If You Haven't Already Done These 7 Things to Prepare Your Business for the Holiday Season, You're Putting Your Business Behind the 8-Ball These foundational steps will help you sell and serve with ease.

By Katie Hunt

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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The holiday sales season is here, and if you haven't already started preparing your business to maximize your time and profits. In 2019, over $135 billion was spent during the holiday sales season.

For most small-businesses owners, particularly those in the retail/consumer products space, Q4 is their largest quarter for gross revenue. Yet, most small business owners are leaving money on the table during this time because they are not adequately preparing.

Here are seven things you should be doing now to prepare your business for the upcoming holiday season.

1. Update your website

Online sales for my clients have skyrocketed this year. With everyone at home, online shopping is a necessity for most. Therefore, keeping your website up-to-date and easy to use should be one of your top priorities,

This could include updating your product photos, reviewing descriptions of your products and services, confirming your prices are correct or making necessary adjustments to shipping rates.

Also use this time to plan promotions or set-up any promo codes that you will be using in your marketing during the holiday season (think Black Friday, Cyber Monday, etc).

Related: How to Win as an Online Business During the 2020 Holiday Season

2. Test your checkout process

If you haven't done a test run of your check-out process recently, now is the time to do one.

Potential buyers are looking for a seamless experience and if the check-out process is clunky and cumbersome, you could lose sales. Just remember that one-click buying is now at consumers' fingertips, so simplicity is key.

3. Consider additional payment methods

Most online businesses accept payments through credit cards, debit cards or Paypal, which are great but customers are looking for increased flexibility and an easy buying experience.

For example, Apple Pay makes it easy for people to pay with their phone (online and in-person). AfterPay allows you to offer payment plans to customers.

Consider adding alternative payment options if it makes sense with your ecommerce system and makes it easier for your customers to shop with you.

4. Recapture "abandoned cart" customers

Cart abandonments account for $18 billion in lost revenue annually across ecommerce stores. It's an astounding number.

Win back customers who fill their carts, but fail to complete the checkout process by sending abandoned cart emails.

Send two or three fun, on-brand follow-up emails to remind your customers to head back to your shop and complete their order. You can set these up ahead of time and automate the process.

Reminding and incentivizing customers who have abandoned their shopping carts will build connections with your customers and increase your profits — with little effort on your part!

5. Mobile-friendly is a must

A mobile-friendly website is an absolute necessity. 34.5% of ecommerce spending during the 2019 holiday season was made via smartphones.

Use tools like MobiReady to test your website on different browsers and devices to make sure it's a smooth experience for the customer.

Related: 10 Holiday Gifts for the Person Who Has Everything

6. Communicate clearly

Communication is always key, but during a pandemic, it is critical. Now is the time to communicate and educate your customers so they are informed on your business' return policies, shipping delays or deadlines, etc.

One example of this are holiday shipping deadlines.

Most online retailers have strict deadlines of when orders need to be placed to guarantee arrival by Christmas. Display these deadlines prominently on your home page or an announcement bar across the top of your site, highlight them in your check-out process where customers choose their shipping options, talk about these deadlines on social media and in your marketing emails.

Overly communicate important details with customers in a clear and concise manner.

7. Provide excellent customer service

Exceptional customer service creates loyal customers who are willing to refer your business to everyone they know. Poor customer service can also be magnified in the same way.

How are your customers engaging with your brand? How are they impacted? How could you make it a better experience for all?

For example, build out a self-help resource section on your website to reduce customer service inquiries. A FAQ page won't solve every issue but it may minimize questions and give you a place to direct customers when needed.

Aim to strengthen interactions with your customers at every touch point. This includes responding to comments on social media, timely responses to email inquiries and finding ways to surprise and delight them at different phases of their customer journey (sending birthday cards is one example!).

These seven strategies will ensure you head into the holiday sales season with a strong foundation. You'll be able to easily layer in your sales and marketing strategies because your products will be ready, your site will be ready and your company will be focused on providing a positive experience for your customers.

Katie Hunt

Founder of Proof to Product

Katie Hunt is the founder of Proof to Product, a business strategist and mentor to product-based entrepreneurs. She’s worked with thousands of entrepreneurs through her in-person conferences, online courses and group coaching she offers.

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