Retailers have two objectives this holiday season – getting sales and improving relationships. The objectives haven’t changed from past years but the environment is very different. Governmental issues and calendar conflicts are creating new challenges. The 2013 shutdown and possible default are carrying over into the New Year. Implementation of mandatory healthcare has been a fiasco. People know they have to buy insurance but have no idea of the cost. These issues shake consumer confidence.
Adding to the mix, the best-selling period between Thanksgiving and Christmas is a short 26 days. And, Thanksgiving and Hanukkah will be celebrated on the same day for the first time since 1888. It is a tough time to be a retailer.
Before the decision on the debt ceiling was delayed and the healthcare act applied self-inflicted wounds, sales were projected to be slightly higher than last year. Now, it will be surprising if retail sales reach last year’s mark. The best move any retailer can make is to shift the focus from short-term sales to long-term growth. People may spend less but they will still shop for gifts. This bump in traffic is an ideal time to create new relationships and solidify existing ones.
It’s time to shift from promotional planning to strategizing. The objective is to use holiday season activity to acquire permission and information that can be transformed into sales in 2014. Your customers and prospects are stressing about things they cannot control. The easier you make it for them to achieve their goals, the more endeared they will be to your business. They will remember the positive experiences when things settle down after the holidays. Here are some tips to get you started:
- Capture email addresses and permissions by offering a free gift, discount, or added value bonus for people to opt in to your email program at every touchpoint. The addresses acquired today will become future revenue.
- Reward employees for resolving issues quickly and effectively. The easier you make it for people to move on to the next item on their “to do” list, the more they will trust your service.
- Watch for pain points that need to be eliminated. Increased traffic magnifies stress points like aisle width, website speed, and staffing. Use the holiday season as a learning lab to identify areas for improvement.
- Use peak times like Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday to bring people back for more. Add messages to receipts that notify customers of upcoming special events.
- Create triggered email messages that do more than provide status updates. Educating customers about your products and services improves their experience and your revenue.
- Plan your follow-up strategy. Neglect kills more customer relationships than bad service. Create a customized follow-up strategy that targets specific customer types. It moves people from hit-&-run behavior to becoming platinum customers.
- Make your customers feel valued. The holiday season is stressful. Simple courtesy is often forgotten. Encourage employees to take the extra step to communicate appreciation to your customers.
For more information about creating a strategy that delivers beyond the holiday season, email Debra at firstname.lastname@example.org.