The end of the year is here and for many Australian small businesses now is the perfect time to start preparing for a successful Christmas and holiday season. Whether you’re already putting the finishing touches on your preparations or just getting started, here are some reminders of things to consider in the coming weeks. To start, there are four all-important questions you should ask yourself when evaluating your seasonal strategies:
1. Is your shop prepared to handle the Christmas and summer holiday rush?
You may have a physical shop or an online shop, but you need to ensure you’ve taken the necessary steps to handle the added demand this holiday season. Key things to consider include:
- Inventory — anticipating demand can be tricky. On one hand, it’s important to stock up on the right merchandise to avoid dealing with out-of-stock issues, but on the other, you don’t want to overestimate demand and get stuck with too much. It’s important to look at your sales data and figure out which items you should stock up on – take a look at your sales from last year as well as in the last few months and use that data to forecast demand. Sales shouldn’t be the only factor to consider when calculating holiday demand. Additional variables, including the weather, consumer confidence, the political climate, consumer debt, and other economic indicators can affect the shopping behavior of your customers, so take these things into account as well.
- Workforce — can your existing employees handle the holiday rush, or will you need to hire additional help? If it’s the latter, get those people on board a couple of weeks before the Christmas season.
- Ecommerce — ensure your website can handle the surge of traffic the holiday season may bring. Test various aspects of your online store, including load time and checkout speed, and try to get your numbers as low as you possibly can. If you’re not satisfied with the speed of your site, talk to your hosting company and see how you can improve for the holidays.
2. What types of content, offers, and promotions will you run?
We’re sure you already have some ideas to engage and entice holiday shoppers, but here are a few suggestions and reminders to help you spice things up:
- Pre-holiday clearance sales — consider launching a pre-holiday clearance sale in November so you can unload last season’s merchandise and make room for holiday items.
- Holiday catalogs/gift guides — digital may be on the rise, but catalogs are still an important part of the marketing mix for many retailers. Create a print or online holiday guide with your product recommendations. Highlight your own merchandise in the guide, but make sure you’re also adding real value by providing helpful ideas and advice.
- Personalised products — let your customers add a personal touch to the products they buy from you. You can offer to engrave products or simply provide customisable labels.
- Holiday countdowns — always a popular tactic during the holidays, launching a countdown gives you the chance to interact with your customers and bring attention to various aspects of your business.
- Social media engagement – don’t get too busy that you neglect your social media accounts. Posting regular updates on social is essential to maintaining top of mind awareness. Devote time to image-centric sites such as Pinterest and Instagram because these sites allow you to showcase your products and generate intent. Jason and James founders of funky retro and vintage homewares store Reloveinc in Brisbane plan to focus strongly on their social media campaign this Christmas. “We intend to use sites such as Instagram and Facebook to help increase traffic along with providing sensational coffee in store for our customers.”
- Ready to go options at the counter – Arbor jewellery in Brunswick, Melbourne are already working on ready-to-go boxes and positioning gift ideas near the counter. Owner, Ellinor Mazza says, “we want to help our customers and take the stress out of buying gifts by having lots of ready-to-go gift packs available”.
- Gift-wrapping services — this is a great add-on or complimentary service to offer in your stores. Shoppers are extremely busy this time of year, and they’ll appreciate having one less thing to worry about when shopping for presents.
- Charitable initiatives — it is, after all, the season of giving. See if you can tie charitable efforts into your holiday campaigns. This not only helps spread goodwill and reinvigorates the people around you; it’s also good for business. Getting involved also increases top of mind awareness. When people see you regularly participating in events, charities, and other functions, they’ll be more likely to remember you when it’s time to buy.
3. How fast can you get merchandise to customers?
Efficient order fulfillment is important all year round, but during the holidays, it becomes a make-or-break factor. Plan your fulfillment process early, and find ways to get products into the hands of customers as quickly as possible (bonus points if you can lower costs). If you have an ecommerce site, for example, you may want to implement click-and-collect services so shoppers have the option to pick up their items at your store. If you’re running a brick-and-mortar store, do you have a game plan for how you’re going to fulfill customers’ needs if you don’t have the items in stock?
4. How can you get to know customers better this season?
Don’t forget about data and analytics during the holiday season. The next few months are sure to bring in more traffic to your store, which means that you’ll have additional opportunities to gather insights into your customers’ personal preferences. Having that information will enable you to get to know your customers even more, so you can craft better campaigns, tailor experiences, and improve customer service. Look into different analytics solutions that you can use in your store such as people counters, mobile tracking, beacons etc. Ellinor reports that her boutique jewellery store is going to concentrate on understanding their customers better this season. “We are focusing on collecting data on the extra customers that come through over Christmas so we can tailor offers and drive sales throughout the rest of the year,” she says.
If you prepare your retail business now, you’re far more likely to take advantage of the Christmas rush and provide a great experience for your customers while ensuring it’s a profitable time for your business.