If you work in retail, we don’t need to tell you that the holiday season is a humongous deal. As the industry’s busiest shopping event, it’s incredibly important to put your best foot forward and ensure your business is equipped to serve holiday shoppers.
To that end, we’ve put together a handful of tips to help you do just that.
The importance of starting early
Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas may be months away but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get a move on with your retail holiday plans.
Consumers are increasingly starting their holiday shopping earlier in the year. Industry data shows that 31% of consumers say they’ll start their holiday shopping before the end of October.
As such, retailers simply cannot afford to delay their holiday initiatives. If you want to attract and convert customers during the industry’s biggest sales period, now is the time to prepare.
1. Plan your inventory
Physical goods are your bread and butter, so you must ensure your catalog showcases the right products for the season. Here’s how.
Look at your data
Use POS or retail management system to extract your sales and inventory data during:
- Last year’s holiday season
- The last 2-3 months
Leverage the insights you gain to figure out what to stock up on this year. For example, if certain types of products were popular last year, see if it makes sense to stock them again this year.
Look at emerging trends
Historical data is useful, but you should also pay attention to current and upcoming trends in order to stay ahead of demand. The following tips can help.
Dig into Amazon searches. Research shows that the majority of product searches — 74% according to this study — start on Amazon. Given its popularity, it makes sense to tap into Amazon’s data to glean insights into what people are searching for.
Amazon has a Best Sellers page that lists hot and popular items across various categories, including fashion, electronics, pets, and more.
For deeper insights, consider using apps like JungleScout or AmzScout, which provide tools for surfacing data like Amazon search volume, competition and more.
Explore Google Trends. Google has a free tool that allows you to explore search interest in various product categories. It also displays top shopping keywords, along with data on how much searches have increased or decreased over time.
Just like with Amazon’s product research tools, Google Trends can offer useful intel on what items to stock up on. When combined with your store’s historical data, you should be able to have a better idea of what your holiday catalog should look like.
2. Start hiring seasonal employees
If you haven’t done so yet, start bringing in new team members (even temporarily) to help you handle the holiday rush.
Ask your team for referrals
You don’t always have to look far and wide for great employees. Start by informing your team that you’re hiring seasonal workers, then encourage them to refer their friends. It may also help to offer a reward for every successful referral.
Broadcast your openings
If you have a large social following or email list, use those channels to broadcast your workforce needs. Create an attractive banner outlining the benefits of working at your company, then encourage people to view your job openings.
Here’s a great example from the fashion retailer Joliee. The company posted a great looking “We’re hiring” image on Instagram that succinctly describes why people should apply.
Pro tip: Repurpose the content or design of these materials and use them as in-store posters or flyers.
Go through the usual (online) hiring channels
Post listings on the top job boards on the web to help advertise your job openings. Just bear in mind that the job market is extremely competitive these days, so you need to make your listing as compelling as possible. You can do this by:
- Making your job listing easy to read. Use short paragraphs, bullet points, and headers.
- Incorporating your brand’s voice and style into the content of your listing.
- Spelling out any unique perks you offer, as well why people love working for your company.
3. Plan your promotions
It’s high time to iron out the sales, promos, and offers you’ll be implementing during the holidays. These can include (though aren’t limited to) the following.
- Discounts (e.g., percentage off or dollars off)
- Holiday bundles
- Free shipping
- Gift with purchase
The right promotion depends entirely on your store, products, and customers. For some businesses, percentage discounts are the best options. Other retailers, on the other hand, would prefer to offer complimentary shipping (rather than slashing prices) to protect their brand image.
Whatever the case, it’s essential that you figure out details like:
- The time period and duration of your promotions
- Applicable products
- Spending thresholds
- Participating stores
- Customer segments
4. Set up your brand presence on all the right channels
While brick-and-mortar stores will continue to stay relevant, you must diversify your sales channels and be able to meet your customers where they are. Today, ecommerce and social media are major parts of the customer journey, so be sure to establish a presence on these platforms.
Set up ecommerce
Many people will be browsing and shopping online during the holiday season, and setting up an ecommerce site is the only way to get in front of digitally-savvy customers.
To that end, ensure you have a well-functioning and SEO-optimized website. For best results, connect your site to your POS or retail management system to keep your sales and inventory in sync.
Vend by Lightspeed enables you to do just that. When you connect your POS with your online shop, you have the option to sync your inventory to ensure that your stock levels are updated in real time across all your sales channels.
