If you’re a small business owner or marketing team of one, you may be worried about the COVID-19 pandemic dooming your holiday season sales.
After all, how are you supposed to finish the year strong when many people are still unsure about leaving their homes and shopping in crowds?
The answer: You learn how to evolve your holiday sales and marketing strategies.
Despite another wave of surging cases, consumers are approaching the holidays business as usual. A staggering 82% of consumers say they’d pay more to safely shop local, and that’s just the beginning, so there are still plenty of ways to rack up online sales and in-store pickups.
Read this guide to find more shopping statistics, plus the 10 best strategies for boosting sales in this unprecedented holiday season.
10 Holiday Sales & Marketing Tips for Small Businesses to Implement Today
These 10 tips will help you boost sales so you can finish the year strong. They may even help you make up for sluggish quarters earlier in the year.
All you have to do is follow this gameplan:
1. Don’t Rule Out In-Store Purchases If You Have a Brick-and-Mortar
In-store purchases won’t entirely disappear this year, though they may look a little different. According to recent data:
- 85% of people still want to shop in-store [*]
- 86% of people desire COVID-safe pickup options [*]
- 59% will support stores that take COVID-safe precautions [*]
So if your small business operates a local store, these statistics offer some hope. You can still capture in-person sales as long as you update customers on your shopping experience to keep everyone safe.
There are a couple of quick ways to do this:
- Send out an email blast to your customers letting them know you’re open at a limited capacity. In the email, add a few ways for customers to contact your business. For example, you may not want customers replying via email, so have a toll-free number that reaches your virtual phone system. Customers can call that dedicated number with any questions about shopping safety, in-store capacity, product availability, and more.
- Post social media updates that highlight your extra cleaning efforts and make it well-known that curbside pickup is available, and even encouraged.
2. Reward Customer Loyalty
With so many brands to choose from, it’s crucial that you go the extra mile to take care of your customers. That’s why many brands create customer loyalty programs.
Offering shoppers special promotion/discount codes, coupons, and free products with each purchase incentivizes them to choose your company over your competitors.
But you can’t just send out a holiday-themed promo code to your email list and call it a day. Your loyalty program must be easy for customers to rack up points, relevant to what they’re already purchasing, and rewarding [*].
One company that checks those boxes for customers (and more!) is toxic-free makeup brand Thrive Causemetics. Besides giving customers a free makeup bag with every purchase and points for every dollar spent, they’re also hosting a special promo event called the “12 Days of Gifting.”
With this, the company gives customers a new free product (or two) each day, similar to an advent calendar or multiple days of Hanukkah presents:
Customers can check in each day to see which new products are up for grabs. They feel appreciated and score a chance to try new products they may not have purchased otherwise.
So consider creating a customer loyalty program this season or expanding the benefits of your existing one. You’ll help increase sales, customer satisfaction, and retention simultaneously.
3. Weave User-Generated Content Throughout Your Shopping Experience
Adding reviews, customer testimonials, and other user-generated content (UGC) throughout your site and product pages will decrease the risk of making a purchase for online shoppers and those who can’t shop in-person. In fact, customers are 71% more comfortable to make an online purchase after reading some reviews.
This type of social proof will show that your company sells high-quality products people already love, which will make new customers more eager and comfortable to follow suit.
Here’s how popular women’s clothing brand LuLu’s does this well:
On their product pages (pictured above), LuLu’s prominently displays a five-star rating system underneath each item.
The company then takes the customer review process a step further by adding user-submitted photos. Shoppers can see what real customers look like wearing the product before they decide to purchase it:
As shoppers scroll down, they can read the reviews in greater detail, including helpful intel about how products fit based on each customer’s measurements and height.
Buyers don’t have to imagine how an item will fit their bodies when they can see photos of the products on real customers with similar measurements. This lessens their risk and gives them more confidence to add the item to their cart.
So consider weaving in user-generated content like this throughout your homepage, product pages, and anywhere else that may be relevant. Start with simple ratings and testimonials, then gradually work your way up to everything Lulu’s does here.
4. Host a Few Social Media Giveaways
Savvy marketers know that giveaways are a great way to drive impressions to your website and increase your potential customer base. So why not host one or two this holiday season?
You can give away your products on sites like Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, depending on where your customers hang out. Or you can host more than one giveaway to really drive brand awareness and engagement.
That’s exactly what baby bottle brand Nanobebe did.
The company partnered with other brands in two separate holiday giveaways to increase their exposure and customer base by tapping into different established audiences:
Though you don’t have to partner with other brands to reap these benefits, you do earn the added perk of casting a wider net.
However, hosting a giveaway on your own social pages can still help drive new customers to your website. It may also reward existing ones, depending on who wins.
No matter which giveaway route you take, be sure to include relevant hashtags so people can find your brand during their searching.
5. Add a Holiday Theme to Your Website
Since online shopping will be on the rise this year (thanks again, Covid!), it doesn’t hurt to spruce up your website with some festive holiday cheer.
A total revamp of your homepage can help people feel as if they’re shopping in a winter wonderland. It may also evoke the same warm-and-fuzzy vibes of shopping in-person, which may boost last-minute sales.
