2020's been a challenge, but the holiday season is approaching like a light at the end of the tunnel. And (fortunately) surveys show that "shoppers do not plan to significantly change their holiday spend compared to 2019." Whew. This means small businesses will have a narrow window of opportunity to capitalize on the holidays and turn a profit this year—or at least to minimize their losses. However, you're not the only one hurting for sales—every business is desperate to recover the revenue lost during the pandemic-devastated summer months. Competition has always been fierce around the holidays, but expect things to be even more cutthroat this year. Shoppers only have so much cash to spend, and they're going to be drawn to companies that nail their holiday sales strategies. However, the difference between success and failure won't come down to who has the biggest marketing budget—it'll be determined by who accommodates this unusual shopping season the best. 1. Make Safety a Priority Shoppers gotta shop—but that doesn't mean they're just going to forget about COVID-19 and the seasonal flu. Safety will be a top concern for customers, and it's up to you to make them feel comfortable and protected. Here are a few simple ways to make it happen: \tExtra cleaning: Go over-the-top to wipe down all surfaces (doors, products, bathrooms, checkout counters, etc.). \tSocial distancing: Make sure your shop is set up for customers to comfortably maintain 6 feet of social distancing—even if foot traffic increases. \tSanitation stations: Provide hand sanitizer at entrances, exits, and checkouts to keep hands clean. \tContactless delivery and pickup: Offer contactless delivery and curbside pickup to ease fears and provide apprehensive shoppers with a safe shopping alternative. \tCommunication: Let customers know all that you're doing to protect them. It's not boasting—it's just keeping them in the loop, and they’ll like that. 2. Lean Into Local According to a survey from AdTaxi, 74% of shoppers aim to shop small and local this holiday season—this is the market you want to capture! These shoppers recognize small businesses’s challenges and want to support the community, so make it easy for them. Shoppers don't want to feel like ravaging discount-hungry robots. They want to feel good about what they buy, who they buy it for, and where they buy it from. Tell your story to let customers know how much you appreciate their business. Give them all the feel-good vibes they could want as they enter and leave your digital or brick-and-mortar store. Lean into local by doing your part to support small businesses in the community: \tPartner with neighboring businesses to provide special promotions \tWork with local suppliers and manufacturers when possible \tHire local talent for live events \tGive back to charities and nonprofits in your community 3. Nail Your Online Strategy “While consumers are hesitant when it comes to in-store shopping, an overwhelming majority want to support small businesses, and many would prefer to do so online," says Yael Zlatin, director of e-commerce at Adtaxi. "With so many small businesses relying on holiday shopping to make ends meet, this is not an opportunity to be missed." No matter how pristine-clean and COVID-friendly your storefront is, a large number of customers will do the majority of their holiday shopping online this year. To attract their business, you're going to need to nail your digital sales strategy. Make sure that you have an online presence and then optimize those channels for the holidays. Don't wait for your customers to find you—meet them where they are, whether that's on Twitter, Google, Nextdoor, or their email inbox. Read through our 2020 Guide to Nailing Online Sales This Holiday Season to learn more tips and tricks for winning digitally during the holidays. 4. Start Deals Now This year, stores are stretching out the traditional mile-long lines by starting deals much earlier. Big-box retailers like Macy's and Target have already launched their Black Friday discounts. Don't wait for shoppers to find deals somewhere else. To compete, you're going to need to begin your holiday-shopping markdowns sooner than in years past. Plus, while some shoppers love the thrill of late-night Black Friday shopping, a good number of customers prefer a more laid-back approach. By spreading out your deals through the whole month of November, you're giving customers the time and space everyone needs this year. Success Is in the Subtleties There are a lot of unknowns this holiday season, but one thing’s for sure—it's going to be unlike any holiday season you've ever experienced. Think on your toes, be prepared to pivot, and cash in on holiday sales now. While 2020's been a challenging year, the next few months are ripe for small business success. Seize the moment by succeeding with the essential subtleties.