It doesn’t take an economist to realize that the holiday shopping season can be a profitable time of year for businesses big and small, and not just the retail industry. After all, Black Friday kept its name because of companies whose sales put them “in the black” with high profits.
However, it can also be a tough time of year for small businesses struggling to compete with name brands and big box stores, with bigger budgets. Looking at the discounts those companies can offer, you might be wondering how you could possibly get a consumer’s attention without breaking the bank.
Fortunately, the holiday shopping sales don’t have to be intimidating. With the tips below for how small businesses can take advantage of holiday marketing, you’ll be well equipped to carve out your cut of customer spending. After all, it’s more than just the big shopping days everyone knows about.
Holiday Shoppers Are Ahead of the Game
According to a survey from earlier this year, people started their Christmas shopping well before Labor Day. It isn’t limited to a small handful of bargain shoppers either. The survey shows that one in seven Americans had already started ticking off gifts from their “to-buy” lists. In fact, of those not already shopping, 15% of respondents said that they were planning on starting their holiday shopping earlier than they did last year.
This isn’t just because consumer powerhouses have started running their own mini-events, though it certainly doesn’t hurt. Consumers have become increasingly budget sensitive. More time to shop means more time to find deals on exactly what they want, or even to take advantage of layaway payment programs. Of course, about 25% of shoppers plan to be finished shopping for gifts by the end of November, so even if you didn’t get a head start on holiday marketing opportunities, there’s still time to course correct.
Know the 5 Biggest Shopping Days
Small Business Saturday
This is the holiday literally made for you, nestled between Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Although it was created by American Express, you don’t need to be affiliated with the credit card company to partake in the benefits, including some free perks from AmEx itself like free marketing materials. Small Business Saturday as a concept has caught on like wildfire, and every small business should be taking advantage of it in some way.
But you shouldn’t be intimidated, especially not by this holiday. We’ve mentioned before that Small Business Saturday isn’t about your small business slashing prices; it’s about positively connecting with your community on a local level, keeping some of the holiday spending in the community itself and supporting one another. You won’t need insane discounts to help, and the odds are still high that Small Business Saturday will bring in record sales.
Remember, you need to participate in this holiday in a way that’s best for your company. Not sure what we mean? Take a look at our previous post about how small businesses can really take advantage of America’s newest shopping tradition.
In 2014, e-commerce revenue skyrocketed past revenue from 2013 by a whopping 15.4% on the weekend of Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday. On Cyber Monday itself, consumer participation paralleled those numbers by rising 15%, making that day the biggest online shopping day in U.S. history. That growth is expected to be exponential for 2015, as is the elongated definition of “Cyber Monday deals.”
What this means for small businesses is that you need to be ready, and you need to be on customers’ radars. Don’t be worried by the fact that not all of your traffic will convert into sales that day, either. Build a cohesive marketing plan that will get browsing customers on your email list or following your social media accounts for later conversions.
This is the holiday that started it all, one that, like clockwork, causes frenetic shopping crazes and mad grabs for popular products in all kinds of industries. While it’s true that many small businesses will see a natural bump on Black Friday from people simply being out and ready to shop, that’s an easy way to miss a big advantage. The trick is finding the right time and the right way to market your company as a place that offers value for money spent.
That doesn’t necessarily mean discounts. Slashing prices is a balancing act that requires making enough sales to cover for the profit loss. In one notable (but highly individual) instance, raising prices actually increased sales thanks to the mental association of “expensive” with “quality.” Similarly, discounts that aren’t “big” enough may end up turning a customer off.
It’s also important to mention that while some big box stores are opening earlier on Thanksgiving, it may not be the right choice for your small business. It brings families together from all parts of the country, and you could face two obstacles. First, you could see shopping backlash from customers that don’t appreciate the intrusion on the holiday. Second, they may be too busy having family time or fighting through the crowds to swing by your business. Don’t take up a trend unless you really think it’s going to benefit your business.
Despite the fact that holiday shopping has already begun, and that it started early last year, the actual single day that saw the most spending was Christmas Eve. The day with the second highest spending was December 23rd. Procrastination is partly responsible, especially since procrastination can lead to panicked shopping splurges. There are other reasons to shop last minute, including the availability of budgeted money and receiving unexpected gifts or unexpected guests. Of course, there’s always the Christmas bonus to spend, as well.
