Another holiday shopping season is almost upon us, and retail market analysts are expecting an improvement of about 15 percent from the previous year. The American economy has fully recovered from the days of the Great Recession, and consumer confidence is mostly positive. It would take a major political scandal in the White House, at least more scandalous than what has transpired over the last couple of years, to lower expectations or derail the shopping season.
As has come to be expected, sales projections for the coming holiday season are largely based on what analysts see in relation to Amazon, the most dominant force in the global online retail sector. As the situation stands, Amazon could easily command 40 percent of all holiday retail sales, and up to 50 percent of online transactions, which translates into more than $38 billion generated in just a few weeks.
The ambitious business goals set by Amazon are becoming a reality one sale at a time. This is a company that is on a solid track to live up to its objective of being considered “The Everything Store,” and this is hardly limited to online sales; by acquiring the Whole Foods gourmet supermarket chain, Amazon has shown that it firmly intends to compete in the brick-and-mortar sector.
For small business owners in the retail sector, Amazon simply cannot be ignored. Many small retailers decide to join the third-party Amazon Marketplace if they wish to move their inventories or if they are manufacturers, inventors or exclusive distributors of white label products, but this greatly entails joining the competition instead of facing it head-on. While the 3P Amazon tier does completely represent giving up, there are other ways to compete against this retail behemoth during the holidays. Here are five strategies to consider in this regard:
There is no question that members of the Millennial Generation enjoy shopping from their smartphones. By the end of the 2018 holiday shopping season, 27 percent of all e-commerce sales will be completed by means of mobile transactions, and this trend should not be ignored by small business owners. E-commerce websites should either be coded by means of following responsive design principles or at least offer a mobile experience; ideally, a progressive web app solution should be offered instead of a native app because it will require less hardware, battery, and processing resources. Furthermore, mobile shoppers should be enticed with seasonal offers and discounts that they would not usually find in physical stores or desktop e-commerce sites.
Improving the Shopping Cart and Checkout Experience
Of the many things that Amazon has done right over the years, one of the most effective is its mobile shopping app, which currently generates nearly 60 percent of transactions. Taking a close look at how the Amazon app is structured, it is clear to see that the company has placed a great emphasis on streamlining the shopping cart and checkout process. A few years ago, the recommendations and impulse buying sections followed Amazon shoppers almost until the end; these days, the “one-click shopping” process is preferred. The actions and decisions of e-commerce shoppers should not be underestimated during busy shopping seasons, and this was first understood by eBay many years ago when it introduced the “Buy Now” option allowing shoppers to bypass the auction process.
Getting in the Spirit of the Season
Shoppers appreciate little touches that remind them of the holidays, and this is one of the reasons American store owners decorate their establishments weeks before the Thanksgiving holiday. Free gift wrapping, holiday cards and giving shoppers the opportunity to make charitable contributions are traditional gestures that can make a substantial difference during the season. In the case of e-commerce websites, adding a little holiday flair to the layout can go a long way, and the same can be said about offering holiday items that are not usually sold during the rest of the year.
Crafting an Adequate Social Media Strategy
Keeping shoppers engaged is a must during the holidays, and social media platforms are ideal in this respect. Business owners who follow an editorial calendar for marketing and promotional purposes are one step ahead, but it is never too late to get started. The holidays are great for blog posts, clever Twitter updates and sharing interesting facts about the season. Getting personal and a bit emotional can be a good idea; for example, employees who are military veterans can share stories about previously being stationed overseas for Christmas and how good it feels to be home this time around. Taking good photographs of holiday lights displays in the neighborhood can be a good idea for Instagram posts. Providing interesting statistics about the holidays and explaining traditions from around the world are always good strategies.
Making the Most Out of Promotional Products
This highly effective strategy has been practiced by major retailers such as Neiman Marcus for decades, and it is within reach of small business owners. When shoppers get promotional products during the holidays, they think of them as gifts and will certainly remember the gesture. Holiday promo products that unexpectedly arrive in a shipping box are a very nice touch, especially if they are holiday-themed items. A sporting goods e-commerce shop, for example, can include two ink pens, one red and the other green, perhaps decorated with a small snowflake design that includes contact information such as telephone numbers and social media pages; these are the kinds of promotional products that can be taken to the office, thus making them more effective.
In the end, small business owners should keep in mind that Amazon still needs to corner another 60 percent of the retail market to claim absolute supremacy; while the company still has room and intentions to grow, smaller retailers should not give up. The holiday shopping season cannot be claimed entirely by Amazon, and it is up to small business owners to stay relevant during this lucrative time of the year.