What does the end of summer mean to your small business? If you sell to consumers, it's time to get every aspect of your business ready to reap the most benefit from the upcoming holiday season. The more you do now to ready your business for holiday shoppers, the more profits you'll reap by the end of this year. To avoid lost holiday sales in the last quarter of this year, review the items in the list below to make sure you've got everything in place to encourage time-pressed shoppers to buy from you.
1. Check up on orders and supplies. Check to see that you'll have enough merchandise on hand to satisfy customers. Use last year's records to estimate the quantities of inventory you'll need to meet this year's demand. Check to be sure you'll have enough paper bags, boxes, tissue paper, register tape, shipping tape, and other items you'll need to wrap or deliver customers' purchases.
2. Plan to start promoting holiday sales early. According to a 2012 survey conducted by Compete, 54% of shoppers had completed at least a quarter of their holiday shopping before Thanksgiving weekend.
3. Plan ways now to encourage shoppers to come back to make additional purchases after the holidays. Loyalty programs and coupons that can be redeemed after the first of the year can help turn first-time shoppers into repeat shoppers. Design and print coupons or other materials now so you’ll have them ready to drop into holiday customers' bags and shipped orders in November and December.
4. Be sure your website is customer-friendly. Consumers do a lot of their holiday shopping online. Even if they make their purchases in person at small local shops, they're still likely to do their "window shopping" onlne. To be sure your online store is consumer-friendly, ask a friend who has never used your site to make a purchase. Give them something specific to buy, then watch as they try to find the item and buy it on your website. Do they quickly locate the item? Can they figure out how to put it in the cart, and then how to view the cart and pay for the item? Or are they clicking around in frustration? Fix any problems you see now so you don't frustrate and lose shoppers during the holidays. (Read: Web Site Usability Checklist)
5. Be sure your phone number, business hours, time zone, customer service email address, return policy and guarantee can all be found from all pages. The easier it is for customers to find contact information, the more confident they'll be about placing an order.
6. If at all possible, have a way for customers and prospects to reach a real person on the telephone. There's nothing more frustrating to potential customers than to call a company to request information, only to be pointed back to the website to create a support ticket with no indication of when to expect an answer. If you can't have someone manning the phone at all hours, at least have a recording that reminds customers what your store hours are and give them an option of leaving voice mail. Then, take care to return voice mails within one business day or less.
7. Encourage current site visitors to sign up for a mailing list. If you don't capture visitors' email addresses the first time they visit your site, chances are slim that they will return to your site. If they don't return, you've wasted the money - perhaps as much as $5 or more a click - that you spent to get them to your site in the first place.
8. Include a newsletter signup option on your social media business pages, too.
9. Give customers who shop at your physical storefront a flier encouraging them to sign up for your newsletter and to like your Facebook page. For ease of use for smart phone owners, include a QR code on the flier that they can scan to get to an online signup form.
10. If you ship products put the flier in every package your ship.
11. Send out email promotions regularly starting now. Doing so keeps your brand top of mind, and may win sales for you before the holiday shopping season starts.
12. Check to be sure your web pages include social networking share buttons. If they don't have your web developer add them now and set them to show the number of shares. Prospects are more likely to buy a product if they see signs that a lot of other people like it.
13. Add testimonials to your website. Testimonials work just as well on the web as they do in direct mail. Add them to your social media pages too.
14. Start using social campaigns now so your customers get in the habit of visiting your social media pages to look for specials.
15. Get your ads ready now for local print media. If you can write the ads now, you'll have ample time to have several people proofread them before they run. Check with the media you plan to use to find out if they have special holiday editions you'll want to advertise in, and to find out what the closing dates are for ads.
Find more tips on getting your store ready for the upcoming holiday season in these articles:
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