The period leading up to Christmas is traditionally the golden time of year for retail, but this year it seems stores aren’t seeing the same volume of custom. Far from creating a sales boost, Forbes senior contributor to luxury retail Pamela Danziger suggested that shoppers are avoiding the last-minute rush and instead looking for discounts at other times of the year, pushing up Christmas costs.
This news comes as a host of retailers such as Better buyLowes and American Eagle cut holiday sales forecasts based on customer indifference.
The retail landscape is competitive at the best of times, but with fewer people shopping, competition will be high to tempt those ready to spend in the run-up to Christmas.
Make your business stand out
There are several ways businesses can get noticed, even when all competitors are vying for the same customers.
1. Remove roadblocks
Whether you sell online or in physical stores, it’s important to remove any barriers between your customers to find what they want and complete the purchase. Making the process as frictionless as possible is key to winning over shoppers and preventing them from abandoning their customer journey and finding somewhere else to spend money.
For online stores, barriers may include having to register an account to make a low-value purchase or a confusing website layout. For physical stores, it can be the inability to contact and inspect the product or long lines at the checkout.
Try and see your business as the customer sees it and think about what might be stopping them from completing their transaction. The easier the process, the more customers will choose you over the competition.
2. Get creative online
Part of the battle to make your business stand out happens before the customer even hits town or starts browsing the web. If you can get your target audience’s attention beforehand, they are more likely to follow your brand.
Use social media to talk to the people who are most likely to buy from you. Target them with content that will entertain them, touch their emotions, solve their problems or add value to their decision making.
By engaging customers on social media, you create a bond with them that endears them to your business, giving you an edge over your competitors.
3. Check the data
If you’ve been in business for more than a year, you already have a resource to help you predict customer behavior this Christmas. Look at your sales data to understand when shoppers made purchases and what they bought. Look at what items they bought together and think about placing the most popular items on your online store or in your store last time.
This year, optimize your layout, promote popular items, sell with the products you know work well, and make sure you have enough stock and staff for those times when you can expect a rush. Identify trends from past Christmases to understand what to expect this year and how to improve that performance.
4. Invest in people
If you have a brick-and-mortar store, your staff comes in the rush of Christmas shopping. As December rolls around, online sales drop and people head back to stores. Part of the reason is concern that online shopping won’t arrive before the big day, but there’s also a romanticized view of the happy festive atmosphere on the high streets. And it is your staff that facilitates this.
If your employees create a welcoming and warm atmosphere, it can make your business stand out from your competitors. This means investing in your people and ensuring they are happy and motivated, even during this most stressful time of year in retail.
Make their work fun and promise them incentives for their hard work, such as a team day in the new year.
5. Partner with a charity
Christmas is a time to think of others, but that ideal may be thrown away as retailers become more competitive in the run-up to Christmas. By taking the time to highlight a charity fundraiser, contest, or donation program, you can show that there are other benefits to buying from you versus a competitor.
Highlight a serious cause so customers see that it’s a genuine partnership and not just a cynical ploy. Promote the activity so your target audience knows what’s going on and helps you with your campaign.
Christmas is a great opportunity to bring in revenue, but competition is fierce. By finding ways to stand out from the crowd, you can claim your piece of the custom you’ve been fighting for this year.