Your Holiday Season Small Business Tuneup:  Steps to take now before the rush begins

For small businesses, now perhaps is a fitting time to get your game face on to help benefit from the busiest shopping season of the year.

You may not have looked at ways you can ring up extra revenue before the holiday stampede begins. But with careful planning and making a few new tweaks to add customers, a small business can potentially make this festive season one of your most lucrative ever.

There are many reasons to consider why you should equip your business for the greater traffic the festive season brings. For example, holiday sales could exceed $1.1 trillion this year, up 5% to 5.6% from a year ago, accounting giant Deloitte predicts. And e-commerce sales are expected to reach $134 billion this holiday season, a robust 22% rise from a year ago.

Small business owners should be mindful that online sales are expected to sustain their pace as a growing part of overall holiday sales. That means proprietors should ensure their websites are as mobile-friendly as possible. A website’s speed can be tested at Test My Site.

And SCORE, the nonprofit that helps and mentors U.S. small businesses, offered tips on how a business can get ready for the holidays. (See the infographic below.)

  • Make sure your mobile site loads quickly. Conversions fall by 20% for every second delay of mobile page load time.
  • Ask for reviews before the season. Ninety-six percent of shoppers read reviews on retailers’ sites.
  • Provide free shipping. Ninety-four percent of online shoppers use free shipping when available.
  • Offer gift cards. Holiday shoppers buy an average of 4 gift cards, making gift cards the second-most-popular gift after clothing.

Another key reason to beef-up your store readiness is that the holiday season can become a make or break point for outlets. Some 20% to 40% of the year’s total sales for small and mid-sized retailers occur during the last two months of the year, the National Retail Federation reports.

Experts say there are other moves small businesses can consider to help boost holiday sales, adding offering convenience might help attract new sales. For instance, if you have an online store, make sure your website has holiday-themed pages that promote the holidays and encourage user engagement. Another way to boost online sales is to offer gift card promotions.

If you have not yet launched holiday-specific email campaigns, think about making that a priority. That can be possibly money-making if you have previous or potential buyers listed. Remind buyers they can buy Christmas gifts and avoid long lines and holiday snafus like busy traffic and no parking spots.

Plus, use marketing campaigns that make it clear customers can pick up merchandise at the store or order online before the holiday if you have those choices available.