Holiday sales represent about 20 percent of annual retail sales each year. For small businesses, that means it’s a critical time to get your customers buying. One of the best ways to encourage shopping is by implementing specific holiday marketing strategies.
Holiday retail sales are likely to increase between 4.5 and 5 percent in 2019, according to Deloitte’s annual holiday retail forecast, and holiday sales will exceed $1.1 trillion during the November–January timeframe.
Whether you’re an online or offline SMB retailer, the holidays represent a huge opportunity to increase your bottom line. You can make an even bigger impact on your Q4 sales by using a combination of tried and true marketing strategies and a little creativity.
The opportunity for the holiday season goes beyond sales. It’s a chance to surprise and delight your customers, increasing their loyalty. It’s also the perfect time to gain new customers and enhance the overall customer experience.
To make this the best holiday retail season possible for your SMB, we’re sharing some ideas to inspire you as you put together your holiday marketing strategies.
#1. Sell via Email Marketing
With email marketing offering an estimated 38:1 return on investment, it continues to be one of the most effective marketing strategies SMBs can leverage. Email marketing provides you with a captive audience who’s already interested in your products or service
Start by promoting holiday sales via email, and consider offering your subscribers a special incentive to purchase during the holiday season. You can offer an exclusive promo code only available to your email subscribers to encourage holiday shopping. You’ll be able to track your promo code’s effectiveness and see how many people took advantage of the offer.
It’s important to remember that people are inundated with emails during the holidays. You want to make yours stand out, so pay careful attention to your subject lines so you’re doing everything you can to entice people to open your email.
This holiday email from BarkBox targeted last-minute shoppers with a fun subject line of “You Pupcrastinated. We got your back.” This on-brand subject line is sure to stand out in a crowded inbox. The simple creative featuring their products and cute dogs helps time-crunched shoppers get the perfect holiday gift for the dog or dog lover on their list.
People are often more reluctant to take a chance on buying something when they don’t have the option to return it if the recipient doesn’t love it. Use your emails to help potential customers feel more confident in their purchase by including details about your return and exchange policies.
#2. Offer Incentives to Returning Customers
Your customers want to feel valued and appreciated, so the holidays are the perfect time to say thank you.
Customers love loyalty cards that give them the opportunity to earn a specific discount. If you don’t normally offer a loyalty program, consider creating a holiday-specific one that gives customers a specific gift or discount when they spend a certain amount.
A lot of holiday shopping happens online, so offering customers free shipping for a day with a low minimum purchase, such as $10, is a great way to increase your sales.
Consider offering discounts on future purchases as a way to say thank you and to encourage another purchase after the holiday season. For example, for every $50 a customer spends, you might offer them $10 to spend in the new year.
If you run a local business, look into hosting an exclusive VIP event where your customers can get a discount when making a purchase that day. This makes them feel special while rewarding them for shopping with you.
#3. Make Recommendations to Increase Sales
You know your customers, and you know what your best-sellers are, so use this knowledge to create upsell opportunities.
In the same way that Amazon recommends products, your business can give thoughtful, timely recommendations to customers. Consider recommending related products or those popular during the holiday season. You can highlight your recommendations using in-store signage or by sharing on your social media accounts.
For example, if you’re a retailer selling beauty products and someone is purchasing face masks, you could make recommendations for other popular skincare products.
Preassembled gift baskets or boxes are an excellent way to bundle complementary products and sell more items in one transaction. These can be grouped by themes, such as specific types of people like teachers or grandparents, or by interest, like a movie lover’s bundle.
Another way to make the most of recommendations is by creating a promotional code for customers to share with their friends. For example, for every five friends they share the code with on Facebook or email, you could give the customer $5 off their next order.
HelloFresh offers customers an enticing incentive for referring their friends.
#4. Encourage Shopping Early
With so much going on during the holidays, many people like to get their shopping started before the December rush.
Consider offering your customers an incentive to buy early, such as:
- Discounts on popular seasonal products.
- Free gift wrapping for their purchases.
- A coupon for future use.
- A special gift with their purchase.
