Start preparing for the holidays: Your small business to-do list

3 minute read

While you may still be working hard to adapt your business to a new ‘business as usual’, the holiday season is fast approaching – and, in terms of e-commerce, it’s expected to be unprecedented.

Some of the changes you may have already had to implement such as having multiple options for your customers to purchase your products or managing your marketing messages as you reopen, will help you as you start thinking about the holidays. If you haven’t already begun to prepare, it’s time to start.

We’ve compiled a holiday checklist of eight action items to help you get ready. Over the coming weeks, we’ll drill down on this list to help you keep up momentum and seize the season.

1. Determine your promotional strategies

The holidays are coming fast, and your promotional strategy will be key to your success. Start planning now so you’re not overwhelmed at the last minute. What will your message be? How will you integrate your channels? What discounts can you offer? Who will you target and how will you measure your success?

Think about timing, too. More Canadians are starting their holiday shopping earlier in the season – as early as October. These early birds represent an important sales opportunity that can help you win the season.

2. Assess the online customer experience of your website

Look for ways to improve the online customer experience, especially if you had to launch it in a hurry.

  • Does your site tell your story in a compelling way?
  • Does it inherently demonstrate what sets you apart from your competitors?
  • Do your visuals look professional (even if you do them yourself)?
  • Do your pages load quickly? (If not, look for ways to reduce the file size of your images.)
  • Are your products well organized and easy to navigate?

3. Evaluate your e-commerce operations

E-commerce holiday spending is predicted to break records this year. It’s essential to ensure your order management and fulfillment processes can keep up with any spike in demand. Look for ways to make time-saving improvements. For instance, are your shipping labels integrated into your platform? Is it worthwhile to schedule Canada Post pick-ups so you don’t have to go to the post office? Do you have enough volume to warrant a thermal printer?

Optimizing your operations can also be as simple as putting your most popular items closest to your packing area and ensuring your packaging supplies are well organized.

4. Get your inventory ready and stock up on supplies

Don’t give customers a reason to shop at the competition. Make sure you have enough inventory to cover orders. If you do run out, ensure your website accurately reflects stock to avoid negative customer reactions or reviews.


Don’t wait to stock up on office and packaging supplies either! Make sure you have what you need to get the job done.

For more advice on optimizing your e-commerce operations, read our blog.

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5. Ensure your website communication is clear

Before they buy from you, customers want to know you’re trustworthy – and they look at your website for clues. Ask yourself:

  • Is your returns policy clear and easy to find? You can also increase your customers’ peace of mind if you extend the returns window past the holiday season.
  • Do you give your customers information about shipping times? Nearly three-quarters of online shoppers don’t mind waiting for deliveries as long as they’re provided with information.1 You may not be able to provide precise shipping details upfront, but try to give customers a window. If your store needs time to handcraft or customize items, make sure you clearly let customers know how long it takes.
  • Do you state your holiday cut-off times? As we get closer to December, customers will want to know the last day they can order from you and be guaranteed their item arrives on time. Make this information prominent.

6. Maximize delivery and pickup options

Online shoppers are continually upping their game. They know more stores are offering more options when it comes to pick up and delivery, so do what you can to meet their expectations.

If you have a physical store, consider curbside pickup or click and collect, and consider local delivery options in your community. On your checkout page, you may want to enable faster delivery options for customers who need their items quicker and will pay extra for speed.

7. Don’t forget about safety

Helping your customers and community stay safe will remain a top priority. This is especially true for those with a brick-and-mortar store.

For instance, how will you handle the increased traffic? How are you communicating your policies to customers – and your staff – so they know what to expect? Will you have masks available, hand sanitizer, arrows on the floor? Will you offer appointments? Will you have a separate area for returns? These are all factors you may have already considered as you reopened your doors, but as demand increases, it’s important to re-evaluate.

8. Stay flexible

The bottom line is, no one quite knows what’s going to happen this fall. So it’s important to stay nimble, and be ready to adjust and adapt to whatever else 2020 decides to throw our way. Those who can will be in the best position to hit the ground running in the new year.

1 Canada Post. 2020 Spring Survey, 20-208, June 2020.

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