The Holiday shopping season is roaring towards us at full speed. Is your business prepared to handle the pressure? It is never too early to start preparing for the “most wonderful time of the year”.

Summer is just behind us and the holiday season is peering around the corner, this shoulder season is the perfect time to take a deep breath and make sure that your business is in shape for the holiday marathon. You’re probably hiring extra staff, beefing up your inventory and stocking your shelves, but have you thought about making sure your payment system, payment options and terminals are ready for the flood?

The coming shopping season brings an influx of in-store and online business as well as more opportunity for fraud. This is a perfect time to make sure that you are set up to receive the extra business, make sure you’re ready for ecommerce payments, mobile ready so your customers can pay however they want and check your fraud prevention measures so you have a smooth and prosperous holiday season.

What does this Holiday season have in store?

Holiday season may be the “most wonderful time of the year”, but it is also the busiest, craziest and most stressful time of the year for many business owners. Consumers will spend about $923.15 billion this holiday season according to eMarketer. Black Friday is historically the biggest shopping day of the year but that doesn’t hold true anymore. Cyber Monday lept into first place last year with $3.39 billion in online sales and almost ⅓, $1.07 billion, being from mobile devices which accounts for a 34% increase from the year before.

10 weeks till Black Friday/Cyber Monday weekend-Is your business mobile ready?

Do you offer traditional brick and mortar sales as well as online sales through your website? Are you set up to accept mobile pay options as well as online purchasing? Is your server ready to handle the spike in traffic? I have one word for you. Millennials. Everyone is constantly talking about Millennials and for good reason. Millennials are the largest generation, they have expendable income, and their habits are shaping the world. Last years holiday season saw an unprecedented $16.63 billion in sales from mobile phones alone during the weeks from Nov 1- Dec 20. That is a decent chunk of the total online, or e-commerce, sales that has no intention of slowing down. In fact, it is estimated that mobile sales will account for 45% of the total $632 billion in e-commerce sales by 2020, according to BI Intelligence. Mobile payments cannot be ignored and the importance of being mobile ready cannot be overstated.

Holiday season is also ripe for ecommerce fraud.

Being the busiest time of the year also means that there is ample opportunity for hackers to capitalize on the situation.  Make sure that your fraud prevention implementations are up to date! It’s one of the simplest things a business can do and the one thing that most proprietors don’t stay on top of. Make sure you are regularly updating your firewalls, utilizing encryption with your servers and monitoring your system on a regular basis.

Always complete your annual PCI Compliance validation. This allows a third party assessor to identify any areas that may have a weakness by performing a reverse scan of the payment environment. Then just be ready to address any known security recommendations they give you.

It is also important to educate your staff on how to recognize potentially fraudulent situations. Train your staff on company policies for fraud and theft. Train them to recognize red flags that might someone is trying to complete a fraudulent transaction.

Take advantage of Chargeback Prevention Solutions available to you. The holidays are ripe with credit card fraud as well as what is called “friendly fraud”. Chargebacks cost businesses about $5 billion a year, not to mention time and the chance of getting your merchant account flagged, considered “high risk” or worse- shut down! True cyber criminals take advantage of this time of year precisely because it is so busy. Businesses don’t have time (they hope) to manage their chargebacks or look for “red flags” in sales. Studies show that 81% of  your very own customers filed a chargeback with their credit card company “simply out of convenience” resulting in what is called “friendly fraud”.  When your customer files a chargeback you lose both the merchandise you gave them and the payment for the item in addition to chargeback fees from the acquiring bank.

But much of this can be mitigated simply by implementing the Chargeback Prevention Solution. Let the system do the work for you. With this service you will be notified any time a customer files a chargeback with their card issuing bank, the bank will allow you a sufficient amount of time to contact the purchaser and attempt to resolve the situation. This gives you the power to handle the return or exchange and create a happy customer and also saves your merchant account from a high chargeback ratio. You save not only your profits but a happy customer.

Dial in your gift card program. What? You don’t have a gift card program?

Holidays are the perfect time to start a gift card program if you don’t already have one. We wrote an entire article here on how gift cards will benefit your business as well as help you increase your clientele and boost profits. It is the holiday season and that means that half of all gift card sales will occur in the next 60 days (about $50 billion dollars). Tempt your customers to buy their gift cards presents specifically for your store. Why would they give a generic Visa gift card when they could give a more personal one? Use them to encourage your customers to do more holiday shopping with you- offer a $10 gift card when they come in and spend $50, and so on. But, gift cards are also a nice way to thank your current clients or customers for their patronage. And it’s a nice holiday surprise for them!

Show me the money! Give your credit card processing a tune-up.

The last thing you might be thinking about right now is calling your merchant service provider, but it is exactly what you should be doing! Don’t wait until your sales are going through the roof to find out you don’t have what you need, can’t handle the inundation, or just plain can’t offer your patrons what they want. Set yourself up for success from the beginning by planning ahead. Whether you want to make sure you can take all kinds of payment types, order your gift cards or just make sure your system is as secure as it can be, plan ahead and call today. Your customers want to have a seamless buying experience and Bankcard Brokers wants to help you make that happen for them and for your business. We can help make sure that everyone has a smooth and wonderful holiday season.

Remember, it is only 10 weeks till Black Friday!