For many small business owners, the end of the year comes with a serious upswing in sales. With so many people out and about shopping for their various holidays, you are probably going to see a surge of new faces turning to you for goods and services. While retail seems to get all the spotlight during the holiday shopping season, there are many businesses that will benefit from the winter festivities. Company parties will be looking for caterers; homeowners hosting their families will be turning to house cleaning companies; people will be headed off to nail salons, barbershops and beauty salons to get ready to look their best in photos, and weary travelers who were trapped on a plane next to a sneezy toddler may end up making a trip to urgent care. At the end of the day, no matter what kind of business you are in, we encourage you to take the time during this busy season to turn these seasonal shoppers into repeat, and even loyal, customers.
Expand upon the basics
Now more than ever, you need to showcase your very best customer service skills. With traffic, travel, looming deadlines and busier-than-ever stores, many holiday shoppers are feeling a bit more stressed out than usual. That means that they will be that much more grateful when you or your employees are able to listen to them, help them and show them that you genuinely care about their experience.
It is easier than ever to take care of all of your shopping needs online, so it is special and important when people choose to shop local and support a small business rather than go the easy route of online shopping or the cheap route of big-box retail. For many shoppers, choosing a small business is a personal choice, made either out of a desire to fuel the local economy or to experience the level of customer service you can only find in these kinds of stores. That is why it is so important to make sure you don’t neglect customer service during this busy shopping season. To read more about the importance of customer service, check out our previous blog, Why Nothing Beats Great Customer Service.
If you feel like you can definitely handle an increase in customers while maintaining your standards of customer service, then we’re going to recommend taking it up a notch and thinking about some of the ways you can expand on and exceed your customers’ expectations. If you can find a few easy ways to stand out to people now, you will have a much better chance of sticking in their minds, impressing them and, ultimately, bringing them back in to do business in the future.
You can start by making sure your store is in tip-top shape, possibly even investing in a good deep-cleaning. It might be fun to decorate the space, turning it into a winter wonderland, creating a whimsical window display, putting up a hashtag wall or going all-out with any seasonal decor of your choice.
Maybe you could offer free shipping on any in-store purchases over a certain price, giving your customers a chance to continue their shopping unencumbered by bulky bags. One surefire way to stand out is to offer the option of gift-wrapping! For many, the idea of wrapping a gift comes with an overwhelming feeling of dread, and even for those who don’t mind wrestling with yards of paper and tape, the option to save time or have a beautifully wrapped gift is a hard one to pass up.
Any way that you can enhance the experience of shopping in your store, whether by making it more beautiful or whimsical, having attentive and knowledgeable staff or by making your customers’ lives easier, the more likely you will be to stand the test of time and come to the customers’ minds the next time they are in need of whatever you provide.
Expanding on your customer service basics can also extend beyond the time your shoppers are physically in your store. At the time of checkout, if you ask for an address, you could send a hand-written thank you note to them, reminding them of your business and the excellent service they received there. This small gesture is one way you can show your customers how grateful you are that they chose your business, and reminds them of the kind of personalized attention and care they can receive when shopping with a small business. These are the kinds of things that give small businesses an advantage over the big chain stores.
Give shoppers an incentive to come back
You can expect that seasonal shoppers aren’t only shopping at your business, and with the whirlwind of shopping, cooking, travel, and family that many people experience during this season, it can all pass by in a blur to them. If you want to stand out in the memories of these shoppers, you might want to consider giving them some kind of incentive to revisit your business.
One way to incentivize shoppers to revisit your store is to offer some kind of coupon or discount on a future purchase. Remember, this does not just apply to retail stores; a home cleaning company can offer a coupon for a spring cleaning discount, like, “Redeem this coupon in April for 10% off any one cleaning service.” Someone coming in to get their hair cut and colored before visiting family for the holidays could be surprised when you offer them a free conditioning treatment with the next service. Someone who signs up for a gym membership in the month of December could be wowed when they are offered a punch card to bring along a set number of guests for free. Since they are already committed to returning, maybe you can incentivize them to bring along a friend!
Many holiday shoppers are likely to be out purchasing gift cards for family and friends, meaning they may not spend much time in your store looking around or getting an idea of the out-of-this-world customer service you provide. You can persuade them to come back and spend some more time in your business by offering coupons or discounts with the purchase of a gift card. By giving them a coupon that is good through the end of January, or by providing an offer like, “If you buy a gift card worth $25 or more, you get 15% off your next purchase,” you are inviting this shopper to come back and check out your store for themselves. There are many bigger retail locations that successfully use a similar model: “For every $50 you spend now, get $10 off between January 1st and February 12th.” Giving your shoppers a discount in order to get them back in your store could end up paying off for you in the long run when they become familiar with you and your service, and become loyal future customers.
Stay in their minds after they’ve left
In addition to staying fresh on the minds of your customers through coupons and future shopping incentives, one simple way to stand out in the minds of your customers is by offering the option to email their receipt to them.
I know full well that, when a cashier hands me a receipt, I am shoving that thing into my purse, never to be seen again. With e-receipts, you cut down on unnecessary paper waste, your customer will have a hard-to-lose digital copy of their transaction, you can craft a sweet and personalized message to accompany the receipt and you can send a follow-up thank you message to their email a few days or weeks after the transaction, reminding customers of your service and your business.
While you never want to spam your customers into a state of resentment, a well-crafted, post-holiday thank you message could be really appreciated and could make you stand out in their minds. You could even send out a discount code as a message of appreciation, reminding people of your store and giving them a tangible reason to revisit.
Be ready for returns
While we may all be out there trying our best, sometimes, we don’t quite hit the mark with the gifts we give. After the holiday rush is up, you can probably expect to see a few people coming in to make returns or exchanges. Make sure your employees are well-trained and ready to handle these requests. When a customer is making a return, it might be worth it to see if they would rather exchange their item for something else. By giving them the chance to at least take a look around your business, you give yourself the opportunity to get to know this customer and wow them with your service. Even if they don’t want anything for themselves, they may be inspired to come back and get something for someone else. Make sure that you have a process in place to handle returns and exchanges, and make sure it is a simple process for your customers.
From all of us here at Top Rated Local, have a safe and happy holiday season!
Originally published on 12/23/19