NY-based streaming workout brand P.volve went all out with its homepage and on-point holiday theme:
While P.volve wows online, you don’t have to get extravagant here if you lack the time, resources, or budget to do so. Adding some fun holiday-themed pops of color and simple, seasonal messaging is enough to evoke that merry spirit.
Affordable jewelry brand Blush & Bar knows this all too well. The company added a cute present next to their logo and a holiday banner to their homepage:
The brand even introduced some light-hearted features, such as a fun quiz to help customers find their perfect jewelry and a Holiday Bonus Game, to relax hectic shoppers into a buying mood.
Taking cues from both these brands will help you capture that holiday cheer and increase sales. Bonus: You can accomplish this task in one productive afternoon.
6. Create Holiday Bundles of Your Best Products
Packaging holiday bundles of your best-selling products is one of the best creative ideas brands can implement this season. And it works well for a few reasons:
First, these bundles help your business show off its best-selling items, which is especially useful for shoppers unfamiliar with your range of products.
Second, these premade bundles remove the guesswork for consumers shopping for hard-to-buy recipients. They make an attractive gift full of well-reviewed products that are sure to please.
You can also offer shoppers the chance to capture a stellar deal by buying a discounted bundle rather than each item individually. Then you can advertise the savings shoppers score with this deal, which may push them to snatch up the bundles before they’re gone.
Tea brand Pique created an Ode to Tea holiday bundle featuring eight types of tea crystals in a holiday-themed box. This bundle also pulls double-duty because the box converts into a tea chest giftees can use all year round:
Upscale Australian accessory brand Bellroy also offers holiday gift sets that save money and deliver their best-selling products all in one:
So consider packaging holiday bundles like these for your customers. You may even want to offer one or two for your social media giveaways (tip #4) to drum up excitement about them.
7. Stand for a Cause and Show This Proudly
Another smart tip, especially around the holidays, is to show that your brand cares about giving back to relevant causes and people in need.
According to recent research, 58% of young consumers are more likely to buy from brands that back a good cause — but only if they know about it!
So if your small business is charitable — and you should be — let your customers know on your website and social media channels. You can subtly prove your brand cares about others, not just profit.
Affordable direct-to-consumer stroller company Mockingbird made this clear on their #GivingTuesday post. They shared how they delivered over 100 strollers to families in need by partnering with Baby2Baby:
So think about how your small business can give back this season. Then don’t be shy about sharing your efforts. Make it clear to customers why you chose to help and how, and they’ll be more likely to support your company.
8. Reinforce Your E-Commerce Store
This year marked a seismic shift toward e-commerce due to limited in-store options. In fact, 58% of consumers expect to make most of their holiday purchases via e-commerce sites.
So is your digital storefront up for the challenge? Can it handle an influx of online payments and customer support requests? Does it give shoppers an easy, enjoyable, and hassle-free experience?
If you can’t objectively assess your e-commerce store, recruit your friends, family, and colleagues for honest feedback. Ask them how your current online experience could be improved and reward them for their time with a discount code.
Upgrading your digital storefront gives your brand a better chance at sales and creating happy customers for life. And if you follow all the tips in this guide, you’ll definitely need to prepare for higher website traffic and sales. So make this tip a priority along with the next one.
9. Boost Your Customer Service Systems
If you can, it’s wise to invest in your customer service experience so you can ensure that any hiccups are resolved promptly instead of snowballing and ruining the experience for shoppers.
This can include adding or updating your live chat features, chatbots on your website, email replies, and response times. You may also want to strongly consider a commercial phone system capable of handling the increased workload.
While it may seem like an added cost, this brief holiday season can mean the difference between hitting your annual revenue goals or falling short. You don’t want a simple customer service issue chasing away customers unknowingly.
Plus, customers may be extra stressed during this time, so providing additional support for them will only help your brand. Remember, a poor customer experience can be almost impossible to recover from, but perfect experiences breed lifelong buyers.
10. Send Personalized Cards to Customers
Most brands will not take the time to send customers thank-you notes, especially during the busy holiday season. That’s why it’s one of the most effective strategies for helping your business stand out.
Consider sending out personalized thank-you notes to your most loyal customers or your newest customers. Add a handwritten note on one side to show how much you appreciate them. Use the reverse side for an attractive image or artwork that they can later hang up.
This card creates a lasting memory and will remind customers why they chose your brand in the first place. If they display your card, you’ll keep your brand top of mind all year round. When it comes time for them to make another purchase, your small business will be first on their list.
This year has been hard on everyone, but that doesn’t mean it’s not possible for your business to finish on a high note.
Now, more than ever, consumers want to support small businesses by shopping online and in-store, when possible. But it’s up to you to make that experience worthwhile for them.
Fortunately, the 10 tips in this guide will help you do that and more.
Even if you’re only able to implement a handful of the strategies discussed today, your small business will be in a much better position to capture holiday sales. And you may be able to earn loyal customers for life simply by taking care of them during this difficult time.
Follow these strategies, and you’ll find that your hard work pays off in dividends.
Know another small business that may benefit from these tips? Give the gift of higher year-end sales by sharing this guide with them!