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Small Business Center

Elevate Your Small Business Saturday Game

October 18, 2023

Falling on the first Saturday after Thanksgiving each year, Small Business Saturday supports and celebrates small business owners, and it serves as the most significant shopping day of the year for small business owners. According to American Express, U.S. consumers spent $17.9 billion on Small Business Saturday last year. This year, Small Business Saturday falls on Nov. 25, and it’s never too early to prepare. Jacqueline Synder — founder and CEO of The Product Boss, a platform offering podcasts, courses and coaching to assist product-based small businesses — shares key suggestions.

Start Early

Begin planning for well in advance. “By October, Christmas is already hitting the stores,” Snyder explained. Well before Small Business Saturday rolls around, stock up on your popular products, secure extra help for the weekend and make sure your marketing materials are good to go. If you’re looking for inspiration, American Express offers free Small Business Saturday marketing materials, including sample posters and social media posts.

Ensure You Have an Active Email List

“I see businesses underutilizing building email lists,” Snyder said. Email, more than other marketing channels, provides a direct means of communication with your audience. Snyder recommended a well-defined plan for the content you intend to deliver. For example, consider whether you’ll offer special promotions or discounts for Small Business Saturday, adjust your store hours or partner with charities or other businesses for joint sales.

As Small Business Saturday approaches, Snyder suggested, send “more emails than you might initially feel comfortable with.” She recommended daily or even twice a day. There’s no reason to be anxious about people unsubscribing, she said. You won’t lose your most devoted followers. “Target understands this well,” said Snyder. “They will blast you with a bunch of emails because they only want people on their email list that really want what they have to sell.” If your customers feel inundated with emails, they likely will just engage with your brand through other channels, she added.

Make It Easy for Customers to Shop at Your Store

At the end of the day, a lot of customers just want to be told what to buy, Snyder said. “Think about it. How often do you go to a restaurant and ask the waiter what they recommend?” Many don’t want the stress of making decisions themselves, especially during such a frenzied time when they have a lot of gifts to buy. The easier you make things for them, the more likely they are to shop with you. That means that “if you’ve got a retail shop, you want to put front and center the items you want them to buy,” Snyder said. One way to highlight the items you hope will sell well is to put signs in front of them, notifying something like “customer favorite” or “grandparents love to gift these to their grandchildren.” A special sale on that item for the day might seal the deal.

Collaborate and Partner

Partner with other businesses, especially those that align with your target audience, to expand your reach and attract more customers on social media and marketing. “A lot of times, small businesses don’t have the funds for massive ads and outreach to customers, so whenever you can get in front of another person’s audience, the better,” Snyder said.

When looking to partner with another small business on a campaign or a joint sale in which customers receive exclusive discounts for shopping at both stores, make sure the other business’ audience and customer is the same as yours. Also “make sure your price points are aligned,” she said. “If you specialize in selling $1,000 items while someone else is selling a $50 product, then you have totally different customers,” even if you both target, say, parents. One idea for stores with similar customer profiles: A gift or discount for customers that shop at all the businesses featured on a punch card. That approach fosters community engagement and loyalty.

Give Customers a Reason to Come to Your Store

Small Business Saturday can be competitive. Give people reasons to come to your store, Snyder said. “Don’t passively sit back and think people are just going to come. This is not Field of Dreams.” Consider an artist demonstration, a product launch event or a one-day-only sale. And give your email recipients and social media followers a direct call to action. “Just like people want you tell them what to buy, they also want you to tell them what to do,” Snyder said. “So say to them: ‘Come visit us on Saturday,’ and give them an offer for being there.” The worst thing you can do, Snyder said, is “to just sit there and be like: ‘The doors are open. I hope someone walks through them.’”

Stay Open Later

Extend your store hours on Small Business Saturday to accommodate different shopping preferences. You want to capture both the early birds and late-night shoppers. Additionally, explore the possibility of coordinating hours with neighbor businesses to attract a broader audience from the local community. If a popular event, such as a downtown tree lighting, coincides with Small Business Saturday, consider offering incentives like exclusive sales or complimentary hot chocolate to entice attendees to visit your store afterward, Snyder said. Also make sure to communicate these extended hours to your customers through various channels.

Offer Virtual Shopping

Explore virtual shopping experiences for those who prefer to shop from the comfort of their homes. Consider hosting live video sessions where you showcase products, answer questions and provide recommendations and allow customers to participate in real time or watch later, Snyder said. If you offer online ordering, ensure a smooth and secure experience with multiple payment options and easy checkout.

Consider Ways to Address Your Customers’ Needs

Contemplate how you can provide solutions for your customers’ most significant challenges. “What are the biggest pain points you can solve for them? What are things that you can do to help them and simplify their lives?” Snyder asked. For example, complimentary gift wrapping or free shipping can enhance convenience, and complimentary snacks can keep their blood sugar up, she said. The ultimate objective is to encourage them to return, and a superior customer experience is key to achieving this goal. “If you exceed their expectations, they are going to stay loyal to you as a customer,” Snyder said.

MORE FROM THE ICSC SMALL BUSINESS CENTER: 5 Ideas to Make Small Business Saturday Your Day

By Rebecca Meiser

Contributor, Commerce + Communities Today and Small Business Center


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