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12 Ways to Get Your Small Business Ready

The 2020 holiday shopping season is likely to be different due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which continues to impact how retailers do business and change how customers shop. Due to the fact that in-store shopping capacity has been significantly reduced in many parts of the United States, and because consumers have limited exposure to crowds due to the pandemic to COVID-19, large in-person shopping events like Black Friday this year are unlikely. Businesses large and small are shifting to online sales to attract more customers.

BrightEdge research found that people are buying more online in 2020 than they did in 2019. However, the average order value remained the same. According to the report, Black Friday could be all-online for small and large businesses. Cyber Monday could also see an increase in shoppers.

These 13 steps will help you prepare your business for the unusual shopping season. They are based on the experience of retail professionals and business owners who can guide you.

How to prepare for holiday shopping season

1. Set and plan seasonal goals.

Every retailer must plan. However, preparations for the busiest time of year include a thorough review of last year’s holiday sales strategy. This information is useful for determining inventory, creating promotional offers, and setting revenue goals.

Stefan Lewinger, CEO and founder of Socks Fancy, said that it is important to set realistic goals and keep them attainable.

He reminded business owners that their goals don’t need to be solely about revenue. He said that other metrics such as customer engagement and social media followers are great ways to measure success.

Alex Tran, a digital market strategist at Hollingsworth recommended analytics to help you manage, distill, and interpret all the information that is needed to create your holiday marketing goals.

Software that tracks inventory and POS [point-of-sale] can be found. Tran stated that the software can be used to forecast your business’s success. You won’t be able make informed decisions without data.”

Spend time looking at the holiday sales strategies and marketing tactics of your top competitors to determine the best strategy for reaching your customers. Lewinger recommended that your products be included in holiday gift guides and “best of” lists.

Also, you should take the time to review which online strategies have worked for your company in the past and how they can be applied to your plan for this year.

2. Securing sufficient working capital.

It may be necessary to have additional funds available during the holidays to purchase seasonal staff, increase inventory, or to set up holiday displays.

Paola Garcia-Villari is vice president of Pursuit.

Garcia-Villari says that many lenders offer reasonable interest rates, repayment terms, and quick turnarounds from funding approval. Business owners need to shop around for the best deals and avoid predatory lenders.

She advised that it was important to be fully aware of what you are signing up for before agreeing to any loan or credit lines.

Business owners should also reach out to their payment processing processor to discuss potential increases in transaction volume and negotiate a higher credit limit if needed. Geoffrey Scott, associate market manager at Taroko, stated that most small businesses have credit processing limitations written into their merchant accounts contracts.

Scott stated that while seasonal fluctuations can be taken into consideration by your processor to a certain extent, a large spike could potentially block your ability to process credit card during peak times of the year. This is your responsibility to start the process. You shouldn’t expect them not to prompt you with holiday gifts.

3. Technology upgrade and review.

Your technology must be able to cope with the influx of holiday shoppers online, especially this year. Your website may be down or your credit card processing is not working properly. This could cause potential customers to leave. You should take the time to test your security software, checkout and payment procedures, as well as check the usability and functionality of search functions. Also, ensure that your website can handle increased traffic.

If your website is not used to handling high volumes of shoppers, make sure it is ready to handle them. Make sure you run tests before large shopping days and plan for what to do in case of downtime.

4. Embrace omnichannel customer experiences.

Omnichannel retailing is one of the biggest trends that is impacting holiday sales. It is an integrated sales approach that provides seamless shopping experiences for customers, regardless of whether they shop online, on their mobile devices, or in a store. These customers can buy online and pick up the item at the store or use a smartphone app that compares prices to make a purchase on a company’s site.

Omnichannel shoppers are more inclined to make repeat purchases and recommend brands to friends and family. This is why you need to increase your contact with them and also enhance the value of those contacts.

Businesses can respond to Omnichannel shoppers by accepting both online coupons and in-store offers interchangeably.

“Make sure all [your holiday offers] are easily accessible for your in-store sales,” Mike Catania, CTO of PromotionCode.org.

5. Get holiday stock.

Nothing is worse than being out of the essential gift you need and then having to turn down a customer. You can avoid this by making sure your online shop is well-stocked with bestsellers.

Garcia-Villari stated that it is important to stock up on the most sought after items and latest trends in your field, as well as branded or handcrafted gifts that will make your merchandise stand apart. “Talk to vendors to see if they can offer discounts or extended terms for larger orders.”

6. Cultivate online sales.

All small businesses who want to increase sales and have a successful holiday season should consider online sales. The shift to online shopping has been steadily occurring over the last few months. However, it’s important to not panic if you don’t have the time or resources to upload all your inventory before the holiday rush.

Christopher Mohs, vice-president of strategy and operations at Cora+Krist, said, “Make a selection of the hot holiday items and offer them up for online shopping and shipping.”

