5 Ways to Make Small Business Saturday the Best Holiday Ever

Small Business Saturday, the 11-year-old shopping holiday aimed at getting more Americans to shop local, has always seemed like a neat idea, but it’s never been a huge draw. This year, owners are hoping the first Saturday after Thanksgiving delivers a singular sales bonanza.

“It’s our first time leaning heavy into this holiday but I expect this year will have a great turnout,” says Kelsey Moreira, CEO and founder of San Francisco-based cookie dough startup Doughp (pronounced “Dope”). It has to work, she says. “So many small businesses like Doughp are counting on Americans to support us through these trying times.”

They may be in for a treat. Consumers are expected to spend $189 billion, or 33 percent more, online between November and December than they did a year ago, according to Adobe’s analysis of one trillion visits to U.S. retail websites. The predictions also include record-setting shopping days this week, with Thanksgiving slated to hit $6 billion in online sales, a 42 percent surge over last year; Adobe doesn’t break out estimates for Small Business Saturday.

While consumer sentiment may be firmly in support of small businesses, the pandemic remains a significant threat–particularly as states and municipalities continue to ratchet up restrictions on store visits. Los Angeles County just ceased outdoor dining activities, while states including Massachusetts and New York have adopted curfews.

To capture consumer dollars this year, you’d better get strategic. Here are five last-minute tips for making the most of the shopping holiday:

1. Let them know you’re open.

The U.S. Small Business Administration, a long-time co-sponsor of Small Business Saturday, recommends leveraging email marketing to reach people where they are. Also, don’t shy away from using social media to telegraph any sales or promotions you’re hosting. 

Use #ShopSmall, the official hashtag for Small Business Saturday, to grab attention of users on Twitter and Instagram, and encourage happy customers to post reviews about their experience on their own channels.

2. Give people a reason to show up.

Doughp’s Moreira is focusing her holiday sales efforts online this year due to the pandemic. And while she’s hopeful that Small Business Saturday will deliver for her business, she’s hosting a 30 percent off sale that will extend from Black Friday through Cyber Monday. 

3. Don’t skip the hygiene theater.

Simply put, consumers are anxious right now about the risks involved when shopping for gifts. If you’re operating a retail store, make sure to review local safety requirements and, as Yelp’s head of consumer product Akhil Ramesh told Inc. earlier this year, be sure to communicate those measures taken so customers know what to expect. Update your website, third-party business listings, and social media pages if you’re offering things like contactless payment, curb-side pickup, or if you’ve closed your fitting rooms.

4. Take that little extra step.

Sending hand written notes, personalizing gift-wrapping, and other small touches can help you stand out among big box competitors, notes the SBA in a recent blog postYou can also get creative with thanking your customers for their continued patronage during a difficult year by getting in front of the camera and recording a thank you video to post to your social media channels. It’s Thanksgiving, after all. 

5. Tell them your story.

Remind shoppers of why they’re buying local in the first place. Whether it’s through a video on your website and social media, over the phone when they place a pick up order, or added to the bottom of their receipt, remind people of what they’re supporting when they shop local. Remind them that their purchase is helping to continue a family business started decades ago, or that their order is helping put dollars back into their own community. Above all else, let them know that they matter to you and that you care. 

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