How to Prepare Your Small Business for the Upcoming Holiday Crunch

If you're like most online retailers, you probably make a significant chunk of your annual revenue during November and December. In fact, the National Retail Federation (NRF) reports that as much as 30 percent of all retail sales occur during the holiday season.

Of course, brisk sales translate into more work. But that doesn't mean you have to forfeit your personal life until January.

Here are eight tactics and tools to turn your eCommerce business into a well-oiled machine this holiday season. Besides helping you maximize holiday profits, they can help minimize stress these next few weeks.

Make organization your prime concern.

Set priorities like your life depends on it. Embrace apps to simplify selling, order fulfillment and customer support. Ask other business owners what tools and processes work for them. And learn to love to-do lists.

“I work with Asana to organize all my tasks and build myself a simple studio production plan with Excel, so I don't lose oversight when things get crazy," says Nicole Kelly, designer and owner of YOLOTLI, which sells sustainable clothing and accessories.

“I have a simple iCal printout hanging in the studio that displays all the shows we attend and their start, setup and take-down times," Kelly adds. “Square and Weebly are connected and fed with inventory numbers. My POS is connected with Quickbooks, which makes bookkeeping and tax season easier. And writing to-do lists before bed helps me sleep well at night."

Let technology expedite shipping.

It's not enough to enlist friends and family to help get your holiday packages out the door. “You need to find the right way to ship so you aren't paying a ton and going to the post office twice a day," says Kate Stewart, owner of Bauble Stockings, which sells hand-stitched holiday stockings. Thankfully you can streamline the shipping process and save up to 40% on shipping rates and hours of work using our easy shipping solution with Shippo.

Offer holiday deals.

Customers love companies that serve up bargains. According to RetailMeKnot, 68 percent of consumers say that digital coupons increase customer loyalty. Consider offering holiday discounts, coupons or free shipping to boost business. Then spread the good word on your website, in an email campaign or through social media. Make sure to clearly and prominently note the dates, deadlines and discount codes that customers need. And be sure to give them ample warning.

Promote like crazy.

Choose the promotional tools that best suit your business, budget and customer base. Michael Hancock, owner and operator of Odd Dog Coffee, a specialty coffee roaster, relies on Instagram to alert customers to new deals, deadlines and other important shopping news.

But Matthew Paggi, co-owner of Barred Woods Maple, a Vermont maple syrup company, favors a more diverse approach. Paggi uses Weebly Promote to email past customers about holiday specials and coupons. He also uses Google Ads to entice new customers with Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals as well as greetings on the company's home page that mentions holiday deals and discounts.

Rescue abandoned website shopping carts.

On average, customers abandon about 70 percent of their online shopping carts. Don't leave this money on the table. Business Insider reports that three out of four customers who have abandoned an online cart plan to complete their purchase later. Reminding them to do so via automated email will help increase your odds of capturing the sale.

Sell in person.

People who love to holiday shop still love to browse and buy in physical locations. Holiday craft fairs, farmers markets, art walks and Small Business Saturdays are your friend. But if you can't participate in an event organized by someone else, consider hosting a trunk show or pop-up shop of your own. Don't worry about processing payments face to face: Square lets you handle all transactions on your phone or tablet.

Show supporters your appreciation.

“We always send out hand-printed and handwritten notecards to our best clients and vendors," says YOLOTLI's Kelly. “We also offer clients a special discount for future purchases." But don't just show the love to those who power your online venture. “Remember to kiss your dogs, spouse and kids, too," says Odd Dog Coffee's Hancock.

Prioritize downtime.

Build it into your holiday schedule like you would a meeting or any other business commitment. If you can't take a full day or weekend off, give yourself a breather for an hour or two.

“Sometimes it's better to squeeze in an hour of rest, a yoga class or a coffee/tea break with a friend than to run on adrenaline nonstop and be unable to think clearly anymore because of exhaustion," Kelly says. “Even a short break can clear the mind, improve concentration and help you work more efficiently."