As the summer heats up, you may be thinking about planning a vacation or taking a breather if this isn’t your busiest time of year. But the reality is that the busy winter season is less than five months away. And while that may seem like a long time, if you want to make the most of the busiest shopping season this year, it’s time to start planning now. Last year, consumers spent more than $600 billion during the winter holidays, and the National Retail Federation is predicting a 4.1 to 10 percent increase this year, depending on the industry. To get your share of the pie, here are five areas you should start thinking about now.
1. Make Your Website Mobile Ready
Earlier this year, Google rolled out a new algorithm dubbed “Mobilegeddon” that aimed to ensure mobile users will see search results for mobile-friendly sites. And last month, the company announced that more Google searches now take place on mobile devices than on computers in 10 countries, including the United States. If you’re a retailer relying on winter sales this year, it’s critical that your website is mobile ready before consumers start shopping. If you’re not sure whether your site is mobile optimized, Google offers a test that will check your URL. If you find that it’s not, contact companies like MobilizeToday or WompMobile to make the necessary changes.
2. Update Your Marketing Plan
To draw in the most consumers this busy season, your marketing campaign should be updated to reflect your current brand, and that will take some strategic planning on your part. Begin by narrowing down your target market, and then devise a plan that takes into account the best ways to reach them. You should designate a reasonable marketing budget before you start to guide your efforts and help ensure your ROI will be sufficient.
3. Analyze Your Cash Flow and Take Steps to Improve It
Along with increased winter sales comes a need for higher inventory levels, increased staffing costs, and a bigger marketing budget. All of these expenses are necessary to attract new customers and make additional sales. But if your cash flow isn’t what it should be, your efforts could be hampered. Take a look at your current cash flow situation, and determine how you can improve it to get the extra funds needed to reach holiday shoppers. For example, you might want to begin using lower-cost software alternatives, renegotiate your lease, sell your old accounts receivable, begin asking for deposits from customers, or sublease unused office space.
4. Look to Your Best Customers to Find New Ones
The people who buy from you on a consistent basis are already sold on your products and your company. You can tap into that loyalty by asking them to refer you to their friends and family, which should help increase your winter sales. You can do this in several ways. Simply ask them for referrals, give them a perk or incentive to refer others to you, or offer the people they refer a one-time discount as new customers.
5. Update Your Employee Training and Incentivize Sales Staff to Sell More
Shoppers will be frazzled during the busy season, so it’s important that your staff is ready and capable enough to make their shopping experience pleasant. Prepare your staff for the busy season by updating their training, and making sure they know how to handle all of the possible scenarios that might occur. For instance, do they know what to do if an advertised item sells out? Are they familiar enough with your products that they can answer all customer questions confidently? In addition to making customers comfortable, your sales staff should be trained to sell more. Teach them how to upsell and encourage customers to consider buying complimentary items. You can hold contests and reward the employees who sell the most, or set goals for each of them and reward them when they’re reached.
We may be in the midst of the lazy days of summer, but the busiest time of the year is just around the corner. How will you ensure your business is ready to meet the challenge?