Local foot traffic is

News is good in the neighborhood

If basics are your bent

Big brands (particularly those that trade in the trends of electronics) are not expecting a banner year for people buying new TVs or surveillance technology. Yet, if what your local business offers is help with basic needs and modest comforts, 2022’s holiday sales can be decent, if not a phenomenal spree. Let’s look at a solid strategy for stocking what folks want and communicating that you’re here to serve.

“Heat or eat” is the troubling slogan I’m hearing in multiple countries where economics have been allowed to create an artificial scarcity of energy resources on the back of a quite legitimate shortage of labor due to the pandemic. Until we all have our own nearby solar, wind and water power, we’ll continue to face fossil fuel-foolery that will eat up our paychecks and leave many in the cold this winter. All of us non-wealthy folk are feeling the pinch. We’ll be looking at the circle of our loved ones and deciding that instead of giving our favorite nephew electronics this winter, we will either pay part of his heating bill or knit him a very warm scarf.

2022 is the year to take a very close look at how much of your winter inventory and strategy can be rejigged to focus on food, warmth, wellness, and deals. Get a sense of the shopping season ahead from these eight points:

And that brings us to our strategic marketing checklist.

With your mindfully-curated inventory in place, you’re ready to serve up your offering to your community, and you have an absolute feast of options at your fingertips for getting the word out. Consider all of the following methodologies for promoting your local business this holiday shopping season:

✅ Website

Now is the time to be sure your website is offering maximum information in abundance:

Update hours of operation to reflect holiday hours.

Double check that store location info is correct in every place it is listed on the site, including headers/footers/side bars, contact pages, location landing pages, and about pages.

Highlight every possible contact methodology, including phone, text, chat, forms, messaging, social and email.

Highlight all fulfillment options, including in-store, buy-online-pick-up-in-store, curbside, home delivery, and shipping.

Don’t buy the hype that COVID is “over”; feature your safest protocols and requirements to serve the maximum number of people in your community, including elders and the immune compromised.

Audit all product landing pages to be sure that they are discoverable via site search and/or menu navigation and that shopping cart functionality is as simple as possible; to avoid cart abandonment, be up front about shipping/handling charges.

Create sitewide or page-specific banners for your best deals of the season (coupons, free shipping, discounts, etc.) as customers will be looking for the least expensive options more than usual this year.

Feature first and third-party reviews on key pages of the site (location or product landing pages) to let the public do the selling for you.

Highlight when items that need to be custom made or shipped must be ordered to reach recipients before a specified holiday date.

Highlight the greenest practices and most important community initiatives in which your local business is participating. Even in hard times, there is a growing trend of people shopping their values. Be sure to publicize if a percentage of your profits support local institutions like food banks, heat for elders, and other worthy causes.

Consider creating an essentials guide section of the website to showcase inventory that meets the goals of providing warmth, nourishment, and comfort. Depending on your industry, consider creating a re-stored/recycled guide, too, for younger shoppers.

✅ Google Business Profile and other local business listings

Retroactively respond to any reviews that have been ignored in Q3 and make a schedule for daily checks of incoming reviews over the next few months. Respond with empathetic solutions to cited problems and grow your reputation for customer service excellence. Do not incentivize requests for customers to remove negative reviews.

Photograph key lines of your inventory as well as the exterior and interior of your store, and upload these images to your listings. Don’t have time to do it all? Get started by photographing stock that meets the food-warmth-wellness-deals criteria.

Add your holiday-focused products to the Products section of your Google Business Profile.

Throughout the holiday shopping season, publish a variety of Google Posts featuring your inventory and special deals.

Pre-populate the Q&A section of your Google Business Profile with holiday-specific questions and answers such as “are you open on New Year’s Eve?” or “do you have candy canes?”

Speaking of Q&A, Google Messaging now allows you to enter ten questions for providing automated answers. If you have messaging turned on, this is a great opportunity to respond promptly to common queries about your holiday offerings, even when short-staffed. Nice to know that this feature can also include links to pages of your website for more information.

Video content just keeps getting more popular. Make a short holiday offers video and publish it to your listings.

Be sure listing menus reflect holiday-related services and inventory.

Look at the attribute section of your Google Business Profile, and add as many relevant signals (like Black-owned or wheelchair accessible) as possible.

Google has confoundingly removed COVID safety information from their listings just in time for the holiday flu season. If you know health and safety are a priority for your customers, consider adding your sanitary measures to the business description or Posts.

Google Business Profiles tend to steal the show, but in 2022, I would also recommend keeping a special eye on your listings on Nextdoor and Facebook.

✅ Social

Regularly share hours of operation on social platforms whether you’re offering special holiday hours or not.

Share information about gift cards or gift certificates you offer along with how to purchase them.

Share any information about sales, specials, or promotions you’re running in-store.

Feature visual buying guides on platforms like Instagram or Twitter. For example, “gifts for dad” or “gifts for college students” which feature products you know are popular among those demographics.

Create “behind the scenes” videos for TikTok and Instagram which feature how a product is made or how your business prepares for the holidays.

Create a hashtag and post it near checkout or on bag inserts encouraging customers to share their purchases. Be sure to include that their posts may be featured on your own social media accounts as UGC.

Tweet to your followers asking them to share their recent purchases or meals. Be sure to interact with the posts and engage in conversation with your community.

Create fun photo-ops in stores with backdrops or merchandise displays. Place a sign near these photo-ops encouraging people to share their photos on social media to generate buzz and foot traffic for others wanting to participate. Be sure you’re following along online, as well, so you can engage with the posts.

Tweet to your followers asking what they are excited about for the holiday season and then reply with recommendations from your business. For example, someone may say they are excited to visit family and friends to which you may recommend travel accessories, games to play in a group, or gift cards they can purchase for those they are visiting.

✅ Real world

Small business owners are the backbone of the US economy. You are essential and heroic for keeping communities supplied over the past few years of extraordinary challenge, and your real-world efforts deserve recognition and huge praise. Here are a few activities that could bring more attention and customers your way.

If your town or county still has a local newspaper, reach out to reporters there with your business story, including tips for holiday shoppers who need help celebrating on a budget. Never undersell the expertise you’ve earned when it comes to serving the public in good times and bad.

Finally, remember that economists like all those I’ve linked to today, and marketing commentators like myself, are just regular people without any special powers over the future you are writing for your business. Predictions matter, but local business owners possess a hardihood and greatness that defies odds, again, and again, and again.

It’s the kind of story only a small business owner would be daring enough to write, and as we close out 2022 with eyes open and fingers crossed, I am wishing you Chouinardian grit, innovation, vision, and success.

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