Smaller brick-and-mortar retailers don’t have it easy with the increase in online shopping and competition from larger retailers, but the festive season offers many opportunities to boost your sales and engage new customers. So, if you don’t already have a marketing plan, don’t worry – here are some ideas to help increase your footfall and make the most of your online activity this winter. From in-store Christmas tactics to associated online activity, read on to see how easy it can be to implement a simple festive marketing plan… Supermarkets, department stores and national retailers have massive Christmas marketing campaigns, and they usually begin to plan and come up with concepts for the coming year as soon as the current one concludes. It’s a full-time job for their marketing teams, but with the majority of UK small businesses having less than 50 employees and some 75% only employing the owner, there’s not the same capacity or capabilities for everyone. Preparing your festive marketing plan months before you need it is a good idea as it takes the pressure off, but it’s not the end of the world if you don’t. Any change to your marketing and advertising can have an impact on your sales, so here are a few ideas you could try this season: 1. Prep and plan when you can. Even if you wait until after Halloween to think about Christmas, there is still time to put a plan together. By then, most larger retailers will already be advertising their festive offers and designs, so take some time to research when you can. It’s also worth checking out what customers in your industry are talking about and what’s trending for inspiration. You can do this by checking out Google Trends, researching keywords for terms relating to your business or browsing social media sites and looking at hashtags and user comments. Once you’ve done your initial research, come up with a budget and stick to it. 2. Assemble your offers. Some retailers use Black Friday to clear out excess stock from the year, but you could do something similar for Christmas. How about setting up a ‘Make Your Own Gift Set’ or hamper deal where your customers can choose from your regular leftover products and make customised gift sets? Alternatively, you could group products into festive mix-and-match deals and offer wrapping services. 3. Create your marketing materials. Festive in-store points of sale and advertising don’t need to be expensive. You can get a lot for your budget if you’re a bit savvy – it’s all about choosing the most appropriate channels for your audience. For example, storefronts with lots of passers-by should consider their window displays as this will play a part in encouraging customers to pause and visit. Similarly, those nearby busy streets could consider distributing small flyers containing your Christmas messaging and enticing people in with offers and voucher codes. For longer-distance marketing, you could create festive bags for your customers by printing them or producing them yourself to save money. And don’t forget to complement all this by ensuring your new festive graphics are across all your social media and online channels for consistency. Also, if your customers are particularly engaged online, consider trying some Paid Advertising activity to find more of the same. Top Tip: The 3rd of December is 2022’s Small Business Saturday, where shopping locally is encouraged by all, particularly through social media and the #SmallBizSatUK and #SmallBusinessSaturday hashtags. Why not take out some ads in your local publications and promote the day in-store to maximise the impact? 4. Tweak your opening hours. Late-night opening hours are common the closer we get to the festive season, and it’s an opportunity for locals to get their presents after work and save time. However, your opening hours are limited by the size of your premises. Smaller businesses under a specific size can open whenever they like, early or late, so why not check your store size and tweak your opening hours to better meet the needs of the 9-5 crowd? 5. Consider special events. Loyal and repeat customers are far more affordable to convert as they are already engaged and further down the marketing funnel. When looking to boost your sales, these are the best and most cost-effective audiences to target, so why not host a special event for your repeat customers and subscribers? Here are some ideas for your festive launch event: Offer product demonstrations Offer free gifts Have exclusive offers Encourage attendance through competitions The key here is to target your existing customers, so aim to invite those who complete a purchase in-store or online, or those who sign up for any loyalty schemes or email subscriptions you offer. Making the event invite-only is an option too, though you will likely have to host this after working hours. 6. Maximise impulse buying. One marketing tactic that works year-round is point-of-purchase sales. These are products you place by the till or along the queuing route to upsell to those already committed to purchasing from you. If all your marketing activity has worked and you have increased footfall or sales, then you can make the most of this by including stocking fillers and items that could be smaller additional gifts in these places. It’s very little effort and often has a nice, positive impact. Christmas marketing doesn’t have to be decided months in advance – we’re not all creating dedicated festive TV ads, are we? Instead, do what you can, when you can, and focus on what works for your business and is most likely to reach your customers.