How To Prepare Your Business For The Holidays In A Pandemic

For many businesses, the holiday season represents a big portion of their annual sales. The National Retail Federation says it’s as much as 30%. But this year, there’s an added dimension to deal with—COVID-19. While its impact remains to be seen, businesses will likely need to make some changes from past years. Take a look at these three ideas and consider what changes make sense for your small business.

Shore Up Your Supply Sources

A store owner’s worst nightmare is turning holiday shoppers away because they ran out of merchandise. Sure, you can issue rain checks or offer free delivery for delayed orders but the critical buying moment has passed.

That’s why it’s important to shore up your supply chain now. The pandemic could mean shipping delays or the inability to get a product. So you may need to establish earlier reorder points or larger quantities. Some suppliers will warehouse inventory so you don’t have to store it onsite. It’s also a good idea to scout out alternate suppliers, just in case.

In addition, think beyond the products you sell. Consider what you’ll need to stay open. With increased holiday traffic, you may need more personal protective equipment and hand sanitizer. Or you may need to order additional barriers or signage to ensure proper social distancing.

Dial Up Your Digital Distribution

A shift in the numbers of COVID cases could place more of an emphasis on your online sales. That’s why it’s important to tune up your website. Is your contact information accurate? Do all your links still work? Do you have the bandwidth to handle increased traffic? It might be time to upgrade to faster internet service. Small Business Trends reports conversions fall by 20% for every second delay to load your web page.

Next, examine how you fulfill those online orders. Now is a great time to check with your shipping partner. What options are available if your shipping needs increase with more digital sales? They might be able to establish more convenient drop-off or pick-up points.

Don’t forget your other digital assets. Consider expanding your email list or increasing the number of followers to your social media channels. If you have to shift to digital delivery, these additional contacts will help you reach a wider audience.

Some businesses promote special offers to new customers who sign up for your email newsletter or “like” your Facebook page. Looking for more ideas? Inc.com offers this list of 39 strategies for increasing your fans and followers.  

Maintain Multiple Modes

Not all customers have the same comfort level when it comes to shopping in a pandemic. And their attitudes can shift with spikes in COVID case counts. So continue to offer a range of buying modes.

Think about degrees of comfort. The most reluctant customer would be attracted to the no-contact convenience of online. A less hesitant customer might not be comfortable coming into your store but would phone in an order and pick it up curbside (or have it delivered to their home).

Another degree could be to offer a sectioned-off area just inside your door to pick up their purchase. Here you might have a limited selection of complementary merchandise they could add to their order. If consumers want a bigger selection, they can shop the full store.

The idea is to continue offering a range of buying options. That way customers can shift with changes in the environment. And you can maintain your sales momentum.

The 2020 holiday season will likely look different for small businesses and their customers. But with some advanced planning and flexibility, you can help preserve what is traditionally a must-succeed time of the year.