The holidays are a great time of the year for businesses both large and small. Holiday shopping tends to increase year over year as buying products gets easier and easier. With the strong emergence of online shopping, many shoppers get their shopping done simply through their home desktop or on their mobile device. In fact, the National Retail Foundation estimates that consumers will spend 4.1 percent more this year on winter holiday shopping than they did last year. 

As a start-up or small-business, you'll want to be best positioned to take advantage of this season. The sales revenue generated from this period alone is enough for stores to significantly slash their prices and compete on volume. It's an excellent opportunity to grow your business, but it's also one of the most competitive times of the year. 

Here are five ways your business can stand out among the pack.

1. Maximize Your Sales Impact

No matter what business you're running, you'll want to be sure you include a sale on your products and services. Three in four shoppers report that sales are extremely important to them making a purchase. It shouldn't be a surprise that sales play a big role in consumer behavior, but this should further cement that your business provide discounts of some kind.

Also, carefully consider timing to maximize the impact of your sales. Last year, Dec. 26 was the busiest day of shopping in 2017. No one can say with 100% confidence which exact day will be the busiest day, but try to keep an eye on shopping trends of your key target market.

2. Optimize Your Online Experience

Over 55 percent of holiday shoppers start their shopping at either a brand's specific website or through a search engine. Make sure your products are clearly listed online, and combine our advice above to clearly showcase discounts that you're offering. If you don't maintain your own website but sell instead through other platforms, now would be a good time to refresh your descriptions and make sure your online presence is enough to convince consumers to buy your products.

If you don't have any online presence, consider starting your own website. You can easily make your own website on easy-to-use platforms like Wix or Squarespace. Costs can be as low as $12 per month, and if consumer trends show anything, it's that shoppers like to research items online before they make a purchase, making the low investment well worth it.

3. Leverage Mobile to Better the Customer Experience

Digital transformation—it's a buzz term that's been floating around forever in the enterprise world. However, it's applicable to small businesses and start-ups too. For example, consumers are shopping through mobile devices more than ever. Maintaining an online presence or website is a must, but you can really differentiate your business with how you enable technology to transform the customer experience. How you choose to do so will be decided by your creativity and budget.

Nike, for instance, recently launched an experience-focused flagship store on Fifth Ave. in New York City. Customers can reserve items inside a digital shopping cart from their phones, and pick them up at checkout. You may not need to build a custom mobile application to improve your customer experience, but it is merely one creative example of how major brands are using mobile to improve the customer experience. If you aren't convinced of yet, consider this: 40 percent of customers are willing to switch brands if a competitor offers a better mobile experience.

4. Get Creative with Social Media

Social media is a tool that's becoming more and more of a necessity. Facebook recently conducted a behemoth survey of over 40,000 people in 27 different markets. Of those surveyed, 55 percent said that social media affected their buying decisions. "Social media" can mean anything from social media advertisements to posts by social media influencers, but the point here is that social media plays a key role in shopping decisions.

Treat social media as another medium or channel for marketing. In other words, you'll need to properly construct a targeted plan to be as efficient as possible. Who is the target audience you're targeting? What's the social media tool that you'll use to target them (paid advertising, viral posts, etc.)? These are a few of the questions you'll need to answer before you start.

5. Optimize the Shopping Experience

Online and mobile sales are growing year over year at an impressive rate, but most sales still happen in physical stores. Retail businesses, in particular, should be conscious of this. For most businesses, a social media presence, a website or a mobile app are all complementary to the in-store experience. However, a quick analysis of late consumer trends will show that consumers prioritize having an easy shopping experience above anything else.

Take a look at Amazon, for example. People love it for a multitude of reasons, but a major one is that it is easy to find what you're looking for. Do some initial research to get a sense of what products will be in the highest demand this upcoming holiday season and make sure they're either heavily featured or easy to find.

The winter holiday season is an opportunity that shouldn't be missed. If properly taking advantage of this shopping frenzy will require extra financing, taking out a business line of credit will allow you to have working capital ready at hand. 

About the Author(s)

 Ting  Pen

Ting Pen is a ValuePenguin Co-Founder. She previously evaluated corporate mergers and acquisitions as a Financial Analyst at Citigroup. Her experience in financial services combined with her entrepreneurial spirit allowed for her to start her own fin-tech company. Her passions lie in problem solving, growth, and travel.

5 Ways Your Startup Can Prepare for the Winter Holiday Shopping Season