Recently I was interviewed by 16 radio stations from across the country, asking for my advice to small businesses for the holiday season. I had a blast talking to different interviewers and sharing some insights, and I thought I would give a short summary of my advice here. The holiday season is stressful for customers and business owners alike, so here are some tips to minimize stress and maximize holiday cheer for everyone involved.
Tip #1: Get optimized.
A couple weeks ago, Fed-Ex said they are predicting a 13% increase in the number of packages shipped this holiday season because more and more people are shopping online. What does this mean for small businesses? You need to get your website optimized so that customers can find you when they search online for gifts.
Tip #2: Create an experience.
Treat each customer as if they’re your only customer. Make each customer’s visit to your store (web or brick and mortar) memorable, and think about how to extend that experience with ongoing communication via emails, cards, and other offers. Be personal on the phone, say thank you, and offer customers something they don’t expect—an extra surprise that will be something to talk about.
Tip #3: Make it easy.
Do everything you can to help your customers get their holiday shopping done. If you don’t have the product or service they are looking for, have a couple of recommendations for them. Offer free gift wrapping. Think about adding optimistic and excited staff, so customers don’t have to wait in line or on hold. Display your phone number prominently on your website. Make it easy to order online. The holidays can be overwhelming, so make your customers’ time feel appreciated.
Tip #4: Get on Facebook.
If you don’t have a Facebook page, create one. Engage with your Facebook fans. Start a friendly conversation. Offer to help them find holiday gifts. Publicize Facebook-only holiday promotions. Remind them that you’re around and gearing up for the holiday season.
Tip #5: Compete with bigger businesses.
How does a brick and mortar small business compete with the big online retailers that offer free shipping? Highlight the immediacy of being able to walk into a store and get what you need, right here and now. Incentivize customers to come into your store and have their gifts immediately—no waiting for shipping. In addition, emphasize the personal care that small businesses offer customers. You can give individual advice, personalized service, and help for frazzled holiday shoppers.
Differentiation is key in the retail world. My biggest advice to small businesses is to give your customers a unique and festive shopping experience by providing them with custom touches and personal service that they can’t get anywhere else.