7 ways to prepare your small business and increase profits during peak holiday season

It’s time to start preparing your business for the holidays, especially if you want to maximize time, profits, and sales. 
Most people will be online shopping this winter, so it’s critical your website updated with new pictures, products, and a smooth and flexible checkout flow. 
Engage with your customers by responding to comments or reaching out to “abandoned cart” customers, and show off your excellent customer service with a self-help resources page. 
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The holiday sales season is here, and if you haven’t already started preparing your business to maximize your time, you could be missing out on major profits. In 2019, over $135 billion was spent during the holiday sales season.For most small businesses owners, particularly those in the retail and consumer products space, Q4 is their largest quarter for gross revenue. Yet, most small business owners are leaving money on the table during this time because they are not adequately preparing.Read more: A 37-year-old entrepreneur created a card game right before the pandemic that became an instant hit. Here’s how she made 6 figures in revenue in less than a year.Here are seven things you should be doing now to prepare your business for the upcoming holiday season.

1. Update your websiteOnline sales for my clients have skyrocketed this year. With everyone at home, online shopping is a necessity for most. Therefore, keeping your website up-to-date and easy to use should be one of your top priorities,This could include updating your product photos, reviewing descriptions of your products and services, confirming your prices are correct or making necessary adjustments to shipping rates.Also use this time to plan promotions or set up any promo codes that you will be using in your marketing during the holiday season (think

Black Friday

Cyber Monday
, etc).2. Test your checkout processIf you haven’t done a test run of your check-out process recently, now is the time to do one.

Potential buyers are looking for a seamless experience and if the check-out process is clunky and cumbersome, you could lose sales. Just remember that one-click buying is now at consumers’ fingertips, so simplicity is key.3. Consider additional payment methodsMost online businesses accept payments through credit cards, debit cards, or PayPal, which are great but customers are looking for increased flexibility and an easy buying experience.For example, Apple Pay makes it easy for people to pay with their phone (online and in-person). After Pay allows you to offer payment plans to customers.  Consider adding alternative payment options if it makes sense with your ecommerce system and makes it easier for your customers to shop with you.

Read more: Entrepreneurs say Instagram Stories have helped them sell products faster and attract customers from home. Here’s how they leverage the social media feature to grow their businesses.4. Recapture “abandoned cart” customersCart abandonments account for $18 billion in lost revenue annually across ecommerce stores. It’s an astounding number.Win back customers who fill their carts, but fail to complete the checkout process by sending abandoned cart emails.  Send two or three fun, on-brand follow-up emails to remind your customers to head back to your shop and complete their order. You can set these up ahead of time and automate the process.

Reminding and incentivizing customers who have abandoned their shopping carts will build connections with your customers and increase your profits — with little effort on your part!5. Mobile-friendly is a must A mobile-friendly website is an absolute necessity. 34.5% of ecommerce spending during the 2019 holiday season was made via smartphones.Use tools like MobiReady to test your website on different browsers and devices to make sure it’s a smooth experience for the customer.  6. Communicate clearlyCommunication is always key, but during a pandemic, it is critical. Now is the time to communicate and educate your customers so they are informed on your business’ return policies, shipping delays, or deadlines, etc. 

One example of this are holiday shipping deadlines. Most online retailers have strict deadlines of when orders need to be placed to guarantee arrival by Christmas. Display these deadlines prominently on your home page or an announcement bar across the top of your site, highlight them in your check-out process where customers choose their shipping options, talk about these deadlines on social media and in your marketing emails.Overly communicate important details with customers in a clear and concise manner.7. Provide excellent customer serviceExceptional customer service creates loyal customers who are willing to refer your business to everyone they know. Poor customer service can also be magnified in the same way.

How are your customers engaging with your brand? How are they impacted? How could you make it a better experience for all?For example, build out a self-help resource section on your website to reduce customer service inquiries. A FAQ page won’t solve every issue but it may minimize questions and give you a place to direct customers when needed.Aim to strengthen interactions with your customers at every touch point. This includes responding to comments on social media, timely responses to email inquiries, and finding ways to surprise and delight them at different phases of their customer journey (sending birthday cards is one example!).These seven strategies will ensure you head into the holiday sales season with a strong foundation. You’ll be able to easily layer in your sales and marketing strategies because your products will be ready, your site will be ready, and your company will be focused on providing a positive experience for your customers.