while commuting, sitting in the bleachers, or running errands.

Holiday Marketing for 2015

The average American spent $804 on holiday purchases last year, up almost 5 percent from the year before. Of the $616 billion retailers earned during holiday 2014, a full 80 percent of that was spent at brick and mortar stores. Lower gasoline prices and an improving economy mean shoppers will likely spend more this season. With creative strategies and strategic partnerships, small local businesses can finish Q4 on a high note.

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