As the 2021 holidays approach, many small business owners are waiting with bated breath to see what kind of sales the season will bring. This is certainly understandable — 2020 was a rough year for a lot of entrepreneurs, so the upcoming holidays present an opportunity for both recovery and revenue.
If you run your own small business, you're probably eager to find out how you can boost sales before 2021 is over. Ahead, we'll uncover some of the most crucial elements for you to consider and explore how to increase holiday sales in the wake of the pandemic.
Why the 2021 Holiday Season Is So Important
In 2020, countless small businesses felt the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and its resulting lockdowns all too keenly. As data from the U.S. Small Business Administration shows, the number of Americans who were self-employed and working was 20 percent lower in April 2020 than in April 2019:
And while a significant percentage of those people would eventually begin working again, many of their businesses would be very different than they were pre-COVID.
This isn't likely to change anytime soon — according to McKinsey, it could take over five years for the most affected sectors to achieve 2019-level contributions to gross domestic product (GDP) and possibly even longer for small businesses in those sectors:
So suffice it to say that for countless small business owners and self-employed people, their ability to boost holiday sales in 2021 will be instrumental for their business' health. For those who were hit particularly hard by the pandemic, it may even mean the difference between staying afloat and going under.
What Will the Holiday Season Look Like in 2021?
Despite the toll that the pandemic took on small businesses everywhere, the 2020 holiday season saw unexpectedly high sales. However, most of those sales took place online via big retailers — in-person shopping declined by over 50 percent on Black Friday. In 2021, economists are predicting even more overall growth.
In the traditional holiday period of November 1 through December 24, MasterCard SpendingPulse anticipates a retail sales increase of 7.4 percent from 2020, excluding auto and gas. That's an 11.1 percent increase from 2019.
For ecommerce specifically, those numbers get even higher. Sales in that space are predicted to increase 7.6 percent from 2020 and a whopping 57.3 percent from 2019:
Similarly, Deloitte expects 2021 holiday sales to increase by 7 to 9 percent, totaling $1.28 to $1.3 trillion in sales between November and January 2021. The question this year is whether small businesses can claim a bigger piece of the pie than they did in 2020.
How Can I Increase Sales During the Holiday Season?
Although overall retail sales are expected to grow in the 2021 holiday season, that doesn't mean they're guaranteed to for every business. So, it's essential to learn how to increase holiday sales before the season starts.
Here's what you need to take into account if you want to boost your small business' holiday sales.
Online Shopping Is Booming
Although most U.S. cities have lifted most if not all of their COVID-related restrictions around retail, dining and entertainment, many consumers are still hesitant to resume their pre-pandemic shopping habits.
As of August 2021, 37 percent of people said they'd do most of their shopping online in the upcoming year — given MasterCard's prediction of online holiday shopping growing by over 57 percent in 2021, this isn't all that surprising.
The takeaway for you is that if you haven't yet created a website for your small business, now is the time to do so. Ensuring that you can provide customers with a smooth online shopping experience will also ensure that you cater to all your customers, whether they want to shop in-person or online.
Offering products online doesn't necessarily mean you need to host your own store, either — you can always choose to sell on Amazon or open an Etsy shop instead.
Social Media Is Key
Social networks like Facebook and Twitter have made it easier than ever before for small businesses to reach a wider audience, and that's especially true in 2021.
With that in mind, it's important to prepare for the holiday season by brushing up on your social media marketing skills. No matter which platform you're on, remember to post regularly, engage with as many customers as possible and maintain a consistent brand image.
Customers Love Coupons
Everyone loves a good deal, and your customers are no exception. In 2020, almost 90 percent of U.S. consumers said they had used coupons for shopping, and in 2021, there are over 145 million digital coupon users:
So if you find yourself asking, "How can I increase my sales quickly?" then the answer could lie in enticing holiday shoppers with coupons. If you have an active social media presence, you'll find it even easier to spread the word about your business' coupons and attract value-seeking customers.
Leverage the Power of Personalization
In a time when shoppers are constantly inundated with promotional emails and push notifications, personalization is required to stand out from the crowd.
For many small businesses, the past two years have been filled with uncertainty and change, good and otherwise. But that doesn't mean your sales will drop this holiday season.
Instead, it means that if you adapt to new trends, meet customers where they are and give shoppers what they want, then you can actually boost holiday sales and give your small business a head start into the next year.
Carrie Buchholz-Powers is a Colorado-based writer who’s been creating content since 2013. From digital marketing to ecommerce to land conservation, she has experience in a wide range of fields and loves learning about them all. Carrie is fond of history, animals and beauty in equal measure. In her free time, she enjoys knitting, playing video games and exploring Colorado's prairies and mountains with her husband.