From adhering to social distancing protocols in their places of business to adjusting to virtual school at home, small business entrepreneurs have made tremendous adjustments in their professional and personal lives to accommodate what 2020 has brought us. As a QuickBooks Live bookkeeper, I have seen firsthand that the challenges have been numerous and difficult to predict. To survive and thrive, mindset has been a critical factor for both my clients and the small business community as a whole. As we approach the year end and holiday sales season, I wanted to offer my insights on the importance of preparation and patience in one’s business strategy, and the tools that can make it easier to cultivate this mindset.
With holiday sales accounting for 40% or more of retailers’ annual sales, the pressure is on (as if wasn’t already this year). In a time of great uncertainty, it can feel overwhelming to try to account for all the unknowns and prepare for the unpredictable. I encourage my clients not to get caught up in the flurry, but pause–even if only for a moment–and reflect on what they do know and what they can control. I remind them it’s important to leverage the data they have access to. Whether a small business owner is using QuickBooks, or any other accounting software, they’ve likely recorded valuable data that can help to inform their strategy, identify hot spots and keep them grounded as they chart their year end or holiday sales plans. There are a variety of ways to leverage these data-driven insights. Here are three that I have found particularly useful.
- Build your seasonal sales budget: Proper preparation can help you get a clearer picture of what net profit will look like. This year, consider how COVID-19 impacts your budget. Perhaps you’ll want to spend more on online marketing or you may have more/less of a need to bring on additional seasonal staff. Perhaps you’ve increased cleaning protocols to ensure the safety of your customers and team. Think through any investments you’ve made or plan to make, and factor that into what your net profit will be forecasting for the holidays. If investments are significant, you may even want to consider adjusting your pricing according.
- Stock your inventory: Leverage past holiday sales season data to inform your inventory management plan, but note that shipping delays are expected and consumers are kicking off their holiday shopping earlier this year than ever. Knowing this, you may want to order raw materials sooner, or set an earlier “last day” to shop date for items to arrive by the holidays. You may also want to fine tune your backorder capabilities to help account for uncertainties that may be out of your control this season and ensure that consumers can place orders even if you run out of stock.
- Make a standout customer experience: Deloitte predicts that holiday e-commerce sales will grow by 25% to 35% YoY this season, compared to the 14.7% increase seen in 2019’s holiday season. Think through how you can make your online experience standout from the crowd through strong customer support, personalized touchpoints and product visuals that put your offerings in the best light (literally). You’ll also want to make your exchange policy one that encourages those browsing to shop with confidence. For those planning in-store experiences, think about your maximum occupancy, making social distancing/mask guideline policies visible and ways to make those waiting in line outside comfortable and entertained.
We refer to this time as the “season for giving”, and to truly be successful in this critical time, we must remember to give ourselves an abundance of patience. This year has been full of financial and emotional challenges for all of us. People are frustrated for a plethora of incredibly valid reasons and it’s important to recognize that.
This means it’s all the more important that you do what you can to not let grievances and anxieties cloud your business decisions and customer experiences. Be patient with yourself, your staff, your partners in business and your customers. When things are stressful, take a breath and remember how much you’ve already gotten through this year! Invest in your own mental wellness just as you invest in the financial wellness of your business. Take time to sit down with your books on a regular basis to give yourself the insight and confidence to make the business decisions you face and adjust your strategies as needed.
Adequate preparation can determine how much patience you may have to offer during this unprecedented holiday sales season, how well you can adapt and flex to delight your customers and how much revenue you can bring in. Data-driven insights and moments of pause for your own wellness are a powerful combination for developing and executing a successful strategy for the holiday sales season.
Tammi Adams is a QuickBooks Live Expert Bookkeeper. She provides guidance and management to Small/Medium Business Owners who use QuickBooks Online for their accounting.