Prepare your business for the holiday rush

By: Aparna Khurjekar
Chief Revenue Officer Business Markets and SaaS for Verizon Business

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The holiday season presents a golden opportunity for small and midsize businesses (SMBs) to thrive, but is also accompanied by a unique set of challenges. These challenges include scaling operations, streamlining order fulfillment, and securing payment processes. With strategic planning and foresight, SMBs can navigate these obstacles to capitalize on the surge in consumer activity. Here are a few things SMB business owners can do to increase their sales this holiday season.

Boost your Digital Presence by Upgrading Internet Bandwidth

Imagine your business as a bustling digital marketplace. Consumers are predominantly online, as are your competitors. The shift to online commerce, a trend on the rise for years, hit warp speed during the pandemic and it is here to stay according to Verizon Business’ 2023 State of Small Business Survey. The survey highlights a significant digital pivot - more than a quarter of small and midsize businesses (27%) upgraded their internet connection bandwidth in an apparent response to stay-at-home orders, a necessity when your storefront goes virtual as customers stay indoors.

But this wasn’t just a temporary fix. Even as the economy reopened, more than half of businesses continued to upgrade their bandwidth. A striking increase in bandwidth upgrades continued annually - 52% in 2021, 51% in 2022 and 53% in 2023. This trend helps paint a clear picture: to thrive in today’s digital marketplace, businesses must have robust internet bandwidth, particularly during the holiday frenzy when every transaction counts. Downtime is the unseen “Grinch” - it’s costly and you can’t afford to lose ground to the competition due to inadequate digital infrastructure.

Prioritize Cybersecurity to Protect Your Digital Wonderland

While SMBs have been quick to enhance their digital presence, many lag in fortifying their cyber defenses. According to the State of Small Business report, a mere one in three SMBs have upgraded their cyber defense system, and alarmingly, almost half lack basic employee training in cybersecurity practices. This gap is particularly concerning given the fact that human error plays a role in a vast majority of security breaches.

The holiday season, with its surge in online transactions, can potentially put SMBs front and center for cyber threat actors. Imagine the repercussions if a hacker compromises your payment system or holds your network hostage with ransomware - the damage to your brand and customer trust could be irreparable, especially when you stand to gain (or lose) the most.

Protective Steps to Secure Your Business

Thankfully, there are actionable steps you can take to fortify your cyber defenses. Training your employees to recognize and avoid common cyber threats, such as phishing and pretexting, is crucial. Your employees are often the first line of defense against cyberattacks, and educating them can significantly reduce the risk of breaches.

However, training alone won’t keep your data and systems safe. For small businesses without the resources for dedicated security teams, managed services offer a viable solution. They can automate threat detection and perimeter protection, providing a robust shield against potential cyber threats. You need to invest in threat detection and perimeter protection solutions in order to help thwart cyberattacks and prevent incidents from becoming full-scale breaches.

Leveraging Social Media Marketing

One way to increase your visibility throughout the year and especially during the holiday season is through social media marketing. More than three out of four SMBs (77%) are planning to use social media marketing to increase customer engagement and online traffic. This can be an effective way to boost your online presence, but it’s also time-consuming and requires a certain familiarity with social media platforms and best practices. For that reason, many small business owners express an interest in free social media marketing courses (69%) and the opportunity to speak with e-commerce experts (61%).

The Holiday Balance: Time vs. Money

For many business owners, preparing for the holiday rush is a delicate balance between time and finances. You may be able to build up on cybersecurity best practices in order to train your employees, but do you have the time? If your workforce isn’t large enough to cope with the swells of traffic you’ll see over the holidays, can you afford to hire seasonal employees? The holiday season demands extra capacity to manage increased activity, enhanced security against heightened cyber threats, and creative ways to stand out. How you balance these aspects can be critical to your success.

As we head into the holiday season, SMBs are reminded that success isn’t just about seizing opportunities - it’s also about safeguarding the business against potential threats and strategically utilizing resources. It’s important to find ways to remain agile, and identify the areas that drive key success metrics, such as avoiding downtime by bolstering cybersecurity efforts. Proper planning and small strategic steps can lead to a joyous holiday season.

About the author:

Aparna serves as Chief Revenue Officer for Verizon Business Markets and SaaS. In this role, she is responsible for the strategy to accelerate 5G growth, new products, go-to-market operations for the company’s small and mid-market wireless & wireline offerings, Verizon Connect and BlueJeans by Verizon. Her P&L ownership for this segment includes the omnichannel expansion of wireless, wireline & IoT solutions through direct and digital sales and Verizon’s partner networks.

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