The summer has just ended, the kids are back in school, and already businesses up and down the country are coming to terms with the idea of Christmas! That's right, and more frighteningly it's only a few months away.
For most businesses Christmas is an extremely busy period, as soon as halloween is over the next thoughts on people's minds is getting everything ready for St. Nick.
This can prove to be a very stressful time, but only if you let it. Businesses that are unprepared always lose out, while the more prepared a business is the more it has to gain.
Christmas sales have increased dramatically since 2011.
For most shoppers they don't really get into Christmas shopping mode until after Halloween, but business owners need to be one step ahead.
What can a business do?
1. Purchase Additional Stock - If there's one thing a business owner dreads it's not having enough stock, especially when entering into a busy period.
Christmas shoppers are going to purchase for the sake of purchasing, if they don't purchase from you its going to be from another business, make sure you're are equipped. And hey, if there is stock left over you can always get rid of it in the January sales.
2. Promote Effectively - Even if your business isn't in direct competition with another, i.e. both sell the same products, come Christmas you are in competition. It's up to you to persuade shoppers that your products would make the ideal gift, and that your offering has value.
To do this it's best to get the idea of your business, and its products, in the heads of shoppers before they plan their Christmas spend. Timing will be key. You don't want to strike too early, but you also can't leave it too late. You will find a lot of businesses bombarding the public with their message straight after Halloween, but people aren't interested at this time. Give it a week then get your voice heard. Think about what you have that separates you from other businesses, what makes you special, what is the value to consumers in choosing you.
Once you have the message you want to get across, next is deciding which medium to put it through.
Effective social media campaigns are cheap to administer and can reach thousands of people.
Put together a Christmas hamper or some sort of Christmas prize. Make it a substantial one and launch it around mid November, have it run for a few weeks, try get as much exposure out of it as possible.
The most effective way to do this, and one that will reach the most people, is to make entry requirements. To enter, all participants must like, share and comment on your status about the giveaway. After the prize winner is announced make a big deal of it and try get more publicity. Social media is whatever you make it.
Traditional forms of advertisements can be costly and hard to measure, but if you have the budget by all means. But take into consideration that the days of people paying attention to tv ads are becoming a thing of the past. Channel hopping and going straight back to fiddling with a phone is what fills the void now.
In store promotional events, decorations, posters, leaflets are all affordable, but again make them interesting, make people want to stop and take notice. Otherwise it's just a waste of time.
3. Take On Seasonal Staff - If you feel you could get over-stretched this Christmas then maybe it's a good idea to employ seasonal staff. The expected busy period could have your business over-worked, when this happens it's hard to maintain high standards of service. You can't let this drop. Employing individuals on 4 - 6 week contracts is a great way to relieve the burden on your business, and you never know, you may find a diamond in the rough that will become a valued employee.
4. Stand Out From The Competition - As spoken about, every business is now your competition. A lot of Christmas shoppers are open to what presents to get people, with only a small percentage having specific requirements. This leaves you to cast your net to grab as many festive shoppers as you can.
By promoting effectively you can make your business stand out, in what is a very competitive period. Think outside the box. Try make any material, ad, or event as unique and as fun as possible.
An entertaining instore event could be a great basis to any promotional strategy. Create hype on social media channels, exciting content on leaflets, posters, radio, whatever you can get your hands on.
5. Be Festive - Get in the Christmas spirit, but more importantly get everyone else in the Christmas spirit. This is the art of Christmas spending. When people feel festive they spend more. In-store promotional events are a great way to get people feeling jolly. It attracts people to your premises, persuades them to part with their money, and can also win you some publicity in the process.
6. Online Shopping - People will always wonder around stores at Christmas time, but more and more people web-browse. Online shopping has increased year-on-year, meaning a strong online presence has never been so important.
When many people hear of a business they first look at its website. A good website can speak volumes about the type of business you run.
If you don't have an informative, easy to navigate website, it's time to invest in one.
To sum up, for businesses to truly capitalise on Christmas they have to be prepared. Staying ahead of shoppers is vitally important. They have a decision to make when it come to gifts, so make it for them. The rewards can be huge. If a business can deliver value to customers in the festive season they will be sure to come back the next Christmas. Invest in stock, staff, promotional material, and a good website. You will reap the rewards.