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4 Ways Small Businesses Can Stay Competitive During the Holiday Push

Complaining that retailers are pushing the holidays earlier and earlier every year is such a familiar sentiment among American shoppers that the cliché of the “Christmas Creep” is well-known, but it’s one that is rooted in truth. This year, big retailers like Walmart started rolling out their holiday programs in August by introducing revamped layaway incentives. In 2014, Kmart began airing a Christmas commercial in September. The reason these retail giants get into the holiday spirit so early is because statistics show that a significant number of consumers are not waiting until the last minute to do their holiday shopping, but instead are looking for deals throughout the year.

A survey taken in August by CreditCards.com showed that one in seven people, or 32 million shoppers, had already started shopping for the holidays. Another survey released in September by the Rubicon Project, found that one-third of respondents had done some holiday shopping, including 42 percent of parents. Research shows that no matter when consumers start their shopping, they will generally spend a fixed amount on holiday gifts. In other words, incentives rarely get shoppers to spend more than they budgeted, so the race is for businesses to get consumers to spend those dollars on their products rather than with a competitor.

In order to stay competitive as a small business, you need to roll out your holiday programs now, both to ensure you are not missing the customers who are shopping earlier and to catch those who might wait until to the last minute by informing them of holiday incentives. Here are a few ways you can begin your own marketing push now.

Offer Holiday Layaway

Small businesses can follow the lead of big retailers and allow customers to purchase items through layaway. Both Walmart and Kmart started their holiday layaway programs earlier this year. Walmart not only introduced layaway in August, but it also lowered the minimum price for qualifying items to $10 and allows customers 90 days rather than 60 to pay. Layaway has proven successful not only in targeting customers with little credit, but also those looking to secure popular items early.

Increase Shipping and Return Incentives

Lowering the minimum purchase needed to get free shipping is another incentive big retailers use to lure holiday shoppers that small businesses with an online presence can also employ. Toys “R” Us lowered its minimum from $49 to $19 in early September as part of a holiday program. Going a step further, Nordstrom, Amazon and Zappos all offer free returns, giving consumers the peace of mind needed to shop online. For small businesses with a brick and mortar store, it has proven useful to offer shoppers free shipping on all purchases to be picked up in the store. In-store pickup brings in more foot traffic and increases incremental buying.

Get Mobile Ready

Research from Custora shows that 26 percent of online sales came from mobile devices between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday, which proves the importance of having a mobile friendly online presence. It benefits businesses to have mobile sites in place early, not only because Google has started penalizing non-mobile websites, but also because many consumers plan their post-Thanksgiving shopping early.

Create a Social Media Campaign

Of course, no holiday incentive is effective if consumers are unaware of it. Any shipping, return, layaway or price deals should be prominently featured on your website or in the store; the earlier, the better. Research shows that customers respond, particularly on social media, to visual marketing, so using professional images, such as high-quality stock photos in the holiday theme, are more likely to catch a shopper’s attention. Marketing to loyal customers and staying active on social media are essential, affordable ways to promote holiday incentives.

And finally, remember that Small Business Saturday is the Saturday following Thanksgiving. This gains national attention every year, and last year alone it was estimated that 88 million customers shopped small on Small Business Saturday. Begin to promote this day now to help build buzz around this exciting day and what your unique store is doing for it – as well as rally your local community together to become “Neighborhood Champions”. Free resources, event ideas and more are available to help you. Learn more about how you can get involved in this day celebrating you – small businesses – by visiting ShopSmall.com. 

Photo Credit: Provided by SocialMonsters.org with permission to use. 

 


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