For small businesses, increased competition can make this time of year more challenging. However, there are plenty of ways for you to attract holiday shoppers to your store and website.
Décor of Your Store
Consumer surveys have shown the primary reason customers shop in stores rather than online during the holidays is they want to see the products in person. But nearly half are shopping because of the “holiday ambiance.” They want to experience the festiveness of the season — so you need to decorate your store to fit the occasion.
- Take the size of your store into consideration, as well as your targeted customers. Then decide on a theme. You can go full-on Christmas with Santas and elves. Or choose themes that reflect a winter wonderland, the magic of the season, cozy cabin in the woods, or a candy land.
- If you’re operating on a smaller budget, keep it simple by using garlands, poinsettias and mistletoe.
- Lighting goes a long way to adding holiday ambiance. String holiday lights (they’re cheap) around the store. Put some in your window displays as well to keep your windows clean throughout the season.
- Scents attract shoppers. And the holidays have their own distinct smells, from pine to peppermint, from cinnamon to freshly baked cookies.
- If you’re trying to attract families — spending time with family is another reason consumers cite for preferring to shop in-store — plan a special shopping day and bring in some type of entertainment, like musicians, face painters or magicians.
- Holiday shoppers are often tired so offering treats is a good pick-me-up. Think about food and beverages that won’t mess up your merchandise (avoid chocolate), such as gingerbread cookies and apple cider. Even small bottles of water are a welcome extra for weary shoppers.
- When I was a kid, my dad provided customers of his men’s clothing store free gift boxes and ribbon with a purchase. Consider offering free gift wrapping services. You can set a minimum purchase level and have staffers do the wrapping. In my area some local Girl Scout troops do the wrapping and customers are happy to make a small donation.
- One sure seller this holiday season is gift cards. The National Retail Federation says gift cards are the most in-demand product consumers want. So think of clever ways to display them such as tucked in a wreath or hanging from some branches.
- Depending on what you sell, staging an in-store event can bring in existing and new customers. If you sell arts and crafts—teach a class. Toy stores can stage a doll fashion show or have a block-building contest. Always offer some type of discount on the day of the event.
Your Website is a Store Too
- Customers are always looking for deals. Be sure to plan out holiday promotions and feature them in your store and on your website. Online you can easily offer a “deal-of-the-day.”
- Make your website and Facebook page look ready for the season by adding some appropriate holiday elements, such as snowmen, wreaths, stars, bells, etc.
- You can hold contests online as well. Or offer some quizzes that help people find appropriate gifts.
- The number one factor that online shoppers want year-round is free shipping. Set a minimum limit, as 48 percent of consumers will spend more to reach free shipping minimums. Offer small “stocking stuffer” merchandise that customers will add to their carts to avoid pay shipping charges.
- More and more customers want the convenience of BOPIS (buy online, pickup in store). And they want to be able to return items they’ve purchased online to the store.
You should amp up your marketing this time of year. How can you best reach customers? Here are some ideas:
- Partner with neighboring businesses to host a holiday shopping event, such as a sidewalk sale.
- Host a special event for your best customers, such as opening early or staying open late just for them or having a holiday open house.
- Pick a local charity and host a holiday fundraiser. Or pick a day to donate a percentage of sales to that charity.
- Direct mail is making a comeback. Consider sending cards with discounts or gift certificates enclosed, colorful flyers or postcards, which are cheaper to mail.
Finally, consider changing your hours. Consumers are especially busy around the holiday and appreciate stores that open early and stay open late. If you do change your hours, make sure you promote the change on social media while putting the new hours on your website and in any business directory listings.