The holiday season comes at us faster than expected each year. If you haven’t yet prepared for the holiday season, you are already behind. Many businesses start the holiday selling season earlier each year, keep later hours and offered better deals. How will your business fare this season?
It may be hard to believe, but many consumers start their holiday shopping before October 31st each year. This is even truer in a turbulent economy, as it allows families to spread spending out over several months. While not much in the way of advertising is done during this time, you do have to stock merchandise for your shelves or e-commerce store.
As you prepare to boost sales and set records this holiday season, keep these six tips in mind.
Address your store’s appearance.
Your store’s appearance should be step one of your holiday plan. From the moment your customer sees your store from the street, or clicks on your e-commerce website, it is talking to them.
For brick and mortar businesses, dirty windows, excessive sales posters, poorly designed marketing assets, or a cluttered entrance tells your customer “this business is unprofessional”. In contrast, a clean looking store, with freshly washed windows, professional art, and a clutter-free entrance says, “This company takes pride of ownership”. Be very cognizant of what your store is saying to your customers — whether a physical or online experience. Ask a friend or family member to walk through your store, or visit your company website, and honestly tell you their impression.
Don’t forget visual merchandising.
The holiday season is truly the season of impulse purchases. People have huge lists they need to fill, not to mention stocking stuffers and “extra” gifts for unexpected drop-ins. Make sure your store is well merchandised, online and offline, to highlight high-margin gifts and impulse purchases.
Give gift items or services better positioning. Make sure you have quick gift offers at the cash register, or suggested at your online checkout pages. Most importantly, offer and prominently position gift certificates.
Ensure adequate holiday staffing.
According to a Consumer Reports survey, “65 percent [of customers] are ‘tremendously annoyed’ by rude salespeople and 64 percent of respondents said that they had left a store in the previous 12 months because of poor service.”
It’s important to remember that your staff is your company — as far as your customer is concerned. If you have the wrong personnel in place this holiday season, it can cost you thousands, if not tens of thousands of dollars, in lost sales, both now and in the years to come. For most small businesses, fourth quarter is by far the busiest.
Many anticipate a strong end of year quarter to attribute to their annual revenue goals. To ensure holiday season sales are a boom instead of a bust, plan ahead. Expect employees to call in sick, get hurt, go on vacation, etc. Start lining up temporary help now, before the holiday rush begins.
Train your sales team well.
The products customers shop for are often not the one’s you may want to move quickly. Therefore, your sales staff must be trained to effectively upsell and cross-sell. The holiday season draws more customers which means more opportunities for add-ons and complementary merchandise offers.
Explain the importance of the holiday season to your sales team. Set goals, post them, and hold sales employees accountable. Consider, role-playing activities, educate team members on the 5 Steps of Selling, and explain features vs. benefits. Offering the right product to the right customer should be second nature to your employees before the holiday shopping season begins.
Don’t keep bad employees around.
Don’t wait to fire underperforming employees, do it now. If you have an employee with a bad attitude, or one who is a constant “no-show”, or even a great and reliable person who just can’t make their sales numbers, let them go. Why? Because their comfort levels are going to be pushed during the holiday season.
A small business can’t afford to employ staff members that hide behind the counter, text with friends or play on their phone when customers need proactive assistance. Your employees will be approached by customers, they will have their knowledge tested and they will have ample opportunities to make (or lose) sales.
Engage holiday shoppers using social media.
Social media is an inexpensive way to reach customers who are interested in your products and services. Use widely recognized social networks, like Facebook and Twitter to engage with fans. For instance, if you post entertaining, informative, or “just too good to pass up” content fans will “like” “share” or “retweet” with others. The probability of a sales promotion going viral is tremendous!
Michael Peterson is the President of Franchise Beacon, a franchise consulting company specializing in the retail space which offers services to both franchisors and franchisees.
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