If last year’s retail trends were any indication, small business holiday sales in 2018 may hit an all-time high. The most significant factor contributing to the 6.2% year-over-year retail sales growth was robust online sales. Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, was the biggest retail shopping day of last year’s holiday season in the U.S., while additional days like Cyber Monday and Small Business Saturday gave the growth a push.

Small Business Holiday Sales

As a small business, you can best taken advantage of the sales opportunities over the holiday season by preparing early. From marketing strategies to in-store experiences, here are some ways your business can increase your profits over the holidays.

Determine Which Sales Days to Invest In

Your industry and business model will dictate which days during the holiday season your brand would benefit from focusing on. If you’re a completely online business, Cyber Monday, the Monday after Thanksgiving, is a crucial day to capture customer attention. If you’re a brick and mortar with strong ties in the community, Small Business Saturday, or the Saturday after Thanksgiving, is a great time to promote your local roots and tie in a community partnership as you plan. Knowing that Black Friday is the top holiday retail sales day for businesses in diverse industries, some sort of focus on this day should also be considered.

Your clientele demographics can help to drive your marketing initiatives. If you sell family-friendly products, emphasizing that your products make great gifts for holidays like Christmas can work for your brand. The U.S. Small Business Administration recommends hosting an open house-type event before the major holidays hit, so you can give a preview to customers of what you’re offering and leave them with a special offer to use over the holidays.

Devise an Editorial Schedule Focused on the Holidays

Using your business blog and social media channels to promote holiday specials gets your followers excited and prepped to shop with you. As you develop your holiday business strategy, create an editorial calendar to accompany it that includes content you’ll create to support your sales efforts, as well as social media postings. The calendar can also include influencer or blogger campaigns that can help to extend the reach of your marketing efforts.

You might consider a content campaign that ties into a holiday theme, such as “12 Days of Specials,” where you offer a new discount each day for the 12 days leading up to a holiday. A Twitter party chat that ties into your products, which features a branded holiday-themed hashtag, can also get people talking about your brand on social. If you use social media advertising over the holidays, create ads that feature products that are targeted to the same demographic the ads are being shown to.

Safeguard Your Online Store

If you sell online, it’s vital to prepare for an uptick in online sales over the holidays, especially on Cyber Monday. Entrepreneur magazine recommends trying out new things with your website far before the holidays hit, so you can fix any bugs and optimize accordingly. Conduct a speed test on your site, and make sure that it can handle up at least 200 percent more traffic than you’re currently getting. Small businesses lose an average of $55,000 in revenue each year due to IT failures. Don’t let the holidays cause a major hit to your business.

It’s also imperative to conduct thorough security checks in your e-commerce store and throughout your site. In 2016, e-commerce fraud risk increased 79 percent year-over-year during the holiday season. Make sure your business does not store sensitive customer data, follows all PCI compliance regulations and uses tokenization and end-to-end encryption to protect personal information during transactions.

Increase Store Foot Traffic

The holiday shopping season is one a lot of shoppers look forward to because of the special holiday-themed atmosphere many stores create for shoppers. Passerby who see a busy store may be enticed to check it out, as well, which is why it’s so important for your store to be bustling during the holidays. To get more people in your store, consider ideas like:

  • Feature live entertainment, such as a musician, carolers or face painter for kids
  • Offer promotions that are in-store-only
  • Keep people in the store longer by speaking to the senses, such as by handing out hot chocolate or using scent technology to make scents like cinnamon or peppermint pervasive throughout your store
  • Host a contest or raffle where participants must be present to win

While you want tons of people in your store during the holiday season, you also want to make sure visitors feel calm and comfortable in your store. Consider opening up the layout to allow for more space to travel throughout the store, or add a pop-up extension outside your store for special items.

Improve Upon Previous Efforts

If you’ve been in business for previous holiday seasons, looking at trends and what worked and what didn’t work in previous years is key to getting a head start on a better strategy this year. You can also use analytics data from your website visits and overall sales data to gain insight into what products you want to highlight over the holidays, or to help drive product innovation and the creation of special holiday gift sets.

This season is also a prime opportunity for your business to show off your stellar customer service and product policy. Make sure your support team is responsive on your website and social media channels, and offer an easy-to-understand return and shipping policy to make it easy for customers to be confident in your brand. Your sales team should be prepped for an increased amount of customers and teams should be staffed accordingly.

Like any time of year, aim to serve and thrill your customer, and to make their holiday season enjoyable rather than stressful. By helping customers with discounts on products they love or by offering entertainment for their kids when they’re shopping with you, you can increase not just sales, but loyalty to your brand. Make sure to monitor and measure your efforts this year, so you can keep improving in the future, too.

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