Fourth Quarter Retailing: Prepare a Gameplan for Successful Holiday Selling
The holiday season is a feeding frenzy. Consumer energy builds as temperatures cool. Meanwhile, retailers jockey for position in hopes of taking a bigger share of the seasonal market. It’s stressful, exhilarating, exhausting and a significant part of America’s retail economy every year.
According to the National Retail Federation, holiday sales can represent 20 percent or more of annual retail sales1. In some categories like jewelry and electronics, the percentage is much higher. Economic indicators project another robust holiday sales season in 2018, so wise retailers are already planning their 4Q strategy.
The question is, do you have a game plan for the holiday season?
Consumer surveys indicate that nearly 22 percent of internet users begin holiday shopping in October, while more than 41 percent begin in November2. The sooner you prepare for the holidays, the greater percentage of sales you are likely to capture.
“Successful retailers have a strategy for holiday sales,” said Ameeta Patel of Synchrony, one of the nation’s largest consumer credit providers. “They make sure they have the retail fundamentals in place and then ramp up marketing to take advantage of increased consumer spending during this time of year. They are intentional about selling.”
Many types of retail businesses have the same fundamentals. It’s true whether you sell home appliances, sporting goods, jewelry or some other category of consumer items. Retailers need sufficient inventory, the latest technologies and features, an attractive store layout, a knowledgeable, motivated sales team, payment options, good customer service and a robust marketing effort, which includes online marketing. If any of these are lacking, sales may suffer.
The holidays can be a stressful time for retail businesses. Stores must be decorated. Sales events create extra work and more hours for your staff. The high expectations of eager customers can be challenging. All of these create extra pressure for your staff, pressure that may seem unrelenting during the long holiday season.
Think carefully about how you can reduce stress for your employees while maintaining the highest level of customer service. Hiring extra help may be an option, but if your employees are forced to work longer hours, consider some type of reward system to keep their morale high. Bring in lunch. Give gift cards or cash rewards to employees who go above and beyond the norm. Acknowledge great individual effort to the entire staff. Write a personal “thank you” note for a job well done.
Consumers expect to see your store decorated for the holidays and well stocked with popular items. They also expect a holiday theme on your website. Don’t disappoint them – push the holiday cheer!
Signage promoting special offers, including in-store financing, can prompt customers to buy. Synchrony’s annual Major Purchase Consumer Survey revealed that 26 percent of shoppers research financing options before they make their purchase3. If you have special financing offers during this season, make sure it is promoted prominently in-store, in your advertising and online.
Most retailers know that advertising can generate sales momentum, especially during the holidays. There is a lot of competition for attention, so you need to be judicious regarding how and when you spend your marketing budget.
Digital advertising and social media can be cost-effective ways to advertise, but you may also need to purchase traditional ads – TV, billboards, newspaper and radio. You might consider guerrilla marketing; unconventional ways to promote your brand that show up in unexpected places. Note that it is helpful to “touch” consumers multiple times in different advertising channels for better communication effectiveness.
As for Black Friday advertising, be careful not to expend all your ad budget around this event. So many retailers compete for attention on this date that it is hard to stand out from the pack. Almost one-in-five holiday shoppers don’t even begin buying until December. Keep some advertising dollars in reserve for late-December selling opportunities.
If you haven’t been thinking about your holiday plan before now, it’s not too late to start. Take care of the fundamentals, create a holiday atmosphere in your store and write an advertising plan that makes sense for your budget and customer base. A healthy holiday season can create great momentum for a successful new year!
1 Holiday FAQs 2017, National Retail Federation; Retrieved from https://nrf.com/resources/consumer-research-and-data/holiday-spending/holiday-headquarters/holiday-faqs
2 eMarketer (2016, November 11). When Do US Consumers Shop for the Holidays? Retrieved from https://www.emarketer.com/Article/Do-US-Consumers-Shop-Holidays/1014711.
3 Synchrony Annual Major Purchase Consumer Study – 2017
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