This year’s holiday shopping spree will be as frantic as ever, along with a few new wrinkles. Supply chain issues, staffing shortages, and shipping delays will still be there (but not as much as in 2021), and you’ll face new challenges like inflation and economic and geopolitical instability.
That’s why being prepared is the best way to navigate the holiday shopping spree this year.
30% of shoppers are already shopping for the season, and The NPD Group revealed that more than half of shoppers in the United States plan to start their holiday shopping before Thanksgiving. Interestingly, the vast majority of these first time buyers reported starting in September and October.
The traditional Christmas shopping rush is turning into a three-month sprint to New Year’s Day.
So you should expect the traditional rush and frenzy of shopping that have defined the past holiday seasons (procrastinators are going nowhere), though it will be preceded by a steady increase in sales in the weeks before.
This holiday season won’t grow as significantly as last year, but Deloitte predicts an increase in global sales, reaching almost 6%. E-commerce’s share of that holiday pie will also see a small growth dip, growing from 12.8% to 14.3% compared to last year.
The main takeaway here is that your business will face similar challenges during the holidays as the last two seasons, but with a more cautious customer base due to rising inflation and economic instability.
Don’t worry. The fact that the experts expect a drop in growth does not mean that your business will not reach the projected numbers. But you need to be prepared and think differently to grab your customers’ attention and wallet during the 2022 holiday shopping rush.
Have a Christmas shopping plan
With inflation, shipping delays, and other influences beyond your control, the need for a plan has rarely been more apparent.
How do you prepare for these momentous months? By creating a Christmas shopping playbook. Start by asking yourself the following questions:
- What strengths does my business have right now?
- How can I take advantage of those strengths during November, December and January?
- What are the biggest vulnerabilities in my business right now?
- How can I address these weaknesses to minimize disruption?
- What additional strategies can I introduce in the short term?
Armed with your answers, you can begin to make specific preparations. Everyone knows that the holiday shopping season is intense, but having a plan is what determines whether it’s manageable or if it turns into chaos.
10 holiday shopping tips for the season
Assessing your business using the questions above will reveal unique preparation opportunities in the coming months. These will be customized solutions based on your specific circumstances. But there are certain actions that almost all companies can benefit from. With that in mind, here are 10 tips to get you ready quickly.
1. Get your inventory up and running
You’ll want to get ahead of delays by making sure your inventory is in a good place. Confirm your inventory software is in sync with inbound and outbound deliveries so you can anticipate issues. The last thing you want is to lose sales because you can’t offer what customers need.
Review your sales data from previous years to project which products will be the most popular and where problems might arise. This analysis should help you identify inventory levels that will keep enough stock on hand without requiring you to invest too much money and risk overstocking after the holidays.
2. Prepare for shipping problems
Most manufacturing industries are still feeling the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, but here’s a prediction you may take to the bank: You’ll encounter shipping problems during the holiday season. Let’s agree on that fact and work to find solutions.
If you’re looking for new shipping and fulfillment partners in the run-up to this holiday season, pay close attention to their reviews. Whenever possible, talk to other business owners who have dealt with them. This due diligence will help you avoid getting trapped in a partnership with an unreliable company during the holiday rush.
Even in the best of times and with the best partners, there will be challenges. Talking to your suppliers and vendors is often the best way to find solutions. Use candor, with a healthy dose of diplomacy, to express your priorities and seek their points of view. Everyone wants to achieve the best results in these scenarios, so work together to anticipate and overcome obstacles.
3. Automate your messaging
The last thing you want to do while eating turkey and watching football is finish your email copy, social media ads, or your video sales letter. Get started now by planning your holiday shopping messages and time them so you can focus on delivering your products and customer service during the critical time in late November and early December.
4. Create gift guides
Holiday shoppers are looking for unique ideas that speak directly to the person they are shopping for. To enhance the customer experience, make gift guides based on your product catalog that cater to a specific demographic, such as “The Active Dad” if you sell sportswear or “Teen Scribe” if you sell personalized journals.
