The holiday shopping season can be an overwhelming time as a small business owner. Especially when you’re being told that you need 101 things to get holiday sales, hit six figures before Black Friday, or whatever pressure tactic is being dangled in front of you to get you to make a move.
The truth is, having a plan that allows you to focus on specific areas of your business can relieve a lot of that pressure. Which is why I put together this list of things that business owners should focus on as we head into the holidays.
What Business Owners Should Focus On
Email: Optimize your email to make sure you’re improving your chances of your messages being seen and opened.
Holiday shipping: Create a plan that takes into account holiday shipping deadlines and then inform your customers to avoid any delays and disappointments.
Social media: Review your social media strategy to make sure your presence does a good job of leading customers to your store.
Customer care: Create a customer service plan specifically for the holidays so there aren’t any gaps in your service.
Data: Back up your data and review your current technology to ensure you have everything you need to deliver on what you’re promising.
Let’s get into exactly what you can do in each of these areas:
1. Optimize Your Emails
Estimates suggest that email marketing revenue is going to reach $10.89 billion in 2023, so regularly checking your analytics so you can learn what works well for you is key. For the holidays though, I recommend focusing on your email subject lines:
Write holiday-themed subject lines: Don’t be afraid to have fun with it, after all the holiday season is all about joy. Write like you talk and just think about what type of subject lines get your attention and make you actually want to click on emails.
Talk about your customers’ problems and challenges: Maybe you’ve created a gift guide to make holiday shopping easier or you have a two-day shipping coupon for last-minute shoppers? Use your subject lines to bring solutions to common holiday season challenges that shoppers face.
Personalize your subject lines: If you have customer names, use them (occasionally!) in your subject lines. Personalizing your emails in this way can increase your open rates by 50%.
Watch your character count: To keep your subject lines mobile-friendly, limit them to between 30 and 50 characters.
Bonus: Take advantage of preview text. If your email tool allows it, use preview text. Keep in mind that it should complement your subject line, but not include essential information. And try to keep it between 35 and 90 characters.
2. Create A Holiday Shipping Plan
Shipping delays do not need to be a source of stress this year. Three years into the pandemic we know that delays are inevitable, so why not build them into your shipping policy and educate your customers upfront?
Tell them via email, social media and update your product pages accordingly. Set their expectations early. It’ll help build trust and likely improve your conversion rate since 53% of shoppers won’t even buy a product if they don’t know when it’s going to arrive.
Do Your Own Research
Based on the providers you plan to use, do some research to determine their projected shipping times and costs, and then update your policy accordingly. You may also want to stock up on shipping supplies and double-check your branch’s holiday hours, as well as pick-up and drop-off times just to be safe.
I have a secret neighborhood post office a couple of blocks from my usual location that I use during the holidays because it’s never busy. Google Maps is your best friend if you want to find location peak hours so you can avoid them.
Also, some USPS locations may be open on the Sundays leading up to Christmas due to the volume of shipments. Your local branch should be able to give you more information on this.
Holiday Shipping Deadlines
At the time of publishing this blog post, the estimated holiday shipping dates for the USPS were as follows:
USPS Priority Mail Express: Next day, ship by Friday, December 22nd
Priority Mail: 1-3 days, ship by Friday, December 22nd
First-Class Mail: 1-3 days, ship by Thursday, December 21st
USPS Retail Ground: 2 to 8 days, ship by Saturday, December 16th
And the shipping deadlines for other major carriers are as follows:
3. Review Your Social Media Plan
Social media is major driver when it comes to sales. Are your social media platforms optimized for sales? Is it easy for potential customers to buy from you in-app, or to at least make their way back to your site and the specific products that they’re looking at via social media? If not, make this a priority.
About 90 million US shoppers engaged in social media shopping in 2021, and they’re expecting this number to hit 100 million by 2023. And as you can see from the table above, the expected revenue from social shopping in 2022 is $992 billion. As a business owner, you have access to some of these billions. Don’t leave it on the table.
4. Create A Holiday Customer Service Plan
How can you improve on your customer service? Do you need chat support? Do you need to shorten your email response times? Do you need to outsource any services or hire help to ensure customer service doesn’t suffer as a result of the holiday rush?
How can you surprise your customers and make their holiday season a little brighter?
As much as people like your products or services, they also shop with you because they enjoy the experience of shopping with you. This includes everything from how they experience your website, to how transparent you are about shipping costs and delivery times, to how you personally treat them throughout the shopping experience and beyond.
Review your current customer service plan, look for opportunities for improvement throughout the shopping experience and then factor in typical holiday concerns, needs and challenges. Use this to develop a plan that will carry you through the holidays and leave your customers feeling seen and cared for.
5. Back Up Your Data
The busiest shopping season of the year would be an unfortunate time to go down because your systems aren’t up-to-date and backed up. This should be a scheduled and regular task that you perform, but making time to review your technology needs and back everything up before things get busy is a good idea.
What are some steps you can take:
Back up your data (and back up your back up!)
Review all your tools, apps and programs to make sure you’re running the latest versions
Check your cyber security policy to make sure it’s still good enough to keep you safe
And if you don’t have one, create a data recovery plan in case there’s a breach
Make A Plan And Stick To It
Decide what you want to focus on, block off time on your calendar, and then just do it. Each item will bring you closer to a more productive holiday season and ultimately a more profitable business.
Use our Buy From A Black Woman Accountability Worksheet to help you stay organized. I specifically designed these to help minimize stress and overwhelm, so they’re perfect for the holidays when we’re being pulled in so many directions.
Wishing you a stree-free holiday with consistent sales and easy fulfillment!