Part of running a successful small-to-mid-sized online retail business is building a solid, reputable brand. It's important to do this so that customers have a reason to buy from you instead of Wal-Mart or Amazon.
Your store's brand plays a huge role in how successful you'll be during the holiday season. You may not be able to offer the same rock-bottom price deals that Amazon or Wal-Mart can, but you can build perceived value in other ways to compensate for prices that may not be slashed to the bone.
A great way to build up your brand's reputation is to focus on giving during the holiday season. For a lot of retailers, the holiday shopping season is the most important time of year as far as profits are concerned. But amidst the product research, spreadsheets, and rush to attract as many customers as possible to your online store, it can be easy to lose sight of what the holiday season is really about.
With that in mind, here are five ways that your SMB can give during the holiday season.
Donate a percentage of sales
This is a tactic that's easy to implement and shows your customers that you're dedicated to helping others, which is a huge statement to make during the holiday season.
Orvis, a fly fishing company, has proven that this strategy works even on a year-round basis. 5% of all of their revenue, pre-tax, goes to nature conservation. It makes sense that Orvis would choose to donate their money to nature conservation, since that's a cause that aligns perfectly with the values of their target demographic.
If you choose to use charitable giving as a brand marketing tactic, you need to find a cause that will resonate with your audience as strongly as conservation resonates with Orvis'. And you don't have to donate a huge portion of your sales, either. Five percent is a great number, but even two or three percent will help separate your store from your competitors.
Sponsor a community event
While this is an obvious option for brick-and-mortar retailers, even online-only retailers can use community events to build awareness and brand equity in the communities near their headquarters. Hold a weekend food drive with other local businesses and offer customers who donate canned food 10% off select items in your store. From coat drives, cash donations, and even toys, there's no limit to the types of drives your business can host. You could even email customers who live close enough to your office space to announce the drive.
Give to your employees' favorite charities
If you've got a team running your business, take a poll of your employees' favorite charities, and agree to donate a certain amount of profits to that charity. Once the charity has been chosen, you can announce on your website (and through emails) that your company plans on donating to that charity, and add the ability to donate to that charity when customers are in the checkout process on your site.
This really gives a ring of authenticity to your giving, since your employees are the ones choosing where the money is going. Make sure that when you announce the donation that you mention the charity was chosen by your employees.
Deliver a full Christmas to families in need
Chances are, you and your employees know of families that are in need of gifts for Christmas. Your small business can sponsor a number of families in your local area or across the country and provide a complete Christmas to them: dinner, presents, the whole shebang.
You can get your customers involved by doing some of the following:
- Asking them to donate cash and then match that cash donation (up to a certain amount or percentage)
- When customers buy certain items (think low-margin here) pledge to give the same amount of those items purchased to your families in need.
- Create a blog post or other page on your site where the information about your efforts to give back is hosted. Then, offer customers 5% off their next purchase if they'll share the page on their social networks. You'll get more people involved in giving back, as well as bring in more new customers to your business.
During the holiday season, it's important to not lose sight of what really matters. By getting your store involved in giving charitably to your community, or the world at large, you'll build a stronger reputation for your brand and have a much more fulfilling holiday shopping season.
Photo credit: Wonderlane