Getting Your Small Business Ready for the Holidays
From Christmas markets to local merchants, get your small business ready for the busiest shopping season of the year. These ten tips will help you transform your digital and physical storefronts into an inviting place for holiday shopping.
1. Set up your business to accept various payment types.
“Credit cards motivate spending,” according to a study from MIT, which found that paying with cards activates our brains’ reward networks. This is why “people tend to spend more when using credit cards than cash … and make more impulse buys.”
So, if your business is still “cash only,” you’re missing out on the additional sales that come with a point-of-sale (POS) system that can accept credit and debit cards as well as digital wallet payments. Many consumers, especially younger generations, don’t carry cash at all these days or only a little, not enough for big purchases. People also appreciate the convenience and security of paying by card and some want to use a rewards credit card to accumulate points, miles, or cash back. The bottom line is that if you’re not offering your customers the payment options they want, you’re losing out on business.
Don’t have credit card processing capabilities at your business? Contact our business banking team to find the right Merchant Services solution for your company.
2. Create and update your digital location, aka your business website.
Many local small businesses were forced to upgrade their online presences in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, people are out and about again, but some trends in online ordering and curbside pickup have remained. Whether you own a restaurant, hair salon, store, or other kind of business, your website is your digital welcome mat. Many customers will visit your website before they ever set foot in your physical location. If you don’t have a website, how will they even know you exist?
Take a look at your existing website if you have one. Do you have an “About Us” page with photos and team member or company bios? Are your hours and contact information current? Do you have product pages with details about the items you sell or the services you offer? Can people order online from you or schedule an appointment? If you’re creating a business website for the first time, these questions should be your checklist.
3. Fill your shelves–and stock room–with inventory.
If selling products is part or all of your business, make sure you have enough inventory for the season. Look back at last year’s sales records to predict the products you will sell the most of this time of year. Holiday and winter-related items may be a good guess. Local themes are also popular, such as cherry-related products and items in Traverse City. Lighthouses are popular for towns along the lakeshore, such as Ludington and Frankfort. Don’t forget about gift baskets and bundles that people can grab and give. If you don’t keep good records, this is the year to start. With lingering supply chain issues and inflation weighing on the economy, data can help you make informed inventory decisions and prepare in advance for the holiday season (which seems to start earlier and earlier each year).
If you need financing to purchase inventory ahead of the holiday season, we can help with a business term loan* or line of credit.
*All loans are subject to credit approval.
4. Hire seasonal employees.
Many small businesses, especially family businesses, often operate with a small number of employees. However, as the crowds get busier and existing employees may need to take time off around the holidays, you should consider seasonal employees. Start looking before Small Business Saturday.
Having enough staff can be the key to whether or not a customer buys something or leaves empty-handed. If a customer sees that the line is long, they may decide it’s not worth the wait.
Also, consider posting job openings with local colleges and universities. You can also post jobs on Facebook, LinkedIn and Indeed.
5. Save time with digital banking.
Online and mobile banking are not just for personal banking. These digital banking tools can be a big time-saver for your business. Save yourself the trouble of going to the bank during the already-busy season and use the extra time to focus on running your business. West Shore Bank offers a variety of digital tools to help you run your business more efficiently during the holiday season:
- Remote deposit capture: Deposit checks right from your office with a desk scanner or mobile device.
- AutoBooks: This convenient invoicing service comes with all West Shore Bank Business checking accounts.
- Positive Pay: Helps your business protect against fraud.
- ACH and Wire Services: Makes payments easier.
6. Set up a sweep account.
Between running your business and attending social obligations in your personal life, the holiday season is sure to be a busier time of year. This usually means more expenses, including inventory, marketing, seasonal employees, etc. When you have more cash flowing from your checking account, consider setting up a sweep account. This can help you prevent overdrafting your business checking account by moving excess cash to your linked business savings account. Extra funds earn interest until if/when you need more cash in your checking account.
7. Take cybersecurity seriously.
All businesses, regardless of size or industry, need to stay informed about the latest cybersecurity threats. This is especially important if you’re running an e-commerce site. Provide training for your employees so they know how to spot signs of a scam and avoid exposing your business. Install anti-virus software on all business devices and keep it up to date. Avoid using public WiFi networks without a VPN. Turn on multi-factor authentication wherever possible. For more information on preventing, detecting and resolving fraud visit our fraud prevention and alerts page.
8. Complete routine and seasonal maintenance tasks.
You want your business to look good and be safe for your employees and customers. The holiday season is your time to shine. Though your budget may not be enough to take care of everything on your to-do list, make sure to fix anything that could be a hazard. If you rent your space, some repairs may be the landlord’s responsibility, so you can make a request. This list of building maintenance tasks can help you get started.
9. Decorate for the holidays.
Make your store, salon, restaurant, or business space look festive and inviting. You can put up decorations tied to specific holidays such as Christmas or Hanukkah, or just generally festive and wintry decor such as flowers and bright colors.
Be sure to decorate outside as well as in. An inviting exterior will make people want to stop in. Nothing grabs people’s attention like a big, decorated Christmas tree outside.
10. Create a marketing plan.
You should absolutely plan some type of marketing or advertising campaign during the holiday season. This doesn’t have to be elaborate or expensive. Ideas to consider include:
- Host holiday-related events at your business such as Small Business Saturday sales, Meeting with Santa, or a tree lighting.
- Create a Facebook event and invite followers to join.
- Promote your event on Facebook and Google Business Profile.
- Promote your business itself on social media with frequent posts–take videos and photos of your products or services to share on Facebook and Instagram.
- Consider Google Ads or Facebook ads.
- Partner with other small businesses; for example, print coupons to hand out at each other’s stores or businesses.
- Email your customers about upcoming promotions. If you don’t already have a mailing list, make it a habit to work on gathering that information so you have it for next year. Give customers the opportunity to sign up for your mailing list during the checkout process. If you have an e-commerce platform, leverage the data to create a mailing list.
- Plan out special sales and promotions in advance so you can promote them on social media before they happen.
- Keep your business hours updated on your website, Google, Bing, and anywhere else that it’s listed. If you have extended holiday hours, let your customers know. It’s also important to let them know if you will be closed for any holidays.
West Shore Bank is Making a Real Difference
As a local business, too, West Shore Bank has proudly helped local businesses in West and Northern Michigan along the lakeshore since 1889. Learn more about our business loans, accounts, and services such as Merchant Card Services, Business Line of Credit, Business Term Loans, Sweep Accounts, Business Savings, and Business Checking.
*All loans are subject to credit approval.