By Rieva Lesonsky

For many entrepreneurs and small business owners, this is a make or break time of year. The good news is the National Retail Federation (NRF) consumers will spend an average of $1,007.24 this holiday season, up 4.1% more than year than they did in 2017. Overall, according to NRF’s annual holiday spending forecast, holiday retail sales in November and December will be up between 4.3% and 4.8% for a total between $717.45 billion and $720.89 billion.

Want to know how you can sell more this holiday season? Read on.

1—Small Business and Holiday Sales

2018 holiday sales are predicted to remain strong for small businesses, with a continuing trend toward e-commerce, according to data compiled by SCORE, mentors to America’s small businesses. Check out the infographic below for more information.


2—Secrets of Solo Online Retailers

Did you know 33% of solo online retailers makes 50% or more of their profits during the holiday season? Or that the retailers say they spend most spend their time on sales, product supply, and customer service? There’s a treasure trove of information here in this report from QuickBooks Self-Employed.


3—How the Holiday Rush Affects Small Business Owners

For many of us the holidays means days off, filled with food and shopping. Not for retailers (I know, I grew up in that world). TSheets surveyed retailer business owners and managers and found 82% will be working on Black Friday, 50% will be at work on Thanksgiving and more than 25% will be working on Christmas.

One of the reasons they’re working so hard is their top concern: dealing with competition from other retail businesses.

Read more to get some tips from the retailers.


4—Support Other Small Business Owners

Has Small Business Saturday has lost its appeal? Maybe, says a poll from, the Small Business Network. Alignable asked small business owners, “Do you expect Small Business Saturday to move the needle for you this year?” Unfortunately, more than 42% of the respondents said, “No”, while only 22% said, “Yes”.

Part of the concern is that bigger businesses start holiday promos early, so consumers have already found many of the big holiday deals.

One thing we can all do to help is shop small ourselves. As Alignable cofounder and CEO Eric Groves says, “If all the small business owners in our network [Alignable has over 2.5 million members] spent $100 with their local small retailers over this holiday season, we could all make a big impact together.”


5—How to Make Your Brand Stand Out During The Holidays

Guest post by Jennifer L. Jacobson, founder Jacobson Communication, and author, investor, advisor, and communications strategist with two decades of experience helping brands stand out in competitive industries. 

Whether you run a startup, a mid-size consumer product company, or another kind of successfully growing brand, you know how competitive the holiday season gets. Here are three tips to making your brand stand out during the holiday season.

  1. Give back: The holidays are about giving, but what good is it to only give to those who have? If you want to go the extra mile, why not allocate a portion of your profits to a worthy cause or nonprofit?

But you’re a business. Why would you give to a nonprofit? First of all, it’s a good thing to do. If your company is making enough money, it’s an altruistically good thing. Second, it shows your company cares about something other than your bottom line. Third, and while this won’t be as important to your customers as it will be to future brand partners and shareholders, it sets a tone of abundance and shows you’re the kind of company that cares about doing something positive in the world. A lot of companies talk this talk, but not many walk it.

Choose a nonprofit that aligns with your company’s brand and philosophy (GuideStar can be helpful for this). It can be local or national, specific or broad; it depends on the reach of your company. Coordinate ahead of time with the nonprofit and make sure you have permission to talk about them and their cause in your messaging. Be sure to include relevant links for customers to go above and beyond in their individual giving. This will also help the nonprofit’s SEO.

You don’t need a press release about “just this” as that would sound braggadocios, but be sure to mention this where appropriate on your “About” page, on social, and at the end of email campaigns.

2. Show up in multiple places: From a brand communications standpoint, one ad campaign for the holidays won’t be enough, and neither will “one review” (even if it is from that major tech reviewer that everyone loves).

No. The holidays are about the appearance of “being everywhere” for your brand. Family products need to be in mommy blogs, parenting magazines, and the occasional call-in drive-time radio show or podcast. Tech products need to cater to more than just “tech reviewers.” Educational products need to do more than a one-time ad buy in a major website. This is the time to find business allies and get in their newsletters. Run social cross promotions with complementary companies. Offer yourself as an expert for interview to media. Get creative. Get saturated.

