The holiday season is quickly drawing in. Holiday adverts are sneaking in here and there, you think you caught the end of a Mariah Carey class when you last visited Walmart, and your brain is running overdrive.
How do you attract customers this holiday season, like Mariah takes over the radio? Will there be the same demand as previous years, given the current economic situation?
Good news. The holiday shopping rush this year will be as frantic as ever, along with a few new wrinkles. That’s why being prepared is the best way to navigate the holiday shopping rush this year.
The current economic climate has led to some interesting spending behavior in Q3 of 2023, and it is reasonable to believe those trends will continue through Q4.
According to Finances Online, 41% of consumers with annual household incomes less than $50,000 are spending less in Q3, but nearly the same percentage of those with incomes of more than $100,000 have increased their spending.
The traditional holiday shopping rush is turning into a three-month sprint to New Year’s Day. So you should expect the traditional rush and frenzied buying that has defined past holiday seasons (procrastinators aren’t going anywhere), though it’ll be preceded by a steady ramp-up of sales in the weeks prior.
The main takeaway here is that your business is going to be facing similar challenges during the holidays as the last two seasons but with a more cautious customer base due to the rise of inflation and economic instability.
Don’t worry. Just because experts expect a dip in growth doesn’t mean your business won’t hit its projected numbers. But you need to be prepared and think differently to get your customers’ attention and wallet during the 2023 holiday shopping rush.
Have a Holiday Shopping Plan
With inflation, shipping delays, and other influences beyond your control, the need for a plan has rarely been more apparent.
How do you prepare for these momentous months? By creating a holiday shopping playbook. Start by asking yourself the following questions:
- What strengths does my business have right now?
- How can I leverage those strengths during November, December, and January?
- What are my business’s biggest vulnerabilities right now?
- How can I address these weaknesses to minimize disruptions?
- What additional strategies can I introduce in the near term?
Armed with your answers, you can start making targeted preparations. Everyone knows that the holiday shopping season is intense, but having a plan is what determines whether it’s manageable or descends into chaos.
10 Holiday Shopping Rush Tips for the Season
Evaluating your business using the questions above will reveal unique opportunities for preparation in the coming months.
These will be tailored solutions based on your specific circumstances. But there are certain actions that nearly all businesses can benefit from.
With that in mind, here are 10 tips to get you ready in a hurry.
1. Get Your Inventory in Gear
You’ll want to get ahead of delays by making sure your inventory is in a good place. Confirm that your inventory software is synced with inbound and outbound deliveries so you can anticipate issues.
The last thing you want is to lose out on sales because you aren’t able to deliver what customers need.
Review your sales data from prior years to project which products will be most popular and where issues might arise. This analysis should help you identify inventory levels that will keep enough stock on hand without requiring you to invest too much money and risk an overload of stock post-holidays.
2. Prepare for a Different Type of Holiday Shopping This Year
It’s no secret that the world economy is in a precarious position currently. With new conflicts seemingly breaking out each week and the COVID hangover well and truly in full force, expect the current economic downturn to impact spending this winter.
With rising inflation and cost of living leading to less disposable income, you will have to fight harder than ever to attract customers to your brand. For those that do, be sure to thank them and make them feel valued for choosing your brand, and don’t be afraid to accept lower profits in return for volume this winter, in the anticipating of more frivolous spending in the future and a larger customer base to go after as a result.
3. Automate Your Messaging
No one wants to be overworked during the holiday period, even entrepreneurs who love their job!
Start now by planning out your holiday shopping messaging and schedule them so you can focus on delivering your products and customer service during crunch time in late November and early December.
Take advantage of email automation programs to automate as much of your customer journey as possible while also ensuring it is highly relevant and personalized to each individual.
4. Create Gift Guides
Holiday shoppers are looking for unique ideas that speak directly to the person they’re shopping for. In order to make the customer experience better, make gift guides based on your product catalog that fits a specific demographic, like “The Active Dad” if you sell athleisure apparel or “Teen Scribe” if you sell custom journals.
If you don’t have enough products to create a guide yourself, partner with a complementary business for a joint promotion or gift bundle.
5. Get Reviewed
In a world where AI-generated content is increasingly common online, potential customers are searching for authenticity, and what better way to show that than by collating as many great reviews from real customers as possible?
Ask your past customers for their open and honest feedback to help garner these, as even if they provide less positive remarks, it may highlight issues you can fix before the big holiday rush.
Another great option is to get your products reviewed by influencers and product reviewers. Many of these content creators are in the planning mode for the holidays (just like you), so send them samples of your favorite holiday products to review. Even if your product doesn’t get a 5-star review, this is still far better exposure than running an expensive ad campaign on social media.
