Last year, the average shopper spent over $1,000 on gifts for friends, family, and themselves during the holiday season. Mobile and online shopping continue to gain traction and to steal headlines. However, last year 83% of holiday shopping was done in-store. Consumers continue to utilize online resources to browse products and scope out sales, but shoppers will ultimately visit your storefront to make the purchase. Steady holiday sales and plenty of in-store purchases means there is a huge opportunity for small retailers to win big this holiday season.
What Do Shoppers Want?
According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), sales and price discounts are the number one holiday purchasing factor. However, product quality and product selection are a close second and third. Of course, shoppers are looking for great deals. More importantly, they are looking for quality, memorable gifts for loved ones. Offer flash sales, bundle deals, and gift with purchase promotions to provide a tempting deal. However, don’t sacrifice product quality to lower prices.
Make it Easy to Buy
During the holiday season, shoppers have many purchases to make and a busy schedule to keep. When it comes to deciding where to purchase a product, often the most convenient option wins. For small stores to stay competitive, it is essential to offer the order fulfillment options shoppers want.
The NRF reports that free shipping or shipping promotions play a significant role in customers’ decision to purchase. 94% of online shoppers take advantage of free shipping offers during the holiday season. Free shipping can severely impact a small retailer’s margins. However, setting a minimum order quantity to qualify for free shipping is a great compromise. Customers still receive free shipping they are looking for, and retailers increase their average order value. When shipping holiday orders, be sure to label cutoff times for holiday delivery clearly. Offer multiple shipping options to accommodate both value shoppers looking for free ground shipping, and last-minute procrastinators who are willing to pay for express delivery.
Shoppers also want to buy their items online, but pick them up in-store. NRF reports that 50% of shoppers use this fulfillment method, known as BOPIS when holiday shopping. BOPIS is popular because shoppers can still buy at any time of day from the comfort of their homes, retrieve products same-day, and test items out in-person before bringing them home.
Create Gift Guides
In addition to offering quality merchandise, seasonal pricing, multiple pickup and delivery options, retailers should create gift guides outlining popular products and ideas for different recipients. Kizer & Bender, expert merchandisers and consumer anthropologists, recommend creating lists of not-to-miss products for different ages, genders, categories, and vendors.
Retailers can easily do this by identifying their top-selling products from each department and supplier and compiling those top-sellers into lists. At a minimum, retailers should keep the lists at the checkout registers as helpful guides for employees. Georganne Bender of Kizer & Bender says, “Make sure that every single store associate knows about them. The goal is to make it super simple for customers to choose gifts for their friends and family.” However, retailers can also take a few product photos and create digital gift guides to post on their websites and social media.
Strategize Staffing and Store Hours
Many retailers stay open later during the holiday season to accommodate after-work crowds and busy weekend shoppers. Extended hours can be a good tactic for bringing in more sales, but make sure that you are choosing additional operating hours wisely. Look at your sales from last holiday season to see when the busiest times were. If you did extend hours last year, look at how much revenue you brought in during those times. If you did not sell during those extended hours – don’t keep them. You’ll save on operating costs and help prevent employees from burning out.
If you do change your hours, be sure to adjust them on your website, Facebook page, and your Google Business account. Draw attention to your additional hours by hosting and advertising happy hours or gift wrapping promotions during those times. Also, consider how to handle actual holidays. Generally speaking, it is usually not worthwhile for independent stores to open up on Thanksgiving. Stay closed that day so you and your staff can rest and prepare for Black Friday and Small Business Saturday.
Customers always expect friendly service from retailers. But did you know that shoppers hold small businesses to a higher standard of customer service? Stress levels are high during the holiday season as people rush around trying to cross every gift off of their list, juggle additional social gatherings, and visit family members. It is very easy for a minor miscommunication to turn into a more significant customer service issue. Re-training employees on how to effectively handle customer service complaints is a crucial step leading up to the holiday season.
Promote, Promote, Promote
Many shoppers prefer to support local businesses, especially during the holidays. However, to shop with you, they need to know about your store. Once you have your gift guides created, events planned, and holiday hours set, start broadcasting your business. For best results, use a combination of traditional channels like the local paper and Chamber of Commerce, and digital channels such as email, Facebook posts, and updating your website. Shoppers want to hear from their favorite brands at least once a week, so don’t be shy when it comes to sending emails to your customer base or promoting events on Facebook.
Start Planning Now
Over 55% of consumers start holiday shopping by early November. There are only a few months left to finalize your event planning. The holiday season is like a giant party for retailers. Pick a theme, decorate your store, invite everyone you know, and most importantly, spread good cheer.