Ready or not, the holidays are coming. The good news for local businesses is, despite high competition from online and big box retailers, nearly 104 million shoppers visited neighborhood businesses and reportedly spent a record $17.8 billion last year on Small Business Saturday! 7 out of 10 adults in the same study claimed awareness of Small Business Saturday and with staggering yearly growth since inception, this #shopsmall movement is a great opportunity for not just for local retailers, but for restaurants, bakeries, coffee shops and beyond. Here are 11 ways smart small business owners can prepare for their best Small Business Saturday yet:
1. Embrace “experience”
You have something the big guys can’t compete with – relationship! Focus on selling experience, and the product sales will follow. People love online shopping, but according to a recent study (Entrepreneur), still say nothing beats an in-store experience, so make sure yours is one they won’t forget. Brainstorm what you can do to make customers feel special and connected and conduct special customer service training for your staff to be as welcoming and unobtrusively helpful as possible.
2. Make it easy!
People lead busy lives and the holidays are no exception. For big retailers, buy online and pick up at the store services (BOPUS) are growing at an exponential rate. In fact, Target’s “Drive Up” program grew over 60% last year (Target). Small businesses can do BOPUS-type services even better than the big guys because of the relationships they have with their customers. Why not:
- Offer a concierge service and do their shopping for them. Better yet, have customers text you their order and have it ready when they arrive.
- Have a curbside pickup for call-ahead requests or online orders so they don’t even need to come in to the physical store.
- Save your customers time (and headaches) by offering free gift wrapping
- Offer free shipping
- Prepare “grab and go” family meals
3. Make it personal!
People love bespoke and curated items and experiences. How about doing something out of the ordinary to celebrate the day? Anything to feel personal and local. Get creative. You could:
- Create a station where customers can make something customized. This could be:
- different color sands to create a succulent terrarium
- various salts or colored sugars to create a “custom blend” to line the rim of a soda or drink
- create-your-own snowglobe
- make a personalized ornament
- retro toys, games and accessories are really hot this year (Toy Insider). Have them paint an ugly ceramic holiday tree from the 1970s.
- Offer free monogramming or decals
- Serve a complimentary fall beverage
- Offer a free 5-minute chair massage
- Have a local musician play
- Donate a portion of your profits from that day to a local charity. Millennials, in particular, love to support and share on social media about businesses that give back. (Forbes)
4. Don’t do it alone
There is great power in numbers. Band together with other participating merchants. If there isn’t one already in your local community, create a clever theme or scavenger hunt to encourage visiting all participants. Contact your local chamber of commerce to see what is planned locally and get on board. Be brave! Politicians love to be in the spotlight. See if your mayor might come out in support, then alert the local media.
5. Avoid special offers
It’s tempting to want to have a Small Business Saturday deal of some sort, but remember that Small Business Saturday is one day of the year that you shouldn’t need to come up with a discount to draw customers back in. Black Friday-type deals cut down on your revenue and miss the point of the day. Customers are coming to you to support local business. Let yours shine by itself!
6. Promote it!
Let the public know that you are participating through direct mail, email, and social media. American Express has a ton of free resources to promote this day. Canva is also a great resource with free graphic design templates. Don’t forget texts! 98% of people read them within the first 5 minutes, after all. Here is a sample plan:
- 1 month out- create postcards for your storefront and send a mailing
- 1 week out – send email and text reminders
- 2 days out – social media reminder 2 (pre-scheduled)
- 1 day out – social media and text reminder 3 (pre-scheduled)
- Day of –
- Take lots of pictures and post them to your Instagram/Facebook stories, tagging #shopsmall
- Send your last text and email reminder
7. Create a selfie station
Tap into the Selfie Generation. A study says 62 percent of all U.S. adults and 84% of 18-34 year-olds have taken a photo of themselves and uploaded it to a social media site (Statista). The truth is, a lot of people these days do things just to be able to promote them on social media and especially when it validates them doing something good (like supporting a small business). Go big and have a local handyman create a simple wooden Small Business Saturday or holiday backdrop you can display in front of your store to draw visual attention.
Or just keep it simple and decorate a foam board photo frame available at craft stores or Amazon. There are also a ton of photo backdrops for #shopsmall selfies on Etsy. Smart business owners can encourage customers to take a selfie picture or a photo of their receipt and tag them on social media for some type of reward.
Have your customers tag you and #shopsmall on social media
8. Direct them
Analysis paralysis is a real thing. Too many options can be overwhelming. Make selecting things easier by grouping things together. Isn’t it wonderful when computer automation makes a suggestion of items you might be interested in based on your browsing history? Small businesses can do this too. Arrange displays of like items for those who watch Game of Thrones, for example, or kids who like Pokemon, to make shopping a snap for your customers.
9. Don’t forget your staff
Make sure you have plenty of staff to cover the weekend and offer special treats and incentives for your employees. Make the day positive for them and their enthusiasm will shine through.
10. Learn from it
You think you’ll remember all the little details in a year, but you probably won’t remember everything. When it’s over and still fresh, take a few moments to meet with staff to discuss what worked and what didn’t, so that you can make it even better for next year. Then document it so you can refer to your list next Small Business Saturday.
11. Keep it going
Saturday is the focus, but don’t stop there. Keep going with your customer engagement. Follow up thanking customers for participating and letting them know about additional deals, events and other services to make their lives easier for the holiday season and the rest of the year.
A successful loyalty program keeps customers coming back, not just on Small Business Saturday, but all year long. With Bespeak, business owners maximize and grow returns at every stage of the customer journey. Reach out today to learn more.
Click here for a free download of this article. See also: Top Reasons Customers Join a Loyalty Program (and How to Keep Them)