For retailers, it’s the most wonderful time of the year and the season that presents some of the highest stakes and biggest challenges. Whether they’re selling their inventory in brick-and-mortar stores or on the web, retailers must think outside the (big) box to better focus on customers and serve them well during the busy holiday season.
Though each business faces unique challenges, there are some that both small business retailers and solo online retailers face during the holiday season.
Facing competition and predicting demand among top concerns for retailers
In October 2018, an independent survey of 588 retailers and retail managers revealed the impact the holiday season has on their businesses and personal lives. Of those retailers, over 25 percent said they’re working on Christmas Day this year. They’ve made it through Thanksgiving and Black Friday, which 50 percent and 82 percent (respectively) said they planned to work, but the holiday season isn’t yet over. And you can bet it remains busy as shoppers scramble to find perfect, albeit last-minute, gifts for their friends and loved ones.
But this doesn’t mean bringing in customers is a no-brainer. Retailers listed competing with other retail businesses as the most difficult aspect of the job during the holidays. Predicting demand and supplying enough products were the second and third most challenging.
If you’re a solo online retailer, these struggles might sound all too familiar. According to Quickbooks Self-Employed, 1 in 3 solo online retailers makes 50 percent or more of their profits during the holiday season. And alongside a list of personal struggles (finding time for family and the inability to relax), this group listed competing with other online retailers, predicting demand, and fulfilling orders as their top challenges.
But what can retailers do to ensure the challenges don’t turn into larger problems during crunch time?
Study the competition — make a list, check it twice
Study your competition to find out if they’re offering any deals, and if there is any way you can get ahead of the game by striking a better balance between promotions and traffic. Use your social media accounts and whatever tools you have in your marketing trunk to get the word out about special offers and exciting products. Entice people to jump to your page or walk into your store.
Make a list of your competitors’ messages and see how you can flip the script. Instead of doing copycat deals, create very targeted promos for your specific customer. Who is your ideal customer? What are they looking for, what have they searched for in the past, and how are they engaging with products you’re selling now? Gauge their enthusiasm and send emails or social ads that highlight those products or solve a very specific pain point for your customer.
Use last year’s data to predict this year’s demand
Look back on last year’s books. What products flew off the shelves, and which were less popular? Did you run out of any items? How much did you lose on overstock? If you kept detailed records, these can help you in pursuit of a better retail season this year. Planning your inventory according to last year’s numbers will put you in a fantastic position to do well. And if you compare your earnings from October and November of this year and last, you should get a pretty clear idea of the trend, which can help you decide how much inventory to keep and if you need additional employees.
Fulfill orders and supply products
Once you have a better idea of your inventory and staffing, you’ll need to stay organized as orders come in. To save time on orders, accountant Pat Catanzaro recommends batching out your credit cards one time per day, at the same time each day. Batching your credit card transactions once per day can allow you to focus more on the products and customers. And it can leave you feeling less like a juggler under the spotlight. After all, the better records you keep, the better off you’ll be the next day, and the next time the holiday rush rolls around.
For more ideas on how retailers can prepare for the busy season, check out these tips and tricks for getting the most out of the holidays and preparing your small business.