The holiday season (November-December) is right around the corner, so now is the time to start planning. Part of that planning should include understanding the current market as it applies to your specific industry. In addition, a general overview of the market will help you with preparation, scheduling, and expectation.
Due to the unprecedented circumstances of 2020, many small businesses experienced great uncertainty and loss, while extended families and friends spent less time together and may have even spent the holidays apart. As a result, consumer shopping habits and behaviors dramatically changed over the past year and a half. Online shopping became not just a convenience but a necessity.
So, where are we today? The good news is that a sense of optimism and hope is on the rise. According to a recent survey, 85% of the population expects to return to their regular Thanksgiving traditions, and 92% plan to return to their traditional Christmas gatherings this year.
The sentiment is that consumers will likely return to shopping local small businesses looking to return to the joy of in-person holiday shopping. But, of course, there is no question that consumers will continue to shop online in record numbers out of convenience and the number of products offered online.
Whether you have a retail store, an eCommerce shop, or both, there are some essential activities merchants can do to get ready for this holiday shopping season.
1. Create a plan and prepare early
Nothing beats a well-orchestrated plan of action. So first, begin with an overall assessment of your current business, including your customer list, best-sellers, products you want to move, holiday promotions, packages/gift sets, etc. Then, create a plan and prepare early – nothing beats a well-orchestrated plan of action. So first, begin with an overall assessment of your current business, including your customer list, best-sellers, products you want to move, holiday promotions, packages/gift sets, etc.
2. Stock up on inventory
Due to the current supply-chain issues many manufacturers and suppliers are experiencing, you want to place your orders early to avoid out-of-stock items and any potential shipping delays. Be sure you have enough inventory and supplies on hand to get you through the season.
3. Create your holiday schedule
Establish the dates and times for sale promotions, holiday open house, extended shopping hours, last shipping day, etc. Preplanning gives you a head-start and a plan of action. It also reduces the stress of the season and can help avoid any last-minute oversights.
4. Start promoting your holiday sales early
Did you know that many shoppers like to have their holiday shopping done by Thanksgiving? So naturally, you want to be one of the first ones on their list. So promote extended holiday shopping days, including Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving), Cyber Monday (the Monday following Thanksgiving), Small Business Saturday (November 27).
5. Get your website ready
Is your website ready to handle the increased traffic? Check security and speed. Make sure your checkout process is easy and hassle-free. Verify that your third-party integrations are up-to-date, check that your pricing is accurate and that you have compelling product descriptions.
6. Bring in the holiday cheer
Festive merchandising, seasonal displays, gift sets, and even gift-wrapping provide your customers with the ideal holiday shopping experience.
7. Offer convenient shopping options
From the comfort and safety of their own home, offer your customers the option to buy online and pick up in-store or curbside. This option can also help to eliminate the barriers of shipping and processing and increase in-store foot traffic. In addition, utilizing a physical store as a place of fulfillment for online sales can help get merchandise in customers’ hands faster and avoid delivery delays.