It seems like the holiday season arrives sooner every year. As businesses begin to prepare for online shopping sprees and customers get into the winter spirit, there are a few things that store owners can keep in mind to achieve the best results.  First, start planning as early as possible so that all of the decorations, sales and special events are in order before the holidays arrive.

1.   Observe the Trends

There are usually new trends each year. Before stocking inventory for your business, pay attention to what customers want and stock up on those items. If you don't, you might have items on shelves for quite some time or items that customers want that you don't have on hand.

2.   Decorate

Whether you have an online store or a brick-and-mortar store, decorate for the holidays. Customers often enjoy seeing twinkling lights, wreaths, Santa Claus, menorahs, kinaras, countdown clocks and snowflakes while they are shopping. Maybe even offer some warm apple cider at the door!

If your store is online, then consider using holiday-themed banners or images on webpages so customers can enjoy the season online too.

3.   Set Up Sales

Customers get into the holiday spirit by shopping for family and friends. Establish and advertise sales ahead of time, offering new sales each week or every other week so that customers have something new to look forward to when making their gift selections. Advertise your sales in various ways to reach as many customers as possible so that your business will be a success for the holiday season.

4.   Defend Yourself and Your Customers Against Fraud

Because of the high volume of credit card purchases around the holidays, fraudsters target businesses and individuals the most at this time. Remind your customers to keep their credit card information safe, and make sure you’re signed up for our Advanced Fraud Detection Suite- it’s included with your payment gateway account, and protects merchants year-round with a complex algorithm and customizable fraud filters. The businesses most at risk tend to be those who takes donations or large lump sums, like nonprofits, service providers and specialty item stores. This is because the transactions are frequent and/or have a high price tag. 

5.   Plan Your Holiday Timing Thoughtfully

Don't overwhelm customers with the holidays too fast. While many people enjoy this time of the year, it can get frustrating seeing all of the activity for several weeks on end and see other holidays getting ignored. Most people begin at least a small amount of their holiday shopping after Halloween, which is a good time to begin coordinating holiday sales and getting your website ready.

6.   Be Inclusive

While Christmas is a huge celebration in the United States, there are many other holidays celebrated year-round that you can recognize to appreciate diversity, broaden your client base and boost sales. If you make candles, how about having a sale for Diwali, the Hindu and Sikh festival of light? If you have a restaurant, consider a Ramadan late-night bite special. If you make lanterns, you could have some Chinese New Year-themed lanterns. Holidays may not all seem retail-oriented, but there are many ways to incorporate them and widen your client base. But it is imperative that advertisements and products are made with respect and understanding of the religious/cultural codes they come from. If you’re unsure, it’s not a bad idea to consult someone of that culture to learn how they would feel about it.