Small business owners: Don’t wait to prepare for the holiday season

The holiday season is normally one of the busiest times of year for small business owners in the retail space and this year will prove no different. In fact, due to continued supply chain challenges like bad weather, container shortages, product shortages and continued port closures due to the pandemic, business owners all over the world should start holiday preparations even earlier this year.

Consumers have also been warned about shipping delays for this upcoming season. As such, many are getting a head start on holiday shopping. Fortunately, there are many things that the 31.7 million small businesses in the US can begin doing now to prepare. Here are some tips to get ahead of the holiday rush. 

Ensure you have the right tech stack

A comprehensive tech stack can be your secret weapon as a small business owner. 

The right technology and partners can help you seamlessly manage cash flow, inventory and staff – all important variables around the holiday season and especially during times of crisis. For example, a reliable POS (point-of-sale) system can help with efficiencies, inventory management and cost-savings. 

Working with cloud technology platforms like Xero and those offered in Xero’s app ecosystem to support back-office and accounting can save you valuable time better spent handling inventory, marketing plans and other tasks to run your business.   

Get your funds in order

There’s no time like before the holiday rush to make sure your finances are totally in order before your attention shifts to focus heavily on inventory and deliveries. It’s important to have an accurate, up-to-date view of how much cash you’re going to need as well as account for any spikes or dips you expect to see over the next few months. 

Small businesses that still operate on paper or within Excel can easily misplace or miscalculate important figures. If you’re having trouble on your own, partner with an accountant or bookkeeper to make sure you don’t miss a beat. They can advise and help with all finance functions for the business. 

Doing the pre-work will pay off. When year-end sneaks up on you right after the holidays, you’ll enter the New Year organized and ready to hit the ground running. 

Double down on your online presence

In the age of lockdowns and continued uncertainty, an online presence has never been more important. 

Brick and mortar retailers are not only competing against Amazon and other ecommerce websites, but other digitally-savvy small businesses. 

Consider the end-to-end customer experience for a hypothetical customer across the country. How easily can they find information about your business? How can they place an order or get in touch with your team? 

Also consider how new customers find you. Can you beef up your presence on social media? Boost your marketing with targeted advertising? These are all tactics that can positively impact customer experience and your bottom line around the holidays.  

Play up the benefits of being a small business

There are many traits that make big business different from small business that you can take advantage of during the busy holiday season.  

For example, make sure your seasonal staff understands the ongoing flexibility available to them. If you don’t need their hand in the store or onsite, consider how they can help in other ways. 

For shoppers who need more personal attention, play up the one-on-one in-store shopping experience to help people find the perfect gifts for their loved ones. Use the ability to personalize to your advantage. Playing up the personalization now within your orders and shipping will keep shoppers coming back. 

In addition, to battle supply chain issues, diversify shipping options and utilize different carriers to fulfill orders. 

During the holidays, it’s important to remember to stay nimble and flexible as things change because, of course, even the best laid plans can always be disrupted during unexpected periods. Despite ongoing challenges and lots of change, you can prevent disorganization and feeling unprepared for the busy period by doing a little bit of advanced planning to make sure your customers have the most seamless experience. 

For more tips, advice and accounting essentials for your business, visit xero.com and get started today with a free 30-day trial

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