As retailers face a Christmas shopping season unlike any they’ve ever seen, some retail businesses are stepping up to develop and test some of the most innovative solutions in the marketplace.
For years now, there’s been a pressing feeling that the Christmas holiday season is make-or-break for retail stores. And it’s easy to understand why. According to the National Retail Federation, on average, November and December sales make up almost 20% of annual retail sales. While the amounts vary depending on the business, this wide-held belief is so common that it’s almost become a trope.
True or not, in the past, retailers would look for ways to make the most of the Christmas shopping season: the right products, in the right quantities, fully-staffed, with as many customers through the doors as possible. Do that right, better than others, and you would watch your year-end’s revenue grow.
And while that used to be enough, as we all know, this year is different.
For one, many retailers were forced to lock in orders mid-pandemic, so quantities and risk-tolerances may be out of balance with customer demand. Meanwhile, others faced massive disruptions to their supply chains. And we’ve all had to work through how each community responds to the virus, seeing changes week by week and store by store.
So it’s no surprise that this Christmas shopping season (which is already in full swing) has become something of a report card on how customers feel, how strong the retail industry is as a whole, and how well your retail business is surviving.
Knowing all of this to be true, some retailers stare at the challenges as they stack up, listen to press reports stating how this is a “daunting year that’s far from jolly,” and simply throw up their hands and decide to write off 2020.
And on the other side of the spectrum, other retail businesses are stepping up to develop and test some of the most innovative solutions in the marketplace.
So in the spirit of the, “doesn’t hurt to try” mindset, the almost Wild West approach to retail we’re seeing emerge during this pandemic, we’d like to share with you the 6 Sales Strategies to Grow Your Retail Sales this Christmas Season.
1. Consider the New Ways People Shop
Things used to be pretty simple: shop online or shop in-store. But if you want to make the most of your sales opportunities, you need to embrace the new ways customers want to shop. Depending on your customer’s health safety concerns and the communities where your stores are located, you might see demand for the following approaches:
The old ways to shop:
- Shop in-store, and walk out with the goods
- Shop online, with standard at-home delivery
- Shop online, and drop-ship to a friend/family member as a gift.
The new ways to shop:
- Shop in-store, and have it delivered to your home
- Shop online, and pick up in-store to avoid people and wait times
- Shop in-store, and have it delivered to a friend/family member as a gift.
When you consider the old and new buying methods, think whether your store is:
- Customizing the shopping experience to make the most of each of these old and new buying methods. Do you offer all of them? Are you treating all buying methods the same, or are you changing your approach so each customer gets what they want, when they want it, in the way they need it?
- Making customers aware of each available buying method, the pros and cons of each, and how each works, through clear communication and quick response times.
- Jumping on the fact that people will have to socially distance throughout the holidays. This means that special drop-shipping or gift-wrapping delivery options for gifts sent to friends and family can help set your store apart.
2. Consider Private Shopping
As retailers, we must accept that there are many shoppers who can’t shop during high-traffic times due to health concerns. Others may feel anxious and scared about contracting the virus, so they limit how and where they shop. And still others have simply become used to shopping online.
This has created a group of customers who feel isolated or left out of in-person shopping: they can’t, or simply won’t, come into your store.
To help bring these customers back we need to get creative by:
- Developing a “shop by appointment” process that allows customers to shop within a designated window of time so they can avoid lineups and wait times.
- Creating a “by-invite-only, VIP-treatment feel” for those who need to come in when store customer numbers are limited or reduced.
- Using email marketing to communicate with and invite your best customer groups.
3. Consider the Winter Weather
As Canadian retailers, we have to respect our Canadian winters. Depending on your community, you may have to force customers to wait in line outside, and the quickly shortening days means the sun sets earlier. So your customers may end up waiting in the cold and in the dark.
To help combat this, you must turn to your traditional ‘queue-busting’ strategies, but apply these strategies to all queuing periods by:
- Auditing your entire customer journey
- Taking into account that the shopping experience no longer starts when people walk through your doors. It now starts the moment they step onto the property or exit their vehicle.
- Making the queuing process as pleasant, warm, dry, and safe as possible.
- Covers or shelter from the snow, wind, and rain may be needed.
- Review your snow-shoveling process to keep all paths safe and clear.
- For safety, you need bright outdoor lighting and clear line-of-sight for security, staff, and other customers.
- If you’re going to play music, make the playlist long and varied (if you’ve ever spent an hour in line at the “It’s A Small World” ride you’ll know what we mean).
- Consider if you could expedite customers by taking orders in line or having runners grab items faster.
The goal here is to remove frustrations for customers. So any strategy that worked well in the past may be applied to these new times.
4. Consider Those Who Shop “Smart”
During uncertain times and economic downturns, many customers want to be smart and practical with their gift-giving. And what’s more practical than a gift card?
- Make gift cards easy to buy: have staff ask each customer if they would like to give a gift card, advertise them online, talk about them on social media.
- Make gift cards easy to share and give: make the giving process as simple as possible by avoiding complex profile sign-ups, systems, and other complexities that make the receiver jump through hoops to claim them.
- Make gift cards easy to redeem: of course, make sure that spending the gift card at your store is simple and easy.
Not only can gift cards create a referral-like opportunity to have new shoppers come into your store, but you can also make the process an engaging and fun experience.
5. Consider People “Gifting” to Themselves
Despite the fact that people are feeling down and out, recent shopping trends have shown that people like to buy gifts for themselves. Add to that the uptick in those taking on new hobbies like canning, painting, home improvement, cooking, health and fitness, and more, and people are just looking for a reason to spend on themselves.
Here are some simple ways to get people to buy more “gifts” for themselves:
- Give them a reason to buy now, for the future. Consider the products and experiences people normally buy when they get their tax return in the spring, and start selling those products early.
- Put “regular” non-gift products and services on sale.
- Launch BOGO sales to encourage a “buy one get one” mindset.
6. Consider Those Who Shop Late
As always, there’s a group of shoppers who will wait until the last minute. And while the industry has been warning the public to do their shopping early, we all know last-minute buying is going to happen, especially if postal and shipping services are bombarded with orders and delays.
Prepare your business, staff, and products for the “magic window,” aka the days before Christmas where the shipping window closes and as such, in-store shopping is the only way to get a gift without being “late.”
As this window comes up:
- Extend your business hours.
- Advertise current stock levels.
- Run a sale for in-store, in-stock products.
- Make parking, checkout, and other parts of the shopping experience faster.
- Move clearance sales up a few days to start before Christmas.
Lastly and possibly most important, be the understanding retailer who’s there to help those of us who are last-minute shoppers, and not the cold-shouldered, aloof retailer who scolds customers like a school teacher.
Change Always Brings Opportunity
Many things are now different, but something that hasn’t changed is the simple fact that people are built for community. We want to be around others. We want to go to places we love. And if we can’t be with our loved ones during the Christmas season, we’ll all be looking for creative ways to give.
As a retailer, this year is different. You have the opportunity to work hard, do more, and make a bigger impact than ever before. How? Create the right environment. Give your shoppers a reason to leave home and come into your store. And then give them a reason to shop early and come back often.
Or, there’s always the option of offering your own refreshments to add revenue to your bottom line. Offering car-side service is an excellent way to help guests maintain social distancing and provide convenience.
If you’re playing the short game, any one of these strategies should help drive up revenue. But if you’re playing the long game, one or all of these strategies will help make you the retailer that customers come to in December, and well into next year.