After a strange year, full of lockdowns, downturns and business turmoil, there’s finally a few Christmas lights twinkling at the end of the tunnel.

Many Australian small businesses will be banking on a bountiful holiday season to fill the till and begin bouncing back. In fact, it may be critical to survival.

This means that the canny business owner will be looking to gain every possible edge to maximise their cash flow and profits through the festive season. Will you be joining them?

What can you do to get your retail busines ready for a cashed-up Christmas?

1) Look back a year

Look back to what happened during the holidays a year ago. Look back another year. And another. What story is the data telling you?

Be sure to interrogate data sets and reports drawn from your accounting software, inventory solution and CRM. You’ll be presented with a Christmas tale that will paint a picture of what to expect.

  • What sold well?
  • What sold poorly?
  • What kind of turnover and stock levels did you encounter?
  • Did you waste money on expenses or stock you could have done without?
  • What were the busiest and slowest periods of the day or week?
  • Did you have enough staff, or too many?
  • Were your promotions successful?
  • Did you have system issues?
  • Could you meet demand?

As with most things in business, you can draw very reasonable predictions by looking backward. It’s not perfect but learning lessons from prior years will help you avoid wastage and boost your sales opportunities.

Data processing may be dull but it’s extremely valuable.

“As data piles up, we have ourselves a genuine gold rush. But data isn’t the gold. I repeat, data in its raw form is boring crud. The gold is what’s discovered therein.”

Eric Siegel, author of Predictive Analytics.

2) Stocking up

Based on your data review, you’ll now have a dependable guide to what your stock levels should look like. Running out of stock when customers are lining up is a worst-case scenario for any retail business.

Having said that, blowing your capital on a bloated inventory that will languish in storage is a great way to destroy your cash flow and profits.

Keep in mind that global supplies are still compromised by the pandemic.

You need to order early, have contingencies, and never rely solely on gut instinct or memory when ordering stock. Always refer to the data.

3) Your website and online systems need some love

We’re a fickle bunch. If a website takes too long to load, a product is too hard to find or the process doesn’t instill confidence, then we’re gone.

With the eCommerce space growing more competitive, professional, and widespread by the month, you can never lower your guard.

Before it gets busy, do a thorough website review:

  • Can you increase site speed?
  • Can you make the eCommerce process smoother?
  • Do you have abandoned checkout reminders?
  • Are you tracking visitors with Facebook pixels or for Google remarketing?
  • Have you prioritised your best sellers?
  • Are your tabs and menus lean and easy to navigate?
  • Do you have a festive season landing page with any specials or promotions?
  • Have you done an SEO review recently?

4) Invest in a social blast

More than any other time of the year, you’ll have more to gain from investing in a solid social media campaign during Christmas.

It’s likely that you’ll have a promotion ready to go. Paid social media ads, boosted content, tracking pixels and the like will capitalise on these promotions and boost your website and store visitation.

Even if you don’t have a promo going, you should focus paid posts on your most popular products and direct your sales leads to a custom landing page or contact form. A strong seasonal social media blitz will pay dividends during a period of heightened competition.

5) Retarget old customers

Using your CRM data, do a blast to previous customers. Make good use of segmentation to deliver targeted emails and social messages to re-engage those who have already bought from you. You’ll experience far less friction and a lower cost per lead by focusing a campaign on repeat business.

“Email marketing is one of the most cost-effective ways for marketers to reach consumers at the last minute and on modest budgets. That said, customers will receive hundreds of emails a day during the holiday season, so make your email marketing campaign count with dynamic content that is relevant and tailored to users.”

Jon Morris, founder and CEO of digital marketing agency Rise Interactive.

6) Inspire urgency

A sense of urgency does wonders for your sales figures. If you have a Christmas promotion or eCommerce product hinging on the busy postal system then highlight this.

Throughout your website, socials, ads, and physical signage, put a date to your offers and punctuate the urgency of missing out before Christmas arrives.

“Without a sense of urgency, desire loses its value.”

Jim Rohn, American entrepreneur, author, and motivational speaker.

7) Create a buzz

This is particularly relevant if you have a physical outlet. By spending some effort to create a memorable, themed, fun, and approachable environment, you’ll be a magnet for shoppers. A buzzing atmosphere is alluring and infectious.

“You walk into a retail store, whatever it is, and if there’s a sense of entertainment and excitement and electricity, you wanna be there.”

Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks.

8) Focus on post-Christmas sales

Once Christmas is over, the savvy retail business owner will be looking for a second bite of the cherry. Post-Christmas and New Year’s sales are a proven way to keep the customers rolling in.

Plan for this early. Decide on your sale discounts, crunch the numbers, and have a second marketing campaign ready to go.

If you’re prepared to follow up your busy holiday activity with another campaign, you can double down on your opportunities and extend your sales rush. Just be sure you have your second campaign cocked and loaded now – before it gets busy.