In any normal year, the holiday season is a profitable one for many businesses. According to Statista, shoppers spent over $750 billion during the 2020 holiday season. This year is expected to be even more lucrative. While supply chain issues have spurred many consumers to start their holiday shopping early this year, the holiday shopping season officially kicks off on Black Friday.
Business owners who don't take the time to prepare for holiday shoppers may find themselves at a disadvantage during the final quarter of the year. Here are several ways you can step up your marketing campaign this season for more leads, engagement and sales.
How to prepare for Black Friday
Industry analysts estimate that this shopping season will be even bigger for both in-person retail stores and e-commerce operations. However, that doesn't mean the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic won't still be felt during this year's Black Friday shopping experience.
One of the reasons this holiday season will look different is the global semiconductor shortage. This shortage in microchips was caused by a delay in the supply chain at the start of the pandemic. Since then, many industries have had difficulty meeting customer demand for their electronic products – from cars to gaming systems to computers to electronic toothbrushes. Be prepared to inform consumers that you may be out of stock of some products due to this issue.
There's also been a shortage of workers for retail and restaurant jobs. This means that you should be hyper-focused on your staffing for the busiest times, ensuring that your most reliable workers are available. Make sure you have a well-trained and responsible staff for the holidays.
6 ways to increase holiday season sales
1. Offer special discounts to your customers.
Customer loyalty is the key to success, especially during the era of COVID-19. This season, consider offering special discounts, rewards or gifts to your most loyal customers. Making these offers exclusive to your best customers makes them feel appreciated and encourages them to browse your entire catalog. Additionally, you can use a special discount as a way to introduce, or reintroduce, your customers to a new line of products you want to move off your shelves.
Remember, retaining customers is often more profitable than finding new ones, as customer acquisition becomes tricker each year. During the coronavirus pandemic, consumers are less willing to risk their hard-earned cash on something they don't know, so start with those who already use and love your brand.
2. Optimize for mobile devices.
As of October 2021, according to research by GSMA Intelligence, there are 5.29 billion mobile phone users worldwide. In other words, over half of the world's population owns a cell phone, and many of those people shop online during the holiday season. The key to creating an effective mobile design for your users this year is simplicity. When someone lands on your website, they should know within seconds who you are, how you can help and why they should care. If necessary, you should also quickly explain how your business is maintaining safety measures during COVID-19.
Mobile design goes far beyond the initial appearance of your business; it also includes how your site functions. For example, mobile users are notorious for abandoning their shopping carts if they have to fill out multiple pages to complete their orders.
One way to optimize for mobile is to create a simplified checkout page that allows users to make a purchase with minimal effort.
3. Plan your content in advance.
One of the biggest problems business owners face during the holiday season is not having enough content ready. If you're falling behind this year, don't worry. You can still create all of your email newsletters, promotions and blog content in the first few weeks of the holiday season. But the sooner your content is ready, the better.
Consumers now expect businesses to deliver content themed around each of the significant shopping days, including Black Friday and Cyber Monday, as well as the entire month of December leading up to Christmas.
The advantage of planning your content is you'll have more time to build rapport and engage with your audience through your email and social media marketing campaigns. It's not easy to build trust and close a sale in just a few days, but by providing meaningful insight and content early, you're setting the stage for more sales this holiday season.
Create a staggered schedule where you send out emails, upload new blog posts and regularly update your business's social media pages.
4. Host an online contest.
Online contests are one of the best ways to grow your business all year long, but they're particularly useful during the holiday months. We know that a majority of the population has at least one social media account. Additionally, we understand that people are more likely to interact with a new brand if no financial risk is involved.
In other words, someone that followed your brand on social media but never made a purchase from your online store is more likely to become a paying customer after participating in your contest. Contest prizes can vary depending on your marketing goals. For instance, you can allow your followers to enter your giveaway by sharing your page with friends, liking one of your posts or subscribing to your email marketing list.
Business owners who want to grow their email list should offer a prize that is relevant to their target audience. Someone with a gardening e-commerce storefront may offer their latest tool set as a potential prize in exchange for subscribing. If your goal is to get more social media followers through shares and likes, use a prize that is both simple and useful, like a $25 Amazon gift card.
5. Segment your email marketing lead list.
Email marketing has the best return on investment (ROI) of any form of online marketing. HubSpot reports that the average ROI for email marketing is $36 for every dollar spent. You'll want to prepare for the holidays by segmenting your leads based on analytics, their behavior on your website, and the interests they expressed when they signed up for your emails.
Let's say you are creating content for your e-commerce website that sells pet supplies. Your goal is to segment your lead list into different categories based on types of pets. If a dog owner visited your website and subscribed to your email content, you should put them on a lead list that centers on dog-themed content, such as "8 Holiday Foods That Are Not Safe for Your Dog."
The goal is to deliver content that the subscriber finds relatable. Personalization has a considerable impact on consumer behavior and can result in additional sales. If someone sees you sent them just the content they asked for, they are far more likely to visit your website in the future.
Segmenting your lead list is one of the best ways to improve your sales and click-through rate this holiday season. According to Mailchimp, segmented email lists tend to see a 100% increase in clicks over non-segmented lists.
6. Review your data analytics.
Finally, if you need to make quick decisions about your holiday marketing campaign this year, review your data analytics from last year's holiday season. Even though COVID-19 has changed the way many people shop, the data you have from previous sales cycles can still be informative and give you creative ideas. Social media, email and website metrics can help you identify your strengths and weaknesses by reviewing feedback, sales and product shortages.
Did you run out of a product last year and lose out on sales? If that item is still popular, or you plan to put it on sale, consider stocking up now so you don't run out during Black Friday when spending typically hits an all-time high.
What did the customer feedback forms say this time last year? Overcoming your weaknesses is just as important as playing on your strengths. If most of your feedback forms complain that the checkout process is too long, you can use this information to plan for a simplified buying process this season.
The great thing about data analytics is that you can compare and contrast information for years to come. After tracking all of your data over several winter seasons, you will be able to make informed decisions about your business, future products and marketing material.
New Year's Day will be here before we know it. There's no better time than now to start getting ready for the massive influx of new customers that will be ready to spend this holiday season. Winter sales are expected to rise this year, so business owners who plan to reach their target audience need to act now to increase their profits. The sooner you start developing your marketing strategy, the better. Start using these tips today to grow your audience, personalize experiences and ultimately close sales.
Preparing for increased foot traffic
Now that vaccines are widely available, consumers feel more comfortable leaving the house to shop than they did last year. According to research by ICSC and Placer.ai, foot traffic has returned to pre-pandemic levels for grocery stores and is near pre-pandemic levels for malls. While some shoppers have been visiting stores less frequently, their visits now have more intention behind them; therefore, they are spending more money.
Brick-and-mortar stores should prepare for the increase in foot traffic by operating their store as they did before the pandemic, while following any required safety measures. Encourage your patrons to comply with any mask mandates and stay 6 feet away from each other, and place hand-sanitizing stations at all of your entrances and exits.
An opportunity to end the year strong
The COVID-19 pandemic impacted millions of entrepreneurs nationwide, forcing almost all to change how their business operates and some to close for good. While the holiday season is always critical to businesses, the 2021 holiday season is an opportunity to end an otherwise tense and challenging year on a high note.
By taking advantage of the holiday rush – offering discounts, expanding e-commerce presences and investing in holiday marketing – your business can maximize its sales before the end of the year and enter 2022 with some momentum. It might be just the thing to help overcome the economic challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sean Peek contributed to the writing and reporting in this article.