  1. Get creative and have fun within the scope of your brand: Really dig into something fun about your product, or at least the benefit of your product, and drag that out into the light. Showcase something memorable in your ad campaigns. Make it funny. Make it ridiculous (within reason). Make it warm and fuzzy, or as much as you can get away with. Run these ideas on test audiences and get feedback before going live, and then go for it. ​
  2. Launch a giveaway: People love contests, especially if they have a chance of winning something good. Pick a grand prize to give away. Ideally it will be one of your company’s products or something product-related that is stand-alone and substantial that your target audience will want. Make it sticky. Make it social. Make it something that people can enter multiple times if they buy multiple products.
  3. Incorporate inclusive messaging: Not everyone celebrates the same holidays (that would be boring). And even for those that do, they don’t all do it in the exact same ways. So why would your brand’s messaging only talk about “one holiday?”

Diversify your holiday messaging to reflect this. You probably don’t have to overhaul your entire messaging plan, but re-read it with a fresh pair of eyes and ask yourself, “If I didn’t celebrate this exact holiday, would I still feel like buying this product?”

People want to feel included. Give them that opportunity, and they’ll be more likely to return as a customer.

Learn more here.


6—Customer Experience Matters

To draw customers into your store you might have to think about selling less products. Adi Biran, professional architect, brand activation expert, and CEO of Splacer, says, “The store of the future is less about selling merchandise, and more about selling ideas and experiences. As Target plans to launch thousands of ‘hours of joy’ across its stores so children can engage with and test new toys, retailers are making moves this holiday season to grab consumer attention with the understanding that consumers may engage in-store, only to make final purchases online.”


7—Customer Experience Counts for Online Sales Too

In the U.S. 30% of consumers make an online purchase at least once a week—up from 19% in 2017. But, as consumers spend more time shopping online, the likelihood of a subpar shopping experience increases as well—in face, 61% of online shoppers are disappointed by the holiday shopping experience. The most common pain points (e.g. items arriving late, expensive shipping, tracking inaccuracies, confusing returns policies, and lost or incorrect items) all have one thing in common—the problem occurs after the purchase. To remain competitive, retailers must delight consumers throughout the entire shopping experience.

All these insights are from the 2018 Pitney Bowes Global Ecommerce Study. Additional takeaways include:

The cost of a bad shopping experience can be severe, if not fatal: 90% of online shoppers say they have, or will hurt a retailer in response to a bad post-purchase experience, ranging from sharing their frustrations on social media to never purchasing from that site again.

Consumers want free shipping over fast shipping: 91% of online shoppers say they’ll leave a retail website if shipping options aren’t “fast and free.” What’s fast and free? While 95% of online shoppers consider two-day free shipping “acceptable,” only 47% consider it “fast.”

Subscription boxes are the new player in town: 51% of millennials are now enrolled in at least one subscription box; this is expected to grow 11% by next year. Rather than search for a product themselves, consumers can rely on brands to curate products for them, creating a new opportunity for retailers to generate awareness of their brands.


8—How Do Americans Plan to Shop this Year?

Be aware, 26% of consumers have already started shopping! That’s according to research from Square. What’s on their minds? Square says:

  • 45% anticipate making make a large purchase (spending over $250 on a single item)
  • 61% would feel more comfortable spending more this holiday season if they knew they would have the ability to pay for purchases over time

The really good news is 84% say they prefer to support small businesses whenever they can.

Check out the whole report here.


