How Mid-Sized and Small Businesses Can Prepare for the Holiday Season Now
The pandemic revealed some significant flaws in the logistics industry, and those gaps have the potential to wreak havoc on Holiday 2021. For instance, bottlenecks in supply chains have delayed orders, some of which are up to six months late.
Even when products arrive at ports it’s taking longer to get them into warehouses. According to NPR, “The record volume of cargo has overwhelmed longshoremen, truck drivers, warehouses and railroads. Vessels are waiting up to five days just to get into port, and it can take 10 more days for a container to be loaded on a train.”
True, many containers are loaded onto trains, but even that mode of transportation is feeling the heat. Shipping containers are now piling up at US railroads (the dwell time for containers at 11 major railroad depots reached an average of 9.8 days this month).
There’s no getting around the fact that Holiday 2021 will present unique challenges. But mid-sized and small businesses shouldn’t assume that those challenges will ruin their holiday performance. You can take specific steps to mitigate risks and keep your customers happy.
It may seem crazy to start thinking about holiday promotions before Halloween rolls around, but this has been a crazy year. Consumers are well aware of the supply chain disruptions, and many hope to complete their holiday shopping well before Black Friday/Cyber Monday arrive.
That means you need to get your holiday plans together now and start putting inventory in front of customers no later than Halloween. There are many benefits to taking this approach, by the way. Black Friday and Cyber Monday are all about discounting, and luring people into the store. If you advertise now, and emphasize that supplies won’t last, you can earn conversions without taking a bite out of your margins.
Invite Consumers for Exclusive Peeks at Inventory
Consumers may not be in the mindset of holiday shopping just yet, so it's your job to get them there. One way to do that is to offer exclusive, first-access to holiday merchandise if they, say, sign up for your newsletter or join your loyalty program.
Industry West made headlines when it used social media to “accidentally” spill the beans about an upcoming sale. As the CEO explained to HashtagPaid.com, he’d seen several instances in which people created iPhone Notes which were then posted to social media. He decided to do the same, only he wanted it to look like an accidental posting. That “accidental” post went viral instantly, generating more than 900 sales and $700K in revenue.
There’s another incentive to encourage consumers to shop early: avoid the peak surcharges UPS, the USPS and FedEx will levy on packages delivered during the holiday season. FedEx will charge an extra $3.00 for Ground Economy shipments from November 29 to December 12.
The more you can convince customers to shop early, the less you need to rely on sales and discounting. Save your sales for any excess inventory, and inventory that comes in late. Post-holiday deals are a great way to clear the shelves and kick off 2022 with a strong start.
Leverage Programmatic Channels
Mid-sized and small businesses don’t have the budgets to blast out their holiday catalog to the entire world. (Here’s a secret: even the biggest brands eschew spray-and-pray ad campaigns in favor of more targeted ones.)
You can deploy programmatic strategically to target the right audiences at the right time on social media or other online channels. The best part of programmatic is that it allows you to analyze results in real time and optimize your targeting strategy based on the results you see.
Don’t worry if your marketing team hasn’t used programmatic channels before. You can always work with a trusted partner like Huddled Masses to help you set up and optimize your campaign. Or even if you have some experience, it’s still a good idea to work with an expert who can help you determine the best pace for your campaign, and maximize your budget based on your inventory leading up to the season.