With Christmas looming, most startups should already have plans in place to capitalise on the festive spending season.
However, if not, there is still time to roll out some last-minute Christmas promotions.
With around 40% of Australian retailers’ annual income accrued over the coming month, it would be complacent to think that your competitors won’t be frantically discounting to lure your customers.
It’s estimated that [$48.1 billion] will be spent over the  Christmas period. Here are 10 promotional tips to help you get your hands on some of that cash.
1. 50% off
It’s a promotional tactic as old as they come, but there is no doubt that consumers are lured by discounted goods. If you are discounting though, be savvy about it – don’t offer the same goods on discount as your rivals and make sure you reward your best customers.
“Pick your best customers or those who come in and spend more than, for example, $200,” says retail guru Debra Templar.
“Create demand for your discounts. I know a jeweller who offered $30 discounts to top customers, which put them in a draw to win $10,000 of diamonds. But they had to be at the store at 10.30am on Christmas Eve to be in the draw. The street was packed out.”
2. Gift cards
A close ally of discounting, gift cards or certificates are another way of sparking interest among customers. Make sure you rotate stock to make your offering look fresh and consider limiting the gift cards to a particular range of your stock.
Decide on this by working out where your best-sellers are and carrying excess stock in this area for the Christmas period. “Gift cards can be drawn up quickly but you need to know what your customers want,” says Templar. “You also need to ensure that come December 26, you have fresh stock in store.”
3. 12 Days of Christmas
Why not tie an overtly Christmas theme into your promotions? For example, launch a ‘12 days of Christmas’ drive. Offer a different discounted product on each of the 12 days in the lead up to Christmas.
This will allow you to expose a broad range of your stock to customers and push loyal customers towards new products. Just make sure you carefully plan ahead for this.
“Most retailers in Australia don’t do this kind of thing because they don’t think in advance – they don’t have a marketing calendar to refer to,” says Templar.
4. Cash in at the cash register
When providing a receipt to your customers, why not use the opportunity for an innovative promotional offer? For example, you could ask big-spending customers to bring their receipts to an in-store auction where they can bid for products, starting at $10.
5. Consumer-created offers
Customers love choice, so consider letting them loose on a variety of products by allowing them to create their own gift cards.
Target your best customers with an offer that gives them $20 off any product in your range, entirely of their own choice. Don’t automatically replace bought items with exact replicas – you need to keep your stock fresh and of interest to buyers.
Also, consider your brand before offering blanket discounts on your goods. If you are a premium brand, it’s better to add value with the addition of complementary goods to purchases rather than slash the prices of your top stock.
6. Target your best customers
You don’t need to wait until your customers are in-store to reward them. Send reliable customers a flier or, especially if you’re an online retailer, an email to offer them a personal discount in the lead-up to Christmas.
Making customers feel special is an ideal way of getting them to open their wallets and purses during the festive season. But make sure that your customer engagement doesn’t only take place once the advent calendars are being prised open.
“It all depends on the previous 47 weeks of the year,” says Templar. “If your only contact with your best customers is a Christmas card once a year, people will say ‘so what’? You need to engage with them regularly throughout the year.”
7. Hold a special event
Another way to make customers feel valued is to hold an invite-only event. You can create a Christmas feel to the event while driving sales with well-targeted discounts.
“I know a garden nursery business that makes around $80,000 in sales through a night event,” says Templar. “They offer Champagne and finger food, made by a hospitality school so it’s free. It’s invitation only with a plus one, so that new customers are introduced to the business.”
“They offer 25% off on the night and come October customers are asking them whether they are on the list for the Christmas event.”
8. Treat your customers
Knowing your customers means understanding what they like and dislike. Therefore, you should be in a good position to provide a treat that reflects their tastes.
Your top clients or customers may appreciate a special Christmas dinner or they may want tickets to a sporting event. Whatever you choose to do, make sure it reflects the business you are and the brand you want to represent.
Another traditional favourite, customer hampers can be tailored to suit individual customers. They also provide an opportunity to market your business and any offers you want to push to the fore.
“You can go as small or large as you like and it doesn’t need to be expensive,” says Templar. “You can even offer a slab of beer, if that is appropriate for the kind of business you’re in.”
10. Team up with another business
Christmas is the ideal time for packaged offers. Identify another business to team up with in order to provide a joint service or experience that is offered to customers at a discount. You should also consider contributing to the work of a charity. Both of these activities will boost the image of your brand while extending the reach of your offer.