- In-store treats and coffee for customers to enjoy while shopping.
- A giveaway draw for the first 25 customers.
Keep in mind that you don’t need to offer customers large incentives; rather, look for ones they’ll value or that make their lives easier.
#5. Partner With Another Business for a Combined Offer
Many SMBs rely heavily on the holiday season to account for a large percentage of their annual sales, so it’s the natural time to partner with a related business.
This type of cross-promotion can be the ideal way to acquire new customers while serving your current ones. For example, create a limited time offer for a discount at one retailer if they show their receipt from participating retailers.
If you run a bookstore, consider teaming up with a coffee shop. For a cosmetics retailer, a hair salon discount would be a great compliment. People often use catering services over the holidays, so caterers could work with a cleaning service to offer post-event cleanup.
#6. Host a One-Day-Only Event With a Personal Shopper
Everyone loves a great deal, and having a one-day event creates a sense of urgency. This should be a sale your customers can look forward to and are aware of well in advance.
Consider positioning your event as a kickoff to the holiday season and have special offers available that day only. This can be done either in-person or online and is a smart way to offer your customers an enhanced level of service with support from a personal shopper. This individual can make your customers’ shopping experience more fun and help them select the perfect holiday gift.
For a local business, you can create a fun and festive event at your location. If selling online, you can promote in advance via email and social media to get people excited. Create hype by teasing out what they can expect, to make it something they can’t resist!
#7. Do 12 Days of Giveaways
Consider a promotion where you highlight a product or service as the “deal of the day” every day for 12 days. (Partridges in pear trees optional.) You can sweeten the offer by entering everyone who purchases the deal of the day into a draw for a gift card or popular item you sell.
Use social media and email marketing to promote your giveaways during the lead-up, and ensure you have a promotion plan for each day the special event is running. If you run a retail location, have signage in your store to take full advantage of foot traffic.
#8. Connect With a Local Charity and Give Back to Your Community
Charities often see their needs increase during the holiday season, so consider connecting with a local one to give your customers an easy opportunity to help out. That way, you’re supporting an organization in need while making your customers feel great about choosing your business.
You can offer the opportunity for customers to make a one-time donation, or a percentage of sales on certain products or services can be donated. Finding a link between your business and the charity you’re supporting will make it even more impactful. For example, a pet store might team up with a local rescue organization, while a restaurant might work with a food bank.
#9. Create a Gift Guide
With so much going on during the holiday season, your customers want things to be easy. They’re overwhelmed with holiday preparations, and a gift guide can make shopping much simpler for them.
Put together a gift guide with product recommendations for different family members or various areas of interest. This can be done either online or in print. The key is that you provide solid recommendations that help your customers get their shopping done.
Gourmet gift retailer Harry & David’s 2019 holiday gift guide is a great example of the types of gift ideas any SMB can put together for their customers.
#10. Plan for the New Year
The holidays come with a jam-packed schedule for many people. Instead of trying to add one more thing to their list, consider hosting an event or special sale in the new year.
One thing that often happens when people are out holiday shopping is that they see things they want to buy for themselves. Consider creating a “Hold It for Me” offer where your customers can come back in the new year and get a discount on items they were eyeing over the holidays.
The goal of this promotion is to build on the momentum from the holidays and boost sales in January. You can also use this as an opportunity to thank your customers for supporting your business. January is often a month when people feel a post-holiday letdown, so your event or promotion can be that much more memorable coming at a time when they don’t expect it.
Offer customers a “sneak peek” of post-holiday sales and consider giving them advance access. This is particularly effective when the item is not something they’d purchase during the holidays, but something they may want in the new year. For example, few people have exercise equipment or a new blender in mind during the holidays but, come January 1st, they’re likely to be ready to get back to working out and eating healthy smoothies.
As you consider which of the above promotions to implement for your business, remember that the key is selecting one or two that’ll work for you and your customers. You know what your customers want, so cater to them with your holiday marketing strategies to ensure this is the best holiday season yet for your SMB.
All screenshots taken by the author, November 2019