If you don’t have enough products to create a guide yourself, partner with a complementary business for a joint promotion or gift pack.
5. Get a review
Right now, customers are researching what gifts to buy for the holidays and discovering ideas through influencers and product reviewers. Many of these content creators are in holiday planning mode (as are you), so send them samples of your favorite holiday products for them to review. Even if your product doesn’t get a 5-star review, this is far better exposure than running an expensive social media ad campaign.
6. Target previous buyers on vacation
We know that it is much more difficult (and more expensive) to acquire new customers than to retain old ones. And during uncertain times, your loyal customers are what will keep your business running. Get your shopping data from the past holiday season and send a special incentive or exclusive product line preview to build momentum ahead of the holiday shopping spree.
7. Control your ad spend
With holiday shopping happening earlier than ever, you need to balance your ad spend during the holiday season. Although Black Friday and Cyber Monday remain high-earning earnings days, holiday shopping spending is spread out before and after the last weekend in November.
To reach new customers, you’ll need to consistently run ads with Christmas deals for 5-7 weeks. That can hit your ad budget quickly, so make sure you have fallback ads and messaging so you can switch if an ad underperforms in November.
Don’t double your bet for a week of shopping. Take control of your ad spend so you can test, adjust and capitalize on the extended holiday shopping season.
8. Incentivize abandoned carts
Due to rising inflation, customers will be looking for prices during the holiday shopping spree. That means you can expect more abandoned carts while customers wait to see if there’s a better offer from your competitors.
To rescue abandoned carts, offer a discount or free add-on product to customers who have waited more than 24 hours to checkout. Adding an extra incentive will help them make a decision and build future loyalty.
9. Strengthen your connections with customers
Communication channels should not be reserved just for your vendors and suppliers. Let your customers know how much you value their loyalty and assure them of your dedication to providing optimal service.
If you know ahead of time that a certain product will take longer to ship to customers, include that information in the ordering process. Setting realistic expectations early on is the easiest way to diffuse frustrations later on.
When orders are running longer than expected, contact customers with updates. You may not know when the delivery will arrive at your home, but you can at least let them know what steps you are taking to remedy the situation.
Do your best to keep your shipping processes running smoothly, as the goodwill of your customers is a precious commodity. You may hire additional staff to help you process orders. And you might consider expedited shipping. Despite the higher costs, if you deliver an exceptional experience, your customers could reward you with their loyalty (which can potentially far outweigh your shipping costs).
Read more: How to Increase Your Ecommerce Sales This Holiday Season
10. Take care of your employees
With so many external factors affecting your holiday season, it’s easy to forget about the people within the walls of your own business. If you have employees, take some time now to think about how you can take care of them during these intense weeks of the vacation months. Even small boosts to your engagement can generate a big return.
Don’t waste time guessing what your employees would appreciate. Instead, have a conversation with them. If salary is what matters most to them, you could offer them a bonus at the end of the holiday season if they hit certain milestones. If spending more time with loved ones matters to them, find ways to make the schedule more flexible. And if they’re concerned about safety amid the intensity of the holiday season, identify ways to reduce the risk of accidents.
How you take care of your employees is entirely up to you. But the process should start with a conversation and lead to changes based on your requests. When your employees see that you care about their opinion and are willing to act on their ideas, their engagement will naturally increase at just the right time.
Set the stage now for the holiday shopping rush
The lessons you are learning now should do much more than just help you in the weeks to come. By recording crucial data and tracking the impact of your efforts, you’ll have an even stronger playbook to work from next holiday season. With each passing year, your strategies can become stronger Y refined.
Sure, there will always be curves you won’t see coming. But the strategies that work for you this year absolutely must be considered in the future. Your goal will simply be to adapt them to the circumstances and see how you can get even better results.
Our library of free business courses provides valuable information that can help you navigate this holiday season. For example, you’ll learn how to write the most engaging and effective customer messages from Arman Assadi. And you’ll get financial tips from Alexa Von Tobel, which can help you as you build your inventory and make other investments to prepare for the holiday hustle and bustle.