The holiday season is an important time for retailers of every size, both in engaging consumers and driving sales. Two of the busiest shopping days are around the corner, and right in the midst of Black Friday and Cyber Monday is a day dedicated solely to the small businesses that we’ve come to know and love: Small Business Saturday.

Small Business Saturday is designed to celebrate small businesses across the nation, and encourage more shoppers to “shop small” in everything from niche, specialty stores to mom-and-pop shops, many of which offer a level of service and insight that big box stores simply can’t. The holiday season is especially important for small retailers—in fact, a 2018 study by American Express and the National Federation of Independent Business found small business owners surveyed expected nearly 30 percent of their total annual sales to take place during the holiday shopping season.

While the influx of activity and sales characterized by these holidays is important for reaching revenue goals and driving brand awareness, small businesses must ensure they’re adequately prepared. So, what goes into gearing up for this busy season, and how can small business owners use intel gathered from customer data to better serve their customers in real-time? In my experience working with small businesses and supporting my own family’s business, these four steps can help business owners succeed before—and during—the holiday season:

  • Review and analyze customer data. While it may be tricky that Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday are back-to-back, it also provides a great opportunity for small business owners to review and analyze sales data to pivot approaches and capture more consumer attention if necessary. Tracking responses to marketing strategies and monitoring trending products enables small business owners to identify what’s working and what could be improved, ultimately adjusting strategies that could positively impact sales for the remainder of the holiday shopping season.
  • Monitor customers purchasing journeys. With heavier-than-usual traffic, the holiday season is a great opportunity to review customer feedback. With website analytics tools, small business owners and marketers can track where customers left off on their purchasing journey or if they abandoned their shopping cart altogether. A number of factors may go into shopping cart abandonment, but selecting items or navigating a site should never be one of them. Customer data can be used to improve a website, ensuring it is easy for customers to navigate, source information, and ultimately make a purchase.
  • Align in-store and online inventory. Track trends and pay close attention to what customers are shopping for and be prepared to adjust inventory and sales promotions. Look for trending items or searches, and use that data to run flash sales, time-based promotions and more. Identify products where there’s an overflow of inventory and see if those items can be cross sold with trending products. Streamline tracking both in-store and online inventory, and ensure inventory aligns with the expected demand.
  • Capitalize on customer engagement. Small Business Saturday is a great occasion to start an email list or to follow up with shoppers engaged during Black Friday. With their smaller size and nimbler nature, many small businesses have the ability to connect with customers on a personal level—sending a simple follow-up message will separate them from big corporations. They can also use this time to review the success of ad/marketing strategies in reaching their target audience and pivot as needed.

 In addition to these tips, it is also important to double check local listings. Take time to ensure business contact information and store information is up to date across online directories as shoppers search for retailers to help meet their needs. Consumers trust information found online, so make it a point to check local and online listings to confirm that accurate information is reflected.

Ensuring a small business is geared up for the Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday shopping marathon is key to meeting overall sales and business goals. Incorporating a few key tips can help small business owners use the busy shopping season to boost their bottom line, and actively monitoring sales and customer engagement as the season progresses can help them succeed throughout the rest of the year.

Maria Melo is a Senior Advisor at Yahoo Small Business.

Small Business Saturday stock photo by marekuliasz/Shutterstock