Summer is officially behind us, and that means it’s time to gear up for the busiest retail season of the year. In 2018, holiday retail sales in the US reached almost 720 billion dollars, so it’s no secret that many businesses rely on the holiday season to significantly boost their sales.
Now is the time to improve your marketing plan and take full advantage of this opportunity. With so many marketing strategies to choose from, it’s not always easy for small businesses to decide where to focus their energy and marketing dollars. A few thoughtful choices and some careful planning can make a big impact on your customers.
Here are some suggestions to get you started on a plan to boost your marketing just in time for the holiday season.
Your website is an ideal place to sell your products and services. Ensuring an excellent user experience that provides value to your customers is key to creating repeat customers. Maximize your website sales this holiday season by fully preparing your website for new and returning customers.
Get Holiday Ready
The percentage of sales made online has grown every holiday season, and it’s expected to increase by 43% from 2018 to 2023. If you sell online, make sure your website is ready to handle the holiday rush.
Make a plan for how you will “decorate” your site for the holidays, any special online promotions you will use and what products you’ll feature. Your promotional offers should be prominently displayed with a clear and user-friendly path for customers to get the details and make a purchase.
Make Sure Your Site Is Mobile-Friendly
Customers are browsing, shopping and opening emails on mobile devices, but many small business marketing plans are not keeping up. In order to make sure your website is as mobile-friendly as possible:
Upgrade Your SEO
Search engine optimization (SEO) strategies change constantly — so fast that it can be hard for busy small business owners to keep pace. If you don’t have time to stay on top of SEO for your business website, outsourcing the task to the experts is a smart move that will quickly pay for itself.
Whether you hire it out or do it yourself, be sure to use your website’s analytics to track whether your SEO changes are working. Keep in mind that SEO is a long term strategy.
Ensure Your Security Is Up to Par
The last thing any busy owner needs is for their website to be compromised, especially during peak sales season.
It’s critical to stay on top of your updates for things like plugins to ensure your site is secure and you aren’t left vulnerable. Enable notifications for all services related to your website so you know as soon as an update is available.
Use HTTPS on your site, the most common protocol for website safety. It prohibits anyone from intercepting or changing content that users are receiving. This protects your customers personal information and instills confidence with your website visitors.
For the best conversion rates, you want to do everything possible to reduce friction and make it as easy as possible for your customers to complete the sale.
Wherever possible, simplify the options available to customers looking to make a purchase. Don’t overload them with choices for how to get from A to B. The harder someone has to work to make a purchase, the higher the likelihood they’ll get frustrated and leave your site.
Your website design can help reduce friction with a clean and easy to navigate interface. For example, Skinny Ties’ homepage makes it easy to find exactly what you need within the first few seconds. They showcase all the different types of skinny ties they offer so you can start shopping immediately.
Only include critical fields when requesting information from customers. Adding too many fields makes the process cumbersome for your potential customers and they may abandon their purchase.
To reduce friction, complete a review of your order fulfillment process. Identify any gaps that may impact customers trying to order or your team fulfilling the orders on the back end. This can highlight any issues so they can be eliminated before holiday sales start.
Email marketing is another opportunity for you to connect with your customers and work on building your “know, like and trust” factor. If you’re already using email marketing as a strategy for your business, there may be a few opportunities to make some improvements to what you’re already doing.
Clean Up Your Email Lists
Sending emails to bad addresses, multiple emails to the same person or emails that end up in the junk folder is a waste of your time and will annoy your customers. Take time to clean up your email lists and get them in tip-top shape for fall.
Build Your Email Lists
Once you’ve removed the deadwood from your email list, start adding promising new prospects. Work every angle to get customers to sign up: ask at the point-of-sale, offer prizes or drawings every week, and share special offers in return for signing up.
Make it super simple to sign up by featuring an email signup box prominently on your website’s homepage. A Marketo study indicated that 96% of people that visit a website aren’t yet ready to buy, so this offers a way to continue to connect with them as they consider purchasing.
Fashion retailer Tomboy Exchange includes a prominent invitation to sign up for email updates and exclusive deals on most pages of their website. By telling you exactly what to expect and only asking for your email, they make it easy and enticing to join their email list.
With over 220 million social media users in the US, it shouldn’t be a surprise that your customers expect to see your business on social platforms. If you want to grow your social media following, you need to have a plan in place to make it happen.
Create a Strategy
There’s nothing wrong with being spontaneous on social media, but you’ll also want to have a plan. With a plan, you have the ability to measure the success of your efforts — including what is or isn’t working over time.
A defined social media strategy also means no one is scrambling to come up with things to post. By having it all mapped out at the outset, you can create posts that compliment each other and build on specific themes or ideas that showcase your brand.
Be a Consistent Presence
People need to see your brand to recognize your brand. By having a consistent presence, you are staying top of mind. Social media is about cultivating lasting relationships with your audience.
Consistency creates a better overall customer experience, as your customers know what to expect and when. Better customer experience means you’re building your reputation, along with credibility and brand trust.
While customers may like your product or service, it’s the overall experience that separates your business from the competition. Find ways to stand out and be memorable so you offer customers more than just a quick sale.
Don’t Forget About Your Current Customers
We often get so busy chasing after new customers we neglect the ones we already have. It’s said that 80% of your business will come from 20% of your customers, so identify the most profitable customers you have and reach out to foster stronger relationships and increase sales.
You can use social media and email marketing as a way to keep in touch with your existing customers. The goal is to build lasting relationships so they’ll think of your company first when it’s time to buy.
Create Experiences that Result in Repeat Customers
What your customers experience after they make a purchase is critical. Consider how you can add surprise and delight along the way.
Every touchpoint with your customers provides an opportunity to reinforce their experience with your brand. Every point in their journey can make a difference, from the first email they receive confirming their purchase to the packaging of their order to how you follow up.
Dollar Shave Club’s order confirmation email is designed to delight customers while offering them an incentive to share the club with a friend.
By taking the time to gather a complete overview of your marketing channels and opportunities, you can easily craft a plan for the holiday season that helps you meet your business goals.
With careful planning and strategic decisions for your website, email, social media and customer experience, you can position your small business to have its best holiday season yet!
Feature Image: Unsplash / Freestocks.org
Screenshots taken by author, August 2019.
Image 1: via Juvia’s Place
Image 2: via Skinnyties.com
Image 3: via Tomboy Exchange
Image 4: via 5 Rabbit Cervecería on Instagram
Image 5: via Unific