There’s a shift happening in the hearts and minds of shoppers across the country. Instead of finding new and improved things to buy, they’re seeking out new experiences to remember.
While retailers from Urban Outfitters to Macy’s and Bed, Bath and Beyond saw slumping Holiday sales after a tough 2015, 2015 was also the year that air travel saw record high sales coupled with record low ticket prices and the restaurant industry grew by 8%. Experiential shopping like dining out, vacations, pampering, and classes are all on the rise. And it’s not just because of millennials (although millennials are leading the charge, with 54% reporting they purchased experience-based gifts this holiday) – retailers who serve diverse age demographics are all reporting that the trend towards buying experiences is hurting their bottom line. And this trend is set to accelerate with the restaurant industry and travel industries set to increase by 27% by 2019.
So what are larger retailers doing to counteract this trend and what can small businesses learn from these retail giants?
There a few major retailers who have found ways to cater to experience seeking shoppers. Fitness and yoga apparel giant Lululemon has begun offering a concierge service that will help their shoppers book fitness classes and plan their ideal running routes. By encouraging the fitness habits of their shoppers, they’ll be driving up demand for their products as well as offering their shoppers an experience that they wouldn’t otherwise have access to.
After the holiday whirlwind, it is time to start the new year of 2016 with a bang! How do you continue to keep the steady flow of customers coming in after the holiday season? The answer is to take advantage of the many Q1 holidays and use these clever strategies to ensure that business keeps booming.
Q1 Holidays to keep in mind:
- Valentine’s Day: The ultimate day for expressing love and appreciation for the special people in life. Start planning now!! Consider putting together gift baskets with a sampling of your products as an easy “grab-and-go” gift idea for your customers. Spruce up the baskets by adding red or pink themed ribbons and packaging to give it that perfect touch. For companies that provide more of a service than a product, your basket could include a gift card with candy or some other small treat.
- For President’s Day, offer “Presidential Discounts.” For example, if the customer spends $10 or more, they save one George Washington ($1). If they spend $100 or more, they get the Andrew Jackson discount ($20).
- Your St. Patrick’s Day promotion might be 25% off of everything green in your store or a promotional campaign on “green” products that you offer.
Many small businesses struggle to compete with the big-box stores. They feel like they can’t compete but yet, they go against them every day to try to survive. However, keep in mind that there is a market out there for small businesses, as many consumers are just as frustrated and uninterested in big-box retailers as you are!
Keep this in mind:
- Customer Service. Larger stores know how important customer service is – and they struggle with it every day. Since they follow a cost-focused business model, they pay low wages and employ a lot of part-time employees. They also have large numbers of employees and high turnover – both of which are very difficult to manage. The quality of customer service a customer will get in a big box store is not only on the lower end, it is completely unpredictable. As a small business with a few employees, you can put a much stronger focus on customer service – and it will speak volumes to the consumer.
According to the CAN Small Business Health Index, 61% of small business owners expect their business to grow over the next 12 months, and one-third expect to do that through trying new forms of marketing and advertising. For similar small businesses looking to grow through new marketing tactics, consider expanding your inbound marketing.
According to Wikipedia, Inbound Marketing is marketing activities that bring visitors in, rather than marketers having to go out to get prospects’ attention; it earns the attention of customers, makes the company easy to be found, and draws customers to the website by producing interesting content.
If you are looking to focus on inbound marketing in 2016, here are a few tips to get started:
- Make sure your website is easy to find (SEO!), easy to navigate, and informative without being too salesy or disruptive
- Develop regular content (images, infographics, videos, tutorials, tips, etc) that interests your audience/readers and publish it in a blog on your website, in an e-newsletter, and/or on your social media channels – these are all places where consumers will come to you – so don’t make the content too salesy – keep it interesting and informative.
- Don’t forget visibility in the community is a good way to spread the word about your business. Volunteer or help coordinate community functions and make sure your business logo is displayed somewhere.
Your small business is probably based on a lot of up-front decision making as to which service or product niche to offer. The amount of time, energy and money you put in has paid off, but just how to grow your business to the next level seems to be elusive. According to Forbes Magazine:
- Small & medium enterprises (SMEs) that adopt mobile technologies to connect with customers are growing two times faster and creating eight times the number of jobs than SMEs who do not adopt mobile technologies
- SMEs that lead their respective industries in mobile adoption are also seeing 50% of web searches for their business start on mobile devices
- Mobile content and apps generated $530B in global revenue in 2014
- The majority of consumers WORLDWIDE would be willing to give up luxuries for a year in order to keep their mobile phones
Do you need more convincing? Are you ready to “up your game” in mobile technology? Below are some great applications and technologies that SMEs should consider for 2016: