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How Small Businesses Can Stand Out From Big Box Retailers: Holiday Edition

Small businesses can have a hard time out-competing major retailers and big-box stores, which have more resources and locations than a mom-and-pop storefront. In a sea full of doorbusters and deals, how can your small business stand out?

The holiday season might have officially arrived for consumers when the clock ticked midnight on October-31, but businesses have been prepping their offerings for months. Businesses large and small are ready to entice shoppers with new sales on everything from electronics to toys, and holiday cards to wrapping paper.

However, small businesses still have a hard time out-competing major retailers and big-box stores, which have more resources and locations than a mom-and-pop storefront. In a sea full of doorbusters and deals, how can your small business stand out?

As a small business owner, here’s what you need to know about competing against big-box retailers this holiday season:

Show off Your Customer Experience

According to the National Retail Federation, an organization that gauges consumer behavior and shopping trends, consumers are expected to spend “$997.73 on gifts, holiday items, and other non-gift purchases for themselves and their families this year,” according to their latest report. Even though the country is struggling with supply chain disruption, holiday spending is on par with last year (though still less than pre-pandemic). 

With holiday shoppers ready to spend, it’s the perfect time to take a moment to reinvest in your customer service initiatives. When people are ready to open their wallets, you need to be top of mind. How will your potential customer reach you? Make sure your online presence is up to date with all of your contact information, your store is easy to find on Google Maps, and your business profile is on the major social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram, and Google My Business). 

Next, open up the lines of communication. Communicate your openness for feedback in an email, by phone, or in social media posts. Do you do regular email marketing campaigns? That’s a great place to ask for feedback, as well as practical communication like business hours updates.   How are you following up with customers post-purchase or answering questions pre-purchase? Ask your customers can leave a review about their experience, whether it was positive or negative, on your company website or a review site like Yelp. Respond to comments on your Instagram site quickly so your customer base feels heard.

The important thing is to respond to feedback when you get it, whether it’s positive or negative. Not only will this make you look great, but it can also influence your rankings in Google Search and Maps. This kind of feedback matters, as it allows you to learn more about your customers and keep them loyal to your business during the holiday shopping season and throughout the rest of the year.

Harness Marketing to Build Customer Relationships

After you’ve considered your customer service strategy, spend time on email marketing by sending promotional emails to make potential customers aware of your business, and to re-engage loyal customers for some holiday shopping at your store or site. The ideas here are reminding customers that you exist and building that customer relationship. Personal relationships are one of the strongest advantages small businesses have over big-box retailers. 

For inspiration, reflect on your business mission. What need does your product or service solve? How can your business help customers achieve their goals just a little bit better this holiday season?

Provided you take proper precautions, physical retail businesses can even host holiday events. If it’s been effective in the past, consider online or print ads in local publications in your community. Again, make it personal if you can. Get creative with your marketing materials — if you have repeat clients and are comfortable with digital marketing, consider sending them a digital holiday card. Make it fun or silly! Everyone is looking to loosen up at the end of the year.

Find more holiday marketing tips in this Forbes article, “6 Guaranteed Ways To Improve Your Holiday Marketing Results.”   By fine-tuning your marketing strategy, you’ll be able to turn potential customers into holiday sales for your small business this holiday season. 

Add Special Holiday Touches to Purchases

Another area small businesses thrive during the holidays is the ability to go all out by adding special touches to holiday gifts. Simple acts like including a handwritten “thanks for shopping with us!” note and a bonus gift of sample items from your store go a long way in endearing the customer to your brand.

For example, don’t just sell a gift card as it is — put it in a fancy envelope with a bow on top. Make your product into an experience. Some book stores and other types of retail even wrap gifts for the customers. These types of added touches don’t go unnoticed, so find a way to personalize each order and express the gratitude you have for your customers shopping with you. 

Participate in Small Business Saturday

Created by American Express, Small Business Saturday falls on Saturday, Nov. 27 this year. It may be a day flanked by Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but this holiday is just as mighty in showing appreciation for small businesses and their communities.

If you want to join in the fun, sign up to become a Neighborhood Champion! Rally the other small businesses in your area to do the same, and decorate your storefront with merchandise that shows you are participating. Send out email blasts to alert your customers you will be part of the #ShopSmall movement this year, and encourage them to come out and support your business!

Showcasing Your Differentiators Leads to Success

When you take the time to highlight what makes your small business stand out from the big-box retailers – whether that’s providing exceptional customer service and targeted email marketing, adorning your wares with holiday touches, or hosting holiday events and participating in #ShopSmall this year – you’ll be sure to entice both new and loyal customers. We wish you happy (and successful) holidays this year!

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