If there’s one thing we know about business, it’s that there are ebbs and flows. Sales come and go. Customers come and go. And for the most part, we can time these events based on the last hundred years of doing business around the world. Of course, “busy times” can depend heavily on the industry one works within, but many retail businesses can count on a rush during the month of December and a drop in sales during the month of January. With so many people celebrating holidays in December, it’s no wonder sales spike and then drops suddenly. Is your business ready for this roller coaster retail season? Here’s how you can be ready for it this year.
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You Know it’s Coming so Don’t Pretend it’s Not
Many new retailers wait all year long for the December rush to happen, only to find out too late that they did not prepare adequately for what their customers would want or need – and in some cases, downright demand! Other retailers may find that they have overstocked the wrong products and understocked the right products. You may find that your marketing efforts were not effective enough in helping customers understand how you can help them. It’s a learning curve, but one that is not new. Every business goes through this their first year, but you can plan for it ahead of time. Retail runs one season ahead of time, except when it comes to the Holidays: it’s happening right in front of your eyes, so you have to be talking to people ahead of time. Don’t leave things to the last minute.
Ensure Your Computer Systems are Up to Date
One of the most important, and often overlooked, aspects of running a successful holiday campaign is ensuring that your management software is up to date and ready for the influx of inventory and customer sales. If you have any website maintenance that needs to be done to ready for the busy season, get it done in September or October to ensure that you don’t lose valuable sales due to faulty website problems or slow load times. Double and triple check your online sales carts and if you have a brick and mortar store, make sure your POS system software is also upgraded and ready to go.
Test the Market Ahead of Time
You don’t have to wait until December to start drumming up interest in what it is you have to offer. You can run sales and specials all year long to see what gets the most traction and to find out from your customers – first hand – what they like and don’t like. You also need to give yourself time to figure out your marketing tactics and strategies because you don’t want to find out in December that your social media campaign was a bust when it’s all you planned of the entire holiday season.
Plan for January
Part of getting ready for the holiday season is getting ready for the drop in sales that occurs in many industries after the hustle and bustle of holiday spending are over. New retailers are often shocked by what happens to their bottom line and sales funnel after December when the money is spent and customers go back to their regular shopping routines. Many retailers offer after-holiday incentives to bring customers back to their shops, both in-person and online. Offering a coupon or special discount code will help bring your customers back with gift cards and vouchers they may have gotten as gifts throughout December. You might be tempted to offer deep discounts just to drive sales, but you need to be careful that it isn’t costing you money to bring people back to your store. Sometimes, it’s more effective to plan for a lull and wait until people are ready to shop again for February and beyond.
Knock Their Socks Off
Planning around the holidays is a great way to get people to engage with your business, but when you offer a good quality product and excellent customer service, they’ll find you anyway. If you are known as a retailer that offers exceptional customer service and goes above and beyond for your customers, they’ll spend money they don’t even have to work with you. Being a business owner means you have to get creative with how you approach your customers, especially if you are in the retail business, but if you wow them with professional service and great reasons to shop with you, you will be more likely to survive the hustle and bustle and have a strong start to the new year.