Make Sure Your Local Business is Ready for the Holidays

If you’re just now starting to gear up for the holiday rush, you’re already behind the power curve.  Thanksgiving is over and the holiday shopping season is well under way.  Experts estimate that 20 to 40 percent of yearly sales for small and mid-sized retailers take place within the last two months of the year, so make sure your local business is ready for the holiday rush with these helpful tips.

Make Sure You Have Enough Seasonal Help

Don’t lose out on holiday sales because you don’t have enough staff to manage the extra traffic.  Whether you operate a retail location or a service business, you need to ensure you have enough additional help to maintain your usual level of customer service.  Unfortunately, hiring and training even seasonal workers takes time.  If you’re just now getting started, you may want to check with a local employment service to find hourly workers with the desired skills.  Three good places to try are Kelly Services, Manpower and Snagajob.

Coordinate Shipping Options

In 2014, some 70 percent of U.S. shoppers consider shipping options an important consideration in their Christmas gift purchase decision making.  They may be shopping in your store, but the gift might be for a distant relative.  So if you sell a product instead of service, don’t get caught without some sort of shipping plan.  Determine pricing and time constraints for various shippers and be ready for the inevitable question, “Do you ship?”

Maximize Your Online Presence

By some estimates, 50 percent of sales this year will be influenced by some sort of digital interactions such as online browsing, and shoppers who use digital tools before and during a trip to the store convert at a 40 percent higher rate than those who don’t.  Make sure your online presence is ready for the holiday rush by posting the most current information, such as holiday hours, sales and promotions, and seasonal product offers on your website.  Be sure to update all of your business listings on Yelp, Google+, Yahoo, Bing Local, etc. and consider posting fresh, holiday-themed images on those sites.  And by all means, place a bright holiday banner on your home page to let your customers know your site is up to date and ready for their business.

Go Mobile

Make sure your website is optimized for mobile, and update all of your listings on places like Google Maps, Apple Maps Connect and Waze.  During the holidays, customers will be using their mobile phones more than ever to check out local businesses, and of those who do, a whopping 93% end up making a purchase.  Make sure to include your holiday hours, area of service and an invitation to contact you for holiday discount offers if you run a service business.

Get Social

Two-thirds of marketers say they plan to increase spending in social media for the fourth quarter of 2014, with Facebook dominating the market.  Why?  Consumers tend to spend more time on social media during the holidays, posting about gifts they’ve purchased and deals they’ve found.  While most are betting on Facebook, 73% of marketers believe that Instagram will be a breakout platform this year.  Instead of putting all of your eggs in one basket, however, select the channels appropriate for your customer demographic and post lots of targeted holiday content with plenty of colorful images.

Get in the Holiday Spirit

Never forget that the holidays are about giving, and what better time to give back to the community?  Consider donating time, resources and/or funds to local charities, especially those involving children, such as toy drives, food baskets, gift trees and the like, and encourage your customers to follow suit.  Don’t forget to post images and information about your efforts on your social media pages, website and blog to generate more awareness for the charity — and goodwill towards your business!

Get Plenty of Rest

Don’t let the holiday frenzy ruin your health by cheating yourself of a good night’s sleep.  Set a schedule that allows for plenty of sack time and stick to it.  Prioritize, delegate and don’t over-reach.  When all is said and done, you deserve to enjoy the holidays too, and profit is wonderful but memories are priceless!