9—What Retailers Need To Know About Consumer Shopping Habits

Guest post by Sarah Hollenbeck, shopping and retail expert for

Consumers are smarter than ever, putting quality over price and spacing out their spending as they have realized that Black Friday isn’t the only day to snag a great deal. Consumers are also rewarding the businesses that cater to their needs—and they aren’t falling for doorbuster deals like they used to. All this according to a survey from

Survey highlights:

  • The average shopper will spend$625 on holiday gifts this year. Budgets for Black Friday and Cyber Monday top out at $472 and $415 respectively, suggesting that consumers will be doing a fair bit of shopping outside these major holidays.
  • Free shipping is the most important perkretailers can offer consumers. For the second year in a row, 38% of shoppers say free shipping is perk they most hope to use. Coupons came in second place at only 18%.
  • Consumers are no longer willing to sacrifice quality to get the lowest price—44% of shoppers say quality is the most important factor, only 36% say that about low prices.
  • If retailers are hoping to draw innew customers, however, the best price always wins. When asked what would entice them to shop at a new store for gifts, 33% say better prices and 24% say convenience.
  • To make sure retailers are attracting the most shoppers they can, they need to provide online sales that are just as good as at their in-store sales. Our survey found over half of consumers plan to do most of their shopping online—via their phones (22%) or laptops (39%).
  • Tech and clothing are the top categoriesfor shoppers this year on both Black Friday and Cyber Monday. The difference between the two holidays comes in on more niche categories. For instance, more consumers plan to shop for toys on Black Friday, while travel deals are more of a Cyber Monday buy.

Check out more: Black Friday vs Cyber Monday Survey and Holiday Shopping and Spending Survey.


10—How to get Shoppers into Your Store

Here’s some interesting data from Bazaarvoice culled from their recent research report.

  • There’s more to Black Friday than low prices: 59% of shoppers purchase most or all of their gifts on popular sales days such as Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Thanksgiving or the Saturday before Christmas. But deals and doorbusters are not the only reason: 35% shop on these sales days “to get into the holiday spirit,” and 25% say shopping on sales days is a family tradition.
  • Holiday experiences draw shoppers in-store: 42% of holiday shoppers brave the crowds and shop in-store because they enjoy the festive ambiance. And 32% consider special holiday activities, such as visiting Santa or ice skating, important to the in-store shopping experience.
  • Experiential gifting is on the rise: While 90% of shoppers plan to give physical gifts to their loved ones this year, nearly one in three plans to give meaningful experiences as gifts. Craft-related gift experiences were the most popular (47%) followed by foodie-related (45%) and travel-related experiences (41%).

Check out the infographic below for more information.


11—In-Store Shopping is Alive & Well

More consumers plan to shop in-store this year and as many as 50% may already have completed the majority of their holiday shopping. This, according to the annual In-Store Holiday Shopping survey from Natural Insight, a leading provider of a cloud-based advanced retail execution and workforce management platform.

Some insights:

More Americans want to shop in-store than in 2017: Shoppers are not abandoning brick-and-mortar. Consumers still crave the tactile experience of the retail store. Most consumers plan to shop in-store, retailers must cater to all demographics: 

  • 88%of consumers intend to shop in stores this holiday season, including 88% of women and 85% of men
  • 88%of 18-29 year-olds plan to shop in-store
  • 92%of 30-44 year-olds report plan to shop in-store
  • Specifically,51% of people shopping for the holiday season on Black Friday will be between 18 and 29 years old.

Men will be the big spenders this holiday season: Men are expected to spend more money while shopping in-store this holiday shopping season.

  • Overall, men will spend more than women, with 19%of men planning to spend more than $500, while only 12% of women plan to spend more than $500
  • 57%of women and 50% of men plan to spend less than $250 in stores this holiday season

 Happy shoppers: 

  • 36%of women say holiday shopping is something they enjoy
  • 55% of people go shopping in stores to browse and find new gift ideas
  • 33%of those aged 18-29 say holiday shopping is a social activity they enjoy with family or friends
  • 30% of survey respondents say holiday decorations and the shopping atmosphere is one of the main reasons they shop in store, instead of online

Stressed shoppers:

25% of respondents say shopping is their top holiday stress

Of that group, 65% are stressed by crowds and 49% say not finding a gift that fits within their budgets is one of their top causes of stress.


12—Optimizing Online Sales

What tactics will optimize sales for online retailers? Here are some useful tips from Mailchimp, taken from their useful guide for small business owners for the holiday season.

