SMB’s Guide to Thriving Beyond the Holiday Shopping Season

Updated 15 Dec, 2023 | Build a strong small business

For many small and medium businesses (SMBs), holiday shoppers aren’t just critical for success, they’re vital for mere survival. It’s very common for the revenue from holiday sales to fuel holiday bonuses for staff and provide the funding for the following year’s stock, marketing, and professional development. But what if the various holiday seasons could do more than that for you? With the right approach, each festive surge can lay a robust foundation for sustained growth and prosperity.

Read on or listen to the audio to discover just how you can leverage the golden quarter to achieve your business goals.

Maximising the festive rush: why holiday shoppers are crucial for SMBs

Christmas decorations on sale include items such as a Christmas tree, bell, snowman, Christmas socks, fireworks, and candy cane.

It’s always nice to get a revenue boost during the holiday season. And there’s a good chance it makes a significant difference to your bottom line. In fact, research indicates 75% of retail and e-commerce SMBs count on a holiday period to meet their yearly financial objectives. But do you know just how much that revenue means to your business?

For many SMBs, seasonal income isn’t just the icing on the cake which tops up sales figures to meet objectives that, after all, are usually created with the holiday season’s boon included. A staggering 50% of SMBs report that a quarter of their annual revenue comes from holiday shoppers. Yes, you read that right, half of the average SMBs generate 25% of their annual revenue from just a few weeks of sales. And it’s not just retailers and ecommerce businesses that rely so heavily on holiday shoppers because when you look at those industries, it’s actually 73% that generate a quarter of their revenue from the holiday season.

3 out of every 4 SMB retailers and ecommerce businesses generate 25% of their revenue from just a few weeks of holiday sales. Half of the general SMB population do the same.

So, how important are holiday shoppers for your business? If you don’t know, now’s a great time to take a look at your sales data from your last tax return and calculate how much of your revenue came from the holiday period.

The problem with the way most SMBs handle holiday shoppers

Given how indispensable holiday shoppers are for the vast majority of SMBs, you’d think businesses would be doing everything possible to make the most of those shoppers. But that’s sadly not the case.

While supporting local businesses is the number one reason shoppers decide to ‘shop local’, only a third believe their holiday shopping makes a significant impact on the livelihoods of the SMBs they buy from. And to make matters worse, less than half of shoppers receive an email after making a purchase from an SMB (and that includes from ecommerce businesses). In fact, 27% never hear from SMBs they’ve purchased from again. Yet, 81% report being more open to marketing from SMBs after visiting or buying from them during the holidays.

Man, overwhelmed by the challenge of handling holiday shoppers. This text is also displayed ‘most SMBs don’t continue to communicate with holiday shoppers’

Despite the critical importance of holiday shoppers to most SMBs, the vast majority of shoppers don’t know how much of a difference they make. And many SMBs are doing little to change that or try to win the loyalty of their holiday shoppers, even though shoppers are open to it.

How do you communicate with new customers? Do you show them your appreciation? Do you keep in touch with them and encourage future purchases? If not, now’s the time to develop a strategy for doing just that.

Why SMBs can’t win loyal customers during the holidays

People exchanging high fives and surrounded by Christmas decorations. This text is displayed ‘most SMBs don’t know how to get holiday shoppers to shop with them again'

Ok. So, we know most shoppers are open to receiving marketing messages but aren’t hearing much from SMBs. So how is it then that 93% of SMBs recognise it’s important to retain new holiday customers beyond that lucrative holiday period? Why is it that all these businesses know they should be converting holiday shoppers into loyal customers, but just aren’t doing it?

They don’t know how to do it!

Only 7% of SMBs don’t think it’s important they retain new holiday shoppers. Yet 14% of SMBs don’t have a strategy for retaining customers. Therefore, half of those SMBs without a retention strategy don’t have one because they don’t know how or don’t have time to create one.

Only 18% of SMBs believe their strategy for January-March is highly effective. So, that leaves a lot of businesses who go to the effort of developing retention and marketing strategies but just aren’t confident they’ll work.

82% of SMBs don’t have a retention strategy they’re confident in.

If you’re one of the 82%, it’s time you got some expert advice about how you can start reliably turning your holiday shoppers into loyal customers who shop with you throughout the year.

The secret to turning holiday shoppers into loyal customers — Top Q1 marketing strategies for SMBs

As the saying goes, if you fail to plan, you’re planning to fail. So, if you want to long-term sales from your holiday shoppers, you must have a strategy.

For simplicity, I’m referring to this as your Q1 marketing strategy because for many SMBs, the biggest holiday shopping season is Christmas and the fiscal year begins on 1 January. However, if that doesn’t quite fit your situation, just mentally rename it to something that works for you 😃 For example, you might use these tips for your Q3 marketing strategy if you’re in Australia. And you may use these strategies and techniques for the Easter holiday shopping season or any other seasonal shopping event.

