Here are three ways your small business can use the holiday shopping rush to build a loyal customer base for the whole year.
'Tis the season to be spending. After all, the holiday season has proven to be the most lucrative time of year for small businesses, which expect seasonal shopping to account for a large chunk of their annual revenue. Overall, retail shoppers are expected to drop an astounding $682 billion during the holidays, according to the National Retail Federation.
For small and midsize businesses, boosted sales don't have to be just a seasonal phenomenon. Small businesses can use holiday traffic as an opportunity to position themselves for year-round success. Because this is also the season of giving, I'm happy to offer some tips to extend the holiday sales season into 2018 for sustained small business growth. Here are three sales and customer service strategies to prioritize this year.
1. Capture customer information.
A record-breaking 112 million shoppers participated in last year's Small Business Saturday. That's a lot of foot traffic. Aside from short-term sales perks – shoppers spent $15.5 billion during last year's Small Business Saturday alone – the holidays give small businesses a long-term opportunity to grow.
When the holiday crowds come flooding into your store, encourage them to share their contact information. It's easy to incentivize shoppers to do so through contests, drawings and mailing list invitations. While it can be daunting to keep track of it all, a small business-focused CRM such as Act! makes it easy to store, organize and access your data.
Remember to use those emails and phone numbers to follow up with your customers down the road. Thank them for their business, and ask whether they're satisfied with the products or services they purchased. Keep them informed of upcoming sales, events and new products too. Showing customers you care about their satisfaction, and keeping them notified of relevant sales or promotions, is a surefire way of earning their patronage through 2018 and beyond.
Editor's note: Looking for email marketing software? We can help you choose the one that's right for you. Use the questionnaire below to have our sister site, BuyerZone, provide you with information from a variety of vendors for free:
2. Listen to your customers.
When it comes to understanding a customer's needs, always go straight to the source – the customers themselves. During the holiday rush, small businesses are swarming with such experts. As they pass through your store, pay attention to what they're looking for. While you're surely eager to help customers find a product to fit their immediate needs, remember to sell with foresight. Ask customers questions about the products, services and promotions they'd like to see and purchase in the long term. Remember to inquire about how you can improve your current products or services too.
Listening to customers can help boost holiday sales while also positioning a company for future success. If a customer is concerned about the lack of functionality of one product, you may be able to direct them to a newer or alternative option to make a same-day sale where the customer otherwise may have given up and gone to a competitor. Additionally, if you're receiving lots of inquiries about a product you don't yet carry or a product that doesn't have the specific functionality your customer needs, you can consider making those additions in the new year. It's critical to ask questions to see what new products, services and solutions customers might be interested in moving forward.
Engaging with and listening to customers is as sure a strategy as there is to position the business for future growth. A Gallup study showed fully engaged customers are likely to spend more and become loyal to a company.
3. Think before you price.
It's important to remember that money isn't the only factor influencing a sale. Quality and customer experience are huge motivators too, as evidenced by a Harvard report, which found that customers with the best experiences spent 140 percent more than their dissatisfied counterparts. Better still, it determined that customers are willing to pay 86 percent more for products when shopping at stores known for outstanding customer service.
Slashing prices too heavily can hurt your business in the long run as well. It's not sustainable to heavily discount prices on a regular basis, but if you do it once, customers will expect low prices and big sales on a regular basis. The same customers who were overjoyed to find a great price in November may return to your store in January and be disappointed to find your products tagged at regular prices. Let your competitors make that mistake. Be the business that customers can come to knowing they will receive consistent pricing, excellent service, and quality products and services.