3 ways for retailers to prepare for a successful holiday season

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November and December holiday retail sales will increase between 3.8% and 4.2% over 2018, predicts the National Retail Federation (NRF). But with competition coming from all sides and online shopping taking a big piece of the holiday spending pie, beating the competition will be as challenging as ever. Here are three ways every small retailer can stay ahead of the pack.

 

1. Prepare your website

Last year website crashes and technology issues hurt the sales of some of the nation’s biggest retailers. For smaller stores, technology problems can have an even greater effect on sales. If you sell online, start getting your website ready for the holidays now. If you don’t sell online currently, it’s likely too late to get a website going. But you might consider selling a limited selection of popular products on Amazon or eBay.

If you have a website, conduct stress tests to make sure it can handle higher-than-usual traffic. Assess your site’s usability and ease of navigation. Create shopping guides to help customers find the best gifts for recipients like moms, teachers, or music lovers. This is not the time to make big changes to your site. But small tweaks can improve the user experience and promote your high-margin items.

Last but not least, make sure shoppers can browse and make purchases from their smartphones. 20% of all online holiday purchases will be on mobile devices this year. 29% will be on desktop or laptop computers. And 4% will be on voice-activated smart speakers, according to OpenX and The Harris Poll

 

2. Start selling early

Consumers will spend 5% more this year than last year, the OpenX/Harris Poll predicts. But the NRF also cautions that political tumult, global risk factors, and uncertainty around tariffs, trade, and interest rates could negatively affect shoppers’ holiday spending plans. Nearly 8 in 10 consumers in the September NRF survey were worried about tariffs raising prices and said that might reduce their spending.

Most consumers don’t mind shopping early. Half of those in the OpenX/Harris poll began planning their shopping list in September. 37% have made purchases as of August. So why not grab your share of holiday budgets before something changes shoppers’ minds?

Next, review your email list and loyalty program data to see which customers purchased early last year. Especially if you’re worried about turning off that vocal group of shoppers that becomes enraged when a business advertises holiday deals before Halloween. Then reach out to them again with targeted offers. You can also use pay-per-click advertising to attract people who are already searching for holiday gifts. 

More than two-thirds (68%) of consumers in the OpenX/Harris survey say they’ve gotten gift ideas from ads. 43% bought something after seeing an ad. Who knows? You could inspire an impulse buy. Nearly a quarter of consumers admit ads have motivated them to make unplanned purchases.

Speaking of “early,” have you hired your seasonal employees yet? If not, check out our guide to seasonal hiring for small businesses. If you have, start planning your employee schedules now.

 

3. Focus your marketing on millennials

You can increase your odds of a successful holiday season by focusing on millennial shoppers. Half of millennial respondents in the Open X/Harris survey said they will spend more on the holidays this year than they did last year. Millennials also have bigger budgets than other age groups. They expect to spend 15% more than consumers overall and 25% more than baby boomers.

To entice customers, make your website and marketing mobile-friendly. 69% of millennial respondents will use their mobile devices to shop in 2019. Encourage millennial customers to follow your business on social media. A mobile marketing campaign using text messaging can be an effective way to reach millennial shoppers. Text promotions, notifications, and reminders can drive shoppers into your store or onto your website.

Additionally, millennial shoppers like to give their dollars to companies that are aligned with their values. Focus on making your marketing authentic to your business’s mission, using social media to share inside looks at your store, your team, and your life. And promote any socially responsible activities your business engages in, such as donating to charitable organizations or selling fair-trade products.

Gear up now, and you should be able to enjoy a profitable 2019. Need more advice? Check out these holiday consumer forecast.

 


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.