Now, there are four key facets of any strategy designed to encourage repeat purchases and loyalty. For the best results, your Q1 strategy should include all these elements. However, the way you implement them will be unique to your business.

An infographic with the title of ‘The secret to turning holiday shoppers into loyal customers’. It includes showing appreciation, ensuring customer satisfaction, creating personalised experiences, and encouraging repeat purchases.

1. Say thank you

If you never tell them, how will your customers ever know their Christmas or Easter purchases mean the world to you. So, let your customers know just how much their holiday purchase means to you.

Maybe you could include a ‘happy holidays’ and ‘thank you’ message in your shipping confirmation emails that tells your customers that the proceeds from their holiday purchases are going toward developing a smoother checkout experience on your website. When you bag up your customers’ purchases, perhaps you could include a little note to thank your customer for their business and mention that the proceeds from their purchase will be going towards a Christmas meal for your staff and their families. Or maybe your customers have been requesting a new product and so you can tell your holiday customers that their purchase is helping to fund that product development (and they may be keen to know when they can try it out!).

When you slip your message in, ask them to sign up to your mailing list. That way, you have a means of communicating with them in the future.

2. Ensure satisfaction

If you want shoppers to keep frequenting you, you first need to ensure your customers are at least satisfied with their purchase. If they’re ecstatic, that’s even better.

How do you do that?

Well, assuming your products and services are fit for purpose and of acceptable quality, the best way to ensure customer satisfaction is to make sure your customers know how to get the most out of what they purchased. Here’s an example.

Sarah buys a new kitchen appliance called BlendJoy, which is designed to blend fruits, vegetables, and ice to create tasty, healthy drinks that hit the spot in summer. She follows the instructions for using her new BlendJoy for the first time, and then sets about making her first drink with it.

One of two things can now happen. She could make a delicious drink and conclude that her new BlendJoy is her new favourite kitchen toy. Or she could create a gluggy mess that makes her feel vaguely nauseous. If that happens several times, she’s eventually going to conclude that the BlendJoy is rubbish.

So, what would be the easiest way to ensure Sarah thinks her BlendJoy is awesome? Show her how to make a range of delicious drinks that are easy to make with her appliance and which show it off in the best light possible.

This is why manufacturers of kitchen appliances usually include a recipe book with their products. But you can use the same strategy with any kind of product or service.

If you sell art, try giving your customers a guide that helps them position their artwork, so it looks great in their space. If you’re a web developer, give your clients instructions for maintaining their site, so it doesn’t slow down when they start publishing blog posts with massive images etc. If you sell hydroponic grow kits, give your customers a guide that tells them what plants grow best in the kit, how often they need to change the water and nutrients, and how and when to harvest their crops.

3. Create personalised experiences

When businesses send marketing messages with irrelevant information in them, shoppers quickly learn to ignore marketing messages from those brands. So, take some time to think about how you can create a personalised marketing experience for your customers based on what they purchased from you and any other information you might know about them.

As an example, let’s say you sell someone a Christmas hamper with herbal tea, unusual conserves, and other gourmet goodies. Sure, that’s likely a gift for someone else, but if the recipient raves about the pomegranate tisane in the hamper, don’t you think your customer might be keen to try it? So, a follow-up email in January showing how they can buy a bulk tin that’s better value for money, could be really successful.

And these personalised experiences don’t just have to be super salesy. The same customer might be interested in learning about the history of herbal tisanes or the health benefits of pomegranate. This kind of information is easy to share if you have your customer’s mailing address.

Now, you might think that’s not relevant to your audience if you think they’re not going to be interested in your products for themselves. For example, a 60-year-old granny may not be your target market for your Duplo packs. But if they’ve bought a gift from you, there’s a good chance they’d be interested in buying a gift from you again in the future. After all, grannies buy birthday and often Easter gifts for kids too 😃

4. Use marketing tools to encourage your audience to shop with you again

Once you’ve primed your holiday shoppers to buy, you still have to actually tell them to make further purchases. There are countless tools you can use to get people thinking about what they can buy from you outside the holiday period. So, the key here is to pick one or more tools that work well with your business, in terms of your values and mission as well as the products and services you offer, and which also suit the needs of your target audience. Here are just a few ideas that can work across a wide range of SMBs. But don’t hesitate to try something more niche or innovative.

Create a loyalty program

It’s an oldie but a goodie. A loyalty program is a great way of encouraging customers to buy from you again rather than a competitor. But if that doesn’t work for your audience, a referral program might work better.

