Despite COVID-19, 86% of consumers still plan on buying from small- and medium-sized businesses this holiday season. With so many consumers ready to shop till they drop, it’s time to giddy up and get to planning if you haven’t already. So, ready to make the most out of this 2020 holiday shopping season? Keep reading…

Planning for the 2020 holiday shopping season

‘Tis the season … well, the holiday shopping season, that is. As you likely know by now, the holiday shopping season consists of a number of major shopping days, including:

  • Black Friday
  • Small Business Saturday
  • Cyber Monday

Eager to make the most out of this year’s holiday shopping days? Who isn’t? To make this holiday shopping season the best one yet for your business, plan ahead and put these six tips to use. 

1. Put safety first

Thanks to COVID-19, this year’s holiday shopping season is going to look a little different. Instead of shoulder-to-shoulder crowds, there will be social distancing. And instead of your typical holiday signage, there will be COVID-related signs plastered on store walls. 

What’s a business owner to do? Well, follow suit and put safety first, of course. This holiday shopping season, make your employees’ and customers’ health and safety a priority. By now, you probably know the drill. To help keep your staff and customers safe, give these precautionary measures a go:

  • Set up hand sanitizing stations 
  • Put up social distancing signs and floor markers
  • Set a maximum store capacity (e.g., no more than 50 people inside at a time)
  • Make masks mandatory for customers and employees
  • Have workers sanitize as much as possible

The more you prepare, the better off your business will be. And, the safer your customers will feel shopping at your store.

2. Create a holiday game plan

Having a game plan for the holiday shopping season is an absolute must. Doesn’t matter what year it is. Take it from a guy who has 30+ years of entrepreneurial experience under his belt, you have to have a plan.

So, what should this holiday game plan include? So happy you asked! In your plan, you can outline things like:

  • Holiday operating hours
  • Days closed for holidays (e.g., Thanksgiving Day)
  • Promotions for Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday
  • Employee schedules
  • COVID-19 precautions (e.g., max capacity for your store)

Your game plan should include anything you need to survive the holiday shopping season. Of course, the above is not by any means an all-inclusive list. Feel free to add to it or even scrap it completely and create your own checklist (I promise it won’t hurt my feelings). 

3. Stock up on inventory and supplies

During a busy holiday season, the absolute last thing you want to do is run out of inventory or supplies. And with COVID-19 disrupting the supply chain this year, it’s more important now than ever to get a head start on stocking up. 

No one, not even the experts, can truly predict what this year’s holiday shopping season will look like for business owners. Will the holiday shopping season still draw in record-breaking crowds? Eh, probably not this year. But, there’s a good chance that there will still be an influx of shoppers (or cyber shoppers) on Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, and during the month of December. 

To ensure you’re prepared for whatever this year winds up bringing, stock up on inventory and supplies ahead of time (and don’t even think about procrastinating). 

So, if the experts don’t even know what to expect this holiday season, how can you? To plan your inventory and supplies accordingly, you’ve got to do some research. Look at things like last year’s sales, anticipated holiday shopping crowd sizes, and customers’ current needs. 

Place your orders ASAP to avoid missing out on sales due to low inventory levels or supplies. 

4. Plan a holiday-focused marketing campaign

Despite the negative effects that COVID-19 has had on the economy, experts still anticipate holiday sales to be between $1.147 to $1.152 billion this year.

With holiday sales still projected to be sky-high, make the most out of this shopping season by planning a killer holiday-focused marketing campaign.

Not sure where to start with your holiday marketing campaign? No worries—I’ve got you covered. To maximize your holiday sales, you can (and, in some cases, should):

  • Think ahead and start early 
  • Offer special holiday promotions 
  • Produce festive ads
  • Give customers a personalized experience
  • Appeal to shoppers’ emotions
  • Offer incentives, free gifts, and rewards

When it comes to the holidays, don’t be shy with your marketing ideas and efforts. And, don’t be afraid to have fun with your marketing and get creative. Sometimes the craziest or most “out there” ideas are the ones that work best and, not to mention, make you stand out in a sea of holiday ads. 

At the same time, don’t let the shopping season get the best of you. Be sure to stick with your small business budget and don’t blow it all on your holiday marketing campaigns. Trust me, the last thing you want to deal with is budget issues and financial stress down the road. 

5. Update your business website and social media 

Your marketing isn’t the only thing you need to spruce up this holiday shopping season. Along with giving your marketing materials a holiday makeover, you need to update your business website and social media to keep customers in-the-know.

Are your website and social pages holiday-ready? Update the following on your pages to keep everyone in the loop for the holidays:

  • Extended or reduced holiday hours
  • Days your store will be closed
  • Upcoming sales and promotions 
  • COVID-19 shopping rules 
  • Special items

Along with making sure your social pages and website are up-to-date and ready to roll for the holidays, go through your website pages to ensure everything is on-brand, issue-free, and working smoothly (I’m talking about you, spinning circle of slowness). 

6. Give customers more than one way to shop

If you really want to make the most out of this shopping season, give your customers more than one way to shop. 

More than one way to shop? What in the world does that mean? Well, shopping doesn’t have to be an in-person task anymore thanks to advancements in technology and social distancing. In fact, e-commerce sales are expected to jump a whopping 35.8% this year. 

You can give your customers more than one way to shop by:

  • Allowing customers to order online
  • Offering same-day delivery services
  • Giving customers curbside pickup options

Offering shopping alternatives not only gives you a better opportunity to get customers through the door, but it also shows your customers you care about safety and convenience. The more avenues you give customers to shop this holiday season, the more likely you are to boost sales and get the most out of the shopping season. 

Mike Kappel is a serial entrepreneur, and the founder and CEO of Patriot Software Company, and its subsidiaries. Patriot Software, LLC is a developer of online accounting software and payroll for U.S. business owners. Connect on Twitter: @PatriotSoftware.

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