Holiday sale strategy: 8 tips on holding one in (or just out of) lockdown
Although NSW and Victoria have both emerged from lockdown, many of Australia’s small business retailers are still recovering from the effects of COVID-19. And whilst it’s not a cure-all solution, there is one sales event on the horizon that could generate sales and provide some relief. Follow these eight steps to a winning holiday sale strategy.
Online sales are up year over year in Australia, particularly in the home and garden, food and liquor, hobbies and recreation segments.
Some small retailers will be hesitant to discount their prices after all they’ve been through. But there is a way to do it right. Here’s how.
1. Craft the right deals
This is perhaps the most important step in creating any sale strategy. Get it right and you’ll generate the sales volume you’re hoping for. But get it wrong and you won’t generate sales or — perhaps even worse — hurt your pre-holiday trading.
A few time-tested tips:
Choose specific products
Don’t just discount your products storewide. Choose wisely. Discount products you’re looking to turn over and reduce the prices heavily. Choose products where you have good sales margins so you can still make money.
Create product bundles and discount them. This way you are increasing the order value and turning over more stock. It will also ensure customers are not discouraged to pay full retail price on individual products later.
Provide add-on value
Value isn’t exclusively a discount factor. Provide some sort of value add. This could be a free product, monogramming or an exclusive add-on.
Include free shipping
Yes it’s an expense to retailers. But consider the impact that free shipping has for the consumer.
One study found found that ‘‘Free shipping offers that save customers $6.99 appeal more to shoppers than $10 discounts on products. Even though they save more with the discount.”
Discount by dollars, not percentages
Traditionally retailers are recommended to use percentage discounts for items under $100 and dollar discounts for products above $100.
But with consumers being flooded with holiday deals, I’d recommend you stick with dollar discounts regardless of the price of your product. Make it super clear how much money they’ll save.
Pro tip: Put the savings right in the Subject line of your email campaigns — people can’t resist a sale.
Design a few up-sells and cross-sells
To improve sales for your small business, you can either:
- Attract more customers or
- Increase your average order size
When considering the products you’ll discount, think about whether you have the ideal cross-sell or up-sell for each discounted product.
Related: How to prepare your business as COVID-19 restrictions ease
2. Get your sales platform ready
The second step in any sale strategy is to decide where you’ll sell your products. You can choose to:
- Create your own online store
- Sell direct via social media
- Join one of the leading marketplaces
Let’s discuss the options.
Creating your own online store
If you have a website for your business already, you may choose to keep to the same platform and simply add an e-commerce feature.
Launching your own store takes effort, but it gives you complete control of your profits.
For example, if you have a WordPress website, you will want to get WooCommerce added. This will make it possible to sell on your site. If you don’t have a website, then you have the opportunity to choose the best-suited platform, like GoDaddy’s simple Online Store Builder.
Selling on social media
There are three leading options — Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. It’s very simple to set up a Facebook store or Instagram shop and begin selling. Pinterest allows you to sell via your individual Pins.
One downside to selling only on social media? There’s no tracking system, so you’re liable to lose a sale if you miss a DM. And everything is manual — from payment processing to shipping.
Plus you don’t own customer data like emails — social media channels do — so you can’t create email lists and retarget customers with newsletters/website offers etc.
Joining a marketplace
One of the early hurdles for new online store owners is bringing people to your website.
However, marketplaces won’t be the right sales strategy for everyone. Some, like Etsy, specialise in particular kinds of items. If you sell handmade goods, then you have a great opportunity.
You can sell just about anything on platforms like Amazon, but these tend to be very crowded marketplaces. It can be hard to get attention.
Another downside to marketplaces is that you can’t gather emails to start marketing to your customers — as with social media, the marketplace retains all direct contact with your buyers. And of course, you pay fees for the right to sell on each platform.
If you don’t have the resources or know-how to build an online store or join a marketplace, you can simply take phone orders and offer curbside pickup.
