We know the “big boys” win most of the business year after year. But if you’re a smaller retailer resigned to fighting for their scraps, take heart! There’s LOTS of opportunity this year for you to significantly increase your share of that holiday basket – and lots of risk for large retailers to lose out if they aren’t aggressive when it comes to keeping past business.The good news for everyone is that 77% of all consumers plan to spend the same or more than they did last year, according to PunchTab’s 2014 Holiday Shopping report.However, over half of holiday shopping dollars are up for grabs – with 58% of shoppers saying they are either undecided or likely to spend 50% or less at the same stores as last year. This is a huge opportunity for retailers trying to compete with the major chains, especially. And it’s a warning for anyone sitting back thinking a prosperous 2013 holiday season automatically equals the same in 2014. Everyone will need to up their game to attract (and keep) customers this season.So how ARE consumers going to decide where they’ll shop?Take Bonnie Raitt’s AdviceWord of mouth is actually the number one deciding factor. At least 61% of all consumers will rely on friends and family for recommendations, with Millennials at 77% – which isn’t surprising because this demographic always checks in with friends/family for shopping advice.So what do you do with that? You give them something to talk about. Stellar products and experiences – both in-store and online – and targeted advertising that is tailored to their personalities and preferences. I’ll get deeper into that in a moment.The second most popular deciding factor is browsing in person at malls or stores – again with Millennials at the top of the pack, with the percentage declining as age increases – followed by wish lists, brand websites and online reviews.But remember that those who browse in-store won’t always buy that way, and the same goes for online. Combat showrooming with a killer in-store display that includes reviews and testimonials right there next to your merchandise. And of course, unparalleled customer service – something they can’t easily get online.A directive to visit your website for some kind of immediate deal or coupon, supported by free in-store WiFi and a landing page that encourages joining your loyalty program, doesn’t hurt either.Email, by the way, only accounted for 25% of the decision-making pool, and pretty evenly across the board among Boomers, Gen Xers, and Millennials. So while you can use email as part of your marketing strategy, it’s not as crucial as other tools.Where to Focus Your MarketingSocial Media – Here’s a number for you: 90% of consumers plan to shop online this season. No, not all of their shopping, but roughly half of it across the board, with Boomers a bit under (46%) and Millennials a bit over (58%) that mark. Xers are in the middle at 52%.So in addition to great in-store displays, you need to focus some of your marketing efforts online. (Who is surprised? No one, I hope!) And of course, in addition to providing a path to online purchasing, your online marketing can help drive some of that valuable word of mouth.And as I said above, some consumers will simply browse online and then buy in-store once they can see items in person.While 70% of older consumers will not use social media channels to influence purchases, the top platforms being used by those who will (like Millennials) are: Facebook, Pinterest, and YouTube.Mobile – Smartphone and tablet research will happen both in-store and out, so neglecting mobile isn’t an option. Here’s how it breaks down.While NOT in-store, between 30 and 44% of Xers and Millennials will:· browse for items online· look for coupons and deals· compare pricing· make shopping lists· research products on brand websitesThis is compared to roughly 20% of Boomers.While in-store, 28 to 45% of Xers and Millennials will:· call, text or email their friends and family for input while deciding· take a picture to show others and get input· compare pricing at other stores and online· check their shopping lists· look for mobile couponsBoomers range from 19 to 28% here, with older shoppers more apt to ask for input from outside sources, and less apt to consult shopping lists or search for coupons while in-store.Loyalty Programs – 80% of shoppers say perks like discounts, coupons, points and other loyalty benefits are at least somewhat important while holiday shopping, so be sure to have some special holiday perks for loyalty members.Millennials, for one, like exclusive perks, but there are a variety of ways to please almost everyone with a solid loyalty program.A strong omni-channel approach will allow you to gather intel to inform your strategies and wow consumers with timely, personalized offers they won’t be able to refuse.Timing is EverythingAll demographics will browse online searching for the best pricing, but actual shopping times will vary. Nearly a quarter of Boomers began shopping in September, and almost 20% of shoppers across the board started in October. But the real surge happens in November, which means this is when you should be most active in your promotions.Black Friday and Cyber Monday are the biggest two days, with 56% of shoppers planning to spend on Black Friday, and 70% of Millennials planning to shop on Cyber Monday. Don’t stress about starting your Black Friday specials on Thanksgiving, as only 27% of shoppers plan to shop then. Let your employees enjoy their holiday and then come in swinging on Black Friday.Don’t forget that #GivingTuesday follows Cyber Monday. This is an opportunity to impress Millennials, who love it when their purchases have a greater impact, so offering to donate a percentage of Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales to charity on #GivingTuesday could score major points for your brand with this power demographic.Also to remember, Christmas Eve is still in the mix, with roughly 25% of shoppers scrambling for those last-minute gifts and deals.Knowledge is power, so wield this information well, turn those undecided shoppers into your customers, and your successful holiday season will kickstart an amazing 2015.