The holiday shopping season may be a few months away, but it’s never too early to start planning your 2016 holiday marketing. Without the ad budget, small businesses can’t scale to the in-season spending that the big retailers enjoy, which means it’s especially important to market and advertise your business ahead of the holidays—and take advantage of recent holiday shopping trends.
Planning starts with research and preparation. To maximize your success, we’ve done some of the digging for you. Here are five holiday season shopping trends that you need to be aware of as and how you can capitalize on these to inform your sales and marketing activities.
1. Black Friday and Cyber Monday are Dead
Gone are the days of hard and fast time-bound post-Thanksgiving sales. Now, promotions and enticements are hitting our inboxes long before the holiday even begins. Although Black Friday is still a huge shopping holiday (74.2 million shopped for deals on this day in 2015) participation is at its lowest levels since 2011. In fact, last year’s busiest shopping day of the year was December 23rd.
What it means for you: Analyze your shopper’s habits and your business’s busiest periods from the last year and plan your marketing and promotions (and think beyond discounting) to capitalize on peak periods. Remember, consumers expect deals sooner and for longer, so extend your planning horizons before and beyond the Thanksgiving weekend.
2. Don’t Rely on Flash Sales for Holiday Shopping Trends
Much like consumers who respond to social coupon sites like Groupon and Living Social, customers who seek out “flash-sale” deals are unlikely to deliver long-term value. According to research by Retention Science:
Although they spend more, consumers who make their first purchase from a retailer on Black Friday are 19% less likely to make a repeat purchase, while Cyber Monday buyers are 26% less likely to.
Black Friday shoppers churn 274% faster than other customers.
By focusing on flash sales to attract customers, retailers are missing an opportunity to nurture and extend the buying habits of these shoppers beyond the holiday period.
What it means for you: Instead of viewing your Thanksgiving customers as “holiday shoppers”, consider this period as your first engagement with them and look for ways to continue the conversation and make sales beyond the season.
3. Customers Want to Shop Deals Online
With retail sales declining, more shoppers are heading online and securing those bargains in the comfort of their post-turkey armchair. Cyber Monday is also getting hotter and continuing to beat forecasts, making more than $3 billion last year. Mobile sales also reached a volume records.
What it means for you: Small businesses don’t have the advertising dollars that the big stores and online retailers do, but there are many things you can do to boost your online sales:
Tap into your social networks with deals and incentives. Post a new one each hour to keep consumers engaged and excited.
Use holiday email marketing to tease your already engaged customers with targeted offers.
Introduce new products—one each day of the holiday weekend.
Offer free shipping—use your planning horizon to negotiate volume rates from your preferred shipper. Here are some tips on how small businesses can save money on shipping.
4. Credit is No Longer King
According to About Money, the softening in retail sales can be attributed to a number of factors, many of them beyond the retailer’s control. Topping the list is the fact that families are turning away from credit card debt. Only 31% use credit cards to pay for their holiday shopping spree. Instead, shoppers are relying on the cash they have in hand—whether it’s savings, layaway, debit cards (49%), or cash (24%).
What it means for you: This isn’t great news for small businesses since credit card shoppers tend to spend more, though it does offer an opportunity to incentivize customers to pay by cash. Could you offer a 2–5% discount for a limited time to cash buyers? Or a complementary gift with each cash purchase? It may sound a lot, but it’s balanced out by a reduction in card processing fees.
5. Shoppers Want Value, Not Just a Great Price
It’s all about finding a deal, right? But consumers aren’t just looking for the lowest price. Data suggests that they are also shifting towards the best value for the lowest price.
What it means for you: As you plan your holiday promotions, think about offering promotions or discounts on items which offer the best perceived value. Give away free items that complement your products or service or partner with other small businesses to offer a range of discounts and promote them in a flyer.