2012 Holiday Marketing: Beyond the Discount

Is this the season to be merry? According to recent reports, retailers are showing a surprising degree of optimism for the upcoming holiday season. If this current feel-good wave continues to wash over the market, are you prepared for what could be an unexpected up tick over the next few months or could you end up on the losing side of what could be a make or break quarter? In this month’s series of articles we look at ways to make sure all your cylinders are fired up on turbo sales power, with tips, insight and must-have marketing programs that will make sure the sleigh bells are ringing well into 2013.

Don’t Begin With A Bargain

According to a recent survey, many stores are planning to kick off their holiday sales race well before the pistol officially declares the start of the seasonal countdown. Some two-fifths of retailers surveyed said they’re beginning their winter sprint in October. When are you planning to fire the starting shot of your seasonal marketing campaign? Make sure if you start early, your campaign can be refreshed with new and time-suitable initiatives that will keep it fresh and current all the way through to December 24th.

While discounts and other promotions are favorite standbys in the lead up to the holidays, don’t kick off your holiday marketing programs with the ubiquitous xx% off messaging. There are other less profit-eroding ways to draw consumers in and increase sell-thru rates.

Eliminate Obstacles

Speak to your vendors on a regular basis to find out about any expected inventory shortages and delivery delays. Make sure you have a backup plan for worst case scenarios, and ask your suppliers what they can do to ensure that you don’t suffer if they have a merchandise deficiency or deliver late.

Now is the time (and we mean now) to take a look at your return policy. Is it easy-to-understand, clear and consumer friendly? Make sure your customers have all the information at their fingertips and are confident that returns will be honored. Consider offering additional time from purchase till well after the holidays to return gift purchases. Also make sure you prominently note the return policy on these gifts so buyers know if their carefully chosen present isn’t appreciated by the recipient, it can easily be exchanged.

Optimize the Obligatory

The beginning of the season is a great time to push ‘packages’ for the obligatory gift shopper. Many consumers dread the idea of the requisite gift shipping for co-workers, family, friends, the babysitter, etc. When consumers purchase gifts because they feel they have to, as opposed to wanting to, they search out inexpensive items that look impressive. Although the price points may be low, the volume is significant. and can add up quickly. From bejeweled silver USB sticks to gold initials, from charms and cufflinks to tie-clips and money-clips, make sure your local market knows that you’re the go-to store for ALL their gifting needs. Publicize your secret Santa and must-have gifting options early on, and offer a variety of promotional lures such as free gift boxing, buy 5 gift sets and get 1 free or even a ‘frequent’ purchase card that offers a gift of their choice from a curated selection or a discount/amount back on an item over a certain dollar amount.

Next week: Harvesting the power of your community, from online specials to social media buzz – how to make your word of mouth campaign your secret weapon.