As we enter the holiday shopping season, Frostburg small businesses face challenges unlike any year before.  The recent surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Allegany County and across the nation will have a significant impact on how holiday shopping is conducted.

Based on a survey conducted by Google, more than half of U.S. shoppers say the pandemic will affect how they’ll shop for the holidays this year. And while many shoppers prefer supporting small businesses, this year circumstances are driving people to online sales.

  • Nearly 75% of shoppers who plan to shop this season said they will shop online more for the holidays than they did in previous seasons, and a similar number said they would first browse for gift ideas online and not in-store.
  • Local is important!! 66% of shoppers said they plan to shop more at local small businesses.
  • 47% of planned shoppers said they’ll use options to buy online, pickup in store/curbside pickup.
  • And regarding shopping timing: 70% of shoppers said they intend to plan their shopping earlier to avoid crowds, and 80% of planned shoppers will consolidate their shopping to make fewer trips than they did in previous years.

By providing shoppers with the option of supporting a favorite small business via online sales, curbside pick-up, and/or contactless delivery, Frostburg businesses can mitigate potential loss of revenue, and reach new customers and audiences.

With Small Business Saturday coming up quickly on Saturday, November 28, we have compiled a few recommendations to make the most out of the holiday shopping season.

Ensure Promptness on Delivery: Be transparent in your delivery policy, as well as continuing to offer buy online, pick up at the store and/or curbside options.

Promote Clean and Safe: As part of your holiday marketing, capture the work you’ve done to create a safe shopping experience for those heavily concerned with COVID-19. As consumers have been to more businesses throughout the past couple of months, they will be keenly aware and will have created a defined mindset as to what is safe and not safe for them. As such, be diligent and very visual with how clean your store is as well as visual cleaning and safety protocols you have in place for customers and employees.

Adapt Your Business Hours: Consider offering special shopping hours for specific customer groups. Not only does lengthening your store hours allow for greater dispersion of consumers to avoid crowding and having to turn away customers due to State of Maryland occupancy guidelines, it also provides an opportunity to carve out special hours for those most vulnerable and concerned about COVID-19, such as senior citizens and/or those with preexisting medical conditions.

Segment Sales/Specials: Research suggests shoppers will spread out their shopping over a period of time, so consider presenting a new featured, limited item/product/promotion each week rather than holding one big sale. It’s all about building a sense of exclusivity and keeping them coming back, rather than a one-shot approach.

If you have not already developed an online point-of-sale, now is the perfect time to provide this access to potential customers. There are several simple, user-friendly ways to do this in just a short time.

If you already have a website, but do not have an online purchase option, PayPal offers a quick solution. Check out this step-by-step guide and add a PayPal button to your website in under 10 minutes.

If you don’t already have a website or are unable to launch one at this time, PayPal offers multiple means of selling online, including a 3-month free trial of their BigCommerce program, which allows you to create an online store. You can also sell your inventory directly through social media. Visit this link to learn more about the different ways you can expand your reach and accept payment online.

Etsy is also a great resource for creating an online shopping experience without the expense of creating and launching a website.  Check out this step-by-step guide!

Ebay is not just for online auctions anymore! Ebay has developed a comprehensive seller’s resource for small businesses and vendors. Check out this step-by-step guide on creating your account.

COThe COVID-19 pandemic has changed the landscape of how customers interact with small businesses. To thrive this holiday season, explore new ways to encourage your regulars to support you safely while reaching new potential audiences!