It’s that time of year already. The leaves are falling, the temperature’s dropping and the festive season is getting into full swing.
It’s the beginning of a Christmas crescendo build-up. With each passing week, we’re getting closer to the end of the year, and consumers are beginning to spend more as they prepare for the festive season.
For small businesses across the retail sector, the Christmas spending spree represents a significant opportunity to increase the bottom line. Research from the Bank of England has shown that the typical household spends an extra £500 in December, and spending is also boosted in November thanks to events like Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
According to the Centre for Retail Research , Christmas spending in the UK has increased by 1.4% from 2016-2017 and by the same amount in 2017-18, so businesses could expect to see consumers behaving in a similar fashion this year.
Read on for our advice on how to make yourself visible to the shopping spree spenders this festive season.
According to the same Centre for Retail Research publication, online sales in the build up to Christmas increased by 10.1% between 2017 and 2018. This is a significant increase. It’s hard to say whether growth of online sales will do the same again this year, but given the increasing popularity of online shopping, it’s a reasonably safe assumption.
This is good news if you’re selling goods online, as you can expect to see an uptick in sales, provided you’re getting yourself in front of the right people.
If you don’t already have a website but have been planning to get one, now could be a good time. While it’s important never to rush into a decision, there are plenty of good, user-friendly websites builders that you can use to build a website quickly, easily, and at a reasonable price. We recently selected our favourite website builders suitable for small businesses.
Having an online presence can make you easier to find, especially once you’ve got a handle on good SEO practice and start to dabble with basic online advertising.
If your website is brand new and not quite ready to make sales yet, focus on using your website as a signpost. Let people know who you are, how you can help them, how they can find you, and when your opening hours are.
Standing out from the crowd
You may not be able to compete with John Lewis’ annual Christmas advert release, but there are other things you can do to raise the profile of your business, especially on digital platforms.
Reaching out to your customers is an “always-on” activity. You should be doing it regularly anyway, but if you’re not then now is a good time to start (and you can make it a New Year resolution).
Email is one of the lowest-cost and most effective ways you can reach out to customers. You can email customers who’ve given you their email address with an incentive, such as £10 off every £100 spent, to encourage them to visit your website.
You can also try advertising on social media with time-limited offers. Social media is particularly cost-effective if you’re trialling advertising, and you can set budget limits to ensure you don’t overspend.
While these are good tricks to help you stand out online, you’ll have to work hard to make your store appealing, too. Some Christmas decorations will never go amiss, and getting creative with your window displays to help pull in passers-by from the street.
Similarly, an event could help to put you in front of new audiences. A florist, for example, could offer a wreath-making workshop; a stationery shop could offer a Christmas card craft class. In-store experiences can help to move your relationship with customers beyond just transactional ones, with a view to developing customer loyalty.
Capitalising on Black Friday and Cyber Monday
Black Friday and Cyber Monday have become calendar fixtures. Both have been imported from the US, with the last weekend of November typically seen as the start of the Christmas shopping period, and retailers slash their prices and offer discounts to lure in customers.
While our trans-Atlantic friends have a four-day weekend due to Thanksgiving falling at the same time of year, in the UK and Europe it’s a regular weekend. This has meant that the weekend has been popular for online and larger retailers, but smaller business can get involved, too.
According to PwC, Black Friday and Cyber Monday is of huge appeal to the average Millennial, and average spend in 2018 was £234 per person. Finder estimates that 2019 will see £7b spent in the UK; a significant sum, particularly if you’re able to appeal to your customers – or prospective customers – with products that could be squirreled away as early Christmas presents.
If you decide to take part in Black Friday or Cyber Monday (or both), make sure you put the word out. Use the platforms that will give you the best access to your customers and prospective customers, such as social media – either organic posting or targeted advertising – or by reaching out customers directly by email.