The holidays are a special time for small businesses because they give you a chance to deepen engagement with customers, sell at a time when people are excited to buy, and create great shopping experiences that can boost your business for the rest of the year. 

But as the world still pushes through an ongoing pandemic, this holiday season, like the last, will depend on a very different playbook. The pandemic has changed how people shop, gather, and celebrate together—and businesses have had to respond according to these shifts. At the same time, supply chain snags and shipping delays have added some uncertainty to the mix. Here’s how to prepare for the weeks of holiday shopping ahead, so that you and your customers have the best experience possible.

#1. Make online shopping feel like magic

By now, businesses have had a bit of time to adjust to the realities of a pandemic economy, and online shopping has been a key strategy in a time of unknowns, from lockdown mandates to customers’ own risk tolerance for going out, mingling with crowds, and shopping for the holidays.

You can be sure that many people who would have normally popped into a physical shop to make a purchase have moved some of their holiday to-dos online. Be prepared for this increase in online shopping by making sure you have a system in place to handle transactions quickly, securely, and dependably. And remember that in the online environment, you’re not just competing with the shop next door: you’re competing with the likes of Amazon and other established players. 

That’s why it’s important for your online experience to be seamless and simple for customers who are used to a one-click ordering experience. Fortunately, PaySimple makes it easy to let customers pay directly from your website, and even set up recurring payments for services you offer, so you can check this to-do off your list and move on to the rest of your holiday prep!

#2. Prepare to ship faster than ever

Making online shopping easier is just one part of your holiday success strategy. The rest is execution. Think ahead: do you have a plan to process, package, and ship all of the orders that will be coming in? How much time and extra effort (and packaging supplies!) will be required? Do you need to hire a few extra helping hands to make sure you can fulfill orders and get them out the door in time for the gift-giving season? Because shipping has often been delayed or slowed down by the pandemic, you don’t want to slack on getting shipments out your door—the more time you allow for shipping services to deliver your package, the better chance it has of reaching customers before all the presents are unwrapped.

#3. Encourage customers to buy now, not later

If your business depends on selling physical products, you’re probably already familiar with the pandemic-driven snags in the supply chain. To be prepared for this holiday season, be sure to order what you need extra early or risk being out of key products by the time holiday shopping season is in full flow. 

Now is also the time to encourage customers to buy from you sooner than they might during a normal holiday season: this ensures both that their items can ship (and arrive) on time if they’re online shopping, and that the things they’re hoping to buy are available or can be ordered in time.

#4. Entice shoppers with smarter seasonal promotions

It’s one thing to slash prices or introduce seasonal promotions during the holidays—these are great one-off opportunities to get more people through the door or to click “buy” on your site. But we’d like to challenge you to think bigger: is there a way you can tie your seasonal promotions to future sales potential for your business? For example, could you encourage customers to buy a year’s worth of services over the holiday season, at a special discounted rate? Or what about a monthly “subscription” that’s only available to buy at the start of the year? You could find ways to bundle together your services or an interesting selection of products that people can then enjoy from month to month, year-round.

#5. Uncover new opportunities to make the sale

The holidays are a great time to energize customers who may have bought products or services from you in the past, but haven’t shopped with you for a while. This is an excellent time to run a database search to discover who your one-time customers or inactive customers are, and then tailor a special offer to entice them to make a fresh purchase. You can also use your database to tailor different deals to different segments of your customer base. For example, do you have loyal supporters right in the same neighborhood? Consider a special deal or promotion just for them, or if you have a physical space, encourage them to stop by the store for free coffee, hot cocoa, or refreshments as they do their holiday shopping in the neighborhood. Get creative in your outreach, and use the power of your database to personalize offers for different customer groups.

#6. Encourage your fans to spread the word

The holidays are all about giving, and you can be sure that customers who already love your services or products would be happy to give some of that love back to you. This is a great time to ask happy customers to spread the word to family and friends, or to leave a review to help boost your business. Reward loyal customers who bring in referrals or leave a great review with special holiday offers to show them you’re thankful for their support.

#7. Embrace your inner Santa Claus

While this time of year is pivotal for business owners who depend on the added boost in sales, we should remember that it is also the season of giving. In that spirit, make a little time to shift away from your sales strategy and business planning so you can be receptive to the needs of the broader community. This is a wonderful time of year to look for others who may need a little boost—whether it’s a local nonprofit, a school group, or even a community member in need of support. When you take the time to give to others, in whatever form—financial support, kindness, a warm meal—the little day-to-day worries that may have seemed important tend to dissolve as you give your attention, time, and care to something bigger than yourself. 

#8. Stay strong all year long

The challenges of this holiday season and the last have certainly forced businesses to innovate and respond to rapidly-changing health guidelines, logistical uncertainties, and changes in how people shop. While it may have been a disruptive time for many, it has also inspired them to improve, streamline, and enrich the way they interact with and sell to shoppers. In that spirit, remember that the preparation you do for this holiday season should have the benefit of leaving your business in better shape—stronger and more responsive to changing consumer preferences—than when you started. The time you spend renewing customer relationships, delivering excellent service, creating personalized deals, or simply creating a stronger community around you will be worth the effort long after the holidays have come and gone.
Get excited for the holidays with PaySimple! Is your business ready for the holiday season? Let PaySimple take care of payment processing so you can add a little extra sparkle to everything else.