Merchants need to focus on decreasing shopping-cart abandonment in order to capitalize on the rise of online businesses, especially on mobile devices. This is Amit Mathradas who is president and chief operating officer at Avalara.

He stated that online sales and a strong emphasis on mobile are “categorical imperatives.” A site that does not render properly on a mobile device, or any problems with payment processing, can have a ripple effect and result in lost sales.

A major trend in online shopping in 2020 is “buy Now, Pay Later,” which allows customers the option to pay in fixed installments or monthly.

7. SEO can be improved.

Online shopping will become so common this year, it is vital that your business does everything it can to ensure your brand ranks high in online searches. According to BrightEdge, 60% of consumers have started shopping online more frequently since COVID-19. 73% of those shoppers plan to continue to shop after the pandemic. Digital marketers and SEOs (search engine optimization specialists) have known for years that online shopping is easy and convenient. The trick now is to make SEO a priority in your company.

These are some easy ways to increase your SEO.

  • Publishing content that is relevant to your brand and of interest to your customers is a good idea.
  • Use keywords to help customers find your site.
  • Regularly update your content to give customers a reason for coming back to you site.
  • Descriptive links are those that describe the content of your hyperlinks.

Mathradas stated that “investing in search terms via Google will ensure that you are easily discovered by customers searching for similar products.” This is particularly important for niche businesses, as it allows them to target the right customers along their path to purchase.

8. Marketing to loyal customers

It takes more effort to acquire new customers than it does to keep loyal customers coming back. This is especially true during holiday season. Engage existing customers with special online offers, in-store events, and personalized discounts and promos to encourage them to buy holiday gifts.

Jurgen Nebelung (Vice President of E-Commerce at Tea Forte) said that based on past purchases, you can predict what will appeal to them and create customized campaigns that will convert them.” “Loyal customers spend 67% more on average than new customers.”

9. Social media can be used to promote your brand.

Mathradas stated that social media can be used to help customers find you, and keep them informed about your products and services as they become ready to buy.

Garcia-Villari said, “Look at all the ways to build your digital branding – from posting to Instagram to placing cost-effective ads via social media networks like Facebook – that can increase online visibility and keep you business front of minds for target audiences.”

She suggested that you send out weekly updates to your email list to highlight new merchandise or other specials. You can also interact with potential customers by responding to reviews and comments, creating targeted promotional campaigns and creating Pinterest boards that focus on gift-giving themes or ideas.

10. Offer exceptional customer service

Businesses should strive to provide a great customer experience, especially during stressful times. This might have been as simple pre-pandemic as brick-and-mortar stores extending their hours to accommodate holiday shoppers. Online shopping has increased this year and all businesses should have customer service teams available to resolve any customer complaints in a matter of minutes.

Nebelung stated, “By gaining a deep understanding of your customers, it is possible to create a pleasant and hassle-free customer experience, from browsing to checkout to returns.”

Be transparent and understandable and let customers know if COVID shipping delays could impact their shopping timeframes.

11. Competitive delivery options

By offering quick shipping and free shipping, you can differentiate your business from the rest.

Augustin Kennady (media relations director, ShipMonk) stated that free shipping increases the perceived value of your product while simultaneously lowering buyer friction.

Online retailers should be prepared for an increase in shipping and delivery demand due to the anticipated rise in online shopping. This function may be an option for large-scale businesses that ship large volumes.

Tran stated that companies that ship more than 500 packages per month could outsource shipping and warehousing to third-party logistics companies. There are companies that can tailor plans to fit the needs of businesses of all sizes.

Even smaller businesses can improve their delivery options. Some businesses may provide local delivery services that are convenient for their customers, while others can take advantage of the vast resources available through e-commerce.

Nebelung stated that customers who place orders on our website and are unable to ship the order in time to meet holiday delivery dates will be driven to Amazon to take advantage of Prime’s speed shipping.

Brick-and-mortar stores that are concerned about online sales outpacing their foot traffic can offer in-store pick-up for online orders. Customers save money on shipping, while retailers can still promote safe shopping.

12. Be proud of what makes you different

Small businesses have the ability to stand out and attract customers during holidays by highlighting their unique products or connections to the community. Small businesses can also offer unique customer experiences that aren’t available to large retailers. Personalized, unique gifts are a major trend for the holiday season. Make sure you advertise what makes your products stand out.

Other ways to attract customers are to offer free lessons or product workshops, curate gift boxes that highlight your products, partner with small businesses in the region to host joint events and gain positive press through establishing relationships with local charities.

Garcia-Villari says that you can also help build your brand by being involved in your local chamber of commerce or business district.

She said, “Take part at any Main Street shopping area special events.” “Some areas have seasonal-long events that offer a wealth marketing and brand-building possibilities.”

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