After the holiday season, first-quarter sales can be particularly lackluster. It looks like customer transit stops as soon as the Christmas music does.
The eggnog may not be running, but you can use a few smart progress to keep your cash flow and kick off 2019 with great sales revenue.
Pause and plan
Instead of twirling your thumbs and waiting for the first-quarter slump, utilize the downtime to make your business in better shape. The most prosperous small business owners employ sales plans and financial estimates to analyze trends and make changes to keep a steady stream of revenue coming in.
Take some time to evaluate last year’s performance and recognize areas of opportunity.
- How do you plan to increase sales this year?
- Can you cut costs to maximize your revenue even more?
- How do your prices compare to your competitors’ prices?
- Do you see lots of abandoned shopping carts in your online store?
- Is your point-of-sale software up to snuff?
- Executing on a few short-term goals can help you see quick wins during the first quarter and set you up for even more success throughout the year.
Maintain the holiday momentum
The celebration doesn’t have to end in January. They may not garner the similar gusto that Christmas does, but there are lots of holidays in the first quarter of the year: Groundhog Day, Valentine’s Day, Lunar New Year, Presidents Day, and Saint Patrick’s Day. And although Super Bowl Sunday isn’t an official holiday, many Americans observe it the same way.
Support your customers to shop by building buzz around these holidays. Offer some “sweet deals” for Valentine’s Day or a series of successful raffles for Saint Patrick’s Day shoppers.
And have a little treat with Lunar New Year if you sell food items. 2019 is the Year of the Pig, so you could discount your pork products and share recipes for traditional Chinese dishes like pork dumplings or barbeque pork belly.
You can also use holiday themes as a clever way to offload all that extra inventory you have sitting around. The red gloves that made the perfect Christmas gift could easily be rebranded as Valentine’s surprise.
Optimize the return experience
‘Tis the season for returns. The National Retail Federation (NRF) revealed almost two-thirds of holiday shoppers made at least one return in the 2017 season. Having a plan for how you’ll handle returns could put that money back in your pocket.
For beginners, remember that returns don’t have to be a negative experience for you or the customer. If you process each return with empathy and efficiency, you’re more likely to retain that customer and, hence, your chance at future sales. On the other hand, the same 2017 NRF study found that 64 percent of customers who “experience friction in the return process” say they would hesitate to shop with that retailer in the future.
If you sell products online, add a free shipping policy for returns. According to the NRF study, 57 percent of shoppers who back out of purchase do so because return shipping isn’t free. Just this one simple change could result in an overall lift in your sales revenue.
And don’t forget about the option to exchange. If an item is being returned because of an issue that’s easy for you to resolve (such as fit, color, or another personal preference), ask your customer if he or she would like to exchange it for another item.
Start the year with a bang
New year, new you. If you have been planning to add a new product or service; schedule the launch for the first quarter. Voila! You now have a brand-new reason to reach out to your customer base — and court a few new customers too. Raise interest by offering pre-orders, introductory discounts, or demos. You might try bundling your new product or service with one or two of your most popular sellers to boost sales revenue really.
The first quarter is also an excellent time to launch a new promotion. Bonus points if you can tie the promotion into gift card redemption, as customers using gift cards spend, on average, $38 over the gift card amount.
This could also be an excellent time of year to make small upgrades to your store, whether it’s a brick-and-mortar or a website. A fresh look and better user experience could encourage would-be buyers to linger a little longer on your site, while new fixtures or a colorful coat of paint could have the same effect in-store