10 02 2015

Holiday Season Head Start for Small Businesses

10 02 2015

Get A Head Start On The Holiday Season

Now that the autumnal equinox is firmly in the rear-view window, small business owners across the country need to start considering whether they should obtain a merchant cash advance to get the company ready for the holiday season. As back-to-school sales get relegated to stockrooms, owners should start calculating how much inventory to purchase and how many additional seasonal hires are needed to handle this season’s shoppers.

For the best chances of accurately ordering and hiring the right amount, it’s necessary to see what kind of forecasts experts predict for the holiday season. Over-ordering inventory or hiring too many workers can end up eating away at critical holiday revenue. This year, according to ShopperTrak, holidays sales are expected to grow by 2.4 percent. Meanwhile, eMarketer is expecting even bigger growth online, with a 13.9 percent year-over-year rise in digital shopping  by December.

Small businesses need to be prepared for this increase in sales by ensuring inventory is sufficiently stocked to meet the growth in demand, while also making sure to hire the appropriate level of staff to support the surge in customer volume. Just as importantly, these companies need to guarantee their online portals are operating efficiently and have adequate mobile capabilities.

Here are several tips for small business owners to take advantage of the holiday shopping, which is already beginning to go into full force:

Get a head start

Consumers are tired of waiting until the last minute to track down their holiday gifts. More and more, they are getting shopping out of the way early.

According to Practical Ecommerce, roughly 25 percent of people get their shopping done before Halloween, while almost half are finished before Cyber Monday – the first Monday after Thanksgiving. Retailers are trying to get ahead of this trend too, as 59 percent expected to launch their holiday selections in September this year, Marketing Land reported. Meanwhile, confidence in this year’s sales is through the roof, as 82 percent of retailers expect a boost in holiday sales this year.

Owners should be placing their inventory orders early and making sure they’re adequately stocked sooner rather later to satisfy these early-bird shoppers. While there will always be last-minute shoppers trying to cross things off their lists up until the final minutes, it’s crucial for small business owners to remain stocked from start to finish.

Embrace emails

Even if your company does not traditionally send out emails, it can still be wise to take advantage of this effective marketing tool during the holiday time. You’ll have good company too. It’s not just that all the cool kids are doing it: everybody is doing it. According to a survey from MailChimp, a solid 100 percent of companies utilized email marketing during the 2014 holiday season to promote products or increase their sales. This includes 73 percent of e-commerce stores and 27 percent of brick-and-mortar retailers.

Among different email marketing strategies, automated email messaging is an effective tool. By maintaining communication with customers long after the shopping experience has ended, small business owners retain these individuals and continue to boost sales beyond the holiday season.

Segmentation and personalization also go a long way toward targeting shoppers and ensuring they’re receiving emails geared specifically toward them. This helps with lead conversion as well as customer retention, as email topics offer time-strapped customers precisely what they’re looking for.

Diversify your strategy

Many small businesses tend to only focus their holiday selections and sales on Christmas, however there’s much to be gained from shining a spotlight on other holidays using promotions and sales. One thing to keep in mind is the fluctuating dates for other holidays. For instance, Hanukkah falls on Dec. 6, a full 10 days earlier than it did last year. This could create a bigger shopper push at the end of November, which owners should be ready to handle. If business owners do not have sufficient working capital to cover the costs of holiday preparations, they may want to consider a small business loan.

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