Christmas is nearly upon us, but is your website ready to make the most of it? In fact, let’s go one step further: are is your website, social media and IT systems all singing the same song?

Preparation and a co-ordinated set up is essential if you’re going to make the most out of any uplift in customer attention and desire to buy from small businesses instead of the big brands.

You can have a killer website but if your social media channels aren’t up-to-date too then you’ll look behind the times and disorganised.  If your IT systems that enable you to take, process, and dispatch orders aren’t up to scratch, then any online sales you do make might go to waste.

The web is available 24/7/365 – this is as level a playing field as it gets for small business, especially when advertising and marketing budgets don’t match those of the large and well established brands.

Customers can be fickle and have short attention spans too, hopping from website to website in a matter of seconds if they don’t see what they’re looking for. This is the same for all businesses, but it underlines the importance of having everything ready, up to date and aligned.

Here are four things you can do to make the most of the holiday season for your small business online:

1. Have a dedicated webpage and keep it live all year round
Have a dedicated web page on your site for popular sales events like Small Business Saturday, Black Friday and Cyber Monday... and keep it live all year round! That might sound counter-intuitive when we’re only talking about one day in the year, but there’s a very good reason you should do this. Once a web page is live it’s far easier to manage: the basic structure can stay the same even if the copy and imagery change. Plus, people don’t always follow the rules when it comes to searching for offers and deals online - they’ll start searching for them whenever the mood takes them, wherever they happen to be. As recent research reveals, when people start looking for information about a purchase, they could be doing it using a mobile on the train, a desktop PC at work, or a tablet when they’re snuggled up in bed.

For example, If they start searching for details about Small Business Saturday in September and October - as Google search data shows - then having your web page already live will allow people to find you. Currys use this tactic with their Black Friday web page.

If you take down your page after the event, then search engines won’t be able to show it to customers whenever they start searching for it next year. They’ll draw a blank and you’ll be starting from square one all over again. Why shoot yourself in the foot? Competition for online orders is tough enough as it is.

2. Facebook is a great starting point for a conversation
“Like” it or not, Facebook is a force to be reckoned with. 84% of internet users between the age of 35-44 are on at least one Facebook service, meaning Facebook, Facebook Messenger, Instagram or WhatsApp. That figure goes up to a whopping 90% for 16-24 year-olds. This is where your customers - existing and future - are likely to be spending a lot of their social media time, so if you’re not on there, they won’t see you.

Make sure you’ve set up a Facebook business page. They won’t want to see a constant stream of sales related messages though. Imagine your business page to be a little bit like your personal Facebook page: it should express the everyday goings on and personality of your business. And in between those posts, you can publish business event or sales related messages. If you’re short on ideas, have a look at how other small businesses have used Facebook to grow their business.

3. Make sure your IT system is safe and secure
If it’s the one day in the year you definitely don’t want to be hacked it’s when you’ve just taken a large number of online orders. We can all remember the Ashley Madison scandal and countless other big brands being hacked and losing customer data over the years. A survey of UK businesses conducted this year also reveals nearly nine out of 10 large businesses said they had suffered some form of information security breach in the last year. Don’t be fooled into thinking it can’t happen to a small business. Hackers - and the viruses they release into the world - will target anyone they think might have weak website security.

4. Ask the experts
If you are concerned your ecommerce and supporting IT system aren’t as secure or co-ordinated as they could be, ask for help. There’s a whole host of free resources for small businesses all over the web to help you understand how healthy and secure your IT system is. For example, AVG’s free IT Security Health Check is a good place to start if you’re not an expert with little time on your hands. It’s short and sweet and offers straightforward tips for how to improve your IT security. The UK government is also offering Innovation Vouchers worth £5,000. These can be used to pay for advice which will help protect and grow your business by having good cyber security in place.


At the end of the day

Gearing up your website, social media and IT systems to make the most out of the holidays is only half the battle. Making sure they stay safe and secure, and continue to serve you and your customers well, is the other half.