‘Tis the Season’: Get the most out of seasonal trends as a small business
Usually, the first of December would signal the start of one of the busiest periods of the year for many businesses. Particularly in sectors like retail and hospitality, the festive season often generates enough revenue to comfortably make up for traditionally leaner months early in the New Year. By contrast, businesses in the B2B sector often look at December as a significantly quieter month and January as the ideal time to kick-start a period of growth.
However, as we are all now acutely aware, this year has been more than a little different! What can small businesses do to capitalise on fast changing consumer habits and shifting seasonal trends?
1. Don’t rely on past behaviours
If nothing else, the Covid-19 pandemic of 2020 has turned everyone’s expectations of what’s ‘normal’ on their head. We’ve all had to adapt rapidly, fundamentally altering the trends and behaviours businesses implicitly rely on. Without a physical office, ‘9-5’ habits become less important; with the high street closed, online shopping takes centre stage. As a result, being able to identify and capitalise on emerging trends in this brand new environment has been crucial for small businesses looking to survive and thrive.
As we enter December on the other side of a month long mini lockdown, the usual seasonal trends look to be shifting too. Google searches for terms like ‘christmas tree’ and ‘christmas decorations’ started trending significantly earlier this year1, as consumers look to brighten their Autumn with a little early festive cheer. Being aware of new trends like this gives businesses the option to alter their Christmas sales and marketing strategies, increasing the chance of extra revenue at the end of a particularly challenging year. Whilst it’s still unclear as to what the pre Christmas period will end up looking like on the high street, or for hospitality, being flexible and open to new seasonal trends has never been more important.
2. Prioritise online shopping
2020 might have been a challenging year for retail, but one definite silver lining has been the explosion in popularity of online shopping. At one point, the Office of National Statistics recorded online sales as making up over 30% of total retail sales2, the highest it’s ever been. As of October, with Christmas around the corner and tighter restrictions on physical shops, this figure climbed back up to 28.2% and looked set to increase again in November.
With a significant degree of uncertainty still surrounding the reopening of physical shops in large parts of the UK, small businesses should definitely be looking at how they can continue to prioritise online shopping during the festive period. That could mean increasing digital marketing activity across Google and social media to promote exclusive online deals, or expanding the range of products and delivery options available on the website throughout December. As more consumers than ever choose to shop online, small businesses have a fantastic opportunity to expand their customer base and increase potential revenue in the run up to Christmas.
3. Make safety a priority in peak periods
This year, preparing for a peak sales period doesn’t just mean new marketing strategies, bigger stock inventories and additional staff. For small businesses planning to open their physical premises, it’s also about keeping everyone as safe as possible as they eat, drink and shop their way through December.
Businesses have already adopted multiple strategies to ensure social distancing and public health guidelines can be followed by consumers in their stores, but as Christmas shoppers take to the high street once more, it’s important to ensure that these measures will cope on even the busiest days. Simple precautions like extra hand sanitiser at the entrance, a robust one way system and setting a limit on the number of people allowed in at any one time will go a long way to ensuring staff and customers feel as safe as possible over the festive shopping period. Crucially, ensuring that any additional safety measures are in place well ahead of time will help minimise disruption and allow you to focus your time and energy on the performance of the business during a key sales period.
4. Get ahead of the game: Plan for 2021
Business planning in 2020 has been far from easy, because let’s face it, no one has been quite sure what’s going to happen next. Nonetheless, being able to spot seasonal opportunities and prepare for emerging trends can make all the difference. Particularly if you operate in a B2B focused industry, putting together a sales and marketing plan based on expected trends in early 2021 could prove to be a crucial advantage when the time comes.
There are several tools that can really help small businesses plan for emerging trends. From a digital perspective, Google Trends is a fantastic way to spot what your audience might be searching for ahead of time. From this preliminary data, you can get a good idea of the kind of topics and thought pieces you should be prioritizing on your website and in your digital marketing in the near future. Government bodies like the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and organisations like the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) can also provide invaluable insight into trends and statistics affecting businesses across the UK. Finally, it’s also really worthwhile to keep up with news published by industry leaders within your own sector, as the analysis they provide could well have a direct impact on your own strategies for the future.
5. Embrace the new
No matter how reliable they seem, 2020 has proven that even the most fundamental business trends can change rapidly due to external factors. In the face of this uncertainty, small businesses need to be flexible, adapting to new opportunities as they appear and making the most of them. Don’t just rely on historical data, or the same things you’ve always done; make this the season your business explores new trends, finds new customers and taps into new opportunities for growth.
1 ‘How UK consumers are shopping differently for Christmas this year’, Retail Week, 20.11.20, https://www.retail-week.com/retail-voice/how-uk-consumers-are-shopping-differently-for-christmas-this-year/7036214.article
2 ‘Internet sales as a percentage of total retail sales (ratio) (%)’, ONS, 20.11.20, https://www.ons.gov.uk/businessindustryandtrade/retailindustry/timeseries/j4mc/drsi