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According to Statistics SA, we’re in for a better festive season than last year in terms of consumer spending; and in a climate overshadowed by ongoing surges of the pandemic, this is encouraging news.

On average, South Africans plan to spend R6 326.00 over and above their monthly expenses this year, compared to R5 673.00 in 2020. For small businesses, particularly in the retail and services industries, this news presents an opportunity to recover at least a portion of revenue lost due to lockdowns throughout the pandemic.

What many small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) owners may not be aware of, is that major retailers plan their festive season campaigns up to a year in advance. Their advantage is that many of those retailers employ trend forecasters who can make projections about the state of the economy, aesthetic trends and purchasing behaviour ahead of time. Unfortunately, for the majority of SMEs, this level of foresight is financially inaccessible.

While nothing can take the place of careful planning and keeping an “ear to the ground” throughout the year, there are a few quick fixes SME owners can implement now to make sure they don’t miss out on the festive season hype.

  • Offer a gifting service

One of everyone’s bugbears around festive season shopping is not knowing which gifts to buy. Depending on the size of your operation, you could offer a personal shopper service, free of charge – something that large retailers simply cannot reproduce at scale. For example, you could introduce a promotion for “last-minute” shoppers, where potential customers fill in a quick form that tells you a bit about the person they are buying a gift for. You could then offer them a list (via email or even Whatsapp) of gifting suggestions, obligation-free. To replicate this kind of initiative, large retailers have to build entire microsites and use artificial intelligence, but as an SME, you could get away with doing everything manually – leverage this advantage while you’re still small enough to do so.

  • Add the feel-good factor

As an SME owner, the festive season presents a unique opportunity to hone in on the aspect of giving back. If you’re a small business that incorporates a charity component, now is the perfect time to make a difference and encourage your customers to do the same. You could, for example, reward customers who make a donation to a cause of your choice, with a discount. Even an extra “VIP discount” voucher on a post-festive sale or a chance to win a prize. If you don’t have the budget to sponsor a prize, you could join forces with a few other SMEs and run a collaborative competition for a product or service hamper with a greater value than you would be able to offer as an individual SME.

  • Say thank you

Loyal customers are the mainstay of any small business. As an SME, you have the ability to do what large companies spend millions using technology to do – make a personalised impression. You could, for example, send a customised “thank you” to your loyal customers. Go beyond just personalising the subject line or greeting with your customer’s name, and throw in a reason (or two) for why you’re particularly grateful to have had their support during the year. As a gesture, you could offer them an exclusive discount or gift with their next purchase as a way of encouraging them to spend during the festive period. You’ll be surprised how rare a sincere “thank you” can be, as well as the potential impact of those two words, which may go further than you can imagine.


About the Author: Ben Bierman

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Ben Bierman has been our Managing Director since 2015. He joined our company in 1990 and has risen through the ranks occupying various positions ranging from being a management accountant, Head of Information Technology and Chief Financial Officer. Ben is an avid reader, enjoys classical music and being in the outdoors including for hunting trips. He is our go-to-spokesperson for our SME Confidence Index, SME sector policy and trend matters, and business leadership articles.