Traditional shopping holidays such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday just don’t make sense for small retailers. As purchasing trends shift from shopping marathons to “shopping moments,” the window to create a relationship with your customers is wide open.
Every fall, retailers big and small seem to rush to create bigger, badder, crazier sales to coincide with shopping holidays such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday. As a small retailer, it can be tempting to slash your prices to keep up with the big guys like Amazon, Best Buy, and Target. Unfortunately, this strategy is not practical for an independent or online retailer.
Don’t try to compete with those guys. Instead, here are some helpful tips for making the most of your natural strengths.
Don’t Compete in the Numbers Game
Shopping holidays are essentially a numbers game, one that’s hard to win if you don’t operate at scale. The big guys are competing to see who can sell the most of the same products for the cheapest price. One of the reasons huge retailers can afford to periodically drop their prices is that, due to their massive size and breadth, they can reasonably expect to sell such a high volume of product that even with slashed prices they’ll still generate a huge profit.
Trying to beat the big chains at their own game is like trying to run a horse in a NASCAR race. More and more, small retailers are finding themselves opting out of the shopping holiday arms race.
Breaking News: Even The Bigger Chains Are Having Second Thoughts
In a bold move, sporting goods retailer REI is closing all 143 of its stores on Black Friday for the first time ever as part of their “#OptOutside” campaign. (source: usatoday)
REI’s decision is sending a powerful message to the industry and also differentiates them from their competitors in a very overcrowded time period.
But There’s Hope
Changing technology and changing attitudes have led to changes in shopping habits. Small Business Saturday, first introduced in 2010 by American Express, is now a big deal for shoppers. More than 95 million people “shopped small” last year, spending $16.2 billion. According to recent data released by Google, this comes as no surprise. Consumers are now more apt to embark upon “shopping moments,” short bursts of purchasing, rather than relying on a single big haul.
This means there are more chances that they might shop with you, and since they tend to buy only a small number of items each time, it’s easier to sell them on a single, quality product that will last a lifetime, rather than several cheap ones. Small retailers can find free Small Business Saturday marketing tools, from website badges to e-mail templates, at ShopSmall.com.
As a Small Retailer, You’ve Got Something the Big Guys Don’t
You have the power to carefully curate your stock in a way that the big guys just can’t that creates an identity for your store. Because of your size, you’re able to give individual customers experiences and services that help them make purchasing decisions that genuinely speak to their values and ideals.
Customers of indie shops and sites will come to you for your unique products, your curated taste-level, and to develop a long-term relationship with you. They’re not always hunting for the best prices.
ASD Insider Tip: One of the best ways to convey your unique point of view and sell at high margins is via “product bundling.” Product bundling is the art of finding interesting, creative connections between products – and pairing those customized product selections for your customers to purchase. Read our post, “The Art of Product Bundling” to learn more.
Searching for high-margin wholesale product that you can sell all year-round? Get your free ticket here to ASD Market Week
Yield More Profit Than Any Black Friday Sale – What You Can Do
When people buy something, they’re essentially making a choice. If you can’t offer someone the cheapest price, you should offer them the highest quality experience so that your customers feel like they’re not just choosing your product, they’re choosing your identity. That fosters a relationship with a customer that can last years and yield more profit than any Black Friday sale.
Here’s how to do that:
1.Consider Holding Sales at Unconventional Times
Recent research shows that half of all consumers conduct their holiday shopping well before Black Friday and Cyber Monday hit, meaning that conventional shopping holidays hold less weight with the general public than they used to.
That frees small retailers up to experiment—don’t be afraid to have a sale when no one else is. In fact, holding a couple of strong sales at consistent times each year can be a branding initiative in and of itself. For example, the womenswear destination LF is known for holding two sales per year. Additionally, recent research shows that customers are more inclined to shop online on Sunday. Consider having a flash sale at your e-commerce destination on Sunday to reflect this market trend.
2.Cater to Your Segment of the Market
Another option is timing your sales to your customer base. Many ski retailers, for example, sell off excess stock during the summer when skiing is less popular. Other retailers have found success offering sales on customers’ birthdays, which makes customers feel special and fosters loyalty.
3.Express Your Values as a Retailer
Another way to gain a loyal customer base is to express your personality as a retailer. The New York-based hip couture house VFILES excels at this, creating YouTube videos communicating their values while not necessarily urging customers to purchase product, interfacing with fans and potential customers on Twitter, and aligning itself with like-minded influencers by offering product in exchange for social posts. This creates a sense of their store not just selling a look but a lifestyle, letting the public know who they are and what they stand for. When a customer buys from them, they’re not just buying a piece of clothing—they’re continuing a relationship.
4.Highlight What Makes Your Products Special + Create Unique Online Content
Create a storyline for your products that your customer buys into and wants to be a part of. If you have a genuine love for what you’re selling and can tell consumers why you love it, there’s a chance they might just love it too. Clothing company Everlane excels at this by highlighting the fact that they offer sustainable, ethically created and extremely stylish garments.
5.Create a Great Window Display
If you’re a physical retailer and your goal is to create a relationship with a customer, then you can still benefit from foot traffic on Black Friday. Customers are inclined to peek their heads into a store they find interesting, simply because they’re in a shopping mood. Even if you don’t make a sale at that moment, if they’re interested in what you have to offer they might return at a later date, or go back to purchase something online.
A compelling window display—one that tells your brand’s story and highlights a few specific products—may very well be the spark that starts a new relationship with a customer. And if they’re ready to start that relationship right now, don’t forget to have some thoughtfully-sourced high-margin items in prominent positions throughout the store.
Stay the Course
Are Black Friday and Cyber Monday now considered to be just low-margin “commerce holidays?” Maybe. But either way they are increasingly the domain of large global corporations – do your thing instead. No one knows your customer better than you do.