Depending on the metrics a particular retailer uses, this is either going to be a great holiday for sales because the last few have been so rough in comparison, or a tough holiday for sales because, despite the (slowly) recovering economy, things are still not as good as they should be.
The thing is, neither the retailer’s perspective, nor the metrics she employs, will change the reality of the market. We have no choice but to work within the confines of a weary customer’s shopping habits.
So what does a retailer do in the face of adversity? Crossing one’s fingers and hoping for the best is a strategy for the meek—if it’s a strategy at all. No matter how close it is to the year’s biggest shopping days by the time you read this, you and your retail client still have the option of taking matters into your own hands and changing your fate.
Let’s look at a few ways to do that:
Figure out what’s so special.
It’s a crowded marketplace out there. How can you set yourself apart? This is the time for some quick introspection. Take a look around at the operation and figure out exactly why a customer would pick your retailer over another.
To get going in the right direction, think about Zappos. As of today, there are 1,166 online shoe retailers ready to provide the exact same Converse All-Stars to a finite group of shoppers. So why would a customer end up at Zappos for a pair of shoes they could get anywhere?
Because Zappos doesn’t just sell shoes, they sell a beautifully orchestrated shoe shopping experience. Zappos knows you could buy those Converse just about anywhere, so they embellish their value proposition with an easy to use website, better than average customer service, and a 365-day return policy.
Communication is key.
Once your finely-tuned pitch is in place, your next step is to let the world know. It is no longer acceptable to rely on the notion that a prospective customer is going to find your store or website by themselves, intuit what makes your retailer unique, and assume a certain level of customer service.
Luckily, we live in a world of 24-hour, 360-degree communication. If there was ever a time to test some new channels, it’s on the eve of Black Friday where you have a fighting chance of making back some of your marketing expenses, and attracting new customers when they’re at their most attentive.
Maybe this is the year you pay to promote some posts on Facebook. Maybe you’ve been building a Twitter following for years and it’s time for some ROI (return on investment). Or maybe it’s back to the tried & true email blast, made stronger this year by your new messaging about what makes your retailer the better choice.
There is strength in numbers.
There’s no need for a retailer to act like he’s floating on a raft in the Pacific, hoping and praying for the sight of a passing ocean liner. At the risk of mixing metaphors, it’s worth remembering that a rising tide lifts all boats.
Look around and align with complementary partners. Create an accord in the image of Nike and Apple, with each party bringing something to the table that encourages customers to patronize both brands.
Look for need and create symbiosis. Like a cab company offering discounted rates to the inebriated patrons of a popular watering hole. The bar attracts drinkers by solving a problem in a unique way, the cab company increases ridership through its exclusive deal with the bar, and both boats are raised on the high tide of a great social message with community outreach appeal: “Stay safe this holiday season. Drink, be merry, and catch a ride home on the cheap”.