The holiday season is in full swing. Hopefully, you’ve used some advice from our previous blogs and are in the process of breaking record sales again this year. But it’s important to always be one step ahead of the game. That’s why preparing your small business for the January lull is vital to starting strong in 2019 and improving post-holiday retail sales.
The slump after the New Year is somewhat unavoidable; you can’t expect November and December sales all year round (the average shopper spent $1,226 during the 2017 holiday season!). But instead of making it a self-fulfilling prophecy, focus on how you can make your first-quarter sales better. Build your brand awareness and engage your loyal customers in new ways. Not everyone maxed out their credit cards in December.
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1. Start with a New Year Promotion or Sale
“New year, new me,” as the kids say. Build a unique promotion that makes your store stand out while targeting new shoppers who aren’t just doing the same old thing. Think about common New Year’s goals and resolutions and market towards those. Health-related products, sleek new technology, and productivity tools are a few of the approaches businesses typically focus on.
December was filled with food, drink, and reckless spending. The New Year brings drastic flips in priority. Instead, the focus is on weight-loss, saving money, more focus and hard work, and overall self-improvement. Figure out what products would be best to market to these common January goals and mindsets. If it fits your business’s financials, offer an option for deferred payment for more expensive items.
It’s a way to build your brand in a slightly different direction while reaching an entirely new consumer base. And don’t just focus on discounted seasonal items. Come up with a catchy sale on your best products and you’ve got a winning formula.
Nate Masterton, CEO of Maple Holistics, a great retailer of natural and cruelty-free personal care products, had this to say regarding post-holiday promotions:
“The mid-winter hangover is inevitable but can be softened with some hair of the dog. Since the influx of customers is always pre-holidays you want to give your customers a reason to return after the New Year. One really great way to do that is by giving them an expiring gift card that’s only valid next year, and only for the first couple of months. People have a hard time turning down free money.“
It’s inevitable that your returns and exchanges will increase right after the holidays. Whether the gift doesn’t fit, it’s the wrong color, or they just don’t like it, if your retail store had a successful holiday season, you will be flooded with these.
And it’s not easy to deal with this unprecedented amount of product returns and exchanges. It’s hard enough to handle retail inventory as it is. Approximately a quarter of all returns come within a few weeks after the holidays. That total is estimated to be over $75 billion this year, with over a quarter of that coming from eCommerce retail returns.
For your eCommerce store, focus on updating product photos and descriptions. Add image zoom, more reviews, and live chat. This will help consumers know exactly what they’re getting and leave less room for surprises. Also, consider which products are most regularly being returned. This will help pinpoint which are troublesome and give you ideas on how to tweak other product pages.
At your brick and mortar store, planning for returns and exchanges will have a stronger focus on implementing the system of returns. Build and implement your return and exchange before the returns start coming in. This will make the process easier for your customers to navigate and more organized for your staff. Your employees don’t have time to waste on complicated returns and your shoppers need convenience in order to continue shopping with you. No one likes to make or handle returns so be sure to make it as seamless as possible.
3. Engage Past Customers
Your huge holiday foot traffic and sales should also bring you valuable data on your customers. Hopefully, you’ll use it to build your loyalty program, collect emails, compile order histories, and organize abandoned carts. These tools are all especially valuable for retargeting existing customers.
Choose a strategy that would get you shopping at a certain retail store again. It could be a one-time offer on a specific product or a storewide discount. Consider emailing reminders for those with idle carts or advertising similar products to past purchases made. Leverage your social media presence with targeted ads to boost conversion rates. A targeted ad campaign towards lapsed customers can result in bringing about a quarter of those lost sales back.
This strategy can be applied all year round but will pay particularly significant dividends for the weeks following the holiday season. Getting back just a fraction of lost sales can greatly reduce the post-holiday lull in sales. Just don’t wait too long – most shoppers will quickly forget if not reminded.
4. Keep Advertising and Marketing on Multiple Channels
You probably invested a lot of time and money in your holiday marketing campaign. From emails to social media ad strategies, the holidays are a great time to remind consumers about your brand as much as possible.
But it’s important not to forget about this during the January retail hangover. You may be exhausted after the holidays but your customers aren’t. This doesn’t mean that your strategy should be as aggressive as it was during November and December, but you shouldn’t simply forget about it. Consistent communication with your shoppers will result in more sales.
Use this to promote products similar to those listed in our first post-holiday strategy. You might also highlight a new product that you offer or advertise a contest. Hosting a fun competition or drawing is a fun way to incentivize more shopping.
Facebook and Instagram ad campaigns are a great way to give your business the quick post-holiday boost in sales that you need. They are affordable easily targeted. Pinterest is another popular avenue for retailers, especially niche or boutique store owners. Interest and attention quickly snowball and a single product could help your small business have the best January and February on record.
Not only should you leverage the influx of customers to grow your loyalty and customer resource management, but you can also use it to analyze the highlights and lowlights of the season.
Most retailers probably don’t have time in the last three months of the year to really analyze and reflect on trends in the store. But come January, you probably will. Use your detailed reports and analytics from your POS system to identify what strategies and techniques worked well and what didn’t. You might benefit from repackaging one product, altering your retail floor layout or shelving, or adjusting your inventory ordering and fulfillment.
With a large number of sales comes valuable data. It’s important that this data is broken down in a meaningful way through your retail point of sale, allowing you to take the action required to improve your sales during the post-holiday season and throughout the rest of the year.
For those retailers who have a larger inventory, the holidays are always an ordering guessing game. There may be years when you have a large excess in a handful of specific products. If this is the case, running a sale or promotion in your brick and mortar store or eCommerce website might not be enough.
Liquidation marketplaces and auction centers might be a better option. And one that allows you to clear storage and bring in valuable new inventory that will sell better after the holidays. This will also aid in recovering from a large number of returns.
Liquidation markets will often take bulk numbers of just about any product. While you won’t make as much of a profit, getting the inventory off your hands will allow you to make that profit on other products at the beginning of the year, helping to improve your post-holiday sales.
Start the year by being organized by setting reasonable goals for the coming year. Think about ways that you can improve your business and start by making a list.
Your marketing strategy is one aspect of your business that will see immediate improvement from this. It’s easy to forget about important holidays and retail dates throughout the year until it’s too late. Create a calendar for the year so that you start each project on time and maximize your sales throughout the entire year.
Another great resolution for small businesses is to create growth and development internally. It’s great to take the time for yourself and for your entire staff. Invest some time and money by registering for a class or conference. It’s always important to develop your own skills in addition to your team’s. Plus, it mixes things up, something pretty much every small business owner needs.
How Will You Improve Post-Holiday Retail Sales?
There are many different post-holiday retail strategies that might help your business recover from the decline in January sales. Plan early and try out a few this year to see what works. Test out other techniques next year to compare. Keeping your business fresh and up-to-date will improve sales after the holidays and get you off to a great start to 2019.
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