News Source: markets.businessinsider.com
Ring in the holiday shopping season with 5 tips to keep your customers happy despite impending supply-chain snarls
News Source/Courtesy: markets.businessinsider.com

a woman wears a mask and a vest standing in front of wall full of Christmas holiday ornaments

The holiday shopping season is an important time of year for many small businesses.

Vyacheslav Prokofyev/Getty

The holiday shopping season started early thanks to continued shipping delays and increased prices.

Some business owners stocked up on inventory as early as July to avoid delays.

Owners can make the most of the season by setting sales goals and prioritizing customer service.

The holiday shopping season seems to start earlier every year - elves, fake snow, and gift wrapping fill shop windows the day after Halloween.

While the preparations might have been a result of overeager marketing in years past, this year's early planning is essential for many businesses as supply-chain issues permeate every corner of the globe. Retailers were already stocking up on holiday inventory in July, ahead of what's likely to be a season of chaos and uncertainty.

Shipping prices from China to the US have increased from $3,847 per container to $17,377, The Associated Press reported, and UPS expects peak demand this holiday season to exceed capacity by 5 million packages daily. But it's not all bad news for business owners: Shopper spending is expected to be 7.4% higher than last year and 11.1% more than in 2019, according to Mastercard.

Now that the shelves are stocked, trees are lit, and holiday playlists set on repeat, it's time to focus on customer service. While business owners can do only so much in terms of shipment and supply, you can provide a jolly experience for your customers at a time when shopping can be utterly stressful.

Here are five ways business owners can make the most of the holiday shopping season.

1. Message customers early and often

Nicole Leinbach Reyhle, CEO and founder of the retail publication Retail Minded, urges business owners to encourage their customers to shop early if they want to get their orders on time. "You have to almost train your consumer to understand it's not to their benefit to wait," she said.

2. Set a sales goal and know when to call it

Hans Schrei is the cofounder of Wunderkeks, a company selling homemade cookies online. He set a goal to reach $1 million in December sales and prepared his team to handle the influx of orders. "We're expecting that food-based gifts are going to be a very big thing," he said.

And he's prepared to stop selling once his company reaches its goal. "If we go over capacity on December 15, so be it," he said, referring to what he plans to do if his cookies sell out. "We have to be at peace with that and say this is as far as we can go."

3. Host a livestream to engage your audience

If you haven't tried livestream shopping yet, the holidays could be a good time to start. Virtual events are a great way to engage your customers and incentivize them to shop online with prizes and giveaways, according to the entrepreneurs who host them.

Livestreaming brings products straight to customers' homes by recreating the discovery of the in-person shopping experience. Livestreams can create a community of fans who look forward to gathering for your online events.

4. Prioritize good customer service

Whether you're selling in-store or online, ensure your customers feel supported and offer them multiple venues to get in touch with your team. Vic Drabicky, retail and digital marketing expert and founder and CEO of January Digital, previously told Insider that business owners need to plan for exponentially higher traffic.

"If you don't have the right infrastructure in place, whether that be servers, fulfillment, or customer service, then you're putting yourself at risk," he said.

5. Think beyond the holiday season

Make the most of increased traffic to your business by staying in touch with customers into the new year. Include an email list sign-up on your website for shoppers to receive a small discount or ask them to tag your brand on social media.

Business owners were reminded they don't own what they post on Facebook and Instagram during the October outage - which is even more reason to collect customer information, the social-media marketing expert Michael Sanchez said.

"A lot of business owners are recognizing that their entire business, they don't actually own it," Sanchez previously told Insider. "They're just renting the space that Facebook and Instagram is allowing you to use."

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News Source: markets.businessinsider.com

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