It's no secret that the holiday shopping season can have a significant impact on a business's annual revenue. With so much dependent on driving sales during such a short window of time, marketers know they need to take a creative, multifaceted approach to the holiday shopping season.

However, doing so is often easier said than done. Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday celebrations are barely a month apart; it's a crowded time, and small business marketers are faced with the challenge of standing out in an already crowded field. Developing an effective holiday marketing strategy can be particularly stressful.

Small Businesses and the Holidays

Recent Yahoo Small Business research finds that a majority of consumers (75%) want to shop at and support small businesses, and familiarity with a retailer is the top factor influencing whether they choose to shop small (38% of respondents). Having multiple touchpoints through consistent marketing and promotion across different channels—before, during, and even after the holidays—ensures smaller retailers remain top-of-mind for current and future customers.

Pulling from my experience working with small businesses and supporting my own family business, I recommend small businesses prioritize four areas if they are to have a lasting impact through the holiday season and into the next year.

1. Prepare in advance of the season

Ideally, you'll want to ensure any e-commerce upgrades and site redesigns are completed prior to the busy season.

Moreover, email lists and content can be queued up and ready to go so you can fire up the holiday marketing machine, including social media content, which can also be prepped before the holiday chaos ensues.

Content that highlights promotions, events, and new items can be prepared advance; final tweaks can always be made later to keep the content timely in the moment.

2. Use Black Friday and Cyber Monday data to plan promotions for the rest of the holiday shopping season

Consumers are in search of a great deal this time of year. Look for trending items and trending searches, and use that data to run flash sales, time-based promotions, and more in the runup to Christmas, Hanukkah, etc. and the New Year.

In addition, consider whether you can cross-sell items with excessive inventory together with any trending items.

3. Optimize website and in-store activations

As more and more consumers opt to do their shopping online, having a website that looks good and is easy to use is crucial. Outdated and inefficient websites and payment options were also identified as a major gripe by shoppers in the Yahoo study. Marketers should ensure promotions are easy to find on the website and that they can handle the influx of orders on the back end.

However, don't forget about in-store promotions in the process. Consumers still value the human touch, especially when buying from smaller retailers. Some customers even prefer brick-and-mortar shopping; ensuring an engaging in-store experience is therefore key.

This time of year is also an opportunity for smaller retailers to demonstrate their expertise and compete against big box stores during the most important shopping season.

4. Maintain Black Friday and Cyber Monday momentum

Capitalize on Black Friday and Cyber Monday consumer engagement and excitement to drive additional sales and maintain customer touchpoints. Leveraging momentum from Black Friday and Cyber Monday can help drive increased energy and brand awareness among shoppers for the remainder of the season.

Plan and React

With so many emerging technologies and new strategies at marketers' disposal, it may be overwhelming to dive into holiday prep, but it doesn't have to be complicated or overwhelming.

It's important for small business owners and marketers to be open to new approaches and not be afraid to adjust plans throughout the holiday season as they receive customer feedback and track sales. It can be as simple as keeping a notebook to track what works, and what doesn't, to reference throughout the holiday season. Pivoting to meet a target audience's needs is key to maintaining engagement.

And what you learn this season will help guide the strategy for the following year, to help businesses get the next holiday shopping season off to a strong start.

Understand Your Audience

It's also crucial to fully understand your audience and target customer base. Many marketers focus only on trends in the market. Though doing so is necessary to keep pace with competitors and implement modern-day strategies and tactics, it's also crucial to look at gaps in the market and work to fill those gaps.

For example, what are customers asking for that a small business (or its competitors) are not providing? How can the small business adjust marketing strategies and business practices to satisfy unmet needs?

Answering questions like those can help reach a target audience not only during the holiday season but also throughout the rest of the year.

* * *

Following the top tips outlined in this article can help small businesses effectively reach customers and boost sales during the holiday season and beyond.

Maintaining momentum from Black Friday and Cyber Monday leading into the rest of the busy shopping season, and understanding target audiences can help small businesses reach consumers the way they want to be reached.

Adequate planning will enable small businesses to reap the benefits of increased engagement and sales throughout the holiday season and set a foundation for years to come.

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How Small Businesses Can Hit a Home Run This Holiday Shopping Season

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image of Maria Melo

Maria Melo is a senior business adviser at Yahoo Small Business.

LinkedIn: Maria Melo