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How to prepare your retail store for the holiday season

September 21, 2022 | Published by Faire

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It’s beginning to look a lot like the holidays: In June, a survey by Salesforce reported that 42% of customers worldwide are shopping earlier thanks to inflation (and potential price increases that could come along with it). Thankfully, it’s early enough to reach customers before they hit their budget by stocking your inventory strategically, sprucing up your shelves—both online and in person—and optimizing your marketing channels. Read on for more tips.

Plan your inventory early

To capture consumer demand and avoid supply chain mishaps, calculate how much money to allocate to holiday inventory by reviewing sales numbers from prior years and carefully consider this year’s predicted consumer habit of shopping before peak season. Err on the side of buying your bestsellers earlier—and in smaller, risk-averse quantities—to account for both demand and potentially irregular lead times.

Within Faire, you can look at a brand’s expected lead time (located on the brand’s shop page) to see how long goods might take to arrive. If you don’t want to rely just on preset lead times and shipping windows, you can also contact the brand directly: Ask what shipping methods they’re using this year and inquire about any additional delays they’re experiencing before placing your order. To message a brand on Faire, use the chat feature.

While you may want to offer holiday items in your store, it would be especially wise to invest in evergreen items this season. Think of products you could continue selling year-round should you find yourself with overstock. This is a smart way to cut down on your holiday budget and ensure you offer products that appeal to customers shopping beyond the holiday season.

Prepare your e-commerce site

In the second quarter of this year, digital sales outperformed brick-and-mortar for the first time since early 2021—which means global consumers still rely on e-commerce. In fact, the Census Bureau of the Department of Commerce estimated that retail e-commerce sales will increase by 6.8% from the same time period last year. Today’s consumers are still looking for safety and convenience when it comes to holiday shopping, and an easy-to-use e-commerce site will deliver. 

From product details and photography to shipping information, now is the time to make sure your e-commerce site is up to date. Video is also increasingly effective, with Meta’s holiday marketing guide reporting that 55% of shoppers were inspired to buy gifts based on online videos.

It’s also worthwhile to ensure your online presence offers information about your business and how you got started. With more customers looking to shop small and support businesses that reflect their values, providing an origin story on your website is a great way to appeal to new customers.

Finally, verify that your e-commerce site is easy to navigate. Make sure the journey from discovery to checkout is straightforward and seamless. If you’ve curated holiday-specific collections or gift guides, make sure they’re easy for users to find and shop on your website. 

Play to your strengths with holiday gift guides

Gift guides can be a powerful sales tool this time of year, especially since 90% of North American consumers are willing to try new brands during the holiday season. This appetite for discovery allows you the opportunity to surprise and delight customers by introducing them to unique gifts from your store. One easy way to showcase these products is by putting together a holiday gift guide.

To determine how to categorize your holiday gift guides, consider your target customer. Think about who they’re shopping for and what values are important to them. Then, factor in your holiday inventory strategy. Your holiday gift guides don’t have to consist of completely new, holiday-specific products. Instead, they can be curated in a way that best fits your catalog of products. 

  • Holiday shopping guides can be broken into a variety of categories, such as gifts by hobby, lifestyle, or values. 
  • This is also a great opportunity to highlight your favorite or bestselling products. 
  • As an added incentive, try offering products grouped together as bundles for a discounted price. 
  • Eco-friendly products are increasingly popular. Astound Commerce’s recent Global Consumer Behavior Report noted that 68% of consumers are willing to pay more for a sustainable product—with 20% saying they were willing to pay up to 20% more.

Expand your marketing channels

Today, more and more customers use social media as a tool for discovery when online shopping. Having a presence on at least one social media platform is likely to increase your chances of reaching new customers. 

If you’re new to social media, try focusing on just one platform first. To shape your narrative, Instagram is a popular choice among creators and customers for commerce: Build a community, partner with influencers, boost sales, and drive traffic by following our easy-to-implement tips. It’s also a great platform for keeping customers up to date on sales, holiday hours, and other important business information. 

Instagram Live is proving to be particularly effective in offering potential buyers a more intimate look at your product, giving them the chance to ask questions and avoid buying unwanted items. This also helps you avoid contributing to a 20.8% online returns rate

A great way to engage new customers and build strong relationships with repeat customers is email marketing, which can be another valuable tool in building your business’s online presence. If you haven’t yet, find a way to collect email addresses from your customers, whether it’s a sign-up sheet at your store or a form on your website. Templates can be a huge time-saver, and it’s easier than you think to master the nuances of what kinds of emails to send. Emailing your patrons regularly keeps your business top of mind and is an easy way to drive traffic straight to your e-commerce site. It’s also another avenue to advertise any current sales or curated holiday collections. 

Create eye-catching holiday experiences

How you present your products can be just as important as the products themselves, inviting potential buyers to really get a feel for what you offer. Charm your customers this holiday season by utilizing visual merchandise to create striking seasonal displays. A seasonal display indicates to customers that your store is a destination for holiday shopping, and it can entice new customers to walk through the door. Today’s customers are eager for unique experiences when shopping, and creating a holiday display can be an opportunity to increase the time they spend in your store—and encourage them to refer your business to friends.

Whether you choose to decorate for specific holidays or simply embrace a winter wonderland theme, don’t be afraid to get creative with your in-store displays. You can also share pictures of your holiday decorations on your social media to encourage shoppers to visit. 

Finally, don’t underestimate the buying potential of increased foot traffic this season. Many customers are ready to get out and enjoy themselves while they shop, so lean into offerings that they can only get in person, like tastings, readings, and other sensory experiences. While you can easily put a seasonal spin on these kinds of offerings, they can also act as an evergreen extension of your marketing strategy.

Meet customers where they’re at

While some customers are beginning to feel safer in public spaces, Astound reported that consumers are hanging onto habits adopted during the pandemic, including omnichannel shopping.

  • Roughly 33% of global shoppers started and will continue to use the option for BOPIS (buy online, pick up in-store) this holiday season
  • 32% say they’ll continue to use curbside pickup
  • 27% say they’ll use buy now, pay later payment methods

These are still uncertain times, and it’s important to keep both your customers and employees feeling safe. Stay up to date on local CDC guidelines regarding Covid-19 safety and stock up on plenty of hand sanitizer to offer shoppers and employees. Avoid overcrowding in your store by setting a capacity limit or altering your store’s layout to avoid cramped spaces. If possible, offer contactless payment options at your store.

With some careful thought, a little creativity, and consideration of current trends, you can set yourself and your store up to optimize sales—and give customers what they want—this holiday season.

Browse our Holiday and Stocking Stuffers Collections on Faire.

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