In the retail business, for more companies than not, the holiday season is a very busy time of year. The period stretching from Thanksgiving to Christmas accounts for about eleven percent of the average retailer’s annual earnings, while making up less than eleven percent of that retailer’s business hours for the year. And that eleven percent number is just an average. Some businesses may do twice as many sales in December as they do in October.
Technology and electronics retailers, those who sell in video games, HDTV’s, phones, computers and things like that, are expected to see even more demand than usual this year (and next). This is important whether you’re a merchant or you work in B2B sales at a merchant level.
But here’s the catch: These customers aren’t just going to find you on your own, even if we’re talking about repeat business.
Put it another way: If someone’s on a road trip and they find themselves in the mood for a burger, they’ll settle for a taco if the burger place doesn’t have any signs before the off ramp. You have customers out there who are looking for precisely what you’re selling, who can help you to have one of your best holiday seasons ever, but marketing is actually more important now than ever, because the competition is fiercer than it is at any other time of the year.
There may be more spending dollars up for grabs come December, but you can bet that your competitors are doing everything in their power to make sure that they get the biggest piece of the pie.
So, some preparations have to be made, and that starts with:
Reaching Out During Holiday Shopping Season
You’re going to have to work overtime on your outreach in the weeks leading into the holiday season. The good news is that your CRM system can do a lot of the heavy lifting for you. Here are a few ideas to help you push your message during the most competitive shopping season of the year:
- Personalize your messages and send out some gift cards and greeting cards to subscribers and customers. You can set your CRM system to match your customers with the right cards based on a number of factors. If someone has been shopping with you for awhile, if they’re kind of a big spender, then you can send them something fairly generous. These gifts don’t have to break the bank, but they’ll cost you pennies on the dollar to what your top customers can do for you come Black Friday, if they feel like valued customers, and especially if they’re already in the shop to pick up their gift. This can be especially useful for MLS businesses. The B2B world can feel so impersonal these days. Some merchants order all their stock online and may never even meet their supplier in person. So a little something to add a personal touch can go a long way to creating loyalty among your top merchants. For people who have only made small or infrequent purchases, a gift card is the least you can do, and maybe it’ll be a nice reminder to come check out what you have in store during their holiday shopping trips.
- For merchant level sales, seasonal outreach is of critical importance. Your CRM system can help to determine the optimal time to contact your merchants with the optimal message. This can be based on a number of factors to make sure that you get in touch when your merchants are ready to buy, with the offers that will help them get the most out of their shop this holiday season.
Do The Research
What is the point of big data if you’re not going to put it to use?
Studies have shown that while more companies than not will actually invest in-depth analytics in their business, but only about half ever bother to employ it.
Why are you putting the effort into charting out that road map if you’re just gonna wing it?
Taking all of that data that you have available to you right now and putting it to work for yourself, for your sales teams and for your merchants is absolutely vital to succeeding in the current business landscape.
If you work in MLS, don’t just use that data to your own benefit, share it with your sellers. When they do well, you do well. They are the on-the-ground troops in your business network, and they have a lot of options available to them for making the most of that data.
Through big data there are a number of points that you can easily determine:
- Who are your biggest competitors, and who are your merchants’ biggest competitors?
- When are the busiest days of the month, of the year, of the week for your sellers?
- What are the busiest store hours?
- What were some of the top-sellers last year, and what items have been flying off the shelves in previous months this year?
- What brand delivers a high rate of sales with a low rate of returns?
- Which store locations are doing the best business, and what are some likely reasons that your other merchants are lagging behind?
You might find that one of your merchant’s store hours have not been optimized for the holiday rush. Some people like to get out and do their shopping early in the day early in December. You might make some suggestions like changing the store hours for the busy season. Or maybe you have a merchant that’s lagging behind because the mark-up they put on the items makes them a tough sell when the computer parts store across the street is selling them for seventy percent of what your merchant is charging.
Whatever you determine from your data, you’ll want to put it into an actionable strategy that your merchants can put to use.
Now you have to expect a little pushback here. Some merchants will love the advice. They might not have access to the same data that you have access to, or they might not know how to put it to work, and your tips will help them get the most out of their holiday season. Others might be more resistant (if you have anyone on staff who knows how to write a tactful, persuasive email, now’s the time to put them to work).
But here’s the thing: Your best merchants will appreciate the advice and put it to work making both of you a lot more money this December.
Here’s the trick: You’re not telling them how to run their business, this is just a “free consultation.”
And who can turn down a free consultation?
Now, there’s one more thing you’ll want to do in order to make sure that you’re ready for the holiday rush:
Beef Up Your Checkpoints
Given the hectic pace of the holiday shopping season, it can be very easy to misplace a few commas and decimals. Organization is one of the biggest hassles this time of the year, and you need to make sure that everything is secure and PCI compliant. You don’t want to wait a month and then find a whole bunch of chargebacks and returns because of a few bookkeeping mistakes or screwy credit card sales. Here’s how you can stay safe and organized this holiday season:
- Start using P2PE. This stands for point to point encryption, and it’s a simple terminal upgrade that can make your credit card data, if not bulletproof, then pretty close to it.
- Schedule some security maintenance. That means penetration testing and keeping up to date with PCI tools, as well as simple routine monitoring to make sure everything’s on the level.
- It may be time to start thinking about managed service. The holiday season can be a time when you’re not just making a nice profit, but actually expanding and growing as a business, whether you’re a merchant or a supplier. That may well mean it’s time to upgrade your security. Many of us don’t seem to know when it’s time to expand. You start a company in your garage with a few friends and maybe a business contact from your days as an office drone or a small-time seller, but now you’re doing more business than you ever thought you’d be doing, and it’s too much work for a handful of buddies with a dream and a few laptops. When the time comes to expand, you’re gonna have to expand, and that time may come sooner rather than later when it comes to credit card security and PCI compliance.
Preparing for the holiday season is probably about 50/50 organization and outreach. You need to put the word out, you need to stay in touch with repeat customers, and you need to make sure that you’ve opened the door for a busy season. But you also need to make sure that you can handle the high business volume when it hits. Make sure your infrastructure is in place, and make sure you’ve put the word out.