10 Holiday Marketing Trends Every Small Business Can Leverage

If you haven't kept these ten holiday consumer trends in mind, it's not going to be such a wonderful life once sales reports hit your desk.
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Are you positioned to capitalize on holiday season retail sales that are expected to reach $863 billion this year? (Source: eMarketer)

Before you ask Santa to slip a Sable under the tree and take a swig of holiday cheer "I double-dog-dare ya!" to rethink, and possibly retool, your holiday marketing campaign. Why? Because if you haven't kept these ten holiday consumer trends in mind it's not going to be such a wonderful life once sales reports hit your desk.

So, as you finalize and launch your company's holiday marketing initiatives keep these trends in mind:

1. November and December are small business 'game time'.

According to the National Retail Federation, "20 to 40 percent of yearly sales for small and mid-sized retailers take place within the last two months of the year." Holiday shoppers can make or break your annual sales target. With this in mind consider innovative promotions (e.g., BOGO, loyalty rewards, and incentives with purchase) to move more inventory. If you operate a seasonal business, consider pre-selling and packaging services for future redemption. If you offer services, partner with a complimentary (not substitute) local company and co-market, respectively. Not only will you reach a new audience, the business you partner with will do the same. Co-marketing, when done correctly, is a win-win.

2. If you haven't started holiday initiatives you are already behind.

October 31st has come and gone. The only thing scarier than your neighbor's Halloween costume will be the look on your face if sales aren't what you'd imagine this holiday season. Studies reveal "49 percent of marketers will launch a holiday marketing campaign before Halloween." (Source: Experian) If you haven't started planning to boost holiday sales you are operating at a deficit.

3. Holiday shoppers have mobile on their mind and so should you.

"Mobile is expected to have an impact on 87 percent of all holiday purchases," according to the Mobile Marketing Association. This reinforces the importance of having a mobile-ready website. "A whopping 101.7 million consumers in the U.S. will make purchases via their mobile devices this holiday season, a 37.3 percent growth from last year." If your company website is not responsive to mobile environments (i.e., tablets and smartphones) you are missing out on valuable website traffic and subsequently sales. Engage with "mobile" holiday shoppers or they'll make a list, check it twice and you won't be on it.

4. Twitter is now a more viable shopping buddy than your spouse.

Yes, you heard it here first. "In a recent survey of Twitter users, 45 percent of respondents said they would rather take Twitter shopping with them than their husband or wife!" This simply means holiday consumers are steadily becoming more reliant on social platforms than ever before. So, carefully consider how you share holiday content on social media. For example, if you sell men's clothing, share "110 character" tips on how to shop for the man in your life, while linking to a landing page of top menswear picks from your store. Do you sell gourmet foods? If so, start conversations highlighting favorite holiday foods and share hi-res, professional product shots of your goodies with smart and tasty captions.

5. Social media is a holiday shopper's best friend.

Did you know that "64.8 percent of shoppers [will] use social media to find the perfect gift."? (Source: Crowdtap) Now's the time to pull out all the stops on your Ultimate Gift Guide for 'insert target audience here' and Must-Haves for 'insert target audience here'. Once you've pulled together your trusty, and completely biased gift list distribute it to your email subscribers, and share it with targeted media outlets. Lastly, ensure social media accounts are regularly updated with relevant content. Aim to make your customers' shopping experience easy-breezy and painless.

6. If you don't offer free shipping, it's a good time to start.

In order to compete in today's digital landscape you can't ignore the benefits of offering free shipping. Why? Because "42% of holiday shoppers actively seek out free shipping deals." (Source: statisticbrain.com) Consider this: If you, and a competitor offer the same exact product--and your competition offers free shipping--who is likely to land the sale? As Fit Small Business writer Jeanne Grunert explains, "Free shipping is such an appealing offer for the majority of consumers [...] that it makes sense to offer it as much as possible. Just remember to wrap shipping costs into the cost of goods to offset any potential losses."

7. Pay per click (PPC) advertising can usher in a holiday windfall.

If customers are not aware of your business they are even more unlikely to buy from you. This is where strategic marketing efforts come into play. One of the best ways to build awareness is through online advertising tactics like PPC. In fact, "PPC campaigns increase brand awareness by 63% when businesses use online advertising." Best of all you can advertise locally and attract customers with the products that they're searching for. And only pay when they click to visit your website or call.

8. Make your small business success list and check it twice.

Studies show that "sixty-two percent of marketers say their primary goal for holiday 2014 is to extend brand reach and drive sales." (Source: CMO.com) This figure bothers me because I'm left wondering what the other 38 percent of marketers want for the holiday? A new job, perhaps? Nonetheless, if you plan to increase reach and drive sales, start with a measurable plan. Take stock of how you currently market your business. Then take a closer look at which activities drive sales. Ramp up on what works and micro-test new initiatives during a season that is proven to produce above average results.

9. Online is huge, but so is 'the shelf'.

Online shopping is deservedly all the rage these days. But let's not forget those that still enjoy waiting in long lines and camping out in front of stores. It behooves every business to remember: "90 percent of U.S. retail sales are projected to occur in brick and mortar stores." (Source: ShopperTrak) If you don't operate a physical store, consider developing a presence within existing ones. Start with reviewing distribution channels and look for smart ways to partner with local stores.

For example, if you own a local courier service, inquire with retailers on offering delivery services to their customers at a discounted rate. Make it turn key and the store adds value and convenience for customers that cannot haul that new sofa on top of their SUV. In return, you drum up new business. In essence, don't discount the shelf. It will take a bit of creativity and initiative to build your holiday bottom-line.

10. Give, give, and give some more.

Nineteenth-century author Charles Dickens once wrote: "No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another." While your goal is to increase sales this holiday season, don't discount the importance of authentically giving back. If you support a local cause, now is the time to donate a percentage of sales to charity. You'd be surprised what can happen when you commit to a company culture of giving.

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