If October was the New December last year, then September is the New December this year as supply chain issues continue to plague the industry. Which means: Now is the time to get ready! Welcome to the Holiday Season! Here’s a Top 10 4th Quarter (Q4) checklist of simple ways to start preparing for the holidays.
1. Be E-commerce Ready
Watch for e-commerce fraud
- Check ABA’s Fraud Report prior to processing orders to see recent suspicious activity reported from other stores as well as updates regarding the types of recent red flags to watch for. (This list can be helpful regardless of whether you use IndieCommerce or IndieLite.)
- Report suspected fraud to email@example.com with “Fraud Order” in the subject line. If you’re an IndieCommerce or IndieLite store, please also include the order number in your email.
- Review fraud red flags with staff. Examples include same phone number for ship to and bill to when the names and addresses are different, orders over $200 (if that’s unusual for you store), and multiple orders. When in doubt, call the phone numbers to confirm; fraudulent customers will often use disconnected phone numbers or won’t return your call.
Review your website
- Make sure you have all the right content, hours, contact information, etc.
- Check your website on mobile devices to make sure everything looks correct.
- Experience the checkout flow as a customer. This will help you determine if there are any issues with the process. You may have inadvertently enabled or disabled a setting that hinders the checkout flow, or maybe your checkout panes are outdated. For example, maybe you no longer offer a coupon so you no longer need the coupon pane. Confirm that the email confirmations you send customers still have accurate information like your correct hours.
For IndieCommerce and IndieLite stores:
Know IndieCommerce help procedures and have them posted:
- Monday – Friday, 8:00 am to 8:00 pm EST: Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
- For “After Hours” Emergencies:
- Know IndieCommerce help procedures and have them posted:
2. Know Your Customers
- Plan a special shopping hour or evening for your best customers early in the season to thank them for their business and jumpstart their holiday shopping — and your cash flow.
- Reach out to your Bookshop customers to remind them to do their holiday shopping on your Bookshop page or store website. To access your Bookshop customer report, log on to your affiliate account, go to your Affiliate Dashboard, click on “Reports,” then click on “Create Report.” Click the date range you want (We recommend going back to the beginning!) through today and be sure and click “Include Customer Data.”
3. Be Internet Ready
- Some basic SEO moves can go a long way: Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and paid Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
- Make sure your local business listings on Google, Bing, Yahoo, Yelp, Facebook, Nextdoor, and online Yellow Pages are all updated and accurate. Be sure your address is consistent everywhere: If you use St on one, use St on all; consistency helps keep you ranked higher in internet searches. Include photos when possible!
- Add your store to Google Maps.
- Make sure people can immediately find your phone number, address, hours, and COVID protocol when they go to your website.
- Confirm that your IndieBound Store Finder information and links are correct. If not, please notify email@example.com.
- Make sure your website tells your story. Whether you use your “About Us” section, “Contact Us” section, or another space on your site, be sure and tell your store’s story in a few sentences. Think of it as a pitch to customers and the press. What makes your store special? Maybe it’s the year you were founded — 100 years ago, or during the pandemic. Do you want to share how the store owner identifies? Is this a Black-owned and/or Veteran-owned business, for example? Is your store a family business? An employee-owned business? A co-op model? Do you have a bookmobile, a pop-up, or a specialty? Did you return to your hometown to pursue your dream of opening a bookstore? Are you a bookseller who bought the bookstore where you worked? Did you change careers during the pandemic or the Great Resignation? Are you a children’s bookstore that is passionate about literacy? Do you have a store cat, hamster, turtle, or ghost? Customers want to know your story and the press is always looking for a good one! (ABA uses this information when contacted by the media too!)
4. Be Bookshop Ready
- Sign up for the profit-share pool money: 10% of regular/non-bookstore sales on Bookshop.org are added to an earnings pool that is evenly divided and distributed to ABA physical (brick and mortar, pop-up, and mobile) independent bookstores every six months. Contact Sarah or Justin at Bookshop to opt-in.
- Set up an affiliate page. Whether you use Bookshop as an extension of your store, want to reach new customers, or just need a backup way to fulfill orders, Bookshop can be valuable to your store. As an affiliate, your store will be added to Bookshop’s bookstore finder map (1,000 people a day use Bookshop’s store finder to discover indie bookstores), you’ll receive a 30% commission on any sales generated from your page, and you’ll receive customer data that you can use to market your store and/or your stores’ website to your Bookshop customers.
