How can independent retailers really make this the most wonderful time of the year?

It may feel as though the Christmas lights were only packed away a matter of weeks ago or that the bank balance or waistline is yet to really bounce back from last December, but like it or not, the festive season is upon us once again. Whilst the first sighting of the iconic Coca Cola advert might signify the start of proceedings for some, for others in more recent years, it’s the premier of the annual John Lewis Christmas advert that marks the arrival of the festive season. These annual traditions aside however, it is Visa’s debut onto the Christmas advertising scene that has really caught my attention this December.

Much to my delight, Visa has chosen to put the spotlight on local shopkeepers and celebrate the independent retailers across the nation, urging UK consumers to support their local high streets. Yes, the likes of John Lewis to Amazon may have ruled supreme for several years when it comes to Christmas purchases, but as Visa reminds us, the festive season is not just for the big players in the retail world. As the retail peak of the year, it offers independents’ a fantastic opportunity to drive sales, grow their brand and build a loyal customer base to take them into 2019 successfully, but only if they recognise how to make the most of it.

Make your customers’ lives easier

Whilst some consumers thrive on the chaos of Christmas shopping, for the majority it creates a feeling of dread. The thought of fitting an additional task into an already busy time of year, which also requires planning and money, is enough to make even the hardiest shoppers wobble. For independent retailers however, there is a shining opportunity to bring a little festive cheer to the shopping task ahead.

With a niche product offering and specialist advice, smaller retail brands can be on the front foot in meeting consumer expectations. This is particularly relevant at Christmas when shoppers may be searching for a gift that is stand-out above the rest or in desperate need of guidance from an expert around a particular purchase.

Find ways to add a special touch

Whether they are online or in a physical store, shoppers expect the personal touch and perhaps most of all at Christmas, convenience. Think about how you can provide this to your customers. Whether it’s through sending them recommendation messages based on their browsing behaviour or previous purchases, useful information such as opening hours of physical stores, Christmas delivery deadlines or live availability updates so they aren’t left disappointed when a product sells out. The right technology and tools are available to support independent retailers to do this, it just comes down to understanding what’s going to make a difference to the business.

Beyond being useful, retail brands should be looking for ways to make shoppers feel loved this Christmas. Discounts and special offers are a great way to incentive a purchase – or perhaps consider offering free delivery to new subscribers to help encourage them to check out. Special events or evenings are a valuable way to drive brand awareness within a physical store. Not only can shoppers touch and feel the products, but it’s a chance to learn more about your customers over a mince pie or tipple, and serves to build stronger relationships in the future.

An independent retailer isn’t just for Christmas  

Whilst Christmas is undoubtedly the peak of the retail calendar, the work shouldn’t stop there. December is an opportunity to drive sales and growth, but also lay the foundations for bringing customers back in January and beyond. Providing an initial experience that meets their expectations is a great starting point which retail brands should look to build on as they learn more about the individual. Having strategies in place in December for data capture will make the work much more fruitful in the New Year and enable brands to target shoppers with relevant content that brings them back again and again. The dulcet tones of the Visa advert’s independent shop keepers singing Mariah Carey’s All I want for Christmas is you may be a stretch too far for many, but there are certainly ways that up and coming retailers can make this December one to remember – both for their businesses and their customers. Get it right and it paves the ways for even greater success in 2019.