By Matt Anderson, Chief Digital Officer of hibu
The “Shopping Days Til Christmas” countdown is in single digits, and the busiest shopping season of 2013 will soon be a memory. If you own a retail store, now is the time to evaluate the 2013 holiday season and start thinking about how you can prepare your business in the months ahead for an even more successful holiday 2014.
At hibu, we work every day with small businesses who are navigating a crowded market place. So we know as well as you do that claiming customers’ attention and business in the holiday season, when big box retailers and online retail giants are flooding them with advertisements and deals, is especially challenging. Here’s a quick guide to making sure your store is holiday-ready in 2014.
1. Freshen up your website.
A successful holiday shopping season starts long before it’s time to hang the ornaments, or even decide on your Black Friday deals. Early in the year is the time to make sure your website is in tip-top shape.
Here are a few things to keep in mind:
– Contact information is key. It sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised how many local businesses leave out all or some of their contact information. Make sure potential customers who find you on the Web have immediate access to your phone number, email and street address. A strong “how to find us” page with map, directions and parking information is also essential to giving local shoppers a good experience.
– Make sure your website is optimized for mobile. The fact is that most small business websites—about 85 percent–are not. When a holiday shopper on-the-go finds your website on her smartphone, you’ll quickly lose her if it’s not fast and easy to find all the necessary information.
– Be intentional about SEO, and don’t wait until the last minute. Ensure that key words are set up well in advance to allow search engines time to index and find your products and services.
– Revisit your online store (and yes, you absolutely need one) to make sure that it’s easy to navigate, full of popular gift-ready merchandise, and that key information like shipping time is prominent and clear. Consider sweetening the deal for your customers with free shipping and in-store pick-up of online purchases—something local businesses are well positioned for.
2. Design smart deals.
Here’s the truth about being a smaller retailer: Big box-style Black Friday deals won’t work for you. Major retailers play “loss leader” by promoting single big-ticket items, and this can be costly for a local business. Instead, pick a few unique items—locally made objects your customers can’t find at larger competitors are great here—and package them together with a value-add offer. Make sure the offer fits into a “gift-giving” price range to maximize sales.
3. Be social.
It’s common knowledge by now that social networking is an important way to connect with customers. But you need to be mindful about your approach. People who’ve already shopped at your store may be following you on Facebook or Twitter, but engaging with them isn’t going to drive new customer acquisitions. Consider developing special offers—like a 10 percent off coupon—that can be shared on social networks, encouraging your current customers to spread the word with their friends and family. It’s never too early to start building the following that can buoy your end-of-year sales.
And when the holidays do arrive, don’t forget to reward your loyal fans with early notice on special holiday discounts.
4. Stock up.
Make sure your inventory, especially on popular gift items, is at a level that will support holiday demand. When people come to your website or walk into your store, they’re primed to buy—and if you let them down, they’ll go elsewhere.
5. Spread the word.
As a local business, advertising and PR firms might be out of reach. But with a little creativity, you can make a big impact without a big budget. For example, if you run a yarn store, why not find a local blogger who’s a knitter, and invite them to come into the store for a behind-the-scenes look at how you do business. A little mini PR project like this can drive tremendous interest in your store and build a lifetime relationship with a local influencer.
Navigating the holiday shopping season as a small retailer can feel impossible, but if you start early and take some simple steps, you can make a big impact in 2014.
Chief Strategy and Business Development Officer Matt Anderson leads hibu‘s Digital Business Unit with responsibility for the development of all its digital solutions, embracing digital marketing, online commerce and business operations for our SME customers. Matt is also responsible for its internet Yellow Pages (iYP) products and Consumer, Payments, Incubator and Latin initiatives.