Related: 5 tips for adding an e-commerce shop to your brick-and-mortar business
3. Optimise your store
Another good sale strategy that’s often overlooked by small retailers is conversion optimisation. With some smart adjustments, you can turn more of the people who are already visiting your website into paying customers.
There are a number of factors that can boost conversions:
– Site speed (this relates to your web hosting)
– Really good product photos
– Tantalising up-sells and cross-sells
– Abandoned cart emails (easily automated with GoDaddy’s Online Store)
Any time you spend getting these elements just right will pay off in more sales.
4. Work with other small businesses
As a small business, it can be difficult to steal any small slice of the customer’s attention during sales seasons. So consider working with other small businesses that sell products that complement (but don’t compete directly with) yours.
This sale strategy will boost your reach, because you’ll also be exposed to your partner’s customers, and improve your sales.
5. Set up a referral program
The big brands have their advertising budgets, but as a small business owner you need to be creative and efficient.
The basic concept is to present a customer with the opportunity to earn rewards for sharing your deal with their friends and family.
If their friends and family purchase their deal, they get rewarded.
One incentive you may want to consider is a future discount. This will encourage a repeat customer and turn a discount buyer into a loyal customer.
But you will need to present real value in this incentive for it to work. If you are rewarding them with a discount for a time where they’ll be buying at regular price, then you have margins to work with hopefully.
6. Start your promotions early
Don’t wait until the last moment to start promoting your deals. By that stage the big brands have already flooded the marketplace.
Implement a promotional campaign to run in the one or two weeks before the event. But don’t go too early or you run the risk of discouraging sales prior to the event.
Consider these opportunities to promote the event early including:
Invite customers to join a waitlist
Give them a sneak peek into the offers you’ll have and then encourage them to sign up to be notified. You won’t be the only business or brand doing this, so make sure you give them enough to grab their attention.
If you’re lucky enough to already have an email list and newsletter, then of course this is a great vehicle for the pre-sale promotion. Consider getting a professional email address that matches your web address to build the kind of credibility and trust that leads to higher email open rates.
Share sneak peeks into what you’ll be offering and get them excited. But consider getting them to subscribe with their email address, which will give you a more direct way to contact them when it starts.
Related: How to use Instagram ads to sell gifts
7. Day-of promotion
When it’s time to launch and promote your deals, you need to use every channel at your disposal.
- Your website. Display a sale banner at the top or in a pop-up to ensure that every visitor to your website is fully-aware that you have deals on. Link to sale pages.
- Email. Hopefully you’ve built up a waitlist of people just waiting on your word to take action. Or perhaps you have an email database you’ve built up over the years. Learn about email marketing in this post (with video).
- Social media. Let everyone know on your social accounts. Spend a small budget ensuring that the posts are boosted to your entire community and consider advertising to a wider audience.
8. Turn the attention into future sales
If you’re able to carve some of the attention for your own small business, then think about how you can bring these new customers back again. Here are three sale strategies to try:
Give them a reason to sign-up for regular emails
This is the simple solution. But don’t make it a generic ‘Subscribe to our email newsletter.’ With a ton of sale emails in their inbox, they’ll be dealing with email fatigue, so present some real value if they are to subscribe. Free samples or exclusive downloads are popular incentives to sign up.
Leave personal notes with your products
As a small business, you have some advantages, so play to them. Write personal, hand-written messages for customers when shipping their purchase.
Encourage online reviews
Take it a step further and ask these new customers for reviews. This will improve the likelihood of other new customers clicking Buy in the future.
Nail down your holiday sale strategy now
The small business retailer has been hit hard amidst the mass lockdowns. So the idea of getting excited about a sales event where you offer huge discounts is understandably difficult. But this is perhaps a glimpse into the future of retail, so instead of ignoring it, get involved.
I can’t overemphasise the importance in getting your deals right — don’t just run with the standard 20% off storewide.
Spend time on your products and pricing and get those sale offers right. Then use your size to your advantage, get creative and do what the big brands can’t do. It might take some time to figure it out but experiment!