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Boosting Business During a COVID Holiday Season

Tips and tricks on how to make your business’s 2020 holiday season shine bright

It’s the most wonderful time of the year for small businesses as they seek to capitalize on the holiday rush to increase sales but 2020, as we know, hasn’t been a typical year.

As people are continuing to learn how to integrate new technologies into their daily lives, small businesses are no exception. Whether it’s integrating an e-commerce platform into their websites or something as simple as upping the ante on their social media presence, small businesses need to incorporate the virtual into their realities in order to keep afloat during this atypical holiday season.

A recent survey conducted by The University of Scranton and Wilkes University SBDCs and The Institute for Public Policy and Economic Development, found that 71 percent of consumers across all age groups are planning on doing their holiday shopping online this year, citing staying safe during the pandemic as a major reason for doing so. Of this number, 83.4 percent of shoppers were likely to shop at a small business, explaining that supporting the community during a critical time while discovering unique items they couldn’t find anywhere else as primary reasons.

Keith Yurgosky and Katelyn McManamon of The University of Scranton SBDC, have several suggestions for businesses seeking to have a successful COVID holiday season.

  • Don’t be afraid of change. Change can include revamping store hours, adding and promoting your increased safety protocols, or even a slight change in inventory. “Someone told me that the shutdowns aren’t hurting their business—the virus is hurting their business because people aren’t coming out,” Mr. Yurgosky said. “The mindset of people is not to go out, so online shopping is going to become huge this holiday season. Businesses have to make the decision as to whether or not they want to survive and compete in that arena or if they are going to sit and hope something changes. The thing is, the situation isn’t going to change.”
  • E-commerce can take on many forms. “E-commerce isn’t just a brand-new website,” Ms. McManamon said. “If a business doesn’t have time to build out a full website, they could even just take a picture of the item they want to sell and post it to Instagram. It doesn’t have to be a huge thing—if you have a product people are interested in, they’re going to buy it.” Besides posting on social media, websites like are also useful for small businesses looking to sell products online as they require little overhead to deliver a web presence.
  • Offer gift cards. “Thirty-three percent of gift cards never get redeemed and more than half of the customers who redeem them will spend more than 20% of the value of the card,” Mr. Yurgosky said, adding that businesses can also incentivize their gift cards for the months when they aren’t as busy. While it may initially seem like losing money, due to the fact that 33% of gift cards don’t get redeemed at all, the businesses could potentially make more money in the process.
  • Produce perks. Promotion codes for a discount of free shipping, offering a free gift with a purchase, or even having pre-packaged gifts ready for Secret Santa” events are all ways to get people to buy items. “Sometimes people have a set price limit on how much they can spend, but they don’t know what to get,” Mr. Yurgosky said. “If you package a bunch of different items together for that price point, you’re helping people get their shopping done. You’ve just made their holiday shopping easier.”
  • Whip up some holiday magic. Just because Santa has to social distance this year, it doesn’t mean he still can’t pay a visit to your business! “With COVID, you just need to be more creative with bringing the holiday spirit to life,” Mr. Yurgosky said. “Your business can accept letters to Santa and mail something back along with a coupon or a gift card. You can even offer virtual visits with Santa or use an app to have kids think they’re texting him.”
  • Your business may be closed temporarily, but your storefront is always open. “Your window display can still be enticing, even if your business is closed,” Ms. McManamon said. “That window display can tempt passers-by to check out your online store. It can even work as a great social media post to remind people that you’re still open and ready for business. A picture is worth a thousand words and that’s true in this case”
  • Word-of-mouth works. “Influencers are the big thing now,” Mr. Yurgosky said. “Local stores can use people who are well-known in the community to be influencers because people are going to trust them over an advertisement.” Asking well-known customers who are active in the community to film a short video testimonial can help solidify a business’s reputation as well as rack up some social media likes, which translate into more views and increased engagement.
  • Help is out there. When all else fails and you don’t know what to do to help your business stay afloat during this holiday season, ask for help. The “Get Connected” program by the NEPA Alliance helps small businesses launch an online presence, and the SBDC’s Small Business Internship Initiative offers micro-internships to help businesses who need extra staffing power this holiday season. “We can’t stress it enough, don’t be afraid to ask for help,” Ms. McManamon said. “There’s always someone out there that can help your business thrive.”

SBDC Business Consultants are available to assist existing clients as well as take on new clients and referrals. Current SBDC Clients should reach out directly to their SBDC Business Consultant. New requests for for-profit small business assistance can visit our web site and choose either “Starting a Business” or “Already in Business,” e-mail or call 570-941-7588 and leave a message.

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