The holiday shopping rush this year will be as frantic as ever, along with a few new wrinkles. The supply chain issues, staffing shortages, and shipping delays will still be there (but not as bad as in 2021), and you’ll be facing new challenges like inflation as well as economic and geopolitical instability.
That’s why being prepared is the best way to navigate the holiday shopping rush this year.
30% of shoppers are already buying for the season, and The NPD Group revealed that more than half of shoppers in the United States plan to begin their holiday shopping prior to Thanksgiving. Interestingly enough, the vast majority of these early shoppers reported that they were beginning as early as September and October.
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.
This holiday season won’t grow as significantly as last year, but Deloitte predicts an increase in global sales, reaching nearly 6%. The ecommerce share of that holiday pie will also see a bit of a growth dip, down 12.8% to 14.3% growth compared to last year.
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 2022 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 Shipping Issues
Most manufacturing industries are still feeling the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, but here’s a prediction you can take to the bank: You will encounter shipping problems during the holiday season. Let’s just agree on that fact and work to find solutions.
If you’re seeking new shipping and fulfillment partners in the lead-up to this holiday season, pay close attention to their reviews. Whenever possible, talk to other business owners who have dealt with them. This due diligence will help you avoid getting locked into a partnership with an unreliable company during the holiday rush.
Even in the best of times and with the best partners, there will be challenges. Talking to your suppliers and vendors is often the best way to find solutions. Use candor, with a healthy dose of diplomacy, to express your priorities and seek their insights. Everyone wants to achieve the best results in these scenarios, so work together to anticipate and clear hurdles.
3. Automate Your Messaging
The last thing you want to be doing while eating turkey and watching football is finalizing copy for email, social media ads, or your video sales letter. 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.
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
Right now, customers are researching what gifts to buy for the holidays, and they’re discovering ideas through 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
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
Because holiday shopping is happening earlier than ever, you need to balance your ad spend through the holiday season. 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
Because of the rise in inflation, 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 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
The channels of communication shouldn’t be reserved for only your vendors and providers. 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.
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.
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.
Set the Stage Now for the Holiday Shopping Rush
The lessons you’re learning now should do much more than simply help you in the coming weeks. 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.