Businesswise | Cashing in on Christmas
'Tis the season to be jolly and spend a lot of money. At least that's what many businesses are likely to be praying for this December.
We're a few short weeks away from Christmas, and for many retailers, this time of year is as nerve wrecking as it is exciting. It is exciting because it's the peak season for consumer shopping, which results in drastic increases in sales for many businesses. However, it can be just as nerve wrecking because the level of customer patronage at this time can literally make or break some businesses.
The good news for retailers is that consumer confidence is the highest it has been in recent years, and the economy is expected to experience continued growth following the impressive 2.2 per cent recorded for the September 2016 quarter.
Against this background, we may see a significant increase in consumer spending this Christmas although up to the time of writing this article, the BOJ had not made public its prediction for the amount of money that will be in circulation this December.
So with the stage now set for a positive season, the million- dollar question is: How can businesses cash in?
MAKE A PLAN
The first thing to do is set a goal and make a plan. Ideally, this should have been done months ago, but there is still a little time. The goal can be a concrete overall sales target or a target for particular products or services - typically those that are most profitable - or a specific number of new customers, or to sell more to existing customers.
Setting a clear goal forces the business to be more purposeful in their operations over the season and provides some well needed accountability in terms of performance.
The next step is to write out a simple plan that details how you prepare your physical or virtual space to be able to meet your goal, prepare your team to better meet the needs of the customer and sell more, and very important, how you will draw customers in and get them to spend with you over other competitors.
Entrepreneurs and small-business managers typically complain that doing a plan is onerous, and some even see it as a waste of time.
However, I can't stress enough that businesses have limited financial and human resources and, therefore, strategising and writing down how it will spend its money, organise its operations, and clearly outlining the role each team member must play is essential to achieving its goals. Without a plan there is almost always confusion and unproductive use of human, financial, and other resources.
GET THE STORE, STAFF READY
Whether customers come in to your store, how long they stay, and how much they spend depends a lot on what they see and experience. This includes ease of access to parking or public transport, ease of access to your actual business, and how appealing potential customers find the store to be. It is important to decorate the store, but it is also critical to clear clutter, do proper merchandising, have appropriate signage so customers know where to find what, and prices listed on all items.
If you haven't already done so, now is a good time to double-check your price competitiveness as consumers are more sophisticated than ever and shop around for value.
You also want to win customers over with a cool and fresh-smelling space as there's hardly anything that's as uncomfortable than shopping in a business that's hot and stuffy.
Your team members have an incredible role to play in terms of customer experience. Companies that are serious about cashing in on Christmas prepare and train their staff ahead of time, in the same way professional coaches prepare top teams to compete.
You need adequate staff to assist customers but they must be knowledgeable and customer focused. One of the most important things in the customer buying process is information. Shoppers want to know all about the product or service, how it is likely to perform, and so on, before making a purchase.
PULL CUSTOMERS IN
No amount of strategising and planning will enable a business to accomplish ambitious goals this Christmas without deliberate efforts to pull customers in through advertising and promotions.
Even customers who normally patronise your business need to be reminded that you exist and enticed with valuable offers and incentives that are clearly differentiated from the competition.
Despite the upward trend in Jamaica's economy, we can't forget that we are very slowly emerging from the depths of financial crisis. Consumers have relatively limited spending power when compared with most of our trading partners and contemporaries, generally.
Shoppers must be discerning about how they spend because they just can't afford to do otherwise, so grabbing their attention and pulling them in may require a strategic, but budget-friendly combination of traditional advertising, social media advertising and promotions, text messaging, email blasts, and most important good word of mouth.
No amount of advertising or promotions can mask bad business in this digital age. As such engaging in fair consumer practices, respecting consumers' rights, providing products and services that are value for money, and delivering all of this with exceptional customer service is the best way to cash in on the Christmas season and beyond.