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It’s that time of year again—the run-up to the long holiday season. As pet businesses start to think about their holiday deals and marketing campaigns, they also have to consider COVID-19’s potential resurgence.

According to the Chamber of Commerce’s Small Business Coronavirus Impact Poll, 65 percent of small businesses are concerned about having to close again, or stay closed, if there is a second wave of COVID-19.

That said, the holidays are historically big drivers for revenue, so how can business owners proceed with caution without sacrificing a much-needed opportunity to fuel business?

Pet business owners can win in both categories with the right preparation and tools. The biggest mistake would be to continue “business as usual,” given tried-and-true strategies are no longer foolproof, and even the most mundane tasks require careful consideration. Instead, pet businesses can continue updating their practices and even experiment with new promotional tactics to achieve safety and success this holiday season.

5 Pandemic-specific Practices

  1. Inform and assure customers. Communication will be vitally important this holiday season. Stores must make sure they let customers know about updated hours of operation, new procedures, cleaning protocols, touchless payments, curbside pickups or mail order products. Using automated text messages and email marketing can make this process thorough and efficient.
  2. Provide special treatment. Small pet businesses need their loyal customers and recurring business more than ever – so really embrace the “spirit of giving.” Make sure to separate top customers and let them know they are appreciated with special perks like priority rebooking or early access to specials. Going the extra mile to reward loyal customers will encourage their business all holiday season long.
  3. Don’t overdo the discounts. The one caveat to the spirit of giving: don’t give away too much! After having lost revenue for so long, many pet businesses want to draw in as many customers as possible, especially with the enticement of a discount. However, with demand for catch-up services still high from closures, businesses should focus on getting the most revenue they can to cover additional costs while continuing to make up for lost income. You can’t discount your way to profitability.
  4. Champion your employees. Holiday season is always hectic, but employees will be working harder than ever as pet businesses offer longer hours, require new procedures and manage newly demanding customers. Employee burnout may happen, so keep an eye out for it. In return, business owners might consider staff bonuses for any additional duties, “hazard pay” or a small stipend as a “thank you.”
  5. Keep a close eye on employee health. Employees’ physical health must be considered in addition to mental wellness. Small businesses should screen staffers for illness on a regular basis. If employees have a temperature, they could be exposing other members of the team or customers to illness. Owners must do everything in their power to avoid becoming a hotspot for seasonal flu or COVID-19 resurgence.

5 Ideas to Drive Business

  1. Offer recurring memberships or discounted packages. Holiday revenue doesn’t have to be one-and-done. Create passive recurring income by offering value-added memberships or service packages to loyal customers. If you had clients who bought gift cards to support you while doors were shut, invite them to a “premier club” that offers a discount for a card kept on file. Or, offer discounted packages, such as a fixed rate for the next five baths.
  2. Try a referral program. As people pick back up their shopping habits, many are discussing their service providers and how they handled recent challenges. Pet business owners should incentivize their clients to refer friends to receive a discount/gift if that referral becomes a new customer. This type of program not only rewards current customers, but also helps earn new ones.
  3. Kickstart a social media campaign. Social media can be a powerful business tool when wielded thoughtfully. Consider starting a social media campaign that encourages clients to post photos of your work and to tag your business. Give the campaign a holiday theme! This will provide social proof that your clients are “speaking for you,” and will engender a stronger bond with your best clients.
  4. Consider a “COVID-19 fee” to every ticket. Pet businesses must account for the additional costs that come with reopening and making a safe space for customers – from needing to provide masks and disposable aprons, to taking an extra 15 minutes to wipe down workspaces between appointments. These costs add up, and most customers understand this. By attaching a small COVID-19 surcharge as a line item, pet businesses share this burden with the consumer with full transparency. This is better than simply marking up the cost of a haircut, because the fee will be removed once it’s no longer necessary, and your pricing can return to normal.
  5. Hire seasonal staffer. Having more hands on deck this holiday season may be smart – someone whose sole responsibility is to clean the shop, or check people in. That way, the rest of the team can stay focused on their core tasks and on delivering the client service that can make or break customer loyalty.

The pandemic has not put the holidays on pause. With the right preparation and tools, small pet businesses can drive digital communication, contactless payments and rewards programs that forge client relationships and strengthen customer loyalty when it’s needed most.

 

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