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How to Prepare Your Store for the Holiday Season

For many small and mid-sized retailers, the holiday season can make or break your yearly goals. According to the National Retail Federation, up to 40% of yearly sales occur during November and December.

This year, however, the news is good. Deloitte is expecting holiday sales growth of as much as 4.5% in 2017, with an increase in e-commerce sales from 18% to 21%. Here's what you can do now to capture the most retail shoppers during the 2017 holiday season.

1. STOCK UP ON EXTRA INVENTORY FOR EARLY AND LAST-MINUTE SHOPPERS 

The holiday season rush doesn't start with Black Friday and ends the week before Christmas. Two segments of shoppers are growing year-over-year in particular: those who start their shopping even before Thanksgiving hits and those who wait until the last-minute.

Early birds—those shoppers who start buying gifts before Thanksgiving—represent over 66% of shoppers. Of those, 27% actually begin shopping as early as August. The data bears this out. A Google Trends report shows that searches for "Christmas gifts" begin in August, with the start of the spike occurring in late October.

Cardlytics, a purchase intelligence platform, reports that last-minute shoppers account for 28% of all holiday spending. While last-minute only shoppers are on the rise, the majority of shoppers are battling the crowds for a few last-minute gifts as well. As many as 76% of adult shoppers are making holiday purchases right up until Christmas.  

Obviously, you'll need to have enough inventory available for all kinds of shoppers, not just your Black Friday deal-mavens. For early shoppers, that means starting now to get your most-purchased gift items on the shelf front-and-center in your store and on your website.

For last-minute shoppers, have a few options on-demand that can quickly fill bare holiday shelves. Beatriz Ball, for example, runs our Quick Ship program throughout the holidays where any online orders will be shipped within 24 hours.

2. ENSURE YOUR ONLINE ORDERING SYSTEM IS ON POINT—FOR BOTH MOBILE AND DESKTOP 

For early and last-minute shoppers alike, an omnichannel approach is necessary. Not convinced?

  • Up to 40% of shoppers buy gifts online and pick them up in-store, an ISCS report notes
  • Another 85% of shoppers plan to research their gifts online before checking them out in the store
  • And 75% of holiday season shoppers will be in the store itself using their phone to compare prices and look for discounts

Before the holiday rush hits, make sure your website can handle any increased demand and is set up to drive conversions. This means:

  • Polishing up your online product pages
  • Uploading better photos of new and existing inventory
  • Ensuring your website runs fast, as 40% of people will abandon a website that takes more than three seconds to load
  • Catering to mobile shoppers, who are 20% more likely to complete their purchase than the average shopper

3. CONSIDER YOUR STAFFING AND TRAINING NEEDS, AND BRING IN EXTRA HELP IF NEEDED

With projected holiday sales growth of up to 4.5%, it's important that your staff is ready to meet increased demand.

If you have a good number of employees, ensure they're trained on the most up-to-date tactics for driving sales, reducing inefficiencies, and bringing in new shoppers.

If necessary, consider bringing in temporary help now so they're trained up for when the holiday season starts.

4. CREATE A PROMOTIONAL CALENDAR NOW, NOT WHEN HOLIDAY SEASON HITS 

As noted, "Christmas gifts" searches begin as early as August and start to spike upwards at the end of October. If you have an online presence, you can capture that increased traffic before your competitors start to do so.

Now, consider how you'll be reaching out to new and existing customers. If you have the bandwidth before the holiday season starts, plan and create any content that will be going up during these more hectic months.

Consider creating content for your:

  • Email blasts, including discounts and shipping incentives
  • Facebook and other social media accounts
  • Online ads
  • Any blog content or website updates
  • Videos showing new items or demonstrations of your top-selling products

5. STOCK ALL TYPES OF GIFTS, INCLUDING CORPORATE OR TEACHER GIFTS 

Go beyond the nuclear family. Many shoppers, including Millennials, are buying gifts for many people outside of the family.
Stock your shelves with big and small gifts for:

• Friends
• Coworkers and employees
• Clients
• Managers
• Kid's teachers and school staff
• Service workers, like mailmen, house cleaners, and landscapers
• Clergy

GET STARTED NOW 

The holiday season is an exciting time, but it doesn't have to be hectic. With some planning ahead of time, you can provide the best gifts for your holiday shoppers.