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Preparing for Christmas 2023 as a small business

'Tis the season to be prepared

Is it too early to talk Christmas? With well under 100 days to go, the answer is no if you are a small business. If you haven’t done so already, now is the time to put your Christmas marketing plans in place. Whether you are a retail or non-retail brand, it is important that your marketing activity addresses your customer’s changing needs and behaviour at the festive time of year.

Last year, the average spend on Christmas per UK household was a staggering £1,216*.

The total value of Christmas sales in the UK was forecast to amount to approximately £82 billion pounds in 2022, which saw a decrease from the previous year. Nevertheless, these forecasted sales figures for the UK ranked as the highest in Europe, with expected sales worth roughly nine billion pounds more than those in second-placed Germany**.

Throughout recent years, B2C and B2B businesses alike have had to evaluate their online offering as customers became more reliant on digital search to find a product or service. Supply chains also needed to be reassessed as shipping, production and supply were all affected by economic and political change.

As a small business, how can we learn from the experience of the last few years and how do we cut through the noise to deliver a relevant and effective Christmas marketing strategy?

Back to basics – Be brand relevant

Make sure your plan is relevant to your brand. Some of the most successful Christmas marketing campaigns focus on the company’s overarching brand values and how these align to the core message of Christmas. Think John Lewis – from the launch of the big-budget ad, through to their accompanying website landing page, social media activity and themed gifting. Each touchpoint is carefully thought through and offers an inviting and cohesive customer journey.

Black Friday – Should you take part?

Consider how you want to address the popularity of Black Friday and whether it needs to be incorporated into your marketing strategy. The answer is not always yes. Despite a high percentage of UK retailers taking part, many big brands have shunned the American-export in recent years, including Next and M&S who use the month to highlight their focus on delivering value year-round. Last year, beauty retailer Rituals linked their Black Friday alternative ‘Green Friday’ to a push for more sustainable materials***. The brand offered customers special deals on its sustainable refills, rather than discounting all of its products. The 20% discounts on refills across its range helped consumers to save on both money and unnecessary packaging.

If you choose to take part in Black Friday, your offering does not necessarily need to include discounts but, as a small business, time-limited incentives could feature.

Still interested? Black Friday 2023 will take place on 24th November.

Small Business Saturday

Small Business Saturday is a non-commercial initiative which first took place in the UK in 2013, supported by American Express, who understand how crucial small businesses are in our local communities and encourages consumers to ‘shop local’ in the run up to Christmas.

Over the time Small Business Saturday has ran in the UK, it has engaged millions each year, with spend on the day topping over £1 billion****.

The grassroots campaign highlights small business success and all types of businesses are encouraged to get involved; from family businesses, to wholesalers to business service providers. There is also an opportunity for larger business to support the campaign via mentoring, advertising and sponsorship.

This year, Small Business Saturday UK takes place on 2nd December. Find out how you can get involved.

Online & mobile – Is your website ready?

Over the past few years, the digital landscape has shifted on a seismic scale. The importance of having a website that is mobile-friendly and easily navigated has never been greater. Your site should be fully optimised for search through a targeted SEO strategy to ensure your audience is able to find you. It is well worth carrying out a Digital Audit of your website to make sure it is performing as well as it can be.

Social media – Let’s talk

The social commerce industry in the United Kingdom is expected to grow by 31.6% on annual basis in 2023. By 2028, the UK’s social commerce is predicted to reach a staggering US $80374.1 million*****.

With reports indicating that more and more individuals are using social channels to look for purchase inspiration, the opportunity for smaller retailers to make use of the growing number of in-app check-out facilities is huge. Take time to understand how best to use each application and decide which option would be right for your business and where you are most likely to find your target audience. Instagram and TikTok for example now have well-established shopping functions, which can now act as your digital shopping location as more consumers find ease and convenience away from the high street.

With social media in mind, remember to pay attention to the quality of your social feeds and engagement levels. Are you listening to the conversation and responding to posts that are relevant to your business?

Ask yourself how consumers will find you. Research relevant hashtags and make use of the latest developments on social media such as Reels to reach a wider audience. Running a Pay Per Click (PPC) campaign on your chosen social platform can be a cost-effective way of reaching a very targeted audience (defined by location, age, gender and interests).

Social Influencers can also have a big impact on attracting new customers and sales conversions. Are there influencers speaking to your target audience who would be interested in partnering with your brand in the lead up to Christmas? Micro-influencers (with a smaller number of followers) often represent a good option for smaller businesses, as they can typically enjoy a more loyal, targeted following.

Product & service selection – Standing out from the crowd

Four consumer trends that will be predominant through the Christmas quarter are; products and services which include value, personalisation, ethically sourced and products that bring the family closer together******.

Consumers are bombarded with gifting options this time of year. Can you offer an exclusive or personalised piece? Are your sustainable sourcing credentials displayed? The product doesn’t necessarily need to be Christmas-themed, but a unique piece or service that would make a great gift. Make sure you understand fulfilment deadlines from your supply chain, and ensure these are clearly communicated to your customers with last order dates for guaranteed Christmas delivery.

Non-retail businesses? – Time to reconnect, reward & give back

Christmas is the perfect time to reward customers, incentivise employees and reconnect with prospects through hosting and gifting. As well as rewarding customers and employees, you could help give a boost to a local hospitality business by choosing their venue or service to entertain your guests. Start your research now to ensure you can secure your chosen venue and understand order deadlines for the personalisation and prompt delivery of gifts.

Community and charitable events can help to raise your company’s profile within your chosen location and target demographic through sponsorship, event support and/or raffle gift donations. It is important that any involvement is relevant to your company’s core values and your commitment to the cause should be genuine.

With all of this in mind, it’s certainly not too early to be talking Christmas. Now is the time for businesses to consider the needs and behaviour of their target customer in the weeks and months leading up to the festive season. Relevance and authenticity should sit at the heart of your strategy and be implemented consistently across all communications.

Do you need help developing a marketing strategy that addresses your customer's needs and behaviour? Contact our team to see how we can help.

* : World Remit

** : Statista

*** : Retail Gazette

**** : Small Business Saturday

***** : PR Newswire

****** : Retail Week