Measure twice/cut once: Test your website emails and ads to ensure all links and promo codes are working, tracking links/pixels are in place, and everything is mobile friendly.

Automate sales: Set up automations to lessen your workload with abandoned cart, order confirmation, and product follow-up notifications.

Audience segmentation: Double-check your customer segments to make sure you’re targeting the right customers.


13—Peak Sales Periods

SMBs can expect holiday sales to peak during the two weeks leading up to Christmas, according to Volusion, an e-commerce platform built specifically for SMBs. Based on data from more than 30K U.S. SMB merchants who run their online stores using Volusion, merchants in 2017 saw an average 23% increase in sales for the two weeks before Christmas.

Here are some tips from Volusion to boost your online sales:

  • Expand your audience reach through Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest ads.
  • Use robust product titles and descriptions so your products can be found easily in Google Shopping and other shopping aggregators.
  • For holiday sales, mention the promotion in your PPC ad copy and A/B test ads for performance.
  • Reach out to industry influencers/bloggers for inclusion in social media posts and holiday gift guides.
  • Create gift guides—the more specific, the better  (i.e. the best gifts for teens/sports lovers/foodies, etc.). Optimize these resources with descriptive title tags and meta descriptions, then pin them on Pinterest with an eye catching image and thorough descriptions.


14—Get CRM for Less on Cyber Monday

If you’re in the market for a new CRM solution, Nimble is a great choice. Nimble is a simple CRM for Office 365 and G Suite that also provides social business insights about the people who matter most to your business.

And you can save up to 50% on Nimble for a year, by taking advantage of their Cyber Monday special offers.

Save 50% on Nimble’s standard Business Plan monthly rates when you sign up 3+ users for a 1-year contract.

  • $150 per user/year savings (regularly $300 per user/year)
  • Valid until December 15, 2018
  • Sign up Here using coupon CYBERMONDAY50 at checkout.

Save 40% on Nimble Business for 3 months when you sign up 2+ users.

  • $60 savings
  • Valid Until December 15, 2018
  • Sign up Here using coupon CYBERMONDAY40 at checkout.


15—Keep Your Workers Safe

The National Retail Federation estimates (NRF) retailers will hire 650,000 seasonal workers for the holidays, up 10% from 2017. This could, however, increase the risk of on-the-job injuries for both full-time and seasonal employees. According to OSHA, injuries result in nearly $60B in direct U.S. workers’ compensation costs per year.

Most common workplace injuries in transportation, shipping and logistics are a result of simple movements like lowering, lifting, carrying, stepping and bending. If you want to avoid that happening at your workplace, check out Worklete, a tech platform that can help reduce these common injuries by 64%.


Quick Takes

  • 12 tips to help you conquer Black Friday from Bank of America’s Small Business Community. Also from the Small Business Community, here are 5 steps for conquering Cyber Monday. And if you quickly need to get ready for Small Business Saturday, read this.
  • How to benefit from Small Business Saturday—even if you’re not a retailer.
  • A mega e-commerce retailers explains why Cyber Monday matters to small businesses.
  • It’s not too late to prepare for the holiday season. Check out this post from Intuit QuickBooks.
  • Retailers can expect to see 32% more messages on social media this holiday season. Check out the data from Sprout Social.
  • Can your retail store beat Amazon this holiday season? Euclid shows you how you can here. One key: target millennials. Euclid says, “Millennials shop in-store more than any other generation. On average millennials shop up to 14% more than their Gen X and Baby Boomer counterparts on Black Friday and Thanksgiving.”
  • Download this report from Retail Me Not on holiday key trends and insights for retailers.
  • Almost all Americans (85%) plan to do some shopping this upcoming Black Friday weekend. According to a survey from Swagbucks, a popular rewards program, 32% of consumers plan to shop at more than five stores, 21% will shop exclusively online, and 70% will shop both in-store and online.
  • There’s a ton of info about consumers and small businesses at Think with Google. Sign up for their free reports.

Holiday stock photo by Tyler Olson/Shutterstock