It may be late in the year, but it’s not too late to plan for the holiday season. After all, this time of year is the prime shopping season for most Americans. It’s a fact we’ve known for decades, but data from the National Retail Federation evidences that it’s still true—holiday retail sales in 2019 grew to $730.2 billion, a 4.1% increase over 2018.
But it’s also important to understand our current reality. The Christmas and holiday season in 2020 may not trend so cheerfully sales-wise because of the ongoing pandemic. A Deloitte study conducted this year notes that over half (51%) of consumers are anxious about shopping in-store due to COVID-19.
To be clear, though, consumers are still willing to purchase goods and services. Their needs have just shifted—online shopping and contactless options are a must. In fact, the same Deloitte study indicates that the number of consumers who plan to use curbside pickup has more than doubled year over year.
As you prepare your business for the holiday season, consider the above context. In addition, review the below to-do items to give your small business the best chance at success.
5 Business To-Do Items for Your Holiday Checklist
1. Update your website.
With consumers flocking online, it’s only natural that the first item on your holiday preparation checklist is updating your business website.
What retail holiday promotions or special deals are you offering? Here are a few examples from successful holiday marketing campaigns:
- Free shipping. According to the National Retail Federation, 75% of consumers expect no delivery fee, even on orders under $50. While this may be tough to swing as a small business, meeting customer demands will be more important than ever this holiday season.
- Sitewide discounts. This is a common sales tactic for eCommerce retailers, but that’s because it’s been shown to work year after year. Whether it’s 10%, 50%, or somewhere in between is up to you. Decide what discount works best given the products you sell and your financial position.
- Select bundle deals. Sometimes, bundling is the way to go. Customers love convenience. Try putting together complementary products you find customers often purchase in the same order, or that naturally pair well. For example, if you sell hair products, you may bundle together a shampoo, conditioner, styler, and comb set. You can even offer a percentage off the bundle to make it more appealing.
- Holiday-themed apparel. Even if you don’t normally sell apparel, consider running a limited-time stock of hats, hoodies, or shirts with your branding on it. This will play on the marketing principle of scarcity, as customers will know they won’t be able to purchase the same apparel again. This could also help bolster brand awareness beyond the Christmas season.
Keep in mind that you’ll also want to let customers know how you’re helping keep them safe while shopping, especially if they’re coming into your store. For example, be sure to include information about curbside pickup if you’re offering it, or if you have a designated in-store spot for picking up online orders.
2. Review your sales figures.
One of the most insight-filled areas you can explore is your own record of sales. This gives you the most realistic view of your sales performance. Look at how your sales decreased, increased, fluctuated, or remained stable over the past few years. Identify any obvious trends, such as seeing how sales suddenly increased after an email campaign.
Use the insights you gain from analyzing your sales (along with the Deloitte study) to help you set sales goals for this holiday season. For example, maybe you’ve had year-over-year sales increases for the past five years, except for two years ago when you announced a holiday sale too late. This year, you could ensure you announce your sale on time—and even give a special deal to the first 100 shoppers who check out. Determine what sales path works best for your business.
3. Verify inventory.
If you sell physical products, not getting enough sales can be heartbreaking. Unfortunately, that’s the way of business sometimes. But there’s another situation that’s nearly as bad: running out of inventory. Imagine having customers willing to purchase your products, but you don’t have enough of them to sell. It’s enough to take all the holly and jolly out of your Christmas season.
Hence why it’s critical that you verify you have enough inventory on hand to meet sales demands. Do what you feel is necessary as a business owner. For example, you may order more stock of a historically popular product. If doing so is out of the budget, see if you can work with your supplier on getting a better deal or agree on some other alternative.
Also, if you haven’t done a full inventory audit in a while, now is the time. An accurate inventory count could reveal extra products you didn’t know you had available. It will also help you order with greater precision.
4. Create a holiday marketing plan.
The pandemic may be out of your hands, but it’s within your control to pivot your marketing and operations to reflect the new reality. If you’re a savvy business owner, you’ll not only adjust your strategies for business promotion, but also find inexpensive ways to promote your business.
In line with the Deloitte insights, consider how to promote your business online in a way that addresses consumer concerns. Pure product promotion isn’t enough if shoppers are fearful about picking up their purchases. Be loud and clear about your pickup policies.
If you’re offering curbside pickup, for instance, showcase that option on the home page. You can then reiterate it during checkout, making sure shoppers have detailed instructions on how your curbside pickup process works. The last thing you want is customers being confused about what to expect and deciding to buy from a competitor that makes it clear how they’re keeping customers safe.
You may also consider reexamining the buyer personas you target. Given the state of retail in 2020, many shoppers have adjusted their habits. For example, the Deloitte study walks through four such personas—referred to as “holiday shopper profiles.” See a synopsis of these below. If their demographics align closely with one or more of your personas, you can use the profiles to gain insights about how your customers will likely shop this year.
- Francesca. She represents 27% of shoppers and is an avid gift giver. Nearly half of this persona group (48%) is aged 55 years or older.
- Chloe. Accounting for 18% of shoppers, she cares more about buying socially responsible products. Over half (60%) of this persona group is aged 44 years or younger.
- David. He’s a deal-seeker and has no problem searching for the best price. About 16% of holiday shoppers comprise this persona group, and approximately one third (36%) of people in this group are from middle-income households.
- Eddie. He represents 24% of holiday shoppers and is all about efficiency. No endless browsing here, as he views shopping as a chore. Note that this group is male-dominated (58%).
If any of these holiday shopper personas remind you of your own ideal customers, or just pique your interest, check out a more detailed look at each one in the Deloitte study.
5. Celebrate your employees.
Don’t forget the holiday season is about joy and laughter. Focusing on sales may be your main concern, but don’t forget about your workforce. Make plans to show them how much you value their hard work throughout the year.
Here are a few ways you can spread a little holiday cheer and boost morale with your staff:
- Throw a (pandemic-friendly) holiday party. This can be at the office or in a rented space. Cater the event and encourage dressing up in festive attire. If you or your staff are too uncomfortable with an in-person event because of COVID-19, switch to a virtual holiday party instead.
- Give out holiday bonuses or gift cards. Choose their favorite places. The amounts don’t have to be large, especially if you have a tight budget. A $15 gift card for their daily trip to Starbucks can make a big impact emotionally.
- Surprise your staff with gifts. Instead of going the cash or cash-alternative route, you can pick relevant gifts to surprise them with.
- Write an end-of-year letter to each of your employees. This is a great, budget-friendly option that can help you foster goodwill with your staff. Share how much their individual efforts impact the business. Try including a specific, positive situation they were involved in from this year so they know its personalized.
Try one (or all) of these approaches to let your staff know you value them. Whatever you decide to do, it will make their holiday season that much brighter!