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In our last blog post we talked about the sales spike at the end of the year, and about getting your business systems in place ready for the Christmas and holiday shopping season. In this post, we’ll look at what you can do to maximise revenue from early buyers. The holiday season used to start at the end of November, but the start of of the season keeps getting earlier. Last year 6 out of 10 retailers started holiday promotions before the end of October[1]. Data from Google Consumer Surveys[2] also shows that 30% of buyers who are planning ahead will also begin their shopping before October is out. If you wait until the end of November to start your promotions, you’re likely to miss out on sales. The trick is to find the balance between taking advantage of the holiday season starting earlier than ever, whilst avoiding decreasing margins with discounting too early on. 

Watch your competitors

If other retailers start their promotions first, you risk losing business, but you don’t want to give profit margin away too soon. So when do you launch your marketing? Figure out who your competitors are, and watch them like a hawk so that you can react quickly when they make a move. Sign up for their email newsletters, make a point of checking their website each week and if you use pay-per-click advertising, keep an eye on the keywords they are bidding on. If you’re confident that you have sufficient inventory for the season and profit margin to soak up price reductions, then maybe it’s up to you to make the first move.

Ramp up your marketing

Getting your brand or company in front of potential customers far in advance of when they actually buy means that when the time comes to make the purchase, they come to you first. Analyze your sales data from last year to see who ordered at what times, and get in touch with the early birds. It’s likely that people who planned ahead last year are going to do the same again, so you can send a targeted email to these customers, offering them an incentive to buy early again. You also know what they bought, so take the opportunity to make personalized recommendations.

Support your customers’ planning process with wish lists

Wish list technology has been around a long time and is now available for pretty much every e-commerce platform, as well as marketplaces like eBay and Amazon. As a merchant, there’s not a lot you can do to with customers' list making tools on the marketplaces, but wish lists on your own website are a great way for you to gauge interest in various products ahead of time. Check out an article from AppAppeal.com called ‘Top 13 wish list apps’, they highlight a variety of apps with wish list capabilities available on free plans. Magento also have wish list extensions available on their marketplace and Shopify have a wide range of free and paid for pre-built wish list apps which you can find in their app store. The Shopify Partner Team recommend ‘Shopify Wishlist’ which boasts strong five star reviews.

Wish lists can also provide an opportunity to collect email addresses for future marketing, and the great thing about this data is that it’s linked to specific products. The sooner you put something in place, the sooner you start capturing potential customers.

Turn early customers into repeat customers

As the holidays approach, shipping deadlines become tighter, and buyers put more emphasis on fast, reliable delivery. People want to buy from suppliers that they can trust to deliver on time. Impress your early season customers, and build that trust – so that when they come to make last minute purchases, they are more likely to buy from you again. Simply sending a “thank you” email or SMS a week after they have purchased to check that everything was delivered OK can go a long way to strengthening the relationship. Shipping orders doesn’t end with shipping the order!

Retailers are planning much earlier for the holiday season, and consumers buying sooner. We hope these tips will help you maximize revenue and profits for the upcoming season. 

Happy selling!

References:
[1] Happy Halloween Now Lets Talk Holiday Shopping
[2] Google Consumer Surveys Holiday Insights

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About the Author

Having grown and sold two businesses, Chris is vastly experienced in the nature of small businesses and ecommerce, and has a business owner’s insight into the needs of an SME business. Chris studied at the University of Sheffield and has a MSc in Electronic Engineering; he started his first company at the age of 21. Being frustrated by a patchwork of traditional systems such as Sage, ACT! and OS-Commerce, but lacking the budget for the options available, Chris went on to develop Brightpearl. Chris keeps one eye on the wind and is always ready to kite-surf, although he mostly loves to work.