Define Your Holiday Strategy
This is the first holiday season in which the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic will be felt. For Small and Medium Business (SMB) owners, the season presents major challenges and maybe – just maybe – some opportunities.
Some aspects of this holiday season (such as showing employee appreciation) will be much the same as in "normal" years. Others will be radically different but retailers of all scales and types will be struggling. Ultimately, this could give you a chance to make up some ground on your rivals, and increase your market share.
The key is agility.
Adapting successfully during this pandemic means, first and foremost, making sure your customers can confidently buy from you safely.
Your safety plan may look different from other company's, but don’t be afraid to get creative with your approach. Many businesses might be offering delivery options for their customers, but that might not be right for everyone. You should also investigate the possibility of curbside pickup.
Moving online doesn’t mean losing the festive spirit, either. Some stores are experimenting with the idea of holding virtual parties and retail events – these can drive sales in much the same way as in-person holiday gatherings but without the risks.
If you are pivoting to online sales and events make sure to update your marketing plan. Some small businesses have been hesitant to get into the world of digital marketing, but this holiday season you can’t afford to ignore it. If you do, you may be left behind. A recent survey reported that 70% of companies have invested more in content and social media marketing than they did last year.
Starting Early, Finishing Late
When it comes to making a success of this holiday season there is one factor that matters above all others: maximizing sales. Given the pandemic, it might not be immediately obvious how to do this. You can take inspiration from some of the biggest brands in the world – Visa and Amazon.
One of the most ambitious ways in which huge companies are seeking to maximize their profits this season is to extend the season itself. Amazon, for instance, moved its biggest annual shopping event – “Prime Day” – from July to October. Amazon also said it would invest over $100 million as part of a promotion for third-party sellers, assisting many SMBs who use the platform. Replicating this approach might mean encouraging shoppers to make their holiday purchases earlier, or making it clear that holiday sales will run well into the new year.
Another way to increase sales is to make sure that consumers have as diverse a range of payment and delivery options as possible. To encourage holiday sales, many credit card companies are offering lower processing fees, and SMBs can benefit from this. Research indicates that accepting credit cards allows businesses to get paid 2x faster, and therefore helps increase sales.
There are signs that this holiday season could be good for small businesses. Shoppers are more aware of the difficulties that SMBs are facing this holiday season as a result of the virus, and are keen to support their local businesses. This means that local businesses could benefit from local increased sales.
In principle, this trend should benefit almost every SMB out there. In practice, however, consumers may need to be encouraged to shop small. This is because, with many physical shops closed, it can be difficult for consumers to find local shops.
If you are using this holiday season to start a digital marketing campaign, your campaign should stress how engaged you are with your community, and how much you have given back to it over the years. In the context of the pandemic, people are pulling together and supporting each other as never before, and ideally, you want to be a part of this!
Agility and Adaptability
Ultimately, this holiday season will be a testing ground for small businesses. Those that are agile, adaptable, and able to rapidly shift their stances could do very well, especially as their less well-prepared competitors drop off.
The most important element in your holiday planning is to embrace change. Rather than trying to scale your existing operations in the hope of bringing in enough revenue, you should take this opportunity to radically rethink your business.
The most successful small businesses are those that have updated their business model for the age of Covid. A recent survey by the nonprofit National Main Street Center found that over 40% of businesses added curbside services since the pandemic began. These are also the companies that have maintained their profit margins in the last few months.
Similarly, innovative approaches might work for other SMBs. For instance, you can use the time your physical store is closed to launch an email marketing campaign, or to complete backlogged tasks.