Small Business Advice

Preparing Your Small Business for the Holidays

If you haven't already started preparing, now's the time! Here are some ideas for how to market your business and customize your offerings for the holidays to bring a little joy to your customers

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With 2020 coming to a close and COVID still in play, you may be thinking about something you never thought you would have to plan for: how to guide your business through the holidays during a pandemic.

Even if your customers’ budgets might be a little lower than normal this year, this is still the time when Americans shop more than ever, and that means great things for your business. 

How can you best prepare for the holiday season? Whether you have an Etsy shop, do tax prep, make music or grow vegetables, here’s some ideas on how to prepare for this holiday season:

Start Planning Now

If you haven’t already started preparing what your business is going to be offering this year, it’s a good time to start thinking about it. Having extra time now gives you time to plan and prep everything, so you can unveil your Christmas products and deals in December, as opposed to scrambling until the last minute. Creating a holiday-themed products plus the assets and plans to market them usually takes time. Starting early also helps because this year has been really big for online shopping -- a trend that’s unlikely to slow going into the holidays. If you’ve been holding off making a website or getting your store online now is a great time to start.

In fact, kickstarting your “Christmas craze” offerings even earlier than December and giving your customers more time to shop is a strategy used by bigger companies to allow consumers to stretch their dollars in thinner spending years (such as this one). Some sources are even advising shoppers to start early this season to accommodate shipping deadlines. It’s never a bad time to remind your customers “we’re here for you this holiday season, and we’ve got lots of timely offerings for you to brighten the spirits of your friends and family."

Consider What You've Already Learned

2020 has been a steep learning curve for everyone. Chances are, you’ve had to make some changes to your business to stay in step with customer spending habits. Consider how those changes in demand will manifest this holiday season. For example, that everyone has been spending more time at home, and a lot of people are working with smaller budgets.

At the end of the day, you know your customer base better than anyone. Take what you already knew about them from previous holiday seasons, and try to combine that with the lessons of 2020. If your business is new and you’re still getting to know your customers, take what you’ve learned this year and try to put yourself in your customers’ shoes. If you were in their position, what would you want to see available from your business?

Customizing Offerings for An Unusual Year

2020 has undeniably been the year of staying in and trying to make the best of things. Cost effective gifts that can be enjoyed at home, gifts that make the home more comfortable or even help people safely escape their homes for a little while are going to be more popular--especially if they are affordable. If you are a crafter and want to do a deep dive, Etsy has an annual holiday trend report you can check out.

We also gotten a lot of reminders that getting through this pandemic is more of a marathon than a sprint, with organizations like the WHO reminding us to limit screen time, news intake and use of alcohol as a coping mechanism -- all of which is great advice, but leaves people with a lot of time and pent up energy.

This brings us to the resurgence of tabletop games in 2020. While the playing card manufacturers are happy to remind us of the benefits of things like card games. Especially during the holidays, anything that helps families to socialize in a fun, stress free way in a win for everyone.

Even before we all got reacquainted with the great indoors, the playing card and boardgame markets were projected to grow steadily over the next few years. If you offer any kind of game or can gamify anything you sell, considering offering it this holiday season.

Provide a Beautiful, Shippable Gift Experience

Since people can’t gather for the holidays like they normally do, online gifting and shipping are going to be huge this year. It also means buyers are more likely to have gifts shipped directly to the recipient. No matter your industry, if you have an online store, or another type of delivery system, make sure it’s easy for shoppers to send something to a gift recipient’s address. If you can offer gift wrapping, or even personalized notes from the sender, that’s even better. This doesn’t have to complicate your online store with new checkout fields, you can even simply instruct your shoppers to send you a note with a gift message, or preferences on gift wrapping.

Speaking of packaging, if you run a retail business, consider that almost anything can be turned into a gift basket. If you think about it, a care package or gift basket is just a loosely curated collection of goods in decorative packaging. It doesn’t even have to be a basket! This cold brew kit comes in safe, simple packaging with a subtle flair.

Think about things in your inventory that go together to suit the different personalities of your shoppers, and come up with three to four gift baskets you could assemble for groups or individual recipients (or just one or two types with bigger and smaller versions available). If you’re worried about how to price something like that, don’t worry, there’s a guide for that.

Does Your Business Provide a Service, Rather Than a Physical Good?

There is still some holiday fun to be had! Consider selling gift certificates in beautiful themed stationary, or offer bundled deals on your services for the first 50 customers who buy, and send gift codes in themed emails. This great list from The Balance has even more ideas for how to market your service for the holidays. If for any reason, selling something to your customers doesn’t make sense right now, consider sending a little email wishing your customers wishing them a happy new year and thanking them for their previous business. A gesture like this can go a long way in terms of helping them remember you, strengthening your relationship, and, well, just brightening their day a little bit.

Communicate Everything With Your Customers, Especially Shipping Logistics

Once you know what you want to offer your customers for the holidays and how, be sure to update your website and social media with that information. If you’re worried about annoying people with the “Holiday Creep,” consider starting with a more subtle release just to let your customers know about the options available to them. You can always make those announcements more prominent as we get closer to the holidays. If you want help scheduling announcements to your customers in a timely manner, consider using Constant Contact, an extremely affordable marketing solution designed for small businesses, that makes email automation easy (plus, Nearside customers get 20% off all plans forever).

Beyond marketing promotions and discounts, you’re also going to want to test drive the customer experience (both shopping and checkout) as well as making sure your website is prepared for increased traffic so it doesn’t experience any lag or technical issues. You can even use Google to test how mobile friendly your site is.

Finally, don’t forget to be super clear with yourself, and your customers, about deadlines on when orders must be received. Telling customers they must place an order by a certain date to guarantee Christmas delivery is extremely helpful, and will save both you and the customer a big headache down the line. Plus, putting their decision into a time frame also encourages your customers to stop leaving stuff in their cart, and start checking out. The clock is ticking!

This year has been full of tough lessons and changing plans but if you’ve made it this far-- you deserve a pat on the back. It’s easy to feel humbled by this year, but you know your customer base better than anyone and with a bit of planning (and the resources linked above), you’re sure to bring them some much needed joy this holiday, as well as get a boost in your revenue. Here’s to Happy Holidays!

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