Set up shop on social media
Platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok have become places for shoppers to discover and buy products. Data from Statista shows that more than half (55%) of social media users aged 18 to 24 have bought something through a social media platform.
For this reason, you should seriously consider setting up shop on various social channels. Doing this is quite easy with Vend by Lightspeed. With just a few clicks, you can connect your store to Facebook, TikTok, and Instagram so it’s easy to showcase your products to your fans and followers.
5. Map out order fulfillment
So far, we talked about stocking and selling your merchandise. The next step is ensuring your products actually make it to your customers in time.
This is where order fulfillment comes in. When you’re selling via ecommerce and social media, be sure to establish your process for getting items from your store to your customers’ hands.
Here are the most common fulfillment methods in retail.
- Shipping. You can give your customers the option to have their products shipped by a courier like USPS, UPS, or FedEx. This option is ideal for retailers that are selling nationwide or internationally.
- Local delivery. When fulfilling orders across short distances, consider offering local delivery. With this option, you can hire your own drivers or partner with a local provider to deliver orders to your customers’ doorstep in just a few hours.
- In-store or curbside pickup. Another convenient way to fulfill orders is to let shoppers pick-up their items at your store, either via curbside or in-store pick-up. Consumers appreciate store pickup options because it enables them to get their items quickly while saving on shipping costs.
6. Roll out the red carpet for your customers
Did you know that 60% of loyalty program members say “special treatment” is important? Keep this in mind as you go into the holiday season. With the market being more competitive than ever, having a loyal customer base is a huge advantage.
So, make it a point to cultivate strong customer relationships. Get in touch with shoppers on a regular basis and show them how much you value their business.
Here are some ideas on how you can give customers special treatment.
- Early access to products or promotions
- Members-only events
- Exclusive gifts
Ramp up these initiatives during the holiday season to make your business the go-to store of your customers.
7. Cover all relevant communication channels
Are you selling on multiple channels? Great. Now, it’s time to ensure you’re also communicating through different channels.
Consider the following.
Email continues to be a solid communication tool. Research shows that email delivers an ROI of $36 for every $1 spent.
It’s vital to continuously build your email database and regularly touch base with your subscribers. Fortunately, doing that is fairly simple with the right tools.
Marsello, for instance, allows you to create one-off emails for updates and promotions. The tool also enables you to create automated email sequences for:
- Welcoming new customers
- Reaching out to people who abandoned their shopping carts
- Rewarding your top-spenders
- Reaching out to dormant customers
Another communication channel to consider? SMS. Industry data shows that 91% of shoppers would opt-in for text messages from businesses and 58% agree that it’s one of the most effective brand communication tools.
So if it makes sense for your business, start growing your SMS database so you can send text messages to your subscribers.
Marsello, once again, is a great tool for this. Marsello makes it simple to create SMS campaigns. Simply craft your message, choose the audience segment, and hit send. Marsello also provides a campaigns dashboard so you can track metrics like opens, clicks, and more.
Instant messaging / DMs
If you have a sizable social media audience, keep a close eye on your Facebook or Instagram DMs and be prepared to chat with your customers through these channels. It’s an excellent way to build a more intimate relationship with shoppers and allows you to communicate with them instantly.
8. Position and curate your products for the holidays
You’ll want to nail your holiday messaging and positioning sooner rather than later. Now is the time to finalize how you’ll market your products.
The right strategy here will depend on your store and target audience. For instance, if you’re an apparel retailer that caters to women who love being out and about, then a good approach would be to create a holiday collection or curate “looks” to inspire various outfits.
Nordstrom really excels at creating such outfits, and the company often uses these “looks” to make relevant product recommendations.
On the other hand, if you decide to position your products as gift items, then consider creating gift bundles or sets, and make sure your messaging reflects that. Check out this example from Harry & David.
The holidays will be here in no time — is your business prepared? If the answer is no, then be sure to get a move on ASAP. Follow the tips above and start getting your holiday ducks in a row.
About Francesca Nicasio
Francesca Nicasio is Vend's Retail Expert and Content Strategist. She writes about trends, tips, and other cool things that enable retailers to increase sales, serve customers better, and be more awesome overall. She's also the author of Retail Survival of the Fittest, a free eBook to help retailers future-proof their stores. Connect with her on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Google+.