First, the good news. Nearly 40% of American shoppers plan to spend more money on holiday shopping this year than last year. This increase is significant because consumer spending has been down in many other sectors. But holiday shopping could be nothing short of epic this year. It’s clear that much of this year’s holiday shopping will be done online. With smartphones and social media growing more dominant in our lives by the day, it’s no surprise that 75% of consumers currently shop online. And the relevance of e-commerce takes on new heights thanks to COVID-19 protocols and the risks associated with shopping in public places. So if your small business has an online store, you stand to potentially make a lot of money this holiday season. Now it’s time for a reality check: There are more than 1.8 billion websites in the world. And many of them are online stores. So you have your work cut out for you when it comes to standing out from your competitors and reaching the right customers. “Once you've laid all the groundwork and finished setting up your online store, success relies on powerful e-commerce marketing—the art of creating sales by increasing awareness about an online store's product offering and brand,” says Forbes. “You can do this via social media, pay-per-click Google ads, or even a strong SEO program using the content you may already be creating, such as blog posts. You also could consider starting a podcast in your niche and spreading the word via social media. This will allow you to provide valuable content for possibly interested parties, which can help you build your online reputation.” Your ability to help your business thrive will always depend on how successfully you connect with customers. Having an online store is almost pointless if you’re not going to leverage it effectively. It’s like investing in a brand new forklift and then parking it in the corner of the warehouse and never using it. Thus, it’s imperative that you look for ways to boost online sales and build your customer base this holiday season—because there’s never been a better time to score a sales record. The COVID-19 pandemic creates multiple factors that can help your online store see greater success. As mentioned earlier, more shoppers will be avoiding retail locations and instead do their shopping from the safety of home. But another major factor is that the pandemic has disrupted normal shopping patterns and made consumers more likely to try new brands. Shockingly, just 12% of shoppers plan to make purchases from the stores they patronized in 2019. This puts pressure on you to retain your current customers, but it also provides the opportunity to attract lots of new buyers to your business. Acquiring customers is rarely easy, so this season of flux presents a prime opportunity. “The hard truth is that customer acquisition is getting harder and more expensive,” explains business guru Shane Barker. “Consumers demand and expect a lot more from brands than they used to. You need to offer personalized shopping experiences to each of your customers, be available on different channels, and use an omnichannel approach. All of this may not be enough. You need to also continuously look for ways to attract more customers and keep the existing ones engaged.” Research shows that social media is crucial for attracting and engaging customers. For example, did you know that more than 30% of shoppers plan to get their gift ideas from social media? When a simple post has that high of potential to trigger a purchase, there’s no excuse for you not to use your social channels to drive shoppers to your online store. Whether your business has a lively presence on social media or hasn’t posted anything new since 2017, it’s important to act immediately this year. This urgency is because shoppers report that they’re going to get an earlier-than-usual start on their holiday shopping. If you’re not ready to take advantage of that wave of consumerism, your competitors surely will be. Here are a few quick ideas to help you gear up for the 2020 holiday season: \tSend out a survey that asks shoppers what they most want from you this holiday season. Then do everything in your power to deliver. \tParticipate in Small Business Saturday. Make sure your business is listed in the event’s online registry, and use this event as another opportunity to connect with new shoppers. \tPartner up with another business. Find someone you respect and trust, then join forces to provide your customers with an extra special experience this holiday season. This holiday season will undoubtedly be like no other. There will be new challenges to deal with and obstacles to avoid. But if you plan ahead and leverage the full power of your online store, your business has the chance to build its base and set the stage for impressive results in 2021.