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Hey retailers, Christmas is coming! Here’s what you need to do…

I know I don’t actually need to tell you that this time of the year, in the lead up to Christmas, is one of the most profitable periods for retailers and ecommerce.  This year I’m celebrating a small business Christmas

So, what I am actually here to tell you is how to ensure you make the most of the next 13 or so weeks, so that on Christmas Day you can wake up with a pleasant profit in the bank. That’s all you want from Santa, right? 

What’s key is not losing track of the time, your spending and your margins. Because if you haven’t been able to pause and carefully plan out when and how you’re going to promote, and how to meet the needs of the five personas most buyers assume the identity of, you may be missing out on potential customers!    

The dates you need to put in your diary

From the start of October to the 26th of December, there are eight different promotional opportunities available for retailers. 

  1. Labour Weekend
  2. Halloween
  3. Diwali
  4. Black Friday
  5. Small Business Saturday
  6. Cyber Monday
  7. Christmas Eve
  8. Boxing Day/Summer Clearance

And in addition to these are all the themes that come with summer, BBQs, the beach, family time and entertaining at home (it really is the best time of the year!) These ‘bonus extras’ can be used to create engaging stories and invite more people into the world of your business, showing them why they need your products during this time.  

In one of my recent MAP IT Marketing podcasts, I actually talk about all the various benefits that come from these promotional periods, as well as how our general shopping habits have changed due to influence from American-based holiday sales – like Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday.  

The power that these days hold is incredible, with many retailers seeing a massive increase in sales over that particular weekend, followed by a quieter week – as opposed to more consistent spending patterns that we would’ve seen five to 10 years ago in the lead up to Christmas. 

What I have found with some of my well established retail clients is that this switch has been quite unsettling, because it feels so erratic and temperamental. But it’s important to remember that even if you do have a couple of days over this time that don’t meet your expectations, don’t panic! And don’t throw your carefully laid out plan out the window.  

How to consider and approach these promotional opportunities

For many business owners, I understand it is a little overwhelming to try and plan for three promotional days that are within close proximity of each other. So my suggestion is to just select one of these to concentrate on – either Black Friday, Small Business Saturday or Cyber Monday – and then have a careful plan in place of how you will use them to not only sell, but also still make a profit. 

I have one client who takes the time to select discounted and end-of-line products from her suppliers, so she can offer significant discounts on a particular day, but still retain her margin. Another client’s strategy is to use it as a time to heavily reduce the price of long-shelf products that need to be cleared to make way for new stock. Here’s the thing, you don’t have to discount your entire store on these days to make the most of them and still get sales. 

Another important point is that you should only choose the ones which fit your business, your products, your goals and how much time and resources you have. Don’t forget to consider who your shoppers are too! One of my clients is ideal for Halloween, and the other one is clearly perfect for Diwali. And there is no point in them trying to be everything for everyone. I’d recommend that for most businesses, you should choose three or four different events and ideally ones that are spaced out over the three months leading up to Christmas. 

Give yourself the time and space to plan

Once you have chosen the dates to focus on, make sure you will have enough time to plan all of the elements surrounding that sale. So what products will be included, who are the customers looking to buy, and how are you going to market in a way that the right people see the promotion. You don’t have to discount your core products, or the items you are well known for – unless you have set the price for your products right from the very start knowing you would make this margin shift at some point in time. 

Yes, some of the bigger retailers do use these promotional opportunities to discount their whole offering, but I just don’t think it is the best strategy for the smaller business retailers. That’s because you’re not going to be selling the volumes of products that larger stores are, and you are also not able to sell products with the same kind of margin as them (so there will be less profit.) What you’re also doing is ‘training’ your customers to only purchase from you during a sale, and I know that because there are some businesses who have turned me into a bargain hunter when buying from them. That’s because they have sales all the time! Whereas there are other businesses who I know will never discount, so I’m happy to buy at full price (if it is something I need/can’t buy elsewhere).  

Consider other enticing methods like ‘buy two, get one free’ as this means you can still make a profit on a smaller margin, but the customer’s overall spend ends up being higher that what it would have been. Maybe you could offer a package or bundle deal, discounting the price on products you managed to buy at a discounted rate (like my client mentioned above), or even a free gift with purchase (everybody loves something for free!) 

If you decide that you do want to offer a blanket discount across your store, try to make it on just one or two brands and/or ranges at a time. This means you can bring people into the store for the sale, but they could potentially buy a full priced item too. 

What are the five key shopper personas? 

So right at the start I mentioned there were five key shopper profiles you need to consider when doing your marketing. What we recommend is to cater to all five in your messaging, so then you can maximise the appeal to your target market. 

1. The Matriarch

These are your very best and loyal customers. As huge fans of your products, they are very knowledgeable about them too. They are absolutely essential to your marketing during this promotional-heavy time, so reach out to them and invite them into your world – profile them and ask for their thoughts and advice on your products. Helping them to help you sell can be extremely powerful! 

2. The Early Birds.

These folks will probably already be planning their shopping before you’ve decided on your promotions! So keep them engaged by teasing upcoming products and new releases so that these super organised shoppers can be prepared and keep money aside.    

3. The Bargain Hunters

If these people tend to be your main customers, then perhaps you have been  discounting too often. But you can still draw them in with a sale section and special promotions. These bargain discounts are great for encouraging people who haven’t heard of you, or for those who have browsed at your store many times, but just needed a little push to make a purchase. 

4. The “Treat Myselfers”

While I see myself in all of these shopper personas, this is the one I most identify with! That’s because I’m the family pressie buyer, and because of this, I want treats too. If a marketing message reminds me to ‘treat myself’ or there is a ‘gift with purchase’ or a ‘bundle deal’, I’m always in!  

5. The Last Minuters

It’s not hard to spot these people. Years ago I worked in an educational toy store in Sydney and I was always so surprised at how many people would come in on Christmas Eve (to START their shopping) and for some reason they would still expect everything to be in stock! 

To be ready for this kind of shopper you should make it easy for them to make fast and effective buying decisions – they’ll appreciate the help. You could have gift vouchers at the ready, or provide ‘your gift is on the way’ cards for when the ‘last minutes’ shop online after the cut off date for deliveries.  

Get ready, set, and go! 

Once you have worked through the promotional dates you are going to concentrate your efforts on, as well as your core discount offerings, the products you will be promoting and perhaps even which products and/offers will go with each of the five types of customers above, then you can move onto the next step. That is starting to organise your social media and advertising, as well as your email marketing plan that will engage with your target market. 

It probably goes without saying, but you can make it easier on yourself by planning as far ahead of time as possible. Think about your website and what will make it easier for people to buy, schedule in your posts so when you do get busy, they are just running automatically. Write and schedule your emails (and don’t forget to segment your lists, so that you’re not trying to sell everything to everyone, you want the best-fit for your different customers). 

What’s key is to continue with all the marketing you are currently doing, but amplify it when it comes to the promotional dates you have chosen.  

A final note would be that as you are working through this busy period, have somewhere to record notes, ideas and things you could plan better for next year. Then, put a reminder into your diary for next July to set the wheels in motion. 

I truly hope this is a very good small business Christmas season for you.

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