How do you prepare your small business for peak times?

It’s common for businesses to experience fluctuations in traffic and sales. These variations could be on a daily scale - bars are obviously likely to be busiest after working hours and at the weekends - or at the seasonal level, as many retail stores will know well from the various holiday seasons throughout the year.

Peak times are part and parcel of most businesses, but how you handle them can play an important part in your company’s success. Prepare well, and you can reap the rewards of a busy season. Poor preparation, however, can cost you sales, loyalty, and reputation.

It pays to be ready. E-commerce businesses perhaps illustrate the point most clearly - three quarters of online customers will choose a competitor instead of waiting out slow sites during peak times - so making sure your business is running smoothly during peak times is an investment that begins with knowing when you are at your busiest.

Make smart predictions based on sales data

Your inventory management and sales records are invaluable for helping your forecast future demand. Whether you have a smart, automated tool or a manual system, see what insights you can dig up from the data. Are there peaks or trends across days, weeks, or months? When are your busiest times and when are the quietest? You’ll want to both of these, as downtime can be as important.

It’s possible you’ll uncover trends that may not have immediately-obvious causes. Consider who these customers are on what could be going on in their personal and professional calendars. It’s common to see B2B spending increase towards the end of the financial year as budget-holders race to spend surpluses, while family activities get most traction in the summer months, with August being the most popular time to travel.

Factor in your own promotional efforts

While the decision-making behind when you should focus your marketing efforts could be a post in itself, whenever you are running campaigns, estimate the impact they will have. Are there certain products that you’re advertising to draw in customers? If so, make sure you have the supply to match the demand, from stock to shifts.

Use quiet times to prepare your business

Knowing when things will settle down is just as crucial as knowing when you’ll be rushed off your feet. Instead of employees twiddling their thumbs, look ahead to the next expected peak and work out what you can do now to prepare for it. The lead times of your products will be a definite consideration here. You may want to consider ordering and arranging extra stock or adjusting your store layout to accommodate different products and more people.

Another good downtime tactic is to contact existing customers to give them the opportunity to place advance orders. This not only improves the accuracy of your estimates and lets you relieve some of the traffic you’d otherwise receive later, but it can also secure you additional capital that you may need to raise stock levels or make improvements.

If you rely on internet traffic, page loading times are a key part of the user experience and the first hurdle you don’t want your business to fail. Google’s PageSpeed Insights can help identify any problem areas. The financial fallout of a slow site during peak hours may well justify upgrading your hosting or optimising your site for speed, especially on mobile, where customers expect and demand instant interactions.

Consider extra cover for peak periods

Increased workloads can mean your business is unprepared to handle the demand. It’s common for many businesses, especially in retail and hospitality, to hire seasonal staff to alleviate the strain of the busy seasons. Before bringing in new faces, prepare your existing employees for the new arrivals and the added stress of busy periods; it’s important to maintain a positive work environment so customer experiences don’t worsen just because you’re busy.

Adding employees to your roster who have the versatility to fulfill multiple roles is a great way to ensure cover even through cancellations and missed shifts. Adding these extra employees to seasonal or peak shifts on your rota using Findmyshift is a simple way to manage your expanded workforce and account for the extra engagement you’ll see.

We wish your business every success through the quiet and busy times!

About the author

Jake Waller is a wordsmith who plies his trade here at Findmyshift. He uses his background in engineering to simplify complex topics for a variety of tech firms. When not writing for Findmyshift he blogs under a pseudonym at My Name is Skylance and has a passion for creative writing and editing, about which he's always talking on Twitter.