Not too long ago, the rumor on the street was that brick-and-mortar was dying and online shopping was the future, Sheri Lambert, associate professor of marketing at the Fox School of Business at Temple University says. Those reports were wrong. “Brick and mortar is not dead,” Lambert says.
However, buyers do sometimes need to be reminded of what they love about in-person shopping: the personalized attention, the experience of being able to touch products or try them on, and the knowledge that their purchase will have a positive impact on that business’s bottom line, which is especially true for smaller companies. Small Business Saturday does all that and more.
Sandwiched in between two of the biggest shopping days of the year—Black Friday and Cyber Monday—is Small Business Saturday, which has become an annual shopping tradition for many. Launched in 2010 by American Express
Despite being only a single day, support for smaller businesses during those 24 hours has yielded big results. The 2022 Small Business Saturday Consumer Insights Survey funded by American Express reported that an estimated $17.9 billion was spent by U.S. consumers with small businesses on that day in 2022.
This year, many companies are extending Small Business Saturday to Small Business Week, or even Small Business Month.
This means it is not too late for small business owners to prepare and promote all the reasons consumers should stop by during the holiday shopping season.
To achieve a short-term or longer-term jump in sales thanks to Small Business Saturday, consider taking one or more of the following steps to attract shoppers into your business and then entice them to spend.
Make it an Experience
“The longer shoppers stay in the store, the more they’ll spend,” Lambert says. The key is giving them a reason to stick around. Although it doesn’t have to be a full-blown event, like a trunk show or product demonstration, offer services that your shoppers will appreciate, she recommends.
For example, at Posh Collections, a women’s clothing boutique in Malvern, PA owner Tina Corrado offers free pet pictures with Santa on Small Business Saturday. In addition to hiring a Santa for the day, she also staffs up to ensure there are plenty of handlers to manage pets while their owners shop as well as helpers to snap Polaroid photos of the cute companions on Santa’s lap. The fact that Corrado’s shop doesn’t sell pet items is irrelevant. She knows her best customers and that they bring their dogs with them wherever they go.
Brittany Cox, owner of Southern Local, which sells apparel and gifts, takes a similar approach, hosting monthly block parties with other boutiques in Alpharetta City Center, GA as a way to drive awareness and traffic pre-Small Business Saturday. On Saturday, where she expects more than 200 shoppers, the shop will offer Prosecco to lighten the mood. Cox wants shopping to “feel like going to a house party. I want everyone socializing, laughing, and feeling comfortable enough to ask for help.”
By keeping them in the store long, they are also more likely to spend more, according to Lambert.
During the holiday season especially, customers will opt for easy over difficult; hence the reason valet parking operations pop up at malls, for example. Think about how you can incorporate more customer service into your business, Lambert advises. Not only will this attract more buyers, but customers will also stick around longer, potentially spending more money.
Making shopping easier could be as simple as offering comfy upholstered seating for tired friends and free coffee or mimosas for parched patrons. Lambert suggests offering free gift wrapping, too, as another enticement. Being able to walk out with gifts already wrapped is a big customer benefit.
Collaborate with other Local Businesses
A few years ago, Princeton, Indiana created a Monopoly-inspired card to encourage shoppers to visit each participating business on Small Business Saturday, reports Scott Hartley, who had a business based there. Each store stamped a shopper’s card and once the card was full, the shopper was entered into a drawing for a sizeable gift certificate redeemable at any of the participating merchants, he says. “Not only did this attract foot traffic and generate sales on Small Business Saturday, but it also created repeat visits from a large number of residents,” Hartley says.
“The power of small business Saturday, especially with local retail shops, is community,” he says.
Collaboration doesn’t have to be limited to local businesses, however. Abby Michaelsen, founder and CEO of Statement Home, which sells the Jack of all Trays, shares the brands of other small businesses on social media to drive business to them on Small Business Saturday. She says, “I like to share other female-owned small businesses that I think my customers would love, especially those with products that make great gifts!”
Offer a Sneak Peek
Use Small Business Saturday as an enticement to get shoppers in-store to sample new products or flavors that aren’t yet available online, suggests Diamantis Pierrakos, co-owner of Laconiko of Manassas, VA, which produces artisan olive oils from trees on the family’s Greek estate. Tease, “Be the first to…” as an intriguing message to drive your customers to stop by. Then wow them with your products and services, so that they become long-time fans of your business.
Give a Behind-the-Scenes View
Statement Home’s Michaelsen doesn’t have a brick-and-mortar business, so she works hard to give her shoppers a look at the inner workings of her online small business. On Small Business Saturday Michaelsen’s marketing “features my story, photos and videos of me throughout the journey of launching my business out of a garage, and the successes along the day,” she says.
Instead of promoting dollars off or percentage savings, like many of the big box stores, she highlights her business story to try to grab attention.
Likewise, Carmen Lopez, founder of Current Boutique, a designer and vintage secondhand boutique that operates online and through three brick-and-mortar locations, works to create a personal connection with customers by “showing them a glimpse into our business and the people that make it all happen.” That means highlighting staff members and showing behind-the-scenes videos of the daily operations and inventory, “which makes them feel more connected to our business,” she says.
Dangle a Gift-with-Purchase
Cox of Southern Local had a small business create custom sweatshirts to give out with every $175 purchase. The sweatshirts are emblazoned with “In My Shop Small Era” across the front.
Many businesses this year are offering gifts with purchase as a way to encourage spending. Businesses of all sizes are advertising a free additional gift card with a gift card purchase, for example. Providing a complementary product with purchases from particular brands is another way to set a business apart.
Ask for the Business
It is easy for promotions and advertisements touting deep discounts to get lost in the crowd this time of year. Shoppers can get overwhelmed by the amount of information overflowing their inbox. Which is why Lopez makes sure to ask for the business. “One of the most effective methods of driving sales up for the popular shopping day is to ask customers to come visit and shop that day,” she says.
Lambert also advises small businesses to be innovative this year. “Think outside the box” to provide buyers with more of what they value, such as free same-day home delivery from a local shop to foil car thieves, free snacks, or free childcare. Imagine what is making shopping challenging this holiday season and then offer it. “Make it easy,” Lambert recommends.