Answering Consumer Demand – How Business Owners Can Adapt to This Season’s Top Shopping Trends
:: By Kelly Meeneghan, 1&1 Internet Inc. (www.1and1.com)::
The business industry is constantly evolving in order to keep up with new consumer demands. With the biggest shopping season of the year quickly approaching, it is important for business owners to adopt popular business trends with the aim to make the most of this busy season. Based on the American Express 2013 Spending & Saving Tracker research, manager at 1&1 Internet Kelly Meeneghan suggests strategies to best prepare your business this holiday season.
1. Get Ready for the Rush
This year we will experience one of the shortest holiday shopping seasons since 2002 and consumers are planning to get an early start. However, the tight timeline will not cut down on their spending, with consumers expecting to spend $1,260 this year - a $400 increase from last year. Small business owners should take note that not all purchases are charted for the retail giants. In fact, 38 percent of consumers are planning to shop with small businesses.
The key to fully leveraging this extra business is preparation. Be sure that your IT infrastructure is strong enough to handle the surges in traffic and the increase in technical demand. Transitioning your business to a cloud platform can be the perfect solution as you maintain full control and flexibility of your IT requirements. This option gives you the opportunity to configure your website’s RAM, hard disk space and CPU as needed while only paying for what you use. For example, in the height of the holiday rush you can increase your resources to ensure no downtime or slow loading for your site visitors. Once the rush is over, you can revert to the lower settings. All of the adjustments can be made without technical support and take almost immediate effect, saving your business time and money.
2. Promote, Promote, Promote
The main driver of the holiday shopping frenzy is the allure of savings. Shoppers are willing to wait hours in line, in the cold and in the middle of the night just to save money on sought after items. As a business owner, it would be unfortunate not to take advantage of this opportunity by offering holiday shopping discounts and promotions. This is especially true since 47 percent of consumers are planning to use coupons or promotions for holiday shopping. The simple added promise of savings can have the power to get consumers to step inside your business’s front door, onto your website and/or purchase services.
A powerful way to communicate your sale campaigns is through different social media channels. Facebook was noted as the most popular social resource for savings (49 percent), followed by Pinterest (20 percent) and Twitter (20 percent) last year. If your business does not already have these existing social media accounts, it is strongly encouraged to create one. These networks are virtually free and provide endless opportunities for promotions and communication between business and consumer. In fact, 66 percent of consumers plan to take advantage of offers via social media sites this year alone. But how will you know if your social media efforts were successful? Analytics tools come with some of the most popular platforms such as Facebook. The social media network’s analytics can tell you the total amount of likes, comments and shares your posts receive. You can also learn the number of times the business page was viewed and the total number of people who saw each activity from your page including posts by other people, mentions and check-ins to name a few. Use these details to evaluate which promotions and posts gathered the most attention, and perhaps more importantly, which communication was least successful. You can then cross check your sales and inventory numbers with your social media activity to see if it had a direct impact on overall profits for that specific campaign. This data will be beneficial when planning for next year’s rush.
3. Don’t Forget About Mobile
The popularity and clear benefits that mobile devices provide business owners offer yet another avenue for SMBs to reach potential customers. Having a mobile optimized website allows businesses to stay in the forefront of a consumers mind when holiday shopping no matter where they are.
This holiday season consumers plan to do more multitasking in order to be as efficient and effective as possible. Most are using their mobile devices to shop (51 percent, up from 32 percent last year), browse for gift ideas (25 percent, up from 18 percent) and compare prices (20 percent, up from 12 percent). Sometimes a mobile optimized website can be as simple as the click of a button.
4. Deliver Optimal Performance
Businesses should look carefully at how their website is loaded on all devices. No matter if it is a smartphone, laptop, desktop or tablet - if the content of the site is not delivered correctly or has long loading times, there is an increased likelihood of viewers abandoning the site completely. Consider implementing a Content Delivery Network (CDN) into your IT portfolio. CDN providers offer tools that can automatically check the type of connection and screen size that your website will be viewed on in order to properly evaluate how the information should be received. Dynamic content heavy websites such as retail stores or those with a product catalog can benefit from this tool, ensuring that their site is viewed properly with limited latency, no matter the device.
In order to thrive this holiday season, businesses need to pay close attention to consumer behavior. Strategies that were successful last year, may not result in the same success this year based on new demands and expectations of the general public. Adapting your business strategies to match consumer behaviors will result in significant profit this holiday season and into the New Year.
As a manager for 1&1 Internet, Inc., Kelly Meeneghan is an industry specialist providing expert advice on how SMBs can grow their business online through websites and online marketing methods. 1&1, a global leader among Web hosts, provides companies with the tools necessary to get online and be successful. For more information visit www.1and1.com or learn about how you can drive success for your business at www.success.1and1.com.