Brick-and-mortar businesses – retailers, restaurants, services companies – must constantly reshape their goals and create the future rather than letting it control them. The final quarter of 2017 is upon us.  And the annual holiday period can make or break a business’s bottom-line. Here are a few tips for creating success, for the holiday season and into 2018:



Creating an in-store experience that touches all the senses can create an emotional connection with your shoppers. Retailers, restaurants and service businesses need to create a complete “experience” strategy to draw in and develop repeat customers.

According to Mood Media, one in three U.S. consumers said that the atmosphere and experience of a store is their top reason for shopping in-store rather than on-line. Music (what to play when and how often) and the right visuals and scents can strongly enhance an atmosphere and lift customers’ emotions. However, there is a fine balance between overdoing the holiday themes versus creating an atmosphere that fits your brand.

Extra little touches such as always greeting people upon entry, or remembering a customer’s name, can also contribute greatly to the “atmosphere” and in-store experience.


To succeed in today’s retail environment, retailers are making transition to serve online buyers. This may mean upgrading your website and keeping it up to date, offering 24/7 support to customers. Online marketing and search engine optimization are also becoming increasingly important in competing for today’s customers.

Another possibility is to cut down the size of your storeroom. Turn your inventory into an “experience” showroom with only limited items available in a product line. If multiple customers want the item, be ready with the online ability to order the item right away and have it delivered to the customer’s doorstep. This may mean using an Uber driver, personal delivery, courier company or investigating a shared warehouse environment that provides shipping.


A customer waiting in line to pay for an item can turn into a lost sale. Technology today provides multiple ways to streamline the check-out experience. Although large, sophisticated POS systems are necessary in box stores, small retailers can equip their employees with credit card readers that connect with tablets. Flexibility and innovation are key in deciding what works best for your store’s environment.  The main goal of the POS should be keeping the customers happy.



Use social media to turn those “I think I should…” into “I have to buy now.” If you do not have internal staff who can develop an up-to-date social media campaign, spend your advertising budget on a social media or digital marketing consultant or firm.


Be where your customers are on social media. Whether it be Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, etc,  have a content management strategy for each platform. Visuals are crucial and if you have products to display, use visuals as content. Keep content current to reflect the season your business is experiencing, building engagement with customers and maintaining a strong, consistent brand identity.


When you post, you want people to have a strong call to action, whether it be to love (or at least like) it, share it, comment on it, sign up for it, or BUYING it. If you want people to know your business and engage, you should share posts relating to the season. For instance, a jewelry company may want to share a post on what to wear to the holiday cocktail party, then give the opportunity to shop for those products in your online store or even through social media.


Contests are a great way of reaching customers and a vehicle for gathering email addresses. Promote your contest through social media. Create a special Facebook tab for your contest to analyze and develop social media strategy.  Something to consider for this holiday season is to create an event that is holiday-themed. Throw your own in-store holiday party, tie it to a contest, or giveaways, and promote it through social media, emails, in-store, etc.



Make sure that you make the most of the metrics you may already have, whether it be for use during the holiday season, or down the track. Track customer’s purchases and know who your repeat customers are. Then write a profile of your ideal customer, called a persona. Create a specific persona for each identifiable customer group and name them. Include images of ideal customers and tailor your internal marketing strategies accordingly.

 Gather your customers’ emails, then offer them discounts or other small rewards to share further information: age, gender, income; favorite social media tools; favorite print media outlets; favorite brands; spending ranges for family, friends, co-workers; personality types, likes and dislikes, sports, hobbies, etc.


Use your ideal customer profile to cast a broader net and find out which customers you would like to attract, what neighborhoods they live in, family income, etc. This type of demographic information is available from city economic departments, local marketing and advertising companies. Incorporate this information into your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system to develop strategies to target or retarget based on your current and new customers.

The right tools for entrepreneurial survival are critical. For small businesses in today’s constantly shifting, and often threatening environment, an old Chinese proverb still applies: “A wise man adapts himself to circumstances as water shapes itself to the vessel that contains it.” Creating new opportunities for your business during the holidays will help you start the New Year with the results necessary to thrive and grow well into the future.

This expert column can also be seen at Inside Business.


Ray Mattes is the President/CEO of Retail Alliance. Retail Alliance is a non-profit trade association serving the interests of local retailers throughout Hampton Roads. The organization promotes and supports the healthy growth of retail businesses and trade through education, networking, advocacy, discounts, LOVEVA program, and other benefits. Connect with Ray via email