Ugh. Christmas already? It may be a few months away, but you can never plan too early for the big shopping extravaganza. Whether you’re the head of the household or head of the business, it’s important to be prepared for one of the busiest times of the year, even if you loathe the season.
Any retailer will admit to you that Christmas is the most important time for them. Despite the negativity and pessimism that surrounds the holiday season, it still remains a lucrative period for businesses in an array of sectors. The holiday shopping period usually starts at the end of October and runs right until Christmas eve, and stores can expect consumers to dole out $600 billion, or about $800 per customer on average.
Unlike the typical family that waits until Christmas Eve to be ready for the big day, your business should start preparing now. Yes, the sun is still shining and the temperatures remain warm, but you don’t want to be left out in the cold when shoppers are whipping out their plastic on stuff they don’t need or perhaps even want.
Remember, the key to a successful Christmas campaign is starting as early as possible. Even if you think it’s too premature, here are six ways businesses can start planning for Christmas:
1. Start a Christmas Budget
Before you initiate a full-blown Christmas strategy, it’s imperative that you are financially equipped to do so. Akin to a household budget for December, your business will have to have one as well - you can’t spend money your business doesn’t have. This means that your company will have to spend within its means, calculate a projected return on investment and, if you’re using credit or a loan, a debt servicing plan. A Christmas-themed budget will ensure that you’ll stay on target and reach your objectives.
Here are a few things to take into account when you’re putting pen to paper for your budget:
- Approximate amount of money you want to spend
- A list of what you will spend your money on
- What monetary sources will you use to fund your Christmas campaign
- How much are you willing to spend on labor during November and December
- An estimate of how many sales you’ll generate in this period
2. Develop a Marketing Strategy
In order for your store to be the place to go for all things Christmas, you’ll have to develop a marketing strategy to get the word out. Your marketing strategy will definitely be on the top of your to-do list. You should certainly take advantage of various technologies and advertising methods to ensure your store is filled with customers. Your marketing strategies will include:
- Social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Pinterest).
- Click-to-call (CTC) advertising on Google and Facebook.
- Google AdWords for your website to be seen on SERPs.
- Content marketing (articles, blog posts, infographics, webinars, podcasts, etc.).
- Prices matching your competitors, both online and offline.
- Other channels to invest in: display ads, sponsored content, email marketing and paid search.
Here are a few additional tips for your marketing strategy:
- Start to advertise weeks in advance (subtlety at first; elaborate at the end).
- Establish holiday-themed offers ahead of time.
- Try to ramp up your ad spending as soon as you determine your customers’ likes and dislikes of your creative marketing materials.
- Most important of all: make everything seem like fun.
3. Time to go Mobile
Did you know that 78 percent of mobile searches for local businesses result in a sale? Did you also know that one-third of all online purchases were done on a smartphone throughout the holiday shopping season? It’s true. If you’ve neglected your mobile commerce then now is the time to start going mobile.
Indeed, consumers are more interactive and engaged with mobile content and purchasing, but for some reason brands and marketers are providing a lackluster mobile experience. It’s time to change this, and perhaps you can lead the way. One survey found that one of the weakest areas is the fact that consumers believe the content they receive isn’t personalized. In other words, it’s stoic, impersonal and sterile.
To ensure the richest and fullest mobile experience during Christmas, here are a few things to consider when developing a mobile strategy:
- Create a responsive design analysis and strategy (click-through rates, open rates, conversions, etc.)
- Streamline your content so your audience can access content easily, receive customized content, read simple call-to-actions (CTAs) and find social media channel links
- Conduct A/B split testing to find out what works, whether it’s subject lines or new content
- Hone in on your customers: focus on those who are contributing a great deal to your store, while attempting to engage with those who are unresponsive to your emails
You have a couple of choices to make as well: maintain a mobile-friendly website or create a mobile app. Opt for the first; two-thirds of consumers prefer to access a mobile website instead of a mobile application.
4. Ensure you Have a Themed Website
During the holiday season, some companies will go overboard with the Christmas-themed websites. Others, meanwhile, won’t even make a mention of it. The key is balance. You don’t want to go overboard but you don’t want to ignore it and make it look like you’re shunning Christmas. Here are a few tips to have the right holiday-themed website:
- Place a couple of display ads on the front-page of your website
- Insert a few CTA placements on the front and on other pages
- Offer sale promotions during certain days or weeks of the season
- Do not install too many flash plugins (forget the snowflake effect)
5. Check, Check and Check Your Inventory
For the next couple of months, start to pay close attention to your inventory. Plan ahead, figure out how much you will need of certain products and ensure you’ll be plenty stocked throughout the season. This may seem difficult to do, but it’s not because all you’ll have to do is take a look at your sales figures and find out what items have been selling like crazy and which haven’t. You may have to think about making any early orders to avoid delays, while at the same time being ready for diverse clientele. Your competitors are likely looking at the same inventory. Don’t be outdone by your rivals.
6. Look Into Organizing an Event or Party
Whether it’s for your employees or for your customers, you may want to look into organizing an event or a party. The event can be some sort of charity function where you’re raising funds for the homeless, the local food bank or a community in a third-world country. The party could consist of a children’s choir, a celebration of the community’s participation in your store or fun winter activity, where the winner takes home a $100 gift card.
Let’s be honest: as each year passes us by, our tolerance of Christmas diminishes. Instead of being the time to celebrate with our loved ones and relishing in the wonder of Christmas, we’re racking up debt, getting stressed out over gifts and fighting others for the last toy. At the same time, however, consumers are getting a bit more comfortable about spending $1,000 per season so this greatly benefits your business. As long as you’re prepared and ready for the extra traffic, you’ll be celebrating your bank book in January.