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  • A Step-by-Step Guide to Preparing Your Small Business for the Holidays

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    It’s the most magical time of year — the season of twinkling town squares, carolers spreading cheer, and families gathering around the table. The holidays are also a great time to be a small business owner. Small businesses typically see increased sales over the winter months thanks to the holiday shopping rush. But if you want your business to capture a piece of those sales, you need to prepare. This step-by-step guide will show you how to ready your small business for the holiday shopping season.

    1. Do Your Research

    Data is a small business owner’s best friend when it comes to planning for holiday sales. Analyze last season’s sales data to analyze which products sold well last year, which promotions were a success, and which efforts fell flat.
     
    National trends can also inform your holiday preparations. According to the National Retail Federation, holiday spending is expected to increase 4.1 percent from 2017, with gift cards, clothing, media, and electronics as the most popular items on shopping lists.

    2. Plan Promotions

    Promotions and incentives play an important role in customers’ decisions about where to shop. Small businesses should take advantage of popular shopping days to capture those consumer dollars. Small Business Saturday is an important shopping day for local businesses, but Black Friday and Cyber Monday are also opportunities to draw in customers with holiday sales.
     
    If your business sells online, don’t underestimate the value of free shipping. Free shipping is a priority for online shoppers, with 94 percent of consumers planning to take advantage of free shipping in 2018. Free shipping has the potential to hurt your bottom line, but you can offset shipping costs by wrapping them into prices or offering free shipping for orders over a certain amount so shoppers are incentivized to spend more.

    3. Prepare for Increased Volume

    Small businesses need to be ready for a surge in shoppers in-store and online. For brick-and-mortar shops, hiring a seasonal crew is essential for covering employee vacations and managing increased foot traffic. Even though seasonal workers won’t stick around after the holidays end, it’s still important to hire a quality crew — first-time shoppers who get a poor impression of your business aren’t likely to return. Business owners should be personally involved in the hiring of seasonal staff and brush up the on the job interview process in order to find high-quality candidates as quickly as possible.
     
    This is also the time to update outdated systems that are slowing your business down. If your website is slow or your credit card system can’t accept all forms of payment, frustrated shoppers will spend their money elsewhere. Use Crazy Egg’s tips to speed up your website and upgrade credit card machines to a model that can accept all forms of payment. When you’re comparing payment systems, look for a credit card reader that’s both user-friendly and offers a high-degree of reliability and security. PCI compliance is the standard for customer data protection today. If you do business outside of a brick-and-mortar store, you’ll also want a system that’s portable, including receipt-printing capabilities.

    4. Order Advertising Materials

    Festive storefronts and websites appeal to shoppers deciding where to spend their holiday dollars. Rather than maintaining the same look all year long, create a branded theme for the holidays. Small businesses can hire graphic designers or use online tools to create graphics for websites and email marketing, while printed banners, boards, and window displays bring holiday cheer to brick-and-mortar shops. Don’t forget the holiday playlist! Seasonal tunes playing in your store is a great way to get shoppers into the holiday spirit.

    5. Give Back

    The holidays are a great time to grow your cash flow, but that’s not the only reason for the season. Charitable donations are a wonderful way for small businesses to show appreciation to the communities that support them. Giving back is also a smart business move. As Ignite Spot explains, charitable giving increases recognition and trust in your business, which in turn drives sales.
     
    Consumers are thinking carefully about where they’ll spend their holiday dollars this year. If you want them to choose your small business, you need to deliver the holiday shopping experience customers are looking for. With promotional materials, seasonal staff, and updated technology in place, your small business is ready to meet the demand this holiday season.
     
    Image via Unsplash
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