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As the holiday shopping season approaches, retail conditions continue to be challenging, but small businesses have reason to believe this Black Friday will live up to its name — with revenues that push your numbers into the black. Consumer sentiment has never been more focused on buying from small and local businesses. Making the right moves now can help you seize this opportunity to create holiday shopping experiences that engage your community and boost your bottom line.
According to Deloitte, holiday retail sales should rise 1 to 1.5 percent this year, amounting to about $1.15 trillion from November to January. If consumers’ affection for small local retailers holds, small businesses should command their fair share of those increases.
Accenture found that more than half (56 percent) of consumers say they’re now shopping in stores closer to home, and 79 percent plan to continue doing so after the pandemic. Related consumer trends include strong interest in locally sourced, environmentally responsible, sustainable and ethically produced products. If you keep those values in mind and maintain a safe shopping environment, you can attract more community-minded consumers to your brand.
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To tap into these trends and make sure this year’s holiday shopping experience is safe and satisfying for your customers and your business alike, consider these seven tips:
1. Encourage customers to Shop Small
American Express created Small Business Saturday and the Shop Small movement, which offers resources to help your business make the most of the holidays — insights empowering you to help your customers have a safe shopping experience and more. Make sure to download digital marketing materials that can help encourage your customers to Shop Small with you on Small Business Saturday (Nov. 28) and all holiday season long.
2. Tell your story
Now’s the time to flex your status as a valued member of your local community. Consumers are looking for a reason to feel a connection to your business, so tap into that enthusiasm about shopping local by telling your story in marketing. Don’t forget to celebrate your staff as well; the public’s COVID-driven appreciation for frontline workers still lingers, and shoppers want to support them. Tools like Canva make it easy for you to create compelling content yourself — even if you’re a graphic design novice — with thousands of templates, stock art options and user-friendly drag-and-drop functionality that you can use to instantly publish smart content right from your laptop or smartphone.
3. Step up your promotions
It’s easier than ever to create and publish great content right from a smartphone, like the Galaxy Note10 or Note10+. A survey by Social Media Week found that 72 percent of consumers prefer learning about products and services through video rather than text. The Note10’s camera features — like hyperlapse and slow motion — make it easy for your business to create professional, compelling video stories. And don’t forget what’s tried-and-true: Discounts, bundles and exclusive offers are still highly effective for driving sales and engagement. Consider in-store tools like digital signage and display kiosks to draw shoppers’ attention and let them know about other products and services you offer. You could also consider offering promotional gift cards to drive future sales, as most customers will end up spending more than the card value.
4. Reinforce COVID safety
It’s likely been some time since you initially purchased health safety materials like social distancing signage, plexiglass screens and hand sanitizer. With holiday shopping coaxing some consumers into stores for the first time since the pandemic started, now is the perfect time to refresh your safety measures according to local requirements — and publicize those steps in marketing to reassure cautious consumers. A recent survey found that 68 percent of consumers find it helpful when companies address the global health crisis in their advertising. OSHA offers guidance on how specific types of business can make sure they’re staying COVID-safe.
5. Add contactless payment
Many consumers don’t want to touch retail technology right now. A Mastercard global consumer study found that nearly 8 in 10 consumers report using contactless payments in 2020, and 74 percent will continue to use contactless payment post-pandemic. So investing in contactless technology now will continue to pay off. Depending on your current point-of-sale (POS) system, that could be as simple as a software upgrade. If your POS system is older, going contactless may require a more significant change. Solutions such as eHopper allow you to enable self-checkout, virtual payment and loyalty rewards programs — while enjoying the benefits of a modern, cloud-based system that helps you adjust quickly to changing retail trends.
6. Add or expand your e-commerce presence
The surge of consumer interest in digital channels is expected to continue through the holiday season. Salesforce has forecast 30 percent growth in global digital commerce this holiday season, up from 8 percent growth in 2019. The more fulfilling and seamless your digital shopping experience, the easier it is for your customers to buy from you and skip the e-commerce giants. Consumers who said they won’t put in the effort to shop from local small businesses most commonly cited inconvenience (56 percent), followed by cost (48 percent), according to a recent survey. Sites such as Shopify, Squarespace and Magento offer step-by-step instructions for getting started — and provide a platform to host your online store.
7. Ramp up curbside pickup and shipping processes
Burgeoning delivery demand fueled by the pandemic is about to meet retail’s traditionally busiest shipping season, a phenomenon The New York Times dubbed Shipageddon. Fine-tune your processes for picking and shipping orders or preparing them for delivery or curbside pickup. Check in with your carriers for their recommended shipping deadlines, and be sure to spread the word about the many ways you can connect customers with their purchases while keeping them safe.
Making the most of the holiday season
Like many other industries, retail has been challenged to pivot quickly this year, as slow-moving trends like curbside pickup suddenly grew far beyond projections. By using essential tools like a strong digital presence, COVID safety measures and marketing programs such as Shop Small by American Express, you can make the most of the 2020 holiday season.