8 Ways Small Retailers Can Win the Holiday Shopping Wars

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Many small business owners suffer from anxiety in the months leading up to the biggest shopping season of the year. Not only are the holidays busy, but they’re noisy. Small retail stores know that while holidays can be a very good time for them, it’s easy to be intimidated by the big box retailers with their unlimited marketing resources and huge price cuts.

Small retail stores have advantages that big box retailers will never have and have to capitalize on those strengths to draw crowds away from just going after the cheapest products they can find. You will have customers that the big boxes can’t ever service.

Standing out locally and competing successfully against huge national brands with huge marketing budgets may seem impossible, but it’s not. Here are some ideas to help you stand out with shoppers during the holiday craze:

Start focusing on customer email collection

Either before or during the holiday shopping season is the easiest time of the year to collect customers emails. They know things will be going on in your store, either events or sales, and they want to be in the loop. In order to maximize the potential of email marketing leading up to Black Friday or Small Business Saturday, small business marketers should update their email signup forms and provide extra incentive for users to submit their email addresses.

One of the best ways to do this is to simply change the copy around the signup form to something like “Signup now for Small Business Saturday Deals” or “Holiday Discounts in Your Inbox: Signup Today.” Messaging like this conveys real value to your customers and can increase your email volume prior to the holiday season. Email collection is very important and is something you should place more emphasis on ASAP for email to be an effective tool that helps you boost sales this holiday season.

Be nostalgic

Making an emotional connection with your customers may be easier during the holidays, as so much of what makes the season special is wrapped in our sentimental memories. Poll your employees about their favorite holiday memories, and try to weave those elements into your advertising and promotions.

Give customers quality

Quality and retailer flexibility can go a long way with customers. Small touches like free gift wrapping, setting  up a temporary area where children can play or greeting customers by name can alleviate a lot of the stresses associated with holiday shopping.

With their size and how they are structured, big box stores can’t really work with small manufacturers and stock items that don’t have a relatively mass appeal. But small business has that flexibility and if you know your customers well, you can fill the gap and stock those items. Big retailers have limited service and return options which might not be convenient or a good fit for everyone. You, on the other hand can offer different levels of after sales support, extend your return periods and offer better guarantees to valuable and regular customers.

Change the specials up daily

You could tie special promotion to the Twelve Days of Christmas or just to each day on the calendar. Mix it up by making some promotions big, some little. If changing things every single day is too daunting, stretch it out to one week. Start promoting early and get a jump on your competition.

People generally shop for themselves while they’re shopping for others, so use that to your advantage. Make it easy for customers to say “yes” – remind them to treat themselves, offer mid-afternoon “take a break from shopping” specials.

Make your shopping experience mobile friendly

According to a Google study, 79% of smartphone owners use their devices to assist in shopping, and 84% of those use their smartphone to help shop while in-store. If your retail store doesn’t offer your shoppers an in-store mobile commerce app or, at the very least, a mobile-optimized website, you risk losing business to one of your competitors that has embraced mobile. Look at the holiday season as your official wake-up call. You can’t afford to miss out on these customers.

Host Exclusive Events

Hosting exclusive events for loyal customers or groups in the community makes customers feel special and is a great way to invite them to shop in-store. Magic Beans, a chain of toy and baby supply stores based in Massachusetts, aims to make the shopping experience as much of a draw as the discounts. Rather than targeting maximum foot traffic, they strive to limit their in-store deals to select groups, offering extended hours and promotions to members of a mommy group or parents at a local preschool, for instance. They save money on advertising the event because the group will market it for them and drive customers into the store. Also, it makes those groups feel like they’re getting special attention. On days Magic Beans holds these private events like that, the company averages an additional $5,000 in revenue.

Promote through social media

You must use social media to promote your holiday marketing campaigns. Design a creative image for a Facebook post that is both visually eye-catching and also clearly articulates the details of your sale, event or what you’re offering during the holidays. Images are more likely to trigger interaction and sharing. Also, consider purchasing promoted posts on either Facebook or Twitter to advertise your store during the holidays. These type of ads are a great way to get the word out and be sure your marketing dollars are being spent well. When advertising on social media, you’re able to reach a very large targeted audience and be fairly assured the people seeing your ad could genuinely be interested in your products based upon their interests.

Give back

Partner with a local charitable organization during the holidays. Tell the organization’s story on your blog and explain why you chose to partner with them. You could donate a percent of sales made on a select few days and even market these as exclusive shopping events.

If small businesses adopt and employ a strategy this holiday shopping season, they can resonate with holiday shoppers and boost sales. What will you do to stand out with shoppers this holiday season?