9 ways small businesses can compete with the big guys during holidays

holiday crowds and small businesses

Image courtesy Muffet

Most small business owners during this time have a severe case of butterflies in the stomach syndrome.

They know that while  holidays can be a very good time for them, they are intimidated by the Walmarts and the Amazons.

They fret about the advantages of the 800 pound gorillas- huge advertising and marketing budgets, an undeniably strong brand image and the  ability to buy in massive quantities and offer steep discounts.

But if you are a small business owner you should actually eagerly look forward to this season. For, you have advantages that the big boxes will never have.  You will have customers that the big boxes can’t ever service.

And what’s more, the holiday season is a rising tide and it lifts up all kinds of boats from ocean liners to one person canoes.

Here are a few tips that can help you bring a gun to the gunfight.

1. Focus and leverage your local knowledge and connections

You know your customers and your locality much better than the neighboring Walmart. You can call them up by name, send out a targeted email informing them of discounts or create an offer on Facebook without waiting for permission from corporate HQ. Play that to the hilt.

2. Offer extended return periods, guarantees and support

Big retailers have limited service and return options which might not be convenient or a good fit for everyone. You, on the other hand can offer different levels of after sales support, extend your return periods and offer better guarantees to valuable and regular customers.

3. Get creative with bundling products and services

Instead of selling individual products, bundle complementary items. For example, assume you are in charge of a family run hotel in a ski resort. Instead of merely offering rooms, why not team up with the ski resort to offer a comprehensive package?

4. Take advantage of Small Business Saturday

Small Business Saturday is an initiative by American Express to get people to shop local and at small business on the Saturday between Black Friday and Cyber Monday. It has received widespread support from local governments and federal agencies. Customers can get extra discounts if they shop at registered small businesses with Amex cards.

This year’s SBS is on Nov 24.

5. Offer something unique that big boxes cannot offer

Because of their size and how they are structured, big box stores can’t really work with small manufacturers and stock items that don’t have a relatively mass appeal. But small business has that flexibility and if you know your customers well, you can fill the gap and stock those items.

6. Sweat the small stuff and deliver a great shopping experience

This blog has multiple posts about why small businesses are better at customer experience than the biggies and why that is so important. Small touches like free gift wrapping, setting  up a temporary area where children can play or greeting customers by name can alleviate a lot of the stresses associated with holiday shopping.

Motivate your employees and train them well. Big stores hire seasonal temps who are not likely to be as motivated as your staff.

7. Eschew the standard and impersonal look of big box stores

Because of branding, chain stores and the big guys have to look the same everywhere. That’s boring. Bring in a dash of local color to your store during this season. Give it a different coat of paint, mix things up, change the lighting and the ambiance.

8. Promote your offers early

You will run promotions but don’t wait for too long to inform your customers. The longer your delay the higher the chances are that your customers will get swamped with other offers and yours will head straight to the trash.

9. Pay attention to macroeconomic trends

While perfecting the details it’s also important to keep an eye on the bigger picture. For example, FedEx has predicted that the number of holiday packages shipped this time will increase by 13% because more people are shopping online. That’s a cue for you to optimize your shopping cart and get your site ready for mobile.

Conclusion

What other marketing strategies are you implementing to take advantage of the holiday rush?

Image courtesy Muffet

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