October 5, 2011
With the holiday shopping season heading into high gear, what do small business owners need to know to grab their share of customers’ holiday spending?
Start by being aware of some of the challenges that retailers face this year. “Businesses need to realize that what worked in previous years will not necessarily work this year,” warns SBDC Business Advisor Monica Rayes. Increased competition and an economy in flux have prompted consumers to become more sophisticated in their purchasing practices, she says.
How can retailers boost holiday sales?
Harnessing the web is one “must-do” tactic Rayes recommends. “Proactively expand email marketing, web analytics and social media tactics,” says Rayes. Social networking, in particular, helps you become part of a community of customers and prospects, get a better understanding of customers’ needs, and uncover information about your target demographic that can help in all your marketing efforts.
Can aligning with a cause make a difference?
“Definitely,” Rayes says. “Consumers take great satisfaction in purchasing from businesses that give back to their community through charity, environmental protective initiatives or sponsorship,” she explains. Find a cause that is a natural fit with your business. For instance, a pet store could align with an organization that helps abandoned pets
How can you give your store or ecommerce site the holiday spirit?
Customize your storefront, website, Facebook page, blog and any additional marketing forums with holiday decorations and designs that give a festive feel, Rayes advises. Be sure to spotlight any special holiday-related offerings. “Get into the holiday spirit in your community,” says Rayes. “Participate in community events before and during the holiday season.”
What are some other ways to engage customers?
Rayes suggests holding contests, prize drawings or treasure hunts. “Get creative!” she says. Holding both online and offline contests may maximize results. It’s also smart to offer little extras at this time of year. Gifts such as holiday favors, treats or samples, or extra services such as free delivery or discounts add value and give customers a favorable opinion of your brand.
How can small retailers compete with the giants?
Yes, there is stiff holiday competition from big retailers that offer rock-bottom prices. But while consumers do care about price, Rayes notes that emotion is still crucial to holiday marketing. “Small companies have the advantage of being able to create an experience that allows them to surpass the pricing challenge,” she explains. “Ask, ‘What is the motivator for buying our products or services? What is the mood I want my brand to evoke in customers?’” Create a brand experience that makes customers feel good, and you’ll be ahead of the game.
Rieva Lesonsky is founder and President of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Before launching her business, she was Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine. Follow Rieva at Twitter.com/Rieva, read her blog at SmallBizDaily.com, and visit her website SmallBizTrendCast to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for free TrendCast reports.