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With important holidays just around the corner, it’s almost time for the yearly holiday season sales that both retailers and consumers alike fervently anticipate. This is when customers are willing to splurge more than usual and retailers like you want to give them the best deals. Holiday season sales are a time when both online and offline purchases go up significantly.

According to the National Retail Federation, sales during just the months of November and December 2017 amounted to $691.9 billion, which exceeded sales during the same months of the previous year by 5.5%, or a good $33 billion. For 2018, marketers forecast a rise of 3.8% (online and offline combined) in holiday sales from 2017 figures. You, too, can get a good share of this pie. For that to happen, start now!

Here’s what you need to start, and finish, with in order to be assured of selling more in the upcoming holiday season.

Keep Up With Inventory

Because holiday sales are a time when customers go all out, ensuring that you don’t run out of stock before they end is extremely crucial. But, how do you go about this?

  • Start by doing your research and forecasting sales for the upcoming months based on your previous year’s data. This will help you understand which products are most likely to sell fast and which ones are likely to be slow moving.
  • Inform your suppliers of your inventory requirements and stock up in advance. Communicate with them to ensure they know exactly how much you need, and when.
  • Remember to also factor in backup inventory in case of last-minute shipping delays by vendors.
  • Now is also a good time to bundle products together into gifting items. Fast and slow moving items can go together in well-thought-out bundles to help you clear more inventory in a single purchase.
  • You can also come up with a holiday catalog where you can list the new products you intend to sell as well as fast-moving products you want to provide at a discount. Sharing this with customers in advance can help abundantly in boosting your sales.
  • Some retailers also design holiday specific product catalogs that include some existing and some new additions to their inventory.

An inventory management software like Primaseller can make all of this easier for you with past and current stock level reports that you can use to make your inventory calculations. It can also help you automate purchase orders so you aren’t stuck sending them out when you should instead be focusing on sales.

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Light Up Your Retail Outlet

There’s nothing quite as off-putting as a store that refuses to join in the holiday cheer.

No customer wants to shop at a store that doesn’t look festive during the holidays. So, whether you have a physical store or an online store, you need to make sure that it looks inviting to your potential customers.

  • Give your store an enticing holiday look with colors to suit the occasion. For instance, you can dress your store in red, green, and white lights and decorations for Christmas. You can also play holiday music and carols in your store to lure more people in.
  • Charm more shoppers during the holiday season with attractive, unique window displays. But remember that these displays should get potential customers to walk into your store rather than just allowing them to look at it from the outside.
  • Offer cookies and hot drinks inside your store to increase the number of shoppers walking in, and to keep people browsing and buying for longer.
  • Make sure that your customer service staff know everything they need to know about all products, old and new, in your store. If possible, dress them up too!
  • Set up your store for easy navigation. Someone buying stuff for the house is likely to only buy stuff for the house. This means that from the entry point until checkout, this person needs to follow the home-needs path. Rearrange your shelves to help customers find more of what they want and head to checkout before they can sort and sift.

Prepare Your Online Store

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Preparing for the holiday season sales online is all about cashing in on the impulsive purchases. Design your online store and checkout experience to be faster, livelier and easy to complete. The same goes for all of your advertising effort needed to get people to the store in the first place.

  • Include a countdown timer on popups and on your website header to create a sense of urgency on deals.
  • You can also promote your sales by setting up banners on your website home page. Modify some aspects of your website to indicate that the holidays are here, so more people on your site are driven to shop in the holiday spirit.
  • You can even give your entire website a holiday theme if you have adequate resources.
  • Add category pages like Gifts For Men and Gifts For Women exclusively for the holidays to help your shoppers easily locate offers, discounts and the like on your site.
  • Make the most of the impulsive buyer by advertising on relevant social media channels.

One thing that retailers often tend to miss out on is making sure that their online/physical stores can handle the increase in traffic during holiday sales. For physical stores, ensure that you hire more staff (part-time, if your need is temporary) so that you don’t end up understaffed and in the middle of a stampede.

For online stores, consult with your IT team or your hosting provider to make sure that your site will continue to be up and running even in case of excess web traffic, or when one too many pings are made to the site’s server.

Plan To Sell More

Marketing should be a key area of focus for you as a retailer if you want to increase your sales during the holidays. Here are some offline and online marketing ideas for the holiday season.

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Marketing For Your Retail Outlet

A store is its own best advertisement. Ensure that you plan ahead to spread some holiday cheer.

