19 Nov 2012
By Angelica Moreno
Christmas, Halloween, Easter – the holidays are key for many business and it’s important to make the most of prime shopping occasions. Often, holiday sales are what make or break small businesses so you want to make sure you get it right.
Who doesn’t love the holiday season? Beautiful decorations, delicious treats, the smell of freshly baked treats and the sounds of caroling… we all have that warm vision of the holidays.
For a moment, take off your business owner hat and consider the holidays from your customers’ perspective. While at first, beautiful decorations, delicious treats, the smell of freshly baked treats and the sounds of caroling might spring to mind; consider the dark side of the holidays: the stress of shopping for the “right gift”, racing to parties, events, the pressure of hosting family dinners, sending out holiday cards in a timely fashion, decorating and of course, the financial strain of the entire affair.
Your goal should be to foster an environment that is conducive to shopping. It’s critical to create an atmosphere that encourages spending but doesn’t drive your customers crazy or further add to the frenetic pace they are experiencing.
Don’t start too early and end on time
No sooner has one holiday ended than it feels like another one is being celebrated. You want your customers to get into the spirit but you don’t want to force it upon them. Give people a chance to decompress from one holiday before launching into another one. You’ll also want to make sure you take down any decorations immediately. Leaving decorations out for too long will give your customers the feeling that you’re not on top of things.
Keep smells to a minimum
If you’re running a bakery, the smell of cinnamon and cloves can and will help bring customers through the door however, this strategy doesn’t work in every other environment. In fact, strong smells can alienate customers who are already suffering sensorial overload.
Decorations not visual explosions
A little tinsel goes a long way. The same can be said for lights, trees, Santas and any other holiday related decorations. The key is to brighten a space but not to overwhelm it. At no time should any holiday decorations compete with the products you are selling for your customer’s eye. Whether you’re a salon or a clothing store, you want customers to be able to relax in your environment so that they will feel comfortable spending their money. Keep the colour palette to a minimum. Colours are key signals to shoppers, think about the use of red stickers to promote a sale item. While one shade of red screams “discount”, another one can create a sense of warmth and elegance.
Keep religion out of it
Not only do you want to be sensitive to the diverse faiths of your customers, bear in mind that heavy religious tones can turn off anyone. Santa is one thing, a crèche with the baby Jesus is another. The key to creating a holiday mood is that it should be just that, a mood. The last thing you want is to make your customers uncomfortable or guilty because they haven’t been to a church, temple or other holy location in years.
Elegance not kitsch
Shopping is at its core, an indulgent experience. Even when the purchases are for another person, the paying customer feels good about finding the “right” gift. Your goal as a business is to foster that sense of indulgence. That’s why the tone of any seasonal display or decoration should be aspirational – something your customer would be happy to see in their home. Err on the side of caution and leave the singing reindeer out of your displays.
Gift Cards Done Right
Gift cards have become more and more popular and they are a great gift idea. If this isn’t something you’ve offered in the past, consider it for your business. Absolutely ensure that whatever you provide the customer is worthy of your business name being attached to it. Remember, this will be a gift as well as someone’s first impression of your business. It can be as easy as ensuring that the paper the card is printed on is of good quality weight.
During the hustle and bustle of the season, customers scramble to get everything done. Make sure your business is adequately staffed during key hours. The last thing you want is to lose sales because your store was closed while the competition was open or because there wasn’t sufficient staff on hand. Plan ahead and staff accordingly. Make sure that you prominently display your hours.
Angelica Moreno is a marketing professional who has managed the well-known household brands Becel, Hellmann’s and Sensodyne.