Small Business Saturday® can be a banner day for your business each year. Tucked between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, the Saturday after Thanksgiving is set aside to celebrate local small businesses in the United States and encourage consumers to support them all year long.
American Express launched the shopping holiday in 2010 when small businesses were struggling from an economy in recession. In 2011, the Shop Small® movement grew, with local officials promoting Small Business Saturday and the U.S. Senate passing a resolution in support of the day.
According to American Express and the National Federation of Independent Businesses, on Small Business Saturday 2017, 43 percent — about four in ten Americans — either shopped or dined locally that day. The purchases made by those 108 million shoppers totaled $12.9 billion, and 90 percent of consumers believe that Small Business Saturday has a positive impact on their communities.1
Here are seven things you can do in the days and weeks leading up to Small Business Saturday that can help make a positive impact on your business and your community.
1. Elevate your digital presence
Even if you don’t use your small business website for e-commerce, brick-and-mortar businesses can still leverage their web presence on Small Business Saturday. Make sure people browsing online can easily find your business hours and contact information, so they know when they can stop by your store.
Don’t take it for granted that all of your digital information is correct — small business owners are busy people and things like updating hours of operation for a special shopping event may slip through the cracks.
Make sure you’re ready for customers who shop small online by updating your website to reflect the latest promotions. It’s also an excellent time to make changes that will make your website easier to navigate and more user-friendly whether customers are shopping from their PCs, tablets or smartphones. Don’t let a cumbersome website turn off enthusiastic online holiday shoppers.
You’ll want to update your information on Google My Business, so people using Google search will instantly find your address, phone number, hours of operation, and other useful details. You may also want to enable messaging so customers can send inquiries directly to your phone.
In addition to Google, Yelp is another trendy search tool consumers use to search for local businesses. Therefore, you’ll want to make sure you’ve claimed your business on Yelp and update all applicable company information. Moreover, since both Google and Yelp allow you to add images and video, you may want to include something with a holiday feel.
Lastly, you can write a Small Business Saturday blog post about your town and use it as part of your inbound marketing campaign. This initiative can increase organic traffic to your website — which can lead to an increase of foot traffic in your storefront.
2. Create a buzz on social media
For any small business owner that wants to reach the masses, social media is your go-to resource. One out of three internet users say they visit social networks when looking for more information about a company or brand.
With more and more consumers turning to social media to research businesses, find product information and read customer reviews, you’ll want to make sure your social pages and profiles are up to date.
Not only do you want to ensure your fundamental business information is current, but you’ll also want to have fresh posts and images. You can create a social media content calendar leading up to Small Business Saturday to help generate excitement and let followers know you’re a participating merchant.
When you post, use hashtags including #SmallBusinessSaturday, #SmallBIzSat, and #ShopSmall to help increase visibility. You may also want to create a custom hashtag to build engagement and prompt clientele to share photos and impressions of your holiday event using the unique hashtag.
3. Traditional advertising isn’t dead
Although social channels are popular, that doesn’t mean traditional advertising is dead. Even if you have a limited budget, Small Business Saturday is an event that merits an advertising investment. Get the word out in local newspapers, on radio and television. Media companies often have packages that make advertising more affordable for small business, so look into your local options.
You may also want to look into posting signage around your neighborhood or look into billboard advertising in a highly visible location. These tactics will help reach your local audience when they pass by during their daily commute.
Lastly, don’t discount the power of one-page flyers and brochures. Partner with other local businesses that are willing to keep your business’ marketing material by their cash registers for customers to see.
4. Take advantage of free resources and partnerships
Speaking of partnerships, American Express continues to be a leading partner of small businesses and offers a variety of resources that you can download and use to let your customers know you plan to participate in Small Business Saturday to kick off the holiday shopping season.
Some resources from American Express include customizable materials, an event planning checklist and an event flyer template, as well as ideas and how-to-videos to inspire creative ways for you to do your part to keep America shopping small.
You can also find resources from the U.S. Small Business Administration including advice on marketing on a small budget and how to maximize return on a holiday event.
One of the great things about Small Business Saturday is that you aren’t going at it alone. By partnering with other businesses in your area, you can multiply your marketing reach, develop effective cross-promotions, and build a strong sense of community that your customers will appreciate.
Contact your local chamber of commerce or business association to make the connections you need and find out about local promotional opportunities. You may also be able to find online groups that can provide advice and inspiration.
5. Base decisions on historical data
If this is your first Small Business Saturday as a business owner, this section won’t apply to you for this year. However, it’s worth reading to keep in mind for next year and beyond.
There’s no doubt your point of sale system is an integral part of your retail enterprise. From ringing up sales to tracking inventory, labor costs, and your most loyal customers, a POS system is a must-have for any brick-and-mortar business — especially a retail store.
Not only does your POS system help you manage your day-to-day operations, but it also provides a wealth of historical data and reporting features to help you make smarter, data-driven decisions. Case in point, what is a key factor in forecasting sales revenue? Bingo, historical data!
As you prepare for Small Business Saturday this year, look back at reports from previous years to help make those projections. Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- What was your sales revenue?
- What inventory items were the hot products that year? Are these products still popular or has the fad faded?
- How much did you spend on inventory preparing for Small Business Saturday?
- Did you add additional employees over this time? How much did labor costs increase?
- What was your busiest time of day?
Answering these questions will help you get an idea of budgeting and set benchmarks for this year’s event. For instance, historical data can show you when to schedule staff, so your customers have the assistance if they need it, and sales associates aren’t standing around during slower times.
POS reports can also help you more accurately project sales volume, and what will be this year’s hot items, so you can be sure to have the right products in stock and the right quantities on hand.
6. Support local charities or non-profits
As shoppers are out in masses supporting your small business, it’s a great time to show your support for the local community and give back. Take the opportunity and partner with a local charity or local chapter of a national organization by donating a portion of your Saturday profits to the cause. You can even take it a step further by inviting representatives from the group to be on-site to raise awareness and provide more information about the initiative.
A good approach is to choose a charity that’s close to your heart or has a strong connection to the community. For example, maybe the Alzheimer’s charity is meaningful to you because people you know are affected by the disease. Coincidently, November is also Alzheimer’s awareness month. Alternatively, maybe someone right in your community is suffering a hardship, and you want to lend a helping hand.
Whatever you decide, you can never go wrong when you pay it forward, and chances are local shoppers will remember your community spirit and generosity long past November.
7. Remember, pricing isn’t everything
Lastly, one area where you don’t want to be too generous is pricing. As a draw to get more people through your doors, it’s tempting to slash prices as big-box retailers do on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
However, extreme discounts won’t benefit your bottom line, and it’s probably not the reason customers are shopping at your store in the first place. With 86 percent of buyers willing to pay more for a better customer experience, it proves low prices aren’t everything.
Instead of slashing prices (and your profits), put a premium on great customer experiences, friendly face-to-face customer engagement, and exceptional in-store service. You can also use non-monetary incentives like prize drawings or extra loyalty reward points.
The Final Word
While you are planning a Small Business Saturday strategy that will help you maximize foot traffic and revenues, don’t lose sight of the fact that it’s also the perfect opportunity to reconnect with your customers and neighbors. Maintaining those relationships can have a big influence on customer loyalty.
Small Business Saturday can have a “homecoming” feeling as consumers visit their favorite local shops and restaurants and catch up with the small business owners that play a big part in their communities. It’s your big day, celebrate it!
1Estimated based on projections from nationally representative sample of adult consumers’ self-reported data from a 2017 American Express and NFIB-commissioned survey.