Since 2010, Small Business Saturday has rallied small businesses as an alternative to the big, corporate Black Friday. According to data from American Express and the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), an estimated 95 million Americans went out dining and shopping during the 2015 Small Business Saturday. At independent retailers and restaurants on that day, consumers spent $16.2 billion, up 14% from $14.3 billion in 2014.
Of course, you may be wondering how to make the most out of the upcoming shopping holiday. So, that’s why we’ve put together some specific tasks to help you gear up for the days preceding November 26, as well as some action items to keep in mind on the day of Small Business Saturday itself.
1. Remind your customers about Small Business Saturday
Over the years, Small Business Saturday has gathered the support of private and public organizations. In 2015, this shopping holiday received a big bump from the public support of President Barack Obama (on that day, he bought nine books from a local D.C. bookstore and grabbed some ice cream with his family at local shop). Many other politicians, athletes, and celebrities visit small and independently owned small businesses on this day.
Despite the rising popularity of the event, only 55% of Americans are aware of Small Business Saturday! Inform your customers that your store is taking part of an important event this November 26th.
2. Update your website and online presences
If you haven’t updated your site or social media presences in a while, this is a great opportunity to do so and create content for the next couple of weeks.
Use the Shop Small branded images to refresh your site and use the hashtags #ShopSmall and #SmallBizSat on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. According to American Express, more than 241,000 posts appeared on these three social networks throughout November 2015, with about 41% of them taking place on the actual holiday.
By using these hashtags, you have a chance of catching the eye of customers interested in supporting more local small businesses, representatives of your local Small Business Administration office, and reporters looking for small businesses participating on the event. For example, CBS already released a list of places to shop and dine in New York City and Miami during Small Business Saturday. Landing a spot on such a list could be free publicity for your business!
3. Provide a Small Business Saturday incentive
Money talks and it does loudly! Depending on your sale projections, consider providing a discount to visitors coming to your store or visiting your website on that day. Unlike Black Friday, Small Business Saturday encourages support of local small businesses so you don’t necessarily have to provide a big discount.
To figure out what is a discount that you could comfortably swing on Small Business Saturday, review your cost of goods sold, gross profit, and gross profit margin (and don’t forget to do a break-even analysis to be sure). For an example of this calculation in the fashion industry, review our guide on How to Price Clothing.
Remember to include the details from your Small Business Saturday discount or promo on your website and social media accounts. Do you maintain a list of email subscribers? This would be a great time to inform them about the upcoming incentive. Plan to send an email blast about one week in advance and a second one either the day before or on Small Business Saturday.
4. Inform American Express cardholders of promo
Even when you can’t afford to provide a discount, some of your customers can still get a financial benefit from shopping on Small Business Saturday. If your small business accepts American Express cards, then encourage your American Express cardholders to enroll in the Shop Small initiative to receive two times rewards at qualifying small businesses through December 31, 2016. This can potentially be a driver of additional business on that day. For example, an eligible cardholder could receive an additional 1% cash back or an additional mile per dollar using a qualifying and enrolled American Express credit card.
Here’s what you need to do:
- Check shopsmallnow.americanexpress.com to verify that you’re listed on the Shop Small Map. Only listed small merchants are eligible for this offer. If you’re not listed, contact American Express for more info on how to get listed. Complete this first step before doing any of the steps listed below.
- Learn more about the qualifying American Express cards and other details of the promo. Share this info with your store attendants so they’re ready for potential questions from clients.
- Instruct your employees to inform customers paying with an Amex card about this promo. Your customers will see that you’re looking out for them. This would be a great opportunity to start a conversation with customers and inform them about this and other promos going at your store for the rest of the year.
- Take a look at payment history from your POS software and online store. Find payments done with American Express cards, check for emails provided by those cardholders, and verify whether or not you have permission from those customers to contact them. Prepare an email blast for this group of customers so that they know they’ll be rewarded for shopping at your business.
5. Form partnerships with other nearby small businesses
One reason that Small Business Saturday draws more and more shoppers every year is that it brings the community together. Get in touch with small and independent business owners around you and brainstorm ideas to make the most out of this opportunity and pool marketing resources.
Here are some ideas that you could discuss with your potential business partners:
- Turn it into an event. According to Small Business Saturday Consumer Pulse survey, more than 9 in 10 Americans believe it’s important to support the small businesses they value in their neighborhood. So, why not throw a party on this day? In 2015, the owners of a women’s clothing store, Ginger & Koi, in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii mashed together Black Friday and Small Business Saturday to have a 3-day sales extravaganza. They served coffee and champagne all day, offered door prizes, and gave away a $200 gift certificate through a raffle. When several businesses join forces, the party could be bigger and draw an even bigger crowd.
- Encourage customers to explore the neighborhood. Here are two ideas. First, try a promo such as “spend $X or more at one store and then receive a Y% discount at partner stores with proof of purchase”. Second, pool resources for a big prize. Require customers to complete one activity at each participating business to complete an entry for the prize.
- Leverage social media to showcase the neighborhood. Do many of the customers and business owners use Snapchat? Then, Small Business Saturday is an opportunity to invest in an on-demand Snapchat geofilter. Pick a time range and set a geofence for your geofilter and submit your geofilter and have it reviewed within one business day. Hardcore users of Snapchat will be willing to make the trip to your stores just to be able to use your geofilter. According to one estimate, Snapchat charges about $5 per 20,000 square feet for an on-demand geofilter. One business can pony up the ad budget and another one provide the designer to figure out the geofilter’s design requirements. It only takes one influential Snapchat user to rack up the views and increase the awareness about your neighborhood and its stores.
- Make a big, ongoing event out of it. Submit a temporary street closure application to the appropriate city government office for that day. Depending on the deadline for your city, you may have missed the deadline already but could do this in the near future. For example, on the island of Oahu, small business owners turn part of the Chinatown and Kaimuki neighborhoods into a pedestrian-only zone every First Friday and Third Friday of the month, respectively.
Gathering with your fellow small business owners to hash out some ideas for Small Business Saturdays could be the spark to start off a great tradition, encourage future collaboration, and strengthen ties with the community.
Now it’s your turn! There’s still time to gear up for Saturday November 26. Use these five strategies to kick off the holiday season in a big way. Good luck!