As a retailer, you probably have mixed emotions about the upcoming holiday sales season. On one hand, it’s an exciting time for business: gift giving lifts sales, and you’ll have more customers than any other time of year. On the other hand, it’s not always easy to predict how much consumers will actually spend each year, and a disappointing holiday season could spell trouble for your business. Predictions from retail analysts have shown that Black Friday is no longer what it once was and that fewer shoppers hit the streets on the day after Thanksgiving. Half of American planned to skip the event altogether, and Preparing For Impressive Holiday Sales It’s very important to optimize your marketing approach during the holiday season—and you’ll also need to ensure you have the infrastructure to handle the influx of customers. Here are just a few ways you can prepare your business for a successful quarter, and a (relatively) stress-free holiday season: Offer an Online Alternative As a small business in 2016, at least a basic website is absolutely essential to growth and high holiday sales figures. Before influx, make sure your website loads quickly, has a clean and attractive design and is optimized for mobile devices. Earlier, we looked at how consumers would be spending their holiday dollars—and a lot of it was online. Even if you can’t offer online sales and shipping, use your website as a marketing tool: give potential customers information about your business, broadcast your specials and sales, and use that website to drive whatever business you can to your physical location. If you do offer online shopping, make sure your site’s security is airtight and make the checkout process easy to navigate and complete (that’s where most shoppers leave sites). Consider offering free shipping, or other promotions that will entice holiday shoppers. Clearly define policies for guaranteed holiday delivery dates so there’s no confusion. Harness the Power of Multi-Channel Marketing Marketing is changing, and these days, it’s all about content and building trust with your customers, in addition to just simple exposure. Consider a content marketing plan, if you haven’t already—helpful resources you can share that will help establish your company as an authority and build trust among potential customers. Marketing needs to take place across all channels for success, however. You’ll need to send out emails with your holiday deals (almost a quarter of all shoppers used an email deal last year!), advertise your specials in-store, and spend some time on your social media accounts. Your accounts can help to promote the great content and sales you’re offering—all leading back to your merchandise and driving online and in-store sales. Strategically Offer Special Holiday Sales Deals Sales are an important part of any holiday season strategy, but it can be tough to know how to choose which great deals you’ll offer. It’s best to create a comprehensive strategy in advance—and make sure that strategy goes through New Years’ Day. Shoppers will be spending their gift cards and celebrating some relief from family events during the week after Christmas. Your strategy should include not only the deals you plan to offer, but also how you will communicate the offers to your customers. These strategies should include multi-channel approaches to make sure you’re reaching a wide customer base and several different demographics. Stock In-Demand Merchandise Do you have data from prior years about which products are most popular during the holidays? Use that to your advantage, and make sure you have enough stock on hand to maximize your profits during this time. Do you have any items that might sell well if they were holiday-themed? Consider that option as well. Create the Right Mood Decorations (or lack thereof) can really make the difference between poor sales and great sales. Part of the fun of holiday shopping is the atmosphere—the music, the decorations, and even the temperature of your store. Put up some pretty (not cheesy) decorations, pick out some nice holiday music, and make sure your store is cozy, clean, and smells good! Set the mood, and shoppers will be more likely to continue browsing. Shore Up Customer Service During the holiday season, it’s especially important to monitor your online reputation and respond to any negative feedback with excellent customer service. E-commerce businesses should focus on quick shipping and on responding to customer complaints and questions with lightning speed. If you own a physical location, make sure all your employees are up to the challenges of the holiday season, and do spot training if necessary to ensure stellar customer service. Remember, your staff will give customers an impression of your business and your company values—make sure that’s being represented accurately, both in store and online. Preparing for the Holidays: A Necessity for Strong Profits The way people shop is changing dramatically. As a small business, you have to pull out all the stops in order to attract holiday shoppers and ensure good profits. By preparing properly for the season’s challenges and opportunity, you can remove a lot of the guesswork that many businesses are facing during this holiday season. In order to fuel long-term growth, it’s important to keep an eye on consumer trends and behavior—and be ready to adapt, no matter what the holidays throw at you. Put these tips to good use, and you’ll soon have a well-oiled holiday sales machine, ready to crank out profit. Image: Holiday sale discount, special promotion on red holiday road sign with colorful festive bokeh background.