According to another survey, late shoppers were aided by researching products and stores from mobile devices. While this is a trend that’s growing year round, it was especially key for holiday shopping in 2014, especially on Christmas Eve. That’s because smartphones allow customers to find which stores are open and sometimes even which stores have specific products in stock.
The Day After Christmas
As much as everyone hunts for deals in order to shop for Christmas, just as many love the deals that come afterward. We say “the day after,” but like all shopping this year, post-Christmas offerings sometimes become available as soon as stores close on Christmas Eve. It’s no wonder that, according to some analysts the day after Christmas is the second largest shopping day of the year.
Of course, much like Black Friday and Cyber Monday before it, the day after Christmas is only the initial focal point for shoppers. Many stores have found varying ways to grab the customer’s attention. Whether it’s an end of year sale, an annual sale, a mega sale, or a New Year’s sale, it’s all post-Christmas shopping. The hope is that when people come in with returns, they’ll stick around to spend their gift cards and take advantage of whichever deals they can find. In turn, this shifts some of the spending that normally trickles through January into solid numbers for the end of the fourth quarter.
Other Major Trends to Take Note of
With the days you need to be aware of already under consideration, you should take a moment to consider these 5 holiday shopping trends you may not be aware of. After all, holiday marketing opportunities aren’t just about timing. How are customers finding you? Why should they choose your store? Here are a few quick points:
- Shopping via Tablets and Smartphones – It’s expected that shopping from mobile devices will rise by 32.2% this year, representing more than half of all online shopping. Having an online store that’s mobile friendly will be key to turning up in customer searches and the internet influences $1 trillion in sales. Does your mobile store inspire shopping confidence?
- Customers Doing Research Online – Customers can find products online, compare prices, and look into products and stores without leaving home (or in some cases, putting down their smartphone). You can’t depend on in-store information and salesmanship alone when 78% of shoppers are turning to information and reviews online. How are you reaching your customers?
- Brand Loyalty Starts to Mean Less – More than half of respondents in a Google survey said they were willing to try a new retailer to get what they wanted, and just under half actually shopped at a new retailer. The way consumers consider brands is much the same. Are you putting yourself where new customers will find you?
- Video Reviews Having More Impact – Only 29% of shoppers are looking to their friends and colleagues to inform them about what to buy, but they’re turning to more than text-based research. Of people that watched videos about shopping, 80% used the reviews of stores and products to shop, and of those, 68% preferred videos from everyday people. How are you encouraging reviews and consumer interaction?
Make the Most out of Your Holiday Season — It’s Already Started!
Do you have your marketing plan ready? A good marketing plan will connect Small Business Saturday, Black Friday and Cyber Monday to give your customers a reason to value your small business and local offerings. By building even a minor relationship with a potential customer, you’re moving toward conversions that will come later.
Do you know how you want to promote your business during an extended holiday of sales? You should already have your plan for promotions and discounts in place and ready to go. If you are or you have an e-commerce store, you need to make sure your holiday landing pages and graphics are ready and that your website can handle significantly more traffic than usual.
Are you planning on using sales and/or some other kind of special promotion? This is where you need to get creative and find a way to show customers why it’s worth it to shop at your store. Providing special offers like bundled products or services may be a great way to add value. Or, you can target offers to particular segments of customers because that makes the customer feel like they’re getting something no one else is. This makes your advertising much more effective.
Do you know which days your store will be closed? While it’s not necessarily true that you need to be open on Christmas Eve, you do need to evaluate the potential number of last minute shoppers that could look to your company. If you’re not going to be open in-store, you should have a plan for capturing those customers the day before, or have other ways to meet that demand online.
Will you be going back to business as usual once Christmas is over? With gift cards on the rise, post-Christmas shopping is as important as shopping for Christmas.
And as always, don’t forget to take advantage of tools you should already be using. With Google My Business, for example, you can boost your presence in local searches, run holiday themed contests, and interact directly with customers online.
With a little planning and careful consideration about how your small business can take advantage of holiday marketing, you’ll be ready to thrive this holiday season and hit the ground running in 2016.