- Refresh your Bookshop page and/or review Bookshop’s Best Practices for Booksellers to position your Bookshop affiliate page for success.
- Contact Sarah or Justin at Bookshop with any questions.
5. Be Financially Prepared
- Give your credit card processor a heads up about volume. Sudden spikes in demand can flag your account for suspicion of fraud. Communicate with your credit card processor about your forecast for Q4 and again if extenuating circumstances occur during the season. Communication will help you avoid having funds withheld or your e-commerce shut down during the busy season.
- Re-negotiate your credit card processor agreement. Now may be a good time for a discussion with your credit card processor about improving your rates, either long-term or in anticipation of higher Q4 sales volume. (ABA’s partnership with Gravity is worth checking out on the Bookweb Business Services page.)
Communicate with publishers and wholesalers early.
- Make sure you are in good standing to keep receiving books for Q4.
- Make sure your credit limit is high enough going into the season.
- Let publishers and wholesalers know if you’re anticipating certain titles being hot titles.
- If you get behind on payments at any point, communicate! Communication will go a long way toward building trust and keeping the flow of books going while you catch up.
6. Support Your Staff
- Onboard new booksellers to the industry with ABA’s Welcome to Bookselling Onboarding Resource.
Hold a staff meeting to:
- Check in with everyone. See how they’re feeling about the upcoming season and what their concerns, ideas, and questions are.
- Share the store goals for Q4
- Discuss/train/role play around deescalation, being an ally, and other frontline bookselling priorities.
Schedule one-on-one meetings to:
- Check in with everyone. See how they’re feeling about the upcoming season and what their concerns, ideas, and questions are and what support they need. You may get different answers in the one-on-ones than you do in the group meeting.
- Share mental health and other support:
7. Order Early!
- Every supply chain will be disrupted for Q4. Anticipate your need for gift cards, bags, register supplies, shipping supplies, etc., and order early.
- Order titles and non-book gift items that you’re prioritizing and promoting for the holiday season early! If storage is an issue, ask about the possibility of staggered shipments.
- Check BTW on 9/7 for Indies First publisher discounts to support your holiday orders for Indies First/Small Business Saturday and University Press Week!
8. Be Ready to Ship
- Enroll in the ABA Shipping Program, managed by PartnerShip, to save on FedEx Express and FedEx Ground. If you’re not part of PartnerShip, re-negotiate your FedEx and/or UPS rates annually.
- Order these great boxes to ship customer orders!
9. Market Your Store
- Utilize ABA’s turnkey Fall Marketing Campaign assets — Good Books Come to Those Who Shop Early — to jumpstart your holiday season and remind customers to shop early.
- Watch ABA’s Marketing Calendar for Holidays & Observances for opportunities to engage with your customers on social media.
- Use video on social media to re-engage customers who haven’t been in your store since before the pandemic. A simple video showing the inside of your store will make people less anxious about the “unknowns” surrounding returning to in-person shopping and will remind them how much they miss you!
- Even the simplest BookTok and Instagram videos can drive sales and remind followers to visit your store during the holidays. Even if you don’t share videos on social media, displays featuring books featured on BookTok and Instagram drive sales too.
10. Consider the Small Things with Big Impact
- Can you make customer shipments feel special when they arrive on the other end? A sticker. A handwritten note. Anything will be more than what Amazon is doing and will remind customers of the personal relationship and history with your store that they value.
- Walk through your store and make sure that everything is in working order before the busy season starts. Burned out lightbulbs, broken receipt printers, tattered shelftalkers — now’s the time to prepare for holiday company and make the store look and run its best.
- Think about whether your store hours need to change for the holiday season to maximize sales opportunities, optimize distribution of payroll, respond to the new pandemic shopping habits, and support your staff.
- Take a vacation now. Have your staff take vacations now. Staffing is a challenge for many stores right now, but it will only get more challenging once the holiday season hits. Take the opportunity for a break for you and your team now — even if it means closing early or opening late to ensure coverage — before things get busy.