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How your small business can become a holiday sales machine

A few tips to make your company pop up during the festive season.

The controversial "gay"-less ugly sweater. (Photo from Hallmark and
The controversial "gay"-less ugly sweater. (Photo from Hallmark and more

WITH 12 shopping days left until Christmas, that's plenty of time for your small business - brick-and-mortar and/or online - to gin up holiday sales. I have some tips:

* Amazon and eBay do it all the time, and you can, too. Offer a Daily Deal to bring shoppers into your store or website. Nothing like "New markdowns today" or "Take an additional 50 percent off today only" to entice a shopper. Customers have a knee-jerk reaction to getting a good deal, and they'll love larger-percentage discounts.

* Get to know Pinterest - now. Pinterest is the social-media platform that lets members pin images to their pinboards. A new study of these users by market-research firm Lab42 finds that 54 percent spend more time on the site during the holidays and that 94 percent say it has changed the way they make holiday preparations. People are turning to Pinterest to share ideas, and 42 percent have a holiday-themed board. All that pinning translates into revenue. CNBC reported that Nordstrom uses Pinterest to decide what to feature in stores, with a red tag affixed to shoes and handbags popular on Pinterest.

You don't have to be a large brand to cash in, says Econsultancy, a research and training firm. If you operate your small biz through Etsy or eBay, integrate both platforms. Pin images of the handmade products found on your site to a board, then Pinterest users can click directly to your store through the pins. In effect, Pinterest acts as a separate online catalog for your store.

* Personalize the in-store shopping experience. That's one of the findings from research compiled by Medallion Retail, a New York firm that makes signs and displays for retailers. It's common sense that shoppers will go where they're likely to feel wanted.

* Pop-ups often are used by small-business owners as promotional tools or test labs for merchandise. Some manufacturers, designers and online retailers use them to decide whether to open an actual store. For others, there's a more seasonal purpose. Take the Sazz Vintage Ugly Christmas Sweater Store in Old City, where Christmas-themed sweaters sell for $20 to $30. The pop-up store, now in its second year, is open until Dec. 29.

"It was a brilliant way to capitalize on a growing niche market," said store manager David Morton. "People liked having these ugly Christmas-sweater parties, there were pub crawls, companies were throwing Christmas parties, people had to wear something ridiculous and everybody would have to go scavenging over the Internet or go to different thrift stores to find one, which was very frustrating."

* Tweak your website. The great thing about websites is that you can change them fast. Improve your SEO to help customers find you on Google, which is searched 100 billion times a month.