  • Put up flyers and holiday signage well in advance to increase foot traffic at your brick-and-mortar stores. Call customers in your database who have made repeat purchases and inform them of the upcoming sale.
  • Provide holiday-exclusive packaging facilities such as a gift-wrapping station for complimentary gift-wrapping services. This will encourage people to shop at your store because of the added convenience. Keep an eye out for our upcoming article exclusively on packaging for more ideas.
  • Impromptu carol sessions, secret Santa and writing letters to loved ones are some ways to engage people in the store. Plan which activity you’d like to have beforehand, and guide the store staff on how to execute it.

Even free product samples work quite well in prompting purchases. Not just that, you can also partner with established businesses and provide unique collaboration products for better recall and sales.

Marketing For Your Web Store

Luckily, online marketing has a clear advantage over offline marketing, and that is in tracking and analytics. You can see just what your advertising efforts did for your business.

  • Reach out to your existing customers with frequent emails about your upcoming sales. However, do not bombard them to the point where the unsubscribe. In general, one mail a week from a product brand is more than sufficient.
  • Create a sense of urgency by using phrases like “last chance,” “hurry,” and “one day only” in addition to mentioning hard deadlines to get more people to shop at your web store.
  • You can even create a holiday gift guide with themed collages of your top-selling products and share them via email.
  • Put up holiday-focused posts on social media sites like Facebook and Instagram, encouraging people to shop on these days. You can also share exclusive offers with your followers via these posts and have online contests with goodies and vouchers as prizes.
  • Increase your marketing budget before the holiday season begins as other retailers like you are also vying for the limited ad space available.

However, remember that random giveaways don’t really help you. So, try and give away exclusive goodies as they will help build recall and improve your sales.

While there’s no doubt that you should increase your social media presence before holiday sales, emails continue to remain a more effective marketing method than social media even today. Find out how you can do email marketing right in this article.

Pay per click (PPC) advertising is a good way to spend a higher marketing budget (if you have it) as it can help you get higher sales in less time. Set up conversion tracking for your ads to figure out which ones are working well and which aren’t.

Get Shipping In Order

A lot of customers often indulge in last minute shopping during the holidays. So, more often than not, they’re worried about when their products will reach them.

shipingg-05As an online retailer, you will be competing both with offline stores that readily offer the product, and big guys like Amazon which ensure quick, top-notch shipping. So, you need to make sure that your shipping is fast and your products are delivered in good condition. How do you do this?

  • Once a customer places an order, try to ship it within 12 hours. If it is going to take considerably longer to ship a particular product, mention it clearly on the product page.
  • Maintain an inventory for your shipping supplies so you don’t run out at unfortunate times. This includes everything from boxes and tapes to shipping labels and consignment sheets.
  • Provide delivery time and shipping cost details clearly and accurately for all products on your website. If a product is available in your physical store or if you have an option for local pick-up, make sure that you highlight this to ease the burden for yourself and make it easier for shoppers too.
  • It also makes sense to pack your top-selling products well before holiday sales begin. This will save you a ton of time during the sales as you can simply put a label on the products and get them out to your customers at the earliest.
  • This may seem like a no-brainer but ensure that you get the recipient’s address absolutely right. If you print shipping labels directly from the orders page, this problem can be eliminated.
  • Insure your shipments against damages, and pack them for a tough ride, just in case.
  • As an added goodie, include a festive gift with all shipments that go out during the holiday season.

It’s a good idea to review your shipping options well before the holidays. A great way to do this is to check customer reviews frequently. Has your shipping been reliable in the recent past? If you find that your customers have complained about it often, take the time to address these complaints before holiday sales begin.

Plan For Returns

If your customers find returning an item in your online/physical store cumbersome, they will most probably not buy it – especially if it’s meant to be a gift.

  • While your returns policy should be as flexible as possible, try to make it more flexible than usual during holiday sales by extending the grace period for returning products and providing easy replacement options. This will get more people to shop on your site/ in your store.
  • Also, lay out your returns policy in an attractive manner so every customer reads it before buying anything. You can include pop-ups prior to checkout on your website and highlight sections like the grace period and FAQs. In a store, you can ask store managers to spell out the returns policy at checkout.
  • Most of all, make sure that your returns policy is clearly stated, is prominent, and is easy to understand in both your online and physical stores.

From a business perspective, returns can be an expensive affair during holidays. You would have paid extra for faster shipping, the product is already on discount, and some products are only bought during the holiday season.

To address this problem, try and reduce returns as much as possible. Ensure that your gifting collections are actually enticing. Have a clear no-returns policy on perfumes, inner wear and cosmetic products. Ensure that the customer pays a portion of the returns cost by including it in your sales price beforehand.

Now that inventory, sales, shipping and returns are accounted for, it is time to sell! Start soon and get everything in order. In fact, we recommend that you start today. The holiday season, after all, is just a couple of months away!

Armed with a degree and a pen, loves to tell stories. When not telling stories, she also works. Hard to decide which one she likes more.