10 Ways Small Retailers Can Capture Holiday Dollars

There's still time to lure procrastinating holiday shoppers. Here are some last-minute marketing ideas for small businesses.
December 21, 2012

As the holiday countdown continues, small-business retailers are employing creative marketing ideas to secure their share of remaining holiday dollars. Here are 10 ways the gifting season can boost your end-of-year sales.

1. Make it a celebration. At Wixon Jewelers in Minneapolis, marketing director Jayme Pretzloff says a good holiday season is crucial to ending the year on a positive note, so they immerse shoppers in an environment of joy.

"We bring out poinsettias, a Christmas tree with ornaments and decorate the store with holiday pizazz," says Pretzloff. "These small details go far in the subconscious mind of the consumer because there is no disconnect—they truly are in a winter wonderland."

Pretzloff says the jewelry store is adorned with trees and lights and decorations, and clients are invited in throughout the season for showings that include hors d'oeuvres and cocktails.

2. Make a list. It's not too late to gather holiday wish lists.

Tykoon is a financial literacy platform that includes an Amazon-powered store for children. Marketing director Chris Rodriguez reports that during the holiday season, children are encouraged to sign-in to the site and complete their wish lists to be eligible for technological giveaways including iPads, iPad Minis, Xbox 360s and laptops.

3. Share holiday content. Incorporating holiday cheer into your marketing strategy is a great way for a small business to increase sales.

PoCampo is a specialty retailer in Chicago that sells handbags that attach to luggage, strollers and bicycles.

"We are spreading the cheer this season by posting a holiday countdown on our social media sites," says Katie Cliff, head of public relations. "Each day we have a new holiday preparation tip or suggestion, with photos, for our customers to see, share and give their feedback."

4. Employ extraordinary customer service. PoCampo also believes extraordinary customer service gives a retailer an edge during the busy holiday season.

"We believe the only way to get noticed is to go above and beyond for each and every customer," Cliff says.

"Our company motto, 'Sure, No Problem', is instilled in everyone who works here," says Kyra Mancine with QCI Direct, a catalog merchandiser based in Rochester, New York. "We want to make it easy, easy, easy for customers to do business with us." 

5. Offer a generous return policy. Buying gifts can be an uncertain process but QCI Direct makes sure that no purchase is forever.

"We offer a 100 percent unconditional guarantee for life," Mancine says. "This means that we will take your return whether you purchased an item 10 days ago or 10 years ago from us."

6. Give a little something extra. Who doesn't like getting a little something extra with a purchase?

That's the marketing strategy at New Era Factory Outlet in New York City.

"Since we sell dress shirts, [the extra item] is usually either a shirt or hat," says New Era Factory Outlet president Robert Zaigler. "Since buyers are so busy getting presents for others this holiday season, they always appreciate it when they receive a gift as well."

7. Run a flash sale. Take advantage of your e-mail distribution list and your social media channels to offer a flash sale.

Offer a great value for a short period of time and advertise it quickly online. Encourage customers to share it through social media so word spreads that a great sale is underway but they have to act now.

8. Offer free shipping. Nothing warms the heart of an online shopper like the promise of free shipping. Customers who let their fingers do the walking justify paying shipping costs as the price of convenience.

But throw a little free shipping their way and they just might fill their online cart as a way to say thanks.

9. Make it festive. Customers who are shopping for gifts would really appreciate that their items be gift-ready when they arrive.

Kim Lawson, a Los Angeles-based fashion stylist and owner of OohLaLuxe online fashion boutique, makes sure her customer's purchases are tied with a bow.

"We have an option for users to add holiday trimming and a gift tag for free and make the item a gift," Lawson says.

10. Be what your customers need. The most successful retailers know what their customers want and react with a marketing strategy.

"Take a look at what's driving your customers at the moment," says Shaun Walker, creative director at Hero|Farm Marketing in New Orleans. 

And then wrap your customers in what you're selling.

"How do you create a feeling of family and quality time with your brand? Answer that, and you've got the formula for anytime of the year, including holidays," Walker says.

 Read more holiday-related posts. 

Carla Turchetti is a veteran print and broadcast journalist who likes to break a topic down and keep her copy tight. That's why this bio is so brief! Carla blogs via Contently.com

Photo: Getty Images