As the pandemic evolves, small businesses continue to be challenged in unparalleled ways. The past year has presented a series of surprises and hurdles for small business owners, and many have been forced to make crucial business decisions, while also maintaining the safety of employees and consumers alike.

This holiday shopping season is a great opportunity for local businesses to flourish and advance their road to recovery. In fact, 52% of consumers will do half or more of their holiday shopping online this year, and 68% of global small businesses report the upcoming holiday season will be a major sales opportunity.

There are a number of simple shifts you can make to ensure that your business is ready for the influx of shoppers, reaping the benefits of what is shaping out to be a massive sales opportunity.

Go all in on e-Commerce

While the pandemic has already accelerated the rate at which SMBs are shifting to digital platforms, now is a particularly valuable time to prioritize your digital playbook and e-commerce capabilities, if you haven’t already. Primarily, consumers are seeking a quick, safe, and seamless buying and checkout experience.

  • Take advantage of tools, like virtual terminals or digital invoicing, and utilize a proven e-commerce platform designed for quick and easy implementation. Allow enough time for proper testing, so consumers have a seamless experience, and work with your payment provider to increase your authorization rates and minimize declines.
  • Ensure that online product descriptions and price details are updated and accurate. Even the most minor details can deter a potential customer.
  • Take advantage of digital marketing strategies, such as targeted social media ads and in-platform shopping experiences. The digital shift and emerging technologies have paved the way for a new generation of consumer behavior that is already having a ripple effect on the global economy.
  • Plan ahead—with the volume of e-commerce buying, shipping carriers may struggle with the high demand. Run promotions earlier in the holiday season and evaluate multiple shipping carriers to determine your best options.

Embrace a Digital Playbook for Payments

Since the pandemic started, 78% of consumers have changed how they pay by shopping online, using contactless payments and less cash. It is critical that small businesses are equipped with the tools needed to implement safe, contactless payments both in store and online.

  • Ensure that your e-commerce platform and payment management systems are compatible—the right providers can enhance the customer journey by providing a seamless checkout experience and recurring billing options.
  • Utilize a digital payment method that is compatible with your existing solutions to ensure safe, contactless payments for existing in-person interactions. For example, simple card readers and mobile point of sale technologies are seamless, scalable options.
  • Offer gift cards, which are becoming increasingly popular due to the uncertainties of the pandemic. They provide a way to maintain sales without in-person shopping and open the door for customer interaction beyond the holiday season.

Protect Yourself from Fraud

As businesses are challenged by the accelerated shift to digital, there has simultaneously been a dramatic spike in online fraud. At Visa’s Authorize.Net, a payment gateway service provider, fraud strategy now comes up in almost every conversation, which was not the case in previous years.

  • Protecting against fraud does not have to be daunting and is unique to every business’s needs. Choose a provider that offers simple-to-use fraud filters that enable custom fraud settings addressing your business priorities.
  • Implementing simple measures, like customer authentication and velocity filters for card testing, are small but effective methods of detecting fraud.
  • At a time when digital interactions are increasingly common, your business will stand out if you are communicating and promising customers a safe and secure experience.

On the Horizon

While the future continues to be uncertain—and ever shifting due to the pandemic – the rush of holiday shopping is an ideal time to put new, digital operations in action and take advantage of huge sales opportunities. Beyond this year, we expect U.S. holiday spending to continue growing 7.8% year-over-year. It may seem daunting, but there are many resources out there equipped to help you effectively pivot and focus on long-term recovery needs.

Alex Burgin is VP, Head of Authorize.Net

Holiday shopping stock photo by NOVODIASTOCK/Shutterstock