Is your small business prepared to maximize customer sales this holiday season? According to the National Retail Federation, 20 to 40 percent of yearly sales for small and mid-sized retailers take place within the last two months of the year. In 2015, according to the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB), 95 million people went out shopping at small businesses. Organization and a well thought out strategy are key in increasing sales during the holiday season. This article will focus on holiday sales strategy, simple inventory management, and holiday marketing checklist to ensure you have substantial sales this holiday season.
Holiday Sales Strategy
There are many questions you should ask yourself in organizing a successful holiday sales strategy. Simplicity is important and crucial to bring in more customers and increase sales. However, the key is to understand every aspect of your product offerings and what sales techniques might work best to drive sales during the holiday season. It is recommended to get a head start four to five months in advance. If taking a few hours from your business is an impossible task, hire interns as they are often eager to contribute creative ideas. Be sure to talk to specialists in your industry, talk to your competition, and find out what has worked or not worked to drive sales. Think in terms of your products or services: How do you sell your inventory? Who are your customers? How are you reaching out to your customers? Who in your business is in charge of the inventory? How much inventory do you have? Do you need more inventory to meet projected demand? These questions should be answered in advance as planning ahead for the holiday sales boom is crucial!
Steps for Simple Inventory Management
Having the right tracking management system is important at any point during the year, but it is especially critical during the holidays. Depending on industry and seasonality you should be ready for the busy periods and be prepared with the right amount of inventory.
How much inventory do you need? Start by creating accurate projections of how much inventory you will need and most importantly by when you will need it. The best indicator of this is historical inventory. Look at your books and see how much inventory you used in each period. Pay close attention to the busiest periods and focus on the items that matter the most. For example, you should include your best sellers and unique items to attract both existing and new customers. This information should give you an idea of the minimum amount of inventory you will need during the holidays.
Now that you know how much you need, let’s review inventory tracking. Be sure you will have inventory on site and available for your customers. There are many possible ways you may lose track of your inventory: damaged inventory, order mistakes, petty theft, and more. Not having the goods ready for your customers may result in losing customers and that may impact your bottom line. To prevent losing golden opportunities, you should equip your business with ways to manage your inventory.
There are different tracking and software systems available for businesses to better manage inventory. Depending on whether you have a brick and mortar store or you do most of sales online, choose the right software for your specific type of business. Here are some systems to explore using:
- QuickBooks Accounting Software: This accounting software includes inventory features that will allow you to get a dollar value for your inventory.
- Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) and bar code scanning: EDI is the electronic interchange of business information allowing your company to share orders and invoices with another company electronically, rather than on paper.
- Webgility Unify: If you have an online business or do online sales, Webgility Unify can connect all of your sales channels with your accounting integrating your inventory, order management, shipping, marketing automation and point of sale. This system automatically posts all of your e-commerce sales information directly to your QuickBooks.
- SkuVault: This is a cloud-based inventory and warehouse management system that helps to prevent out-of-stock situations. SkuVault also has a smart re-order reports feature which ensures that your purchasing decisions are backed by hard data.
Before you make any decision regarding software, request a free trial period to see if it is a good fit for you and your business needs. We mention a few examples above, but it is up to you to do your own research on what system best satisfies your inventory tracking needs.
Holiday Marketing Checklist
Once you have a sales goal and know how much inventory you need, make sure you have a marketing plan to reach your goal. First, establish your marketing budget. You can create this the same way you projected the amount of inventory you will need. Collect the data from your marketing campaigns over the years (depending on the available data) and see how much you invested, how much sales each campaign generated, and invest in the ones that created the maximum returns.
Once you know your budget, select the best marketing vehicle and medium for your type of business.
This can include local newspapers, Pay-per-click advertising, YouTube, Facebook, and rich media ads, to name a few.
If possible, create free-shipping offers for your clients during the holiday season. Whether they buy online or in person, customers have become accustomed to free shipping during the holidays. To stay on par with the competition, follow the same practices.
Revisit your email list and organize a holiday email to your customer base as soon as you are ready. If you don’t have an email list, this is the time to start one for the next year. Equally as effective, is organizing a social media campaign to current and potential customers. Remember, preparation is crucial and organizing your sales strategy and marketing plan early will give you a head start.
Now is the time to start preparing for the holiday season if you have not already started. When planning your holiday inventory, follow the steps listed above. According to PracticalEcommerce.com, holiday ecommerce sales in 2016 may approach $90 billion. Make sure that as a small business owner you position your business to capture a piece of the pie through implementing a holiday sales strategy, simple inventory management system, and holiday marketing plan.
About Excelsior Growth Fund
Excelsior Growth Fund (EGF) helps businesses in New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania grow by providing streamlined access to business loans and advisory services. EGF’s signature product, the EGF SmartLoan™, provides up to $100,000 in fast, transparent, and affordable financing through a secure online platform. Larger loans up to $500,000 are also available. EGF is a nonprofit organization and is certified by U.S. Department of Treasury as a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI). Learn more atwww.excelsiorgrowthfund.org.