6. Target Previous Holiday Shoppers
While your competitors spend hours trying to coax new customers to their brand, spending big on advertising campaigns, they often forget one crucial pot of warm leads they should be tapping into, which is your former customers.
We know it’s much harder (and more expensive) to get new clients than keep old ones. And during uncertain times, your loyal customers are the ones that are going to keep your business humming.
Pull your purchase data from the last holiday season and send a special incentive or an exclusive product line preview to build momentum going into the holiday shopping rush.
7. Pace Your Ad Spend
Doesn’t it feel like the holiday shopping and advertising starts earlier every year? When you start to see your competitors splashing out on holiday adverts, it can be tempting to go all in from day one. It’s important to pace yourself.
The holiday season is a marathon, not a sprint!
Although Black Friday and Cyber Monday are still high-performing revenue days, the holiday shopping spending is spread out before and after the last weekend in November.
In order to reach new customers, you’re going to have to consistently run ads with holiday offers for 5-7 weeks. That can dip into your ad budget quickly, so make sure you have alternate ads and messaging so you can pivot if an ad is underperforming in November.
Don’t double down on one week of shopping. Pace your ad spend so you can test, adjust, and capitalize on the extended holiday shopping season.
8. Incentivize Abandoned Carts
As inflation is showing no signs of slowing down any time soon, customers are going to price shop during the holiday shopping rush. That means you can expect more abandoned carts while customers wait to see if there’s a better deal from your competitors.
To rescue abandoned carts, offer a discount or free add-on product to customers who’ve been waiting to purchase for more than 24 hours. Adding an extra incentive will help them make their decision and create loyalty moving forward.
9. Strengthen Your Connections with Customers
When executing a marketing plan, it is easy to think you only need to communicate with leads, vendors, and providers.
But what about your loyal customers? They won’t be so loyal for long if you don’t show them you care. Let your customers know how much you value their loyalty and assure them of your dedication to providing optimal service.
If you know in advance that a certain product will take longer to ship to customers, include that information in the ordering process. Setting realistic expectations at the onset is the easiest way to diffuse frustrations down the road.
When orders are delayed more than you anticipated, reach out to customers to give updates. You might not know when the delivery will arrive at their home, but you can at least let them know what steps you’re taking to remedy the situation.
You’d be amazed at how far a little communication can go when you are open and honest with your audience. Often, they will appreciate the update, accept the situation, and forgive you for any delays.
But if you leave them in the dark, don’t expect them to be so forgiving.
Do everything you can to keep your shipping processes moving along at a good pace, as the goodwill of your customers is a precious commodity. Perhaps you hire additional staff to help you process orders. And you might consider expedited shipping. Despite the higher costs, if it provides an exceptional experience, your customers could reward you with their loyalty (which can potentially far outweigh the shipping costs).
10. Take Care of Your Employees
With so many external factors impacting your holiday season, it’s easy to forget about the people inside the walls of your own business. If you have employees, take time now to think about how you can take care of them during these intense weeks of the holiday months. Even small boosts to their engagement can yield a big return.
As a business owner, it is easy to motivate yourself during what is likely the busiest period of your year. After all, the more business you do, the more money your company makes, and the more the company makes, the more you make, too.
However, an employee’s value is not tied to the company’s success in such a tangible way. Instead, they need more transparent support and reward during these busy periods.
Don’t waste time guessing what your employees would appreciate. Instead, have a conversation with them. If they care most about pay, you could offer a bonus at the end of the holiday season if they hit certain goals. If they care about spending more time with loved ones, find ways to make the schedule more flexible. And if they’re concerned about safety amidst the intensity of the holiday season, identify ways to reduce the risk of accidents.
How you take care of your employees is entirely up to you. But the process should start with a conversation and lead to changes based on their requests. When your employees see that you care about their opinion and are willing to act on their ideas, their engagement will naturally increase at just the right time.
Remember, a little extra effort now can go a long way in the future.
Keep Learning: How to Boost Your Ecommerce Sales This Holiday Season
Set the Stage Now for the Holiday Shopping Rush
The information shared in this article is not just valid for this holiday season. On the contrary, the Foundr elves have given you the gift of knowledge that can be used for many years to come. By recording crucial data and tracking the impact of your efforts, you’ll have an even stronger playbook to work from next holiday season. With each passing year, your strategies can become more robust and refined.
Sure, there will always be curveballs that you won’t see coming. But the strategies that work for you this year should absolutely be considered in the future. Your objective will simply be to adapt them to the circumstances and see how you can get even better results.
Our library of free business courses provides valuable insights that can help you navigate this holiday season. For example, you’ll learn how to write the most eye-catching and effective customer messages from Arman Assadi. And you’ll get finance tips from Alexa Von Tobel, which can help as you increase your inventory and make other investments to prepare for the holiday rush.
This article was updated with support from Graeme Whiles.