The year is coming to an end, which for retailers means the holiday shopping season is here. With big box stores offering jaw-dropping deals to eager customers, small businesses have to work extra hard to get a share of the holiday spending.
Here are some tips for attracting holiday buyers to your small business—and making sure they come back long after Santa Claus has ho-ho-ho'd away.
1) Establish a Web presence
Every business needs a website, especially if you want to sell your products to a broader audience than your physical store. Steve Fisher at Network Solutions offers really good advice on setting up your e-commerce store in time for the holiday rush, such as preparing inventory and using pay-per-click advertising to bring in new customers.
If you're selling products online, you'll want to make sure you're ready for Cyber Monday, the online equivalent of Black Friday. This year, Cyber Monday is on November 29th, the Monday following Black Friday. Sign-up to get emails from other companies about their Cyber Monday specials and you can see the type of specials they are promoting. Online retailers frequently offer free shipping or a gift with purchase during this time.
Part of selling online means considering your international shoppers. In 7 Ways to Extend Your Global Reach In a Shrinking World, Karen Rogers shares the story of Tobago Wild, an environmentally responsible island fishing operation that provides fresh fish to top restaurants around the world. With the Internet, it's easy to sell to customers not in the region or even the same country in which you do business.
2) Utilize social media
The holiday shopping season is a great time to engage with customers using social media, especially during the last couple weeks. You or your staff can answer technical or customer service-related questions on Twitter, or you can post special offers on your company's Facebook page. With your own busy schedule, the best part is that you can do it all remotely via your smart phone.
Jennifer Van Grove at Mashable offers some creative ideas for using social media to market during the holidays. If you haven't yet set up a social networking strategy for your small business, check out Social Media & Your Business, a handy guide to get you started.
3) Offer superior customer service
At the end of the day, no matter how hard you may try as a small business tries, it simply can't be on equal footing with a big-box retailer. Forget trying to compete head-to-head with Wal-mart or Target. Instead, show your customers the benefits of supporting a small business and provide them with an unparalleled level of customer service.
It is quite possible that customers may find a cheaper price elsewhere for holiday goodies. But an exceptional shopping experience with you can bring them back all year long as customers.