Although the official start of the holiday sales season has historically been Black Friday, smart retailers know that you need to begin preparing months before that to be ready for the rush.
Part of being prepared means knowing how consumers plan to spend their dollars during the holiday season. CPC Strategy recently released its 2017 U.S. Holiday Shopping Forecast, which sheds new light on how consumers are likely to approach their holiday shopping list in the fourth quarter. The forecast is based on the survey results of 1,500 shoppers who were asked about their holiday shopping expectations.
Sales are not perceived to be a problem for the 2017 holiday season. In fact, according to the survey results, they may be even higher than sales from the 2016 holiday season, as 88.1 percent of those surveyed planned to spend the same as or more than they spent last year.
Based on CPC Strategy's research, here are three steps small retailers can take to prepare for holiday sales this year.
1. Capitalize on Black Friday fatigue.
Black Friday has been the backbone of the holiday sales period for at least the last 30 years. But because of Amazon and other online retailers, that single day of sales has morphed into a series of special sales days throughout the year, including Amazon Prime Day, Cyber Monday and Singles' Day. These alternative mega-sales days have seen sales grow dramatically in the past year. For example, Prime Day sales in July of 2017 grew by more than 50 percent.
The change in shopping habits extends far beyond these individual days. In general, 35.5 percent of shoppers have said they are more likely to begin shopping for products before the Black Friday sales. Another 32 percent reported planning to wait to begin shopping until the month of December, thanks to the ongoing sales offered by online merchants and the shipping policies of retailers like Amazon.
This can work for small business owners because it means consumers are not expecting to shop only at big-box stores on Black Friday for their holiday needs. By leveraging online and traditional advertising to encourage shoppers to avoid crowded mega-sales and visit smaller, locally owned businesses, they can capitalize on the Black Friday fatigue and the interest in bespoke gift options.
2. Find ways to make free shipping work for you.
The survey showed shoppers now expect fast, free shipping. Who wouldn't want to avoid crowded stores and congested roads, and quickly receive their purchases at home at no extra cost?
It is almost impossible for small businesses to compete with the free two-day shipping so many consumers now expect. Instead, consider offering free shipping for minimum purchases, only on designated holiday sale days, or on all items by raising the base price of the product to cover some or all of the shipping costs.
3. Help consumers shop small online.
Another interesting trend, especially in the 18- to 34-year-old demographic, was the interest in purchasing gifts from small marketplaces such as Etsy. Nearly 10 percent of respondents specifically identified Etsy as an online shopping destination, while another 22 percent said they'd be shopping at a specialty retailer and nearly 25 percent plan to shop at an in-store specialty retailer.
Small business owners who primarily serve local consumers need to consider offering their products in an online venue such as Etsy to take advantage of the growing interest from consumers in supporting small businesses. There is still time to create an online presence before the holiday shopping season is in full swing or to improve marketing for an existing online destination.
Online retailers, most noticeably Amazon, have significantly changed the way shoppers approach holiday shopping. Small businesses can still compete if they are willing to change the ways in which they do so.