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Tips to Ensure Your Business Is Ready for the 'New Normal' of Holiday Shopping

Austin Mac Nab
Austin Mac Nab
CEO, Co-founder and Executive Leader at VizyPay

This holiday season, shopping will look different. Now is the time for business owners to ensure they are prepared to accommodate the new normal.

In previous years, online shopping alone for the holidays brought in massive consumer spending. In 2018, holiday season retail e-commerce spending in the United States amounted to $119.54 billion, and 2019 smashed that record with $135 billion spent.

While this may not be a record-breaking year, consumers will still be shopping for holiday gifts, nonetheless. With all of this mind, businesses need to prepare to approach the holiday rush in a different way and accommodate new customer concerns, which can be done in a variety of ways, including:

  • Implementing mobile POS systems
  • Creating or updating an e-commerce option online
  • Preparing a brick-and-mortar location with COVID-19 safeguards
  • Offering cashless payment options

Move over for mobile

Mobile point of sale (POS) systems offer a variety of benefits that can streamline the checkout process for customers. These types of systems allow business owners to process payments on the go and sometimes even avoid the pain point of a higher payment processing fee. What some business owners may not know is that keying in a credit card number when the card isn't present (i.e., over the phone) can result in a higher processing fee, which can be resolved, in some cases, by utilizing a mobile option. In addition to a larger POS station, mobile systems can be a flexible tool for different businesses to utilize, such as:

  • Restaurants: Although operating at a limited capacity, restaurants can often catch some of the residual holiday shopper rush. Equipping servers with mobile POS systems can help cut down on the high-touch items like receipt holders and pens. Designating certain systems to each server also allows them to be responsible for cleaning it after each use, thus cutting down the number of people who come in contact with it.

  • Retail stores: With social distancing precautions being taken in stores, mobile POS systems can offer a way for businesses to set up interim checkout locations. This can break up long lines while abiding by social distancing rules. 

Overall, there are a variety of creative ways that businesses can utilize mobile POS systems this holiday season and beyond to help streamline purchases and respect customer concerns.

Going cashless

Our world has been moving in an increasingly cashless direction, with 80% of consumers citing they prefer to use cards for their transactions. Furthermore, according to Creditcards.com, consumers are using credit cards as their everyday payment method, rather than as a tool to finance larger purchases. These changing habits indicate how businesses need to adapt and ensure they are offering multiple ways to accept payment if they are not already.

This also means a business needs to ensure they're using a trustworthy and transparent credit card processor, which they should spend ample time researching to find the best fit for them. Credit card processing fees can be a major overhead cost for small business owners, and with the impending surge in shopping both online and in-person, these fees will stack up with every purchase made by their customers. Small business owners should opt for a processor that doesn't charge astronomical fees and choose a company that offers unlimited monthly processing for one low, flat monthly fee, like this cash discount program.

Moreover, the global pandemic has created a heightened sensitivity to high-touch items, like the exchange of cash. Consumers are sensitive to handling cash. A recent survey from Rapyd found that 54% of Americans are concerned about touching coins or bills due to concerns about COVID-19. This further reinforces the imperative for businesses to ensure they are offering card payment options. With this in mind, businesses should explore offering contactless payment options like Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, RFID cards and more. This will give your customers additional options for payment, while addressing the concerns of high-touch areas.

Preparing in-store

Although some may have concerns with shopping in-store, businesses should still be prepared to serve customers at brick-and-mortar locations with the necessary precautions taken. Businesses may need to operate at reduced capacity and implement social distancing measures, if they haven't already done so. To be fully ready, business owners may want to consider the following:

  • Clear signage: Regulations vary by state and change rapidly, so it is important to have clear indications of what rules you're enforcing for shopping in-store. Placing easy-to-read signage at the entrance and around the store communicates to customers what you expect from them. Additionally, it can reduce confusion to create a better shopping experience.

  • Floor stickers: Recently, floor stickers have increased in popularity to help ensure that customers are standing six feet apart. These can be purchased from a variety of places, and are easy to apply. This can help reassure customers and help them in maintaining their distance while shopping.

  • Streamline check-outs: As mentioned, mobile POS systems can help here, but there are other ways to ensure you're implementing the most efficient checkout process as possible. As with every holiday shopping season, it is important to have a strong plan for streamlining the checkout process. Equip your team with the essentials, as well as proper disinfecting tools to clean stations after every transaction.

Ensure an online presence

For those who may not be comfortable shopping in-store this season, have an online shopping option. Offering multiple touchpoints for shopping allows you to generate further revenue while accommodating customers. Even before the pandemic, online shopping has steadily been on the rise. Research shows online sales in the U.S. have grown from $349.25 billion in 2015 to $695.50 billion in 2019, and the pandemic has just reinforced this trend.

Many businesses implemented an online option when the pandemic hit to help stay afloat. However, ahead of the busy shopping season, it is a great time to reevaluate the strengths and weaknesses of your online platform. Identify any pain points customers have had recently, and address them to ensure a smooth shopping experience. Once the holiday season is in full swing, there will be less time to address these issues.

Understanding that not all businesses will have the bandwidth to create a full-scale e-commerce option, there are alternatives. Implementing a curbside pick-up option for customers to place an order helps streamline the shopping and checkout process, and ensures a safer experience for all.  

It has certainly been a historic year that has had profound impacts on different industries, and holiday shopping is no exception. With this in mind, it is imperative for businesses to not only implement their usual preparations but additional precautions and procedures to ensure the safety of all shoppers.

Image Credit: stefanamer / Getty Images
Austin Mac Nab
Austin Mac Nab
business.com Member
Austin Mac Nab is CEO, co-founder and executive leader of VizyPay, a West Des Moines, Iowa-based provider of payment technology solutions for businesses across the U.S. Mac Nab has been in this role since April 2017 when he co-founded the company.