Holiday shopping will be very different this year - here’s how your business can prepare. 

As small businesses are cautiously reopening, many are relying on the upcoming holidays and growing sentiment to shop small and local businesses. In fact, according to a recent study from Google, 66% of shoppers plan to shop more at local and small businesses.  

While the current climate makes it challenging to plan for the next few months, it looks like this season will be about who can respond quickly, so preparing for multiple scenarios could significantly impact your business. Here are 10 tips that can help:


  1. Create a strategy and timeline
    Every holiday has its own rules and themes, so make sure you map out what each one means for your business and determine how much time it takes to prepare.

    Consider the additional requirements associated with the pandemic, e.g., extra delivery people, curbside pick-up options, extended business hours, limitations of how many people can enter your store, hand sanitizer, masks, etc. Creating an organized plan and timeline will also help you better calculate how much working capital you will need.
  2. Analyze and prepare your budget and cashflow
    With extended hours, seasonal employees, promotional events, and increased inventory, the holiday season regularly generates extra expenses for small businesses. Create a realistic budget and leave room for contingencies. Review your bank accounts to get a clear picture of your financials. Have a few weeks of capital ready, just in case. If this is not possible, apply for a line of credit to tap into if you need it.

    You can also use Melio to pay your vendors with a credit card, even if they don’t accept them. That way you can defer payments, increase your cash flow, and even earn card rewards. Melio will send your vendor a check or bank deposit on your behalf.  

    Preserve your cash during the holidays - pay your bills with a credit card
  3. Prepare your marketing and advertising campaigns
    Your customers will most likely be bombarded with advertising during the holidays, so think of ways to make your business stand out. Since the start of the pandemic, online shopping has increased, and even if you don’t sell online, you can still make your business and products visible to shoppers. Consider hiring a marketing professional to help you create a strategy and invest in marketing& advertising wisely.

    Since many shoppers research online before making purchases, provide accurate information about your inventory. If you have a brick-and-mortar shop, highlight the advantages of purchasing at your store: safety, flexible shopping hours, curbside pickup, deliveries, contactless payment, etc.
  4. Get your website ready for the holidays
    Right before the holidays, check the health of your website, and perform any essential upgrades. Make sure your website is running smoothly and can handle any uptick in traffic. Create a strategy and invest in solutions that improve your customers’ buying experience.

  5. Stock up on inventory if needed
    Make sure you have enough inventory to meet your shoppers’ needs. There may be delays in delivery because of the current situation, so get your orders in early enough to avoid any expensive last-minute shipments.

    If you are a manufacturer, distributor, or supplier, anticipate your customers’ demand: Reserve extra warehouse space and transportation services. Melio provides you with a free, simple, and efficient way for your small business customers to pay you online, as well as flexible payment options (incl. credit card) at no cost to you.
  6. Hire extra help 
    Whether it’s a freelancer to help you design your marketing campaigns,  or extra staff to provide customer service or fulfill orders, having enough help is crucial this time of year to ensure customer satisfaction. Staffing agencies can help you fill temporary positions. If you need specialized help, look for firms that cater to your industry.
  7. Pool resources with your neighboring small businesses
    Connect with other small business owners in your area to explore ways to work together and facilitate an exchange of creative initiatives. Some ideas: share the cost of deliveries to the same location, set-up infrastructure for curbside pick-up, pool orders to get volume discounts on supplies, host a community event together to promote businesses in the area.

  8. Make sure you have the right insurance
    The holiday season is an intense time, so make sure you have the proper insurance to cover potentially harmful situations.

    Commercial general liability insurance can cover your business against injury claims (e.g., an accident due to bad weather) or property damage. Professional liability insurance can protect you from claims made by dissatisfied customers. Seasonal staff also needs to be insured, as well as your equipment. Speak to your insurance agent to make you have all the coverage you need.

  9. Show your employees you appreciate them
    Giving your employees recognition for their job can go a long way during the holiday shopping stress and rush. Even though holiday parties may not be the norm this year, consider other creative ways to celebrate with them.

  10. Prepare for the post-holiday rush
    When creating your initial holiday strategy, take into consideration “the day after.”  Is your business set up for exchanges and returns? What items will you markdown? How fast can you implement changes, and how big a staff will you require to accommodate all of the post-holiday activity.

Conclusion

For many small businesses, the upcoming holiday season will be a challenging time, but this year more than ever, it is crucial to be well prepared and able to pivot quickly if needed. Creating a well throughout plan can help you better adapt to ad-hoc changes you may need to make.