Santa Online ShoppingFor many businesses, the holiday season represents a significant sales opportunity – for some, it literally makes or breaks the year. But with the competition from big retailers, how can your small business compete?

Fortunately, entrepreneurs are well suited to offer customers something worthwhile and capture their holiday spending. Here are some best practices to implement today to make sure your business has a happy, happy holiday season.

Clean Up Your Online Presence

Make sure your site and e-commerce platform are holiday-ready with a pre-holiday review. If you have a physical store(s), make sure to prominently display your holiday hours, as well as any special holiday offers on your site for customers to easily find.

If you are doing business online, make sure that your holiday offerings are front and center and easy to navigate.

Also, make sure that your website is mobile friendly, as more and more shopping is being conducted that way. Consumers rely heavily on their smartphones not only to buy products, but also to compare prices, seek brand recommendations and search for online coupons.* – a provider of Web services catering to small businesses that I’ve recently started working with – understands the importance of going mobile in today’s digital marketplace. They offer a Mobile Website Builder to ensure that entrepreneurs like you are equipped with the tools necessary to create a “responsive” website design that looks great on a variety of devices so you aren’t losing potential customers searching with their smartphones!

Promote Early and Often, Especially Around the Retail Holidays

More than half of consumers plan to start their holiday shopping before Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday, and businesses know it. To stand out among the big guys, create great, value-oriented and simple offers.

One way to do this is by providing deals, discounts and promotions exclusively for the holiday crowd. If you have a store, use your window and even your shopping bags to spread the message in the community. If you are online, make sure to email your mailing list and update your website with special imagery, banners and more that reflect your holiday offerings.

Many big companies partner with small businesses to provide resources and information to support their customers during this critical season. For example, has an online hub dedicated to Small Business Saturday, where small business owners can get free marketing kits, including an Ebook on how you can prepare your business for success via e-mail marketing.

Be Social!

Social media can be a great outlet for marketing your holiday deals online to increase awareness and drive online store traffic. Make your social posts stand out from competitors with gorgeous imagery, clever-but-direct slogans and, of course, links to make a purchase. Don’t be afraid to post and promote current sales, but mix it up with some helpful tips and other content too, so it doesn’t seem like an endless commercial.

As consumers often share hot finds and cool deals with their social networks, make sure that all tweets and Facebook posts can be easily transmitted from one user to another. Also, considering putting some paid advertising and SEO optimization to work for you –it’s easy for you to target key demographics and even local customers without breaking your bank. For example, through’s Search Engine Optimization services, a team of SEO experts will develop and execute a plan to improve your website’s SEO rank on Google, Yahoo and Bing, and in turn, boost traffic to your websites.

Offer Value-Adds

A great way for a small business to compete with a big retailer is to offer value adds that they don’t to your customers. If you have busy customers that are short on time, perhaps you can offer a beautiful gift-wrapping service with a next-level look.

Or, if you are targeting those who may not know what to buy, offer a concierge that they can call or chat with on your site to help assist your customers with their buying.

Another great value add is a gift-with-purchase that keeps on giving, not just for your customers, but for your business. If you sell candy, for example, throw in some samples of a different flavor for both the gift buyer and the recipient as a way to get them both hooked on another one of your offerings (and sweeten the purchase – no pun intended).

If you offer services, throw in a free trial of another service or a special bundle that makes your offering stand out among the competition.

Turn Returns into an Opportunity

When buying gifts, shoppers want to know that their gift will be a dream and not a nightmare for their intended giftee. Having a well-established return policy stated clearly on your site can reduce headaches for online shoppers and long lines and confusion in store.

And don’t forget that returns can be good for sales, as it drives new customers to do business with you. Make sure you plan some great offerings for any returns or exchanges, including some value-adds like the ones discussed above.

*Disclosure: this company has a client relationship with or its affiliated entities and this posting is being made as part of that relationship.