If we go back to the example of the hydroponic kit. Your customer may never want anything else from you. However, your customer’s gift recipient will need to stock up on hydroponic solution in the future. So you could give your customer a discount code for a future purchase and encourage them to give it to their recipient. In that way, you can capture the end user of your product as a future customer.

If that sounds too complicated, just include the discount in your product packaging, so the end user will receive it when they open the package. If you couple that with a message about you being a small business, you can increase the power of your message. (E.g. Bunnings and other big DIY stores sell hydroponic solution. But a personalised message from the SMB selling the hydroponic kit about the value of the user’s business could encourage them to order from the SMB instead of the possibly more convenient DIY store.)

Offer bundle deals with samples or consumables

A holiday shopper who’s never bought from you before may not be aware of your other products. Offering bundle deals that include a super giftable product along with a consumable or free sample of something valuable for the purchaser can be a great way of helping holiday shoppers discover your regular stock. Here are some examples:

  • Bundle a fun toy for a child with a parents’ guide to keeping kids entertained over the holidays. The guide could include information about your educational products that parents might not buy as a present, but which they might buy to boost their child’s learning during the school term.
  • Bundle a beautifully packaged set of specialty teas or gourmet coffee beans with a high-quality travel mug or tea infuser bottle, along with vouchers for 3 free teas or coffees in-store. If the gift recipient lives locally, the purchaser might gift them the vouchers, which could win you the end user’s loyalty. Or they might keep them for themself, which could win you the loyalty of your holiday shopper. If the recipient isn’t local, your holiday shopper can use the vouchers and may still become a regular customer in the future.
  • Bundle a stylish home accessory or decor item with a scented candle. This can encourage repeat purchases of the scented candles from either the purchaser or gift recipient.

Use retargeting ads

If holiday shoppers buy from your website, you can retarget them in the following months with ads for products to replenish their stock or complimentary products you think they might like based on their holiday purchase.

Run a competition

One of the most challenging things about marketing to holiday shoppers is they may feel like joining a loyalty program or signing up for a mailing list is pointless because they’re just buying a present. To overcome that, you could run a competition for a very desirable gift. As part of the rules, shoppers could be asked to follow you on social media or submit their email address and agree to accept marketing materials.

Just be aware, if you do use this method, your first communications must offer immense value to your audience (rather than their gift recipients) or they’ll unsubscribe or unfollow you as soon as the competition ends.

The secret to converting first-time holiday shoppers into loyal, long-term customers is to tell them how much their business means to you, ensure they’re ecstatic about their purchase, create personalised experiences for them, and use the right marketing tools for your business and your target audience to encourage further sales.

Do you have a strategy for converting holiday shoppers into repeat purchasers? If so, does it include all those elements? If you don’t have a strategy, or your current strategy is missing one or more of those elements, taking the time to optimise a retention strategy for your business could lead to massive growth for your business after your next holiday shopping season.

Turning seasonal shoppers into lifelong patrons

A person with a shopping trolley full of gifts is admiring a Christmas tree with presents.

Holiday seasons aren’t just a time of increased sales. They’re golden opportunities for you to build lasting relationships with your newest customers and set the stage for year-round success.

By recognising the substantial impact holiday shoppers have on your annual revenue and then taking steps to ensure those holiday shoppers make repeat purchases throughout the year, you can turn each festive period into a long-term growth catalyst.

It all starts with showing your audience how much you appreciate their seasonal purchase and ensuring they’re completely satisfied with that purchase. From there, you can use specialised marketing tools and techniques to tailor customised experiences for your shoppers that get them buying throughout the year.

If you’re confident you now have the inspiration and information you need to develop an effective retention strategy for holiday shoppers, please dive in and do so. SMBs often do it tough, and you deserve a year-long sales boost, not just a seasonal one.

If you’re not sure how to turn these insights into actionable, profitable strategies, however, we can help with a holiday sales maximisation consultation. Our marketing strategist will review your sales data and jump on a video call with you to discuss the methods that will be most successful for your business. Depending on your needs, we can also develop a dedicated seasonal marketing strategy and implementation plan, and we can even create marketing campaigns for you that don’t just capture the holiday spirit, but also forge strong connections with your customers. Alternatively, we can run workshops and other kinds of training sessions to ensure your staff are equipped with the skills to convert once-off seasonal shoppers into loyal, year-round customers.

Whether you just need expert advice to resolve a couple of uncertainties to get you started or a fractional CMO to shake things up with a full strategy and implementation, you can count on K. M. Wade to deliver a bespoke service that exactly fits your needs. Let us know where you need some assistance and our expert marketing strategist, Kelly, will be happy to suggest an approach and a way we can help you achieve your goals. Kelly’s got more than a decade of experience developing marketing and content strategies for everything from sole traders up to big brands like Renault, Sun Super, and Stocklands QLD, so you’re in safe hands with her.