November is well upon us, and, according to the retail world, so are the holidays.
This means the shopping season is about to be in full swing. We don’t need to tell you that Black Friday is one of the most important days of the year for retail businesses, but even more important for small businesses is Small Business Saturday (SBS). According to the American Independent Business Alliance, only 14 percent of earnings from big-box or chain stores return to the communities they reside in, whereas 45 percent of the revenue from small and local businesses returns to the neighborhood.
SBS holds a very special place in our hearts. Not only do we love seeing small businesses succeed, they help to define our culture and our cities. Without our favorite, independent coffee shops, restaurants, bars, boutiques, and shops, we’d be plagued with block-after-desolate-block of chain stores. Although we think people should #shopsmall every day, Small Business Saturday is an excellent opportunity for businesses to drive up their traffic and sales, increase public awareness, and connect with a community of potentially loyal customers.
A brief history of Small Business Saturday
Over the last few decades, Black Friday had grown to become such a consumer event strongly favoring big-box stores, and small businesses could hardly compete on their own.
But in 2010, American Express launched the first Small Business Saturday as an initiative to refocus holiday spending on small and local businesses. By 2011, the United States Senate unanimously passed a resolution supporting Small Business Saturday and in 2012, even President Obama championed the event for the United States. That same year, Small Business Saturday in the UK was launched. Today, SