For most businesses, the holiday season is the busiest, and most profitable, time of the year. In fact, holiday sales in 2015 increased 3 percent to $626.1 billion. And with more consumers making purchases online, don’t be surprised if those figures continue to climb.
Despite this, certain business owners fail to realize the importance and power of the holiday season. Either they’re a scrooge or they have the following 10 bad habits.
1. Not planning ahead.
Experts have been constantly informing business owners that they need have a holiday marketing plan well in-advance. Unfortunately, some business owners continue to procrasinate, throwing together a last minute marketing campaign for the most wonderful time of the year.
“Successful holiday campaigns should be well-thought-out and, therefore, planning should begin late summer for the best results. If you find you’ve started too late, it’s better to take your time to get it right than throw something together just to get it out the door,” says author and serial entrepreneur Susan Solovic.
While you can still partake in the festivities by offering exclusive discounts, special giveaways or complimentary services, focus more on preparing for next year’s holiday season.
2. Discounting prices too early.
Customers expect frequent discounts. Businesses like to give discounts, but it seems during the holidays that they are getting too sales happy. How many times have you come across pre-Black Friday sales weeks before Black Friday.
Here’s why this is a problem. If you offer your best discounts or sales promotions too early, then you’re not enticing customers to keep coming back to your store since they already got the best deal from you. Instead, have a gradual plan that drives people back to your store throughout the holidays. One way to do this is by basing sales around specific dates. Besides Black Friday, there’s also Cyber Monday, Boxing Day and New Year’s Eve.
Related: The Best Black Friday Deals of 2016
3. Competing with the big box stores in Black Friday hysteria.
It’s easy to get caught-up in the hysteria of Black Friday. However, if you’re a brick-and-mortar store, there’s no need to bring your employees in at 6:00 a.m. in the hopes that you’ll have a line of customers waiting for your doorbusters. That should be left to the big box stores, who you’re not going to be competing with anyway.
Focus on Small Business Saturday, and team up with other local business owners by offering joint promotions that will keep the community economically strong.
4. Being silent on social media.
When you’re inactive on social media, customers are likely to forget all about you. This is especially true throughout the holidays when social media can -- and should -- be used to build trust, share holiday discounts, keep customers informed on information like holiday hours and handle customer service.
During the holidays, you can make your social accounts festive by using geo-targeting to generate more personalized content and leverage user-generated content. Use multiple social channels, and engage your customers through clear call-to-actions.
5. Not having a review process in place.
Customers have always based their purchasing decisions on recommendations for their friends or family. Nowadays, they are testing online reviews just as much. In fact, 79 percent of consumers trust online reviews just as much as personal recommendations. But, there are still business owners that still haven’t embraced online reviews.
To obtain online reviews, you need to have a process in place that includes;
- Simply asking your customers to leave a review.
- Holding contests and offering incentives for customers to leave reviews.
- Connect both online and offline reviews.
- Providing top-notch customer service.
- Getting listed in local search directories like Google Places.
- Responding to customers on sites Yelp.
- Highlighting reviews on social media.
- Using Google Alerts or Social Mention so that you’ll receive alerts when people are talking about you.
- Having a testimonials page on your website.
6. Focusing on short-term relationships.
“We see small businesses that put their focus on bringing in new customers at the expense of nurturing existing customer relationships,” says Ron Cates, director of new market development for Constant Contact. “There has to be a balance between the two efforts. By engaging existing customers and turning them into loyal fans, a small business is creating an invaluable referral network that leads to new customers.”
Encourage word-of-mouth advertising, and start building customer relationships that extend past the holidays.
7. Failing to stockpile.
Here’s another habit that I notice business owners break during the holiday season -- not having enough inventory. You know that it's one of the busiest times of the year, and you have empty shelves. Now customers are going to jump ship to the competition and will likely stay there.
You need to have adequate stock if you want to survive this time of year. If you’re worried that you’ll be ordering too much inventory from suppliers, review sales figures from last year or use figures from the competition to give you an estimation of how much inventory you need to order.
8. Being understaffed.
Whether it’s having enough salespeople on the floor or enough customer service reps, you need to have all-hands on-deck, even if that means hiring experienced temporary help to lessen the burden of your full-time staff.
When you’re understaffed, that means that there aren’t enough people on-hand to help make the experience of your customers as painless as possible. Remember, they’re stressed out too, and if there is no one to help them return a product or answer a question, they’ll go elsewhere.
9. Falling short on customer care.
Customer service is frequently ranked as the no. 1 factor impacting vendor trust. It influences revenue and whether or not a customer stays loyal to your business. As I already mentioned, customer service is a big deal during this hectic and stressful season. Yet, businesses still fail to deliver outstanding customer service.
Make your customers feel special and reduce their stress by staying active and responsive on social media, providing around-the-clock customer service and making returns as easy-as-possible.
10. Not launching an email campaign.
Don’t kid yourself into thinking that email is an antiquated marketing technique. In fact, it’s more powerful than ever. During the 2013 and 2014 holiday seasons, more consumers opened emails that were sent by businesses as opposed to individuals.
If you’re not using email to spread holiday cheer, then you’re missing out on a great opportunity to reach and engage your audience. When you’re ready to break this habit, here are a couple of pointers to get you started.
- Create a holiday mailing list so that you reach the right customers.
- Use holiday-themed power words like "12 Deals of Christmas" or "Season’s Greetings."
- Personalize your subject lines.
- Add seasonal emojis.
- Prominently display your best offers.
- Add your social channels to your emails.
- Give your subscribers exclusive email rewards.
- Make sure your emails are mobile friendly (an amazing 76 percent of Black Friday emails and 63 percent of Cyber Monday emails were opened on a mobile device) by using responsive web design, large buttons, and keeping your content short and sweet.
Despite email being a popular tool for marketers, you also have to use it appropriately. This means not spamming your readers or being overly promotional. Check every link, and make sure you are providing your consumers with value.