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How Small Retail Businesses Can Thrive in the Holiday Season — A Checklist

Updated: Nov 21, 2022

Can you feel that heady blend of excitement, terror, and Christmas spirit in the air? That’s right, it’s almost time for the most frantic season in the retail year.

The days between Black Friday and Christmas account for nearly 13% of all retail sales in the U.S. Christmas shopping, deal-hunting, and even the online madness of Cyber Monday all add up to create a stressful — but highly profitable — time for shop owners.

As a result, it’s important to be as prepared as possible — there is a lot of opportunity for small retailers here but also lots of challenges. In this article, we’ll take you through a quick checklist to help make sure your marketing is on point for this season.

Is the holiday season really a priority for you?

The first thing to ask yourself as a small business owner is, “Does it make sense for my business to invest in marketing during the holidays?”

For many businesses, the answer might well be no. Ultimately, you’ll be going up against juggernaut retailers spending vast sums of money to promote their businesses and products — are you ready to compete with them?

Also, consider whether your products are going to be in high demand during the holiday season. If not, it may be smarter to save your marketing dollars for a season when your offerings will be better appreciated.

If it turns out that you aren’t quite ready to throw yourself into the holiday season, you still shouldn't let your marketing grind to a halt. Just be pickier. And if the answer is yes… get ready to be creative, scrappy, and determined — there’s a lot of noise to break through.

Your holiday strategy checklist

When selling products directly to consumers, prepare for early birds

Many people start their Christmas shopping long before December, and many people even prepare for Black Friday in advance. For forward-thinking retailers, this represents an opportunity.

Make it easy for your customers to engage with you as early as possible. Use things like discount codes and coupons to prepare people for the holiday season before it begins, and run promotions weeks or even months in advance.

Remember that lots of other brands will be trying the same thing. Get creative and do what you can to make your promos stand out and linger in your customers’ memories. A strong text and email campaign is key here because your audience is already interested in your products and is much more likely to trust what you have to say.

When it comes to channels go deep, not wide

When deciding which platforms to use to connect with your customers, it’s tempting to go as wide as possible and try to establish a presence across a range of different channels.

However, this technique often falls short, since it tends to result in shallow marketing that fails to offer much value. For smaller businesses, too, it can mean stretching your resources far too thin.

Instead, it often makes more sense for small retailers to develop a loud and clear presence in the 2 or 3 places your customers hang out the most. This involves really getting to know your customers and their behavior. Here are some ideas:

  • On your checkout pages, ask your current customers what blogs they like to read. Reach out to those sites and ask if you can sponsor posts or share some of your own content there.

  • If your customers spend a lot of time on Google, run some search ads to promote your business and specific seasonal offers. Don’t forget to be mindful of location requirements and keyword relevancy — Google’s recommendations are generally worth paying attention to here.

  • Don’t worry about owning every marketing channel and having a truly omnichannel presence. If your customers aren’t hanging out there, this kind of approach is not worth the investment and may even hold you back significantly.

Make sure your website is running smoothly

As the holiday season approaches, people start flocking to their favorite stores’ websites with the same — or even more — enthusiasm as they approach actual stores. This means you need to prepare for increased traffic and make sure your website is on point.

Ensure any landing pages and sales pages work perfectly. Your customers should encounter minimal friction when making purchases, even during busy times. A checkout page that fails during peak times can result in enormous losses in potential revenue.

There are some great tools available to help you make sure your site is running as smoothly as possible — like Website Grader which gives your site a rating based on things like performance, SEO, and mobile readiness, along with concrete tips to improve it.

Francois du Toit is an expert product marketer who led marketing at several high-growth startups in gaming, healthcare, and food, — and one of our marketing sages. He says this stage is a useful point to tune up the copy on your site.

“This is also a great opportunity to play around with your site copy and checkout flow to maximize conversions,” says Francois. “Install a free plugin to your site like Google Optimize and see if there are different keywords that get more people to click checkout.”

Use data wisely

In the digital age, data can be an extraordinarily powerful tool for businesses of all sizes. If possible, look at how your customers behaved last year — which channels worked best? Where did you run into issues? What messaging and ads resonated best with your customers?

Look at conversion rates, bounce rates, click-through rates, page views, and as many other metrics as you can gain insight into. And if you haven’t already, think about how you can track and monitor your performance more effectively this year, to get more useful data and insights for the years to come.

Think about personalization

How can you make your shoppers’ experience as personal and rewarding as possible?

80% of consumers are more likely to buy from a company that provides a tailored experience, and 71% of customers are frustrated by impersonal shopping experiences. This means personalization can give your brand a powerful edge over the competition during the intensity of the holiday season.

Learn as much as you can about your customers and what makes them tick, and think about rewards and discounts you can offer that are tailored to your specific audience.

Don’t forget to cater to mobile users, too

According to research from Shopify, 71% of purchases during Black Friday and Cyber Monday were made from mobile devices, compared to 29% on desktops. This means it’s more important than ever to ensure your customers can visit your site, interact with your brand, and purchase your products easily on their mobile devices.

How Sagely can help

At Sagely, we help small businesses like yours succeed in the holiday season — and throughout the year — by connecting you with our network of seasoned experts in marketing, branding, strategy, and more. We want to help small businesses tap into the same brainpower and experience as big companies.

Visit our homepage to learn more and get started.

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