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Is your business ready for the surge in online shopping?

The pandemic has prompted an online shopping boom. Global retail e-commerce traffic reached a record 22 billion monthly visits in June of 2020, according to the data site Statista, with demand for everyday items such as groceries and clothing increasing dramatically. The trend shows no signs of slowing as consumers realize the benefits of online ordering.

If you’re a business owner, now could be a good time to ready yourself for the holiday shopping season. According to CBRE Group, online sales are expected to explode—reaching record growth of more than 40% in November and December. Whether you’re a traditional brick-and-mortar storefront or entirely digital, making efforts to optimize your online offerings and improve customer accessibility will make you better poised to boost sales.

Going the extra mile may also prove vital during a very competitive holiday shopping season. In addition to implementing e-commerce tactics, “think about how you may be able to surprise and delight your customers,” says Farrah Solly, Senior Manager of Small Business Initiatives at Coast Capital. Here are five strategies to consider to help your business achieve record-breaking sales:

1. Create a strong online presence

Shoppers are looking for simplicity and efficiency, especially during the holidays. That’s why small improvements to your website could go a long way. If you don’t already operate online, try a cloud-based e-commerce platform like Shopify or Wix Stores to set up and customize your online business. Then, as soon as you’re ready, try these best practices:

  • Add images: Shoppers who have a clear picture of a product are more inclined to make a purchase. According to a 2019 Google survey, 50% of digital shoppers said that images helped them decide what to buy.
  • Increase interaction: An interactive experience helps you capture a customer’s attention and turns a static experience into an active one. Infographics, quizzes, and surveys not only engage, but can also help you learn more about your customers. Having product reviews and customer ratings easily accessible can also be beneficial.
  • Optimize for mobile: With people seemingly always on their devices, work to make it easier for customers to shop from wherever they are. Optimize your site’s appearance and functionality so that it’s the same on a desktop, laptop, tablet, and mobile screen.

2. Simplify your payments process

You can make payments more quick and efficient, plus make it easier for customers to click “purchase.” Just consider these few easy tools:

  • Deposit On-the-go: This Coast Capital Digital Banking service uses a cheque scanner and a personal computer to take images of the cheques you wish to deposit and transmits them directly to the bank.
  • Utilize point-of-service: Merchant solutions from Coast Capital can help your business grow by giving you the ability to accept payments anywhere and anytime with a point-of-service (POS) terminal.

Deploying these banking solutions can help streamline your sales processes, deliver reliable transaction processing, and, in turn, increase your cash flow.

3. Offer no- or low-contact products and services

In an economic climate involving coronavirus, many consumers are still wary of in-person interactions. Consider pivoting and finding innovative ways to boost remote offerings this holiday season.

“Be adaptable to the current consumer channels available,” suggests Solly. “Gyms, for example, have shifted to hosting online classes and discounted digital memberships instead of getting people through the doors. Retailers are offering curbside pickup. Barbers are selling products with free delivery. Restaurants are doing take-out,” says Solly, noting that different industries will take a different approach to this challenge.

Though businesses have experienced hardships due to COVID-19, the pandemic has also created new opportunities for innovation. “Think of unique value propositions you can offer over your competitors, such as free delivery or discounts on purchases if they also buy a gift card for a friend or relative,” says Solly.

4. Anticipate holiday demand

Pre-pandemic, online holiday shopping already saw an uptick, with 56% of consumers reporting that they would make their holiday purchases online, according to a survey from the National Retail Federation.

This year, with many shoppers hesitant to return to crowded stores and increased demand for certain items, making them difficult to find on the shelves, take the pulse of shoppers’ interests early. “It may be a good idea to create a forecast for holiday demand based on last year’s modeling, and plan accordingly,” says Solly. “Ensure you have enough inventory and resources to support your predictions.”

Also be prepared for what may be your busiest holiday season yet by giving consumers multiple delivery options. Depending on the nature of your business, you might consider in-store pickup, delivery apps, or a pop-up distribution center.

5. Enhance customer service

Providing quality customer service can go a long way towards brand building. That’s always true, but especially now you want to show that you value when customers spend their hard-earned money at your business. Here’s how:

  • Add a personal touch: If you’re shifting from brick and mortar to online, maintaining the same level of connectivity even when shifting to low-contact channels can help build trust with consumers.
  • Find a partnership: Reach out to local or state business organizations to see if they offer hands-on assistance, training, or small-business support to help with customer outreach.
  • Tap into the spirit of the season: Personalized holiday gift cards or offering a gift with purchase can help attract and retain customers, says Solly.

Retailers everywhere are kicking off their holiday promotions earlier than ever before. Give yourself a head-start with these tips, work to entice your shoppers to buy online—and don’t stop innovating.

The stuff we have to say: While these suggestions are believed to be good practices, they are intended as general information only. Business owners should assess their own unique situation and may wish to seek professional advice to determine the right approach for them.

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