How to Make The Most of This Year's Ultra-Short Holiday Shopping Season
Thanksgivukkah is putting a major squeeze on retailers.
Thanksgiving falls on Nov. 28 this year, the same day that Hanukkah begins. Given that the day after Thanksgiving, Black Friday, is the unofficial start to the holiday shopping season for most consumers, a late Thanksgiving translates into fewer holiday shopping days.
And those holiday shopping days are retail gold. Black Friday is so named because it is the first day of the calendar year that many retail stories start to make a profit, or move from the “red” to the “black.”
Eighty-five percent of small-business owners say that the holiday shopping period is just as -- or more important than -- last year, according to a survey by Manta, an online small-business community. Further, half of the survey's 2,000 respondents say that they expect holiday shoppers to spend less because of the U.S. government shutdown earlier this fall, which put a damper on consumer sentiment.
As a result, half of respondents are adjusting their sales strategy for maximum punch. Those who are changing their sales strategy are starting promotions sooner, reaching out more to customers on social media and increasing their email marketing.
"The holidays are the most important time of the year for my business and we've lowered our prices during this short holiday season to try attract more clients," said Samuel Rodriguez, co–owner of Ryan's Rest Dog Boarding and Training based in Farmington, Ark., according to a statement from Manta released earlier this week.
To get the coveted millennial set to spend more money, small-business owners will be focusing on their mobile strategy, the Manta survey reveals. "We're seeing the astounding effects of the continued shift to online holiday shopping – especially from mobile devices – to the small business community," said Kristy Campbell, director of marketing at Manta, in the statement. “With the changing demographics and mobile habits of millennials coming to the forefront, these trends will continue to accelerate and gain importance."
Here are five tips from Manta for small-business owners anxious to get the most bang for their buck out of a dreaded shrunken holiday shopping season. Also, for a closer look at the 2013 holiday shopping season, check out the infographic from Manta below.
1. Focus on your local community. One advantage small-businesses have over any big-box competitors is that they know their consumers and the community of those consumers better than any major retailer can. Use local knowledge to speak directly to your local consumers.
2. Get the younger set hooked with a mobile strategy. Millennials are smartphone junkies. Get them into the store and making purchases with a deals and updates delivered via mobile and on social media.
3. Use timely language. Remind consumers that it’s the holidays! Make sure your marketing verbiage is reflective of the time of year. Also, as time number of shopping days begin to dwindle, impress upon your customers an increasing sense of urgency.
4. Offer unique holiday packages. Put groups of products together that are otherwise sold separately to create gift packages.
5. Win customers over with service. Smaller retailers often can’t compete with larger chains on price, but where small-businesses shine is delivering individualized customer service. Cater to your most loyal customers with the utmost respect and attention and use the increased traffic during the holiday times to gain new ones.
Catherine Clifford is senior entrepreneurship writer at CNBC. She was formerly a senior writer at Entrepreneur.com, the small business reporter at CNNMoney and an assistant in the New York bureau for CNN. Clifford attended Columbia University where she earned a bachelor's degree. She lives in Brooklyn, N.Y. You can follow her on Twitter at @CatClifford.