The holidays are coming, and they’re going to be important for many small business owners trying to make up for lost time in generating revenue in 2020 and to position themselves for a strong 2021. Here’s how you can set your business up for success.
The holidays are coming, and they’re going to be very important for many small business owners who are trying to make up for lost time in generating revenue in 2020 and to position themselves for a strong 2021.
It almost goes without saying that what worked for your business in 2019 may not have the same effect this year. Consumers’ buying patterns will be different at many businesses – it’s hard to even imagine people crowding into stores to bag Black Friday deals the way they did in the past – and brick-and-mortar stores may be subject to lockdowns if COVID-19 cases in their area surge.
That said, many consumers will be continuing holiday gift giving traditions, and they will be making their purchases somewhere. The more you do to make it easy for them to buy from you, the better off your business will be.
So what can you do to prepare? Here are some important steps.
Put health and safety front and center
No matter how great your need for revenue right now, you will not be able to run your business if you get worn down and fall ill – or if your team does.
Make sure that you are doubling down on health and safety measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, as well as seasonal illnesses, like the flu. The Centers for Disease Control is a good source of information on the latest federal recommendations, but also make sure to check your state’s requirements.
For industry-specific tips, touch base with your industry association, if you belong to one – or read industry trade journals for insight, if you don’t. The more you do to prevent an outbreak at your place of business, the greater your staying power throughout the holiday season.
With cases going up in many parts of the country, make sure everyone on your team knows that they will not be penalized if they have to call in sick or feel run down. And be sure that you allow team members time off to get tested if they need to. There are long lines at many testing centers right now, and they may need extra time to check their status.
See related: Business success in the time of COVID
Be prepared to lean on e-commerce
With lockdowns and curfews already underway in some parts of the country and around the world, it’s important to be prepared for the possibility you may not be able to do business from a brick-and-mortar location. If your business is heavily dependent on in-person commerce, it’s not too late to explore other sales channels. Anything you can do to make your business ready to do more e-commerce, including mobile commerce, will help you to survive into 2021.
One small step that’s easy to take is to offer gift certificates that consumers can purchase through your website. Kabbage, an online lender, has offered a program that helps small businesses offer gift certificates since the pandemic started. Your credit card processor may also offer its own program.
If you do not yet accept credit cards or don’t accept the full range of cards, it may be worthwhile to speak with a merchant services provider to expand your capabilities. Many consumers are gravitating toward cashless payments and aren’t likely to return to using cash in the near future.
Also investigate contactless payments and self-checkout options. Many bankers are a great resource when it comes to finding providers.
If you need ideas on how to convert your business to a more e-commerce friendly model, consider bringing in a business consultant. If you are on a tight budget, reach out to your local business school to see if there are any graduate business students who can advise you. Many offer free or low-cost advice.
Prepare for staffing issues
Most employers have to deal with unprecedented challenges when it comes to staffing. If your employees are working from home, you may be navigating the world of technology in new ways, as well as accommodating the reality that many are working from home with children attending online school.
If your team normally comes into your place of business, you may also be adjusting everyone’s schedule to take into account matters like sudden school closures or half-day schedules.
These challenges may become more intense as cases spike. As a result, it is essential for every employer to have backup plans in place. For businesses that rely on in-person staffing, looking into temp agencies in your area could be a good idea.
See related: Pandemic takes heavy toll on women in the workforce
Step up your marketing
Many consumers are eager to support small businesses in their community, so let them know you’re out there.Advertise in local online publications and participate in local social media groups for your community to get the word out. Some community Facebook groups will let merchants post a blurb about the services they offer.
There are a number of programs to promote shopping with small business and the “buy local” movement. For instance, American Express offers Small Business Saturday. It’s worth checking with your local Chamber of Commerce to find out if there are any local programs you can join, as well.
The more you do to raise awareness of your business, the more you will stay top of mind when consumers do their holiday shopping.
Hopefully, there will be a vaccine for the coronavirus soon, and small business owners will be able to breathe a little easier. For now, it’s going to take an energetic effort to keep your business strong and healthy.