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Holiday rush: How small businesses can gear up for the holiday season

With the holiday season fast approaching, you'll want to ensure your business is primed and ready for success. It's time to get your inventory in check, rev up those marketing engines, and prepare for the sales surge that comes with the shopping extravaganza of the year. Here's your guide to making the most of the holiday frenzy — on Black Friday and beyond.

Manage your inventory

According to a recent survey from the Retail Council of Canada, more Canadians are delaying significant purchases to popular shopping holidays such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday. To make the most of this retail extravaganza, make sure you have the right inventory in stock and generate enough demand for it to fly off the shelves at the rate you anticipate.

Identify your bestsellers

Analyze your current sales data as well as from previous holiday seasons to identify your bestselling products. Stock up on enough inventory to get you through the shopping rush for both in-store customers and online purchases.

Use forecasting and inventory tracking tools

Consider investing in inventory tracking software to monitor your stock in real time. This will help ensure you have enough goods in a season of higher than normal demand, and avoid customer disappointment by accurately updating product availability online.

Talk to your suppliers

To ensure your deliveries arrive on time, factor in the requirements of your supply chain as you plan for increased holiday demand. Talk to your suppliers early on, and ensure you have backup in case of unforeseen logistics or transportation issues.

Maintain business compliance

The holiday season is stressful enough, so why add paperwork into the mix? Make sure all your documents are in order. Use tools like Ownr, Canada’s leading online legal platform to take the confusion out of business documents. From complete incorporation and instant minute book updates to maintaining compliance, entrepreneurs of all stages can trust Ownr to help them focus on what matters most to them: growing their business. 

Step up marketing and customer service efforts

With gift shopping on the minds of millions of Canadians in the months to come, this time of year is a perfect opportunity to bring customers to you. Despite rising inflation and cost of living concerns, 76% of Canadians say they intend to spend the same or more this holiday season compared to 2022.

But that doesn't mean you'll automatically get more customers. Here are some key ingredients for your company's success in the next two months.

Update your website

With the rise of online shopping, your presence on the internet is more critical than ever, especially during Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Ensure your website is user-friendly, compatible with both desktops and mobile phones, and optimized to handle increased traffic.

After all, you don't want potential shoppers to lose interest or abandon their carts because the web page is taking forever to load. You should also ensure your online payment processing system is compliant with the latest security standards.

Remember that engaging with your customers is key, whether face-to-face or online. Just as you would add some holiday cheer to your bricks-and-mortar location, consider including festive imagery on your website, as well as any special promotions, shopping guides, and products that could get shoppers in the mood to buy. Don't forget to clearly outline your shipping and return policies on your site as well.

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Hire seasonal staff

During the holiday rush, make sure your support team is prepared to attend to the needs of more traffic than usual. Add a few pairs of helping hands to your team and take time to train your seasonal staff on providing excellent customer service, whether in-store or over the phone. If hiring more staff isn't in the budget right now, you can look into adding advanced AI chatbots to your website, if appropriate.

Focusing on providing a positive experience could set your company apart from the competition and bring appreciative shoppers back through your doors long after the holidays have come and gone. In addition to encouraging repeat business, helpful customer service can convert casual store (or web) browsers to enthusiastic shoppers.

Get creative in your value offerings

With soaring interest rates and household budgets stretched to their limit, 91% of Canadian shoppers say they will be more price-sensitive this holiday season. As their search for value goes beyond the price tag, it's time to get creative in your promotions and rewards strategies.

“Rather than engaging in price wars that potentially erode revenue, we concentrate on enhancing the overall customer experience. We offer them valuable extras such as free shipping, exclusive bundles, or personalized services," says QuickBooks user Lisa Richards, the Edmonton-based CEO and creator of the Candida Diet, a small business dedicated to helping individuals restore their health.

“The marketplace is flooded with discounts during Black Friday, but by providing our customers with additional value, we can maintain our normal pricing without compromising profit margins," she explains. “This also ensures our customers perceive their purchases as not just transactions, but investments."

Use social media to create buzz

Keep current customers in the loop by sending personalized emails with exclusive Black Friday and other holiday discounts, and use social media to extend your reach even further. Cross-promote with other local businesses, partner with influencers, and invest in paid advertising on popular platforms to get the word out to a wider audience.

Build relationships with your customers

Good news: shopping local and supporting small businesses is more important to Canadians than ever, with 82% accentuating it as a priority when surveyed by the Retail Council of Canada. Here are two compelling strategies to show shoppers why they should support your business specifically.

Follow up after purchases or events

Following up after a purchase or event is a valuable opportunity to build customer loyalty. Get in touch with your customers to thank them for their support and ask for their feedback. You can do this through direct email or social media channels, or by sending them a feedback form after every online purchase.

“Last year, our follow-up emails appreciating clients for their purchases resulted in a 25% increase in customer retention," says Lina DaSilva, who uses QuickBooks to manage her cleaning company, Toronto Shine Cleaning. “This year, we're enhancing this strategy with personalized thank-you notes. It's a small touch, but it adds a personal connection that our clients appreciate. Black Friday isn't just a sales day for us — it's a relationship-building opportunity."

Share the story behind your business

Telling the unique story of your business and the people behind it can help you connect with customers on a deeper level. Sharing your background and values can build a community of people who are in alignment with what you stand for and feel inclined to purchase your product or service as a result. Whether their dollars go towards supporting local artisans, eco-friendly business practices, or charitable missions, giving your customers insight into your story can help you better connect with them.

Looking to prepare your business for the holiday season? QuickBooks Online can help you track and record all the expenditures you make during this busy time. With automatic tracking and categorizing expenses, filing for deductions can be straightforward. Learn more and start tracking your small business expenses with QuickBooks today.

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