This article is part of Square’s definitive guide on eCommerce best practices during the holidays. Explore the guide to learn how to curate a festive and stress-free shopping experience for your customers and stay competitive.
For shoppers on the hunt for the perfect gift, everything from trusted brands they’ve loved for years to new businesses that have caught their interest are up for consideration. The perfect gift has to be memorable and meaningful for the recipient, creating competition among sellers to tell the best story about their products and grow brand affinity.
With a large amount of holiday shopping being done online, small businesses have the perfect opportunity to showcase their unique brands and begin reaching customers from all over the country (or the world) with an eCommerce website. Online, small businesses have an opportunity to expand their platform and share their story with a larger audience than ever before.
Here are four ways to extend your brand online during the holiday season.
1. Tell your unique story
Before you launch your brand online, make sure you define the story behind it and envision how that narrative will resonate with potential customers to focus your brand messaging and purpose for your target customer. The key to a solid brand identity is to authentically represent your business in everything you do — your unique story can influence everything from the voice and tone on your website to how you incorporate your personality with your logo, color palette, and other design choices.
The Journal of Consumer Psychology says that brand authenticity includes being faithful to yourself, true to your consumers, motivated by caring and responsibility, and having a desire to help consumers be authentic to themselves. Part of getting consumers to trust your brand and its authenticity is letting potential customers know who you are. Your eCommerce site should have an “About” page that not only talks about what makes your brand unique but also tells customers your backstory and provides the opportunity for customers to feel connected to you — that’s what makes your venture stand out from other retailers.
According to a 2018 survey by the National Retail Federation, 67 million people participated in Small Business Saturday (the Saturday after Thanksgiving), and 78% of those did so specifically to support small businesses. Consumers want to support businesses they connect with, and the holidays are the perfect opportunity to do so by sharing holiday recommendations and tips.
Find a way to connect your goods and services to the holidays and to your personal story. For example, if you sell food, share favorite holiday treats and recipes on your site. If you sell apparel, highlight items that you actually use yourself, like a favorite scarf or winter hat. These personal touches let customers feel like they know you, which is what fosters customer loyalty and retention.
2. Get social
The holidays are a huge time for retail-related social media. According to a Sprout Social data report, there was a 75% increase in social media posts during November and December 2018 over what retailers saw the other 10 months of the year. Retailers also saw a 32% increase in social media posts compared to the 2017 holiday season.
Use this time to connect with potential customers by telling them more about your brand on social channels, using a holiday-season spin. Try creating an Instagram story that not only gives the background of your brand but also describes who or what you’re grateful for as you’ve embarked on your business journey. Share your favorite holiday traditions in a Facebook Live video. Or incorporate holiday-related facts and tidbits into Twitter posts using holiday hashtags.
You can also put the “social” in social media by partnering with other brands. Co-marketing is a win-win situation for all involved, so look for another local business to partner with, or find a local celebrity to take over your social media for a day.
The holidays are the perfect time for feel-good posts about your brand, your products, and the holidays in general. If you can interweave all three, you have the potential to make a real impact on social media.
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3. Create an experience
If you have a brick-and-mortar location, consider offering in-person experiences that make buyers feel welcome at your business and promote them on your website.
For a food- or kitchen-based business, this could be offering samples or a product demonstration — perhaps even holiday recipe ideas. For a clothing store, you could organize a fashion show featuring winter holiday items and accessories. If you sell paper products, offer a class or event that teaches people how to properly wrap picture-perfect presents. Experiential shopping is on the rise, and it is a great way to generate interest in your brand.
If you don’t have a physical location, look into pop-up shops. The holidays are a great time for a temporary physical location because people are in the shopping mood and looking to actively go out and buy presents — and according to The Storefront, pop-up shops are roughly 80% less expensive than brick-and-mortar locations.
Just one or two pop-up experiences can earn you loyal customers who will frequent your eCommerce store, just so they can continue using the products they loved from the pop-up experience.
4. Offer individuality and exclusivity
Shoppers love to feel like they are in on something secret or special — they also hate to feel left out. FOMO (fear of missing out) is real, and you can appeal to this by offering things that can only be purchased during your holiday launch.
Limited items are a key component for this because customers fear that by passing on a purchase available only for a limited time, they might miss out on something extraordinary. According to a 2015 survey by Canadian marketing company Citizen Relations, 68% of millennials surveyed have made “reactive purchases,” or purchases based on seeing their peers’ experiences and not wanting to be left behind.
Brands can capitalize on this natural instinct to be “in the know” by offering limited-time products and deals. You also may earn some repeat customers if you make it clear that specialty items will return next holiday season or pop up randomly throughout the year.
The holidays are also the perfect time to offer themed content or promotional contests. There are certain colors, motifs, scents, and flavors consumers can’t help but associate with the holiday season. So capitalize on that with your products. Furthermore, shoppers love a holiday promotion or bargain — offer a giveaway for early-bird holiday shoppers, or for people who post about your business on social media. Think a “12 Days of Christmas” promotion, which could incorporate both bargains and anticipation as you reveal the different promotions each day.
Overall, the holidays are an exciting and festive time for any business, and looking to launch or grow a brand online at that time is a bold move. But it could pay big dividends because of all the built-in retail advantages of the holiday season.
As more shoppers head online to find the perfect gift, sellers can capitalize on the rise of eCommerce by launching an online store. With a user-friendly eCommerce website, you can stay competitive this holiday season and grow your customer base. Square Online Store helps you quickly launch an eCommerce website with an intuitive online store builder and easy-to-use eCommerce tools. Showcase your items, set up Square for online payments, and you’re ready for this peak shopping period. Learn more about Square Online Store.