Now is the time to get serious about the upcoming holiday shopping season. This Christmas should be slightly different than past seasons because of the somewhat unusual economic hurdles we’ve all encountered this year. Why would anyone have a problem looking forward to Christmas shopping after experiencing a roller coaster stock market, uncertain economic conditions, weakening dollar, QE 1,2 and now 3, bank failures, and healthcare concerns and other business unknowns.

Consumer’s Attitudes Have Changed

Think of how your own attitudes have changed this year. Higher gas prices encouraged people to make fewer trips and more efficient trips. Thankfully prices are coming down just in time for the holidays. Most of us have adjusted our lifestyles in some way due to the economics of the day. More and more people are turning to online shopping and research on various products and services.

Social media, shopping apps on smart phones, are dramatically changing the way customers shop for goods and services. Consumers can find the exact model number or price of almost any item with a few thumb clicks on their iPhones.

Social Media Shopping & Business Rules

If you’re not on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, then you need to do that. It may be too late for it to make an impact this year but building a following on these social media is a very low cost way to engage your customers.

Here are the social media business rules; 70% of your posts should have value and relative content to your customers, 20% should be shared links with other businesses or info about products from other sources and the final 10% is your own store promotions.

Customers are not coming back to a social media page if there is nothing but ads. They want helpful information. Educate them about the benefits of your products and services without the high-pressure sales pitches.

How Will You Get Your Piece of The Christmas Pie?

Let’s start with your web site. When was it last updated? Keep in mind that people are going to be searching for products and services, not necessarily for a particular company. There are always going to be shoppers that will go to the Target or the Wal-Mart site out of habit. But, keep in mind that your web site is the one place where you can go head to head with any big box store. You can look just as glitzy and just as big as they are.

Examine the products you are bringing in for the Christmas season. What are the top margin products? If there are less than 50 individual items, then each product should have its own page. Here’s why.

Each Page Is a Web Site

Think of each page on your site as a separate web site. That’s how search engines look at your site. Search engines don’t just look at your home page; they catalog each and every page on your site, and try to find the relevance of that page to possible keyword searches.

Having a separate page for each of your best selling most profitable items give you a major advantage over your competition in searches for your products. You can use more keyword rich descriptions and larger pictures of your items. You can also add and delete offers and discounts to keep customers coming back to your site.

You can schedule sale dates and times to spread shoppers out over the day to take some pressure off your sales staff. You can also put coupons on your site people can print out and bring in. If you are running a 20% off sale, then run a “Shop with a Buddy” coupon. Most women shop together for Christmas. This coupon will bring two customers in rather than just one.

These are changes you need to think about now because it’s going to take 30 days for your site to be indexed in the major search engines and for your pages to work their way up the search index.

Make Online Shopping Easy

Put a printable shopping list on your site where shoppers can just check off the items they need. Arrange it in categories such as, “Gifts for Dad Under $50.00.” Even better have the list tied to an email that can be sent to the store and employees can assemble the items for pickup. There might be a small additional charge for this specialized service if you have the personnel to handle it. No big box store is going to offer that kind of convenience.

Some Final Thoughts

Use your other ads in newspapers, radio, TV to send people to your site. This takes them away from competitive advertising and makes them a captive audience. Make sure your site is easy to use and navigate. Have store hours and contact phone and email info at the top and bottom of each page. Make sure your web site is on your answer machine to direct after hours callers to your site.

Make the shopping experience as pleasant and as easy as possible. Take care of your customers and they will take care of you this Christmas.

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