19 Last-Minute Ways to Boost Your Retail Holiday Sales


By Rieva Lesonsky, CEO of GrowBiz Media & SmallBizDaily.com

We’re in the thick of the holiday shopping season. I hope you’re ready! The good news is it’s not too late to make some moves that can increase your sales. Here are 19 things you can still do to give your retail store or e-commerce website the competitive edge this year.

1. Offer free shipping: To keep from cutting into your profits, you can set free shipping for a certain price threshold and above. You can also offer free shipping as a benefit to your loyalty or rewards program members.

2. Use email to get return business: Use welcome emails, purchase confirmation emails, and shipping confirmation emails to get customers to shop with you again by including a special offer for their next purchase. Don’t forget to send cart abandonment emails that contain a small incentive — such as 10 percent off — that can get customers to pull the trigger.

3. Promote last-minute shipping: Not free last-minute shipping, of course. But as the holiday shopping season draws to a close, desperate gift-seekers will gladly embrace extra shipping charges and thank your business for saving the day. Just be sure to clearly state the deadlines for last-minute shipping on your website, so no one is disappointed.

4. Build a sense of urgency: Put a Christmas countdown clock on your website to spur customers to buy. Use phrases like “last chance,” “almost gone,” and “only a few left” to motivate shoppers.

5. Use website popups to encourage email signups: If you offer a percentage off for signing up, shoppers who might never sign up for your emails otherwise will do so to get the deal.

6. Run pre-Christmas flash sales on your website: You can limit them to a few hours at a time, make them open to all, or limit them to your loyalty program members.

7. Create holiday-themed landing pages: Making your website look festive helps put shoppers in the mood to buy.

8. Be their gift guide: According to Deloitte’s 2018 holiday retail survey, holiday shoppers have made about half of their shopping decisions when they visit your store or website. That means the other 50 percent is still up for grabs. Whether in-store or online, you can guide their shopping.

  • In-store: Almost of third (29 percent) of all customers look to salespeople for in-store guidance about what to buy, according to Alliance Data’s 2018 holiday retail outlook. Meanwhile, 48 percent of the 18-to-24 demographic expects salespeople to alert them about discounts or promotions. Train your sales team to help shoppers find the perfect gift. Hold daily huddles to inform your salespeople of the day’s deals, special promotions, and what’s new. Don’t put your best salespeople on the registers. Put them on the floor to help customers check off their gift lists.
  • Online: Create special gift-guide sections with gifts at different price points (under $25, under $100, etc), gifts for different hobbies (gardening, gaming, etc), gifts for various people in the giver’s life (teachers, grandparents, etc), and gifts for different situations (hostess gifts, white elephant gifts, etc).

9. Advertise online: Use holiday-themed pay-per-click (PPC) advertising keywords to get traffic. Terms like “Christmas,” “gifts for …,” “free shipping,” “fast shipping,” “last-minute gifts,” or “cheap gifts” can all drive gift-givers to your door (or landing page).

10. Get social: Almost a quarter of shoppers say they’ll use social media sites to help with their holiday shopping this year, the Deloitte survey reports. The majority of consumers (74 percent) trust family and friends’ recommendations most, but 58 percent trust brands and 48 percent trust retailers. Get in the game by sharing gift ideas, promoting your hottest products, and answering questions people may have about gift giving. You’re going to be busy, so schedule the bulk of your social media posts ahead of time using social media management tools.

11. Promote your top-selling products: Whether online or in your store windows, highlighting your most popular products can help you sell even more of them. People like to buy gifts they know are hot.

12. Sell wrapped gifts or pre-packaged gift sets: Display one sample gift set unwrapped, so customers can see what it looks like. Leave the rest wrapped, ready to grab and go.

13. Use mobile marketing: Reach out to shoppers on their phones via text message marketing or display ads. Whether they’re couch-surfing for gifts or frantically rushing around town to stores, your customers will likely have their phones in hand.

14. Extend your hours: The later your store stays open, the more shoppers you’ll attract and the more opportunities you have to sell merchandise. Consider opening earlier in the morning, too, to capture shoppers before they head to work.

15. Keep adding to your email list: Consumers want value in return for sharing their information. Ask customers to share their email addresses to get a discount on their next purchase or a gift card, good for purchases in January.

16. Promote your loyalty or rewards program: Almost 4 in 10 customers say they are much more likely to shop at a store where they are part of the loyalty program, a 26 percent increase from last year, according to Alliance Data’s summary. Use the holidays to get customers to sign up for your program by offering them immediate rewards.

17. Prepare for post-Christmas sales: Some 40 percent of consumers say they plan to shop post-holiday, up from only 5 percent five years ago. Plan your post-holiday promotions now.

18. Capitalize on returns: Making your return process easy is a differentiator during the holidays — no one wants to give a gift that’s tough to take back. Then make the most of returns by training your staff to encourage shoppers to look around before making their return. Chances are they’ll buy something new.

19. Take care of your team: The real key to holiday retail success is your salespeople. Treat them right. Provide snacks and drinks to keep them energized. Hold contests to keep them inspired (and competitive). Give them breaks, praise them frequently, and reward them when they least expect it.

Do your salespeople need some extra holiday spending money? Offering them extra hours can be a smart move that eliminates the need to hire and train seasonal workers. If you’re worried about running into overtime, stay on track with time tracking software that alerts you when employees are close to their maximum allowable hours.

Make your employees’ lives (and your life) easier at this busy time of year by using employee scheduling software with an easy-to-use mobile app. When you can change your staff’s schedules on your smartphone (that alerts them of changes on their own devices), everything gets a lot simpler.

Rieva Lesonsky is the CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at rieva@smallbizdaily.com, follow her on Google+ and Twitter, and visit her website, SmallBizDaily.com, to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for free TrendCast reports.