Holiday Sales- a Vital Keystone for Business Margins
The holiday shopping season is a major sales driver for retailers. With many relying on an increase in sales to get them through slower shopping periods throughout the year. This year, strong 2020 holiday sales could be the driving force to help businesses struggling due to the pandemic regain their footing and start 2021 in a stronger financial position. For every good news story about a business pivoting to find a new market, there are stories of businesses filing for creditor protection or shutting their doors for good. Executing a successful holiday shopping promotion, for both Black Friday and Cyber Monday, can help your business feel confident about its operations as you move into the new year.
Here are some key components that the team at Helcim believes can help businesses thrive during the upcoming shopping season.
Plan Promotions Early
While Black Friday and Cyber Monday (BFCM) have traditionally happened during the days following American Thanksgiving, there have been some indications that retailers are pushing for an earlier start to holiday sales to encourage shoppers to be proactive in their purchases. Much like how Boxing Day has become Boxing Week, this could be the beginning of a shift in how BFCM sales are rolled out across the country.
The first indicator that promotion days are changing was the announcement of a new shopping holiday, the 10.10 Shopping Festival announced by Bloomberg. While the number of retailers participating in this new festival is low "“ approximately two dozen by some estimates "“ the event could signal the start of the shopping events for the season.
Retail Brew completed a sentiment survey to gauge how retailers were feeling and found that 47% of retailers said they're pushing promotions before the traditional BFCM weekend and 20% said they were planning to start their sales before Halloween.
With major retailers signaling they're ready to start enticing shoppers earlier than ever, there's no time to waste in finalizing what promotions you want to offer and when you want to roll them out. If you're planning holiday promotions or sales, start dropping teasers now so customers know they should be shopping at your business and so they can plan their spending accordingly.
Get Your Ecommerce Channels Ready
If your business was one of many that optimized or launched an online store during the early months of the pandemic, you will be happy to hear that your new ecommerce channel should continue to pay dividends during the holiday shopping season.
If you do not already have an online store, now is the time to set one up. Helcim makes it easy to start selling online. Every Helcim account includes the ability to host an online store and you can easily showcase products for both retail and online sales. Depending on the number of products and the complexity of your inventory, you can be set up and ready to go in as little as a few hours.
If you're new to online sales, it's okay to start small and grow your online presence from there. If there are certain items that are on a special promotion, or you're offering a holiday package or special, you can start by just offering that selection of items online. This helps you see how customers react and lets you ease into the world of ecommerce, without missing out on sales opportunities.
Another way you can simplify your ecommerce sales is by sticking to local sales with pickup or delivery options, so you don't need to worry about shipping delays and coordination. Many customers like having the option to support local businesses by shopping online and either waiting for a delivery to their homes or doing curbside pickup. While COVID has posed a lot of challenges to businesses, it has also opened the door to new ways of serving customers and encouraged creative sales tactics, from all types of businesses.
If you do offer shipping options, consider the potential shipping constraints the increase in sales might cause. Especially after we witnessed large delays in shipments during the spring as online shopping increased due to COVID. While the postal service and major delivery agents are most likely expecting an increase in online orders this fall and winter, it doesn't hurt to take a conservative approach when determining your shipping cutoff dates, especially if you're launching your promotions early.
Communicate with Your Customers Communicate early, communicate often, and communicate clearly. These are the three keys to ensuring your customers know what your holiday shopping promotions are, when they are happening, and how they can purchase from you.
Here are some ideas on the types of updates that are important to share with your customers:
- When your sales or promotions are happening
- What your shipping or purchase cutoff is before the holidays
- How they can purchase from you "“ either online or in-person
- If you're offering contactless or curbside pickup
- In-store shopping health measures including mandatory masks, social distancing, limits to the number of people in the store, etc"¦
- If you can book an appointment time to shop in-person
You can share these messages with customers in a variety of ways, we recommend utilizing as many communication channels as possible:
- Update your Google My Business Listing with your store hours and website
- On your website or online store
- Using your social media channels
- Sending an email to your subscribers
- With in-store signage
Making it easy for your customers to find the information they want about your Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales, holiday promotions, store hours, and shipping information can cut down on the number of customer inquiries you need to respond to.
Prepare Your Products
Before you kick off your holiday shopping promotions, be sure to update your inventory to accurately reflect what is in stock. Depending on where you order your product from and what industry you're in, you might have already experienced a backlog in ordering new items and getting items in stock.
In some cases, it might make sense for you to run pre-order promotions where customers can purchase items before they're in stock at your location. If you do decide to run a pre-order, be very clear about expected dates for product delivery and when the items will actually be in-stock. Securing sales and ensuring inventory will be sold from the outset can provide peace of mind that is well worth the added communication and work involved in running a pre-sale.
If you're still ordering in items or looking at holiday items to add, consider the COVID trend related items that were extremely popular in the spring and will most likely see an upswing in demand as the colder weather sets in and more people spend time at home. Items like athleisure sets, cookbooks, puzzles, games, and related items are likely to be quite popular this holiday season.
If you're a Helcim merchant, you can bulk import new product items and update your inventory from your account. Enabling Helcim's inventory tracking can help you keep track of products and ensure you're notified whenever your inventory dips below a certain level.
Whether you're selling online or in-person and following the traditional Black Friday Cyber Monday promotional dates or creating your own days, the holiday shopping season shows a lot of promise to retailers. Despite concerns about their financial situation, research has shown that 59% of consumers indicate they plan to spend the same as in 2019 and 20% of consumers have indicated they plan to spend more than they did last year. Giving business owners the chance to end a challenging year on a positive note.
If you have questions about any of the tools or strategies mentioned in this article, the Helcim Gurus would be happy to give you a hand. Whether you want to learn more about how to set up an Online Store, manage your products, or accept in-person payments, the team at Helcim is always happy to help.