Size Doesn't Matter: The Small Business Guide to Holiday Season Success

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For many large retail chains, Black Friday and Cyber Monday remain incredibly profitable, as special sales and incentives still generate an uptick in revenue. However, relying too heavily on these crazy shopping days isn't necessarily the best approach, for companies of all sizes--particularly small businesses--should put more emphasis on retaining and attracting new customers throughout the holiday shopping season to boost the bottom line and foster long-term loyalty.
Customer Engagement

For many large retail chains, Black Friday and Cyber Monday remain incredibly profitable, as special sales and incentives still generate an uptick in revenue. However, relying too heavily on these crazy shopping days isn't necessarily the best approach, for companies of all sizes--particularly small businesses--should put more emphasis on retaining and attracting new customers throughout the holiday shopping season to boost the bottom line and foster long-term loyalty."Black Friday should not be the sole focus of the holiday season strategy for small, independent retailers," says Jason Becker, COO at RICS Software. "Most small, independent retailers cannot nor should not try to compete with the Black Friday strategies of Big Box retailers. Instead, they should focus their efforts on existing customers, new customer acquisition, and exemplary in-store experience throughout the entire shopping season."

Beyond the chaotic crowds, many small businesses find greater success by offering products and services that consumers simply can't get at Big Box stores. Thus, independent retailers rarely need to discount during the holidays. Promotions and incentives are ideal for getting people into the store, but such tactics don't need to be confined to monetary deals. Becker notes that free wine and cheese, free gift-wrapping, and complimentary personal shopping services often draw attention. However, when it comes down to core strategy, small businesses must ramp up their multichannel marketing plan using historical consumer data so they may market to past customers and uncover last-minute shopping trends from previous years. Relevancy remains crucial when it comes to targeting consumers, particularly when all stores are looking to attract the same shoppers.

Customer experience, of course, must be every brand's primary focus year-round, but it's imperative that this aspect shine during the holiday season, as competition for wallet share is at its peak. Thus, businesses may wish to: expand operating hours; create personal shopping lists for key customers based upon sales history and trends; invest in people by making sure all employees feel valued during this stressful season; and integrate technologies that enable the store to run most efficiently. By streamlining and internal operations, small businesses can present the outward experience that garners sales.

Small businesses should also be meticulous when it comes to maintaining their inventory accuracy. The holiday season isn't the time to slip up, as controlling the accuracy of inventory data will lead to smarter buying decisions the following year, while also ensuring customer satisfaction all season long.

Ultimately, small businesses must be sure to capture customer and prospective customer information in order to develop connections and cultivate relationships long after the holiday season. Because of the rush, many companies forget this important step. Even those whose retail management solution fails to record CRM data must implement the necessary tools to foster communication across customer segments throughout the year. Great customer experiences are few and far between, especially during the holiday season, so cultivating satisfaction and loyalty now may very well be the gift that keeps on giving in 2015.

EXPERT OPINION
EXPERT OPINION