The Biggest Mistake You Could Make This Holiday Season

You might be doing everything right to prepare for the holiday season, but if you make this one misstep, you could be wasting a huge opportunity to grow.
October 14, 2015

It’s only October, but it seems like the holidays have arrived. One recent survey warns merchants that more than half of their holiday shoppers will research purchases online before going to stores this year. Another poll concludes that shoppers want more shopping and shipping options this holiday season.

And they all may be missing the point.

Of course if you’re in retail, the holidays are very important. For some, holiday sales could make the difference between having a profitable or unprofitable year. But does it have to be this way? No, it doesn’t. That’s because retailers have been traditionally focused on how much is being sold during the holiday season. The real focus should be on how many opportunities for additional sales are generated.

The True Meaning

If you’re only focused on holiday sales, you could be making a big mistake. Your thoughts should be on using the holidays to generate more sales throughout the rest of the years. Just a 5 percent monthly addition to monthly revenues from holiday-generated opportunities could amount to more profits than even a great holiday season.

So how? Smart retailers collect data. And then they nurture.

Jim’s Sporting Goods (its name has been changed) is a local, independent shop near me that does this very well. At Jim’s, every customer who makes a purchase is asked to join the “VIP” list, to which the store offers special discounts and deals. Most customers do. In return, Jim gets their contact information—their names and address and, most importantly, their email addresses. It all goes into his customer relationship data (CRM) database. There are many CRM databases out there—Jim’s has used a non-cloud product called GoldMine for years. And over the years, Jim’s database has grown to over 5,000 names. Many of these names were collected during the store’s busiest times—the holidays.

Who are these people? They are softball players, runners, golfers and Eagles fans. And they will always be. Most importantly, many found their way into Jim’s store during the holidays. There are a lot of places to buy sporting gear. Jim’s can’t reach out to customers six months after the holidays and demand that they purchase from him. But what he can do is to stay in front of them often enough, without being intrusive, so when that guy needs to replace his glove or get his racquet restrung or buy a new warm-up suit, he thinks of Jim’s first.

So after the holidays and throughout the year, Jim nurtures his community. He uses email software a few times a year to offer special discounts. He has a monthly newsletter offering tips on improving one’s golf game, sliding into second base and staying hydrated on a long bike ride. He sends printed postcards periodically with photos of the latest Eagles and Phillies gear. He’s held autograph signings in-store and demonstrations on how to treat common sports injuries. His Facebook page repurposes everything being sent out via email and print, as well as sharing links to related sports stories and posts on the latest happenings in Jim’s neighborhood. He’ll be implementing a mobile loyalty card program this year, too.

What It Takes

All of this takes time and money. There’s no way he could do this on his own. Jim pays a marketing student from a local college to help him do all this for about 15 hours a week. But it’s worth it. The constant communications filled with advice and educational material have grown his relationship with his customers and expanded his network for referred business.

And it all starts with the holidays. Because it’s the holidays when everyone’s coming to your store, just like Jim’s. The holidays are when it’s most important to collect as much data as possible from your customers. But more importantly, it’s after the holidays that the important work really begins—the reaching out, nurturing, educating of your community so they keep coming back throughout the year and spending their money with you. Don’t get too caught up in holiday sales. That’s a mistake. Instead, focus on the holiday opportunities.

Read more articles about customer engagement.

Photo: iStock