Holiday 2022 has been a tricky shopping season to predict, which gives small- and medium-sized businesses extra leverage compared with large brands that likely had to have their promotional plans cemented months ago.

While many reports expected shoppers to start whittling their list earlier than ever this year, updated polls show many have been holding off. In fact a new survey found 41% of shoppers failed to make a dent in their holiday shopping during a spate of early retail sales from big brands in early October. The upshot? Plenty of shopping dollars out there for you to capture.

As you’re making (and remaking!) your promotional list and checking it twice, here are eight ways to boost traffic with shoppers, both in-store and online.

  1. Make the most of existing "shopping events." 
    While retailers are motivated to increase traffic throughout the season, there are certain times consumers have been conditioned to shop and are therefore likely to be out in force. The most notable are Black Friday (Nov. 25, 2022), Small Business Saturday (Nov. 26, 2022), CyberMonday (Nov. 28, 2022), Giving Tuesday (Nov. 29, 2022) and Super Saturday (Dec. 17, 2022). That means the opportunity lies not in encouraging them to shop in general but to visit your store or site specifically. Get your share of those shopping dollars by promoting around these occasions via social media, email and text messaging.

  2. Work with other local retailers to create a festive Small Business Saturday atmosphere.
    Many consumers are eager to resume traditions of seasons past and enjoy the hustle and bustle of group shopping. Make Small Business Saturday noteworthy by reaching out to your retail neighbors to collaborate on a shared activity that shoppers won’t want to miss. You can collectively offer samples and giveaways, live music and seasonal refreshments to attract traffic. With each store publicizing the event on their social media and through in-store signage and flyers, you can reach more people than you would alone.

  3. Cross-promote buying opportunities via online in and in-store channels if you offer them both.
    Sometimes shoppers picture your brand in just the way they typically visit you, whether it’s in-store or online. By uniting your channels and creating a seamless experience no matter where they access your store, you can capture their dollars wherever they choose to spend them. One smart strategy is to offer free pickup and returns in-store, which allows them to shop from the comfort of their homes without worry of additional charges while ultimately increasing foot traffic and encouraging impulse buys.

  4. Align with a philanthropic cause.
    Today’s consumer aims to shop according to their values; in fact, an overwhelming 82% of consumers expect a brand’s values to align with their own. The holidays are an especially important time to think of others and present an opportunity for your brand to do well while doing “good.” Consider announcing your alignment with a particular cause on Giving Tuesday and then continue to promote your participation throughout the season. You could donate a percentage of sales to the charity or invite customers to round up their own purchases to support it. Another option is to offer a service, like gift wrapping, in exchange for a donation.

  5. Plan discounts strategically.
    While larger brands have more latitude for deep discounts, smaller businesses need to protect their margins by offering deals more selectively. Here are some suggestions:
    • Focus your discounts on slow sellers rather than across your merchandise line to take full advantage of pricing power with hot items
    • Tie discounts to loyalty programs to incent and reward your best customers rather than one-time bargain hunters who won’t provide lasting value

    • Offer slight discounts on gift cards to encourage future visits when the selling season typically slows down in the new year

    • Drive store traffic and increase volume with coupons for a free gift with a higher threshold purchase 

  6. Boost your social media credibility.
    Consumers are increasingly relying on social media to make their shopping plans so make sure you have a robust presence. One wise way to create engaging content is to enlist social media-savvy employees to post and/or do live shopping segments. They likely have followings of their own that can boost the message beyond your brand account.

    You can also turn shoppers into brand advocates through user-generated content. Shoppers are looking for immersive experiences like never before so encourage them to post and share their visit. Make stores “Instagram worthy” with festive backgrounds and photo props or a decorated “selfie” frame.

  7. Spruce up your merchandising.
    Supply chain snarls wreaked havoc on last season’s inventory, and many brands are still paying the price as they aim to divest lingering items, either from delayed shipments or changing customer tastes. Many smaller stores might be well-positioned to highlight fresh merchandise since they typically order on shorter timelines and may have less excess built up.

    Build on that advantage by promoting “new” and “now” inventory via in-store signage and social media. Showcase these items on gift lists and educate your associates on how to highlight them to customers.

    If you do have existing inventory to move, freshen it up rather than giving it away via steep discounts. Promote slow-moving items as “stocking stuffers” or “hostess gifts” and prepare bundles of complementary wares, with some of your slower movers included. Shoppers will feel like they’re getting a deal, and you can avoid overly obvious price markdowns.

  8. Offer a wide range of merchandise to appeal to all customer budgets.
    Many consumers say they’re cutting back, but they might still be willing to indulge in smaller luxuries. Likewise, some studies are finding other customers are feeling financially confident and might be willing to splurge. Offer items at both spectrums and focus on personal service to help direct customers to the items that fit with their personal spending plan.
Looking for more insights to ring in a profitable 2022 and 2023? Visit the Old National business blog here for more advice and tips.