A History of Small Business Saturday, Tips for Small Business Owners
In 2010, American Express unveiled the Small Business Saturday event in Roslindale Village, Massachusetts. The goal was to encourage more shoppers to buy goods and services from brick-and-mortar retail businesses during the year-end holiday season. In its soon-to-be six years of existence, Small Business Saturday has achieved this goal, rapidly becoming one of the top shopping days of the year; rivaling such counterparts as Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
In 2015, more than 95 million customers patronized small businesses (including retailers and restaurants) on Small Business Saturday. This represented an 8 percent growth from the year before. Also, "total spending among U.S. consumers who were aware of Small Business Saturday reached $16.2 billion," increasing by 14 percent sales of $14.3 billion in 2014.
How to prepare for Small Business Saturday
It's not too late to prepare for this big consumer event and to reap potentially huge benefits for your small business. Here are key action steps to take ASAP:
Get free promotional materials. American Express offers free, easy-to-customize marketing materials for your storefront, website, and social media networks. Their Small Business Saturday website provides plenty of related information on how best to prepare for the big day.
Plan an in-store event. You'll generate greater interest among potential customers by hosting an event to draw people in. Fun Small Business Saturday ideas include hosting a kick-off breakfast, inviting a musical or dramatic act to perform in your store, sponsoring a give-away prize drawing, and greeting newcomers with door prizes and customer appreciation gifts.
Consider extending business hours. This day is all about your customers. If you think opening earlier or staying open later than usual will benefit them, make preparations to enhance their shopping experience.
Be sure your website is ready for business. Everything on your website should be operating at maximum efficiency in advance of Small Business Saturday. Do a test-run of the typical shopper's online experience, from browsing for items and adding them to a shopping cart to submitting username and password information and completing an actual transaction. Eliminate any extraneous elements (such as videos or images) that slow the user's loading time. And check that every key webpage is optimized for mobile shoppers!
Go all out on social media. If you've been diligently building your social media networks, now's the time to kick into high gear. Consider offering special deals to consumers who use your Facebook check-in page, for example, and join in Twitter conversations using hashtags #smallbizsat, #shopsmall, and #dinesmall. Come up with mini-contests, customer preference polls--anything that spurs interaction with your target audience. The potential benefits of getting some social media buzz going are significant, so be prepared to take an active role ahead of the big day, or appoint someone in your business to devote time every day to social media postings.
Find out what's happening in your community. You can be sure your local Chamber of Commerce is aware of Small Business Saturday. Contact their office and find out what types of promotional activities are planned and see how your business can jump on the community bandwagon. Another winning strategy is co-partnering with like-minded small businesses in the neighborhood, particularly those whose products and services complement your own. Sharing the costs of advertising in local media outlets and offer discounts to each other's businesses can be a way of getting more customers into one another's store.
Afterwards, say "Thank you." If you've done things right, you've built up a lot of goodwill among new and returning customers. Let them know how much you appreciate their business. "A surprise discount or a random token of kindness can be shared online and can win loyalty and trust from customers," notes marketing expert Nicole Kroese.
Start preparing now and get in on the excitement revolving around Small Business Saturday 2016. It's a great way to build momentum towards that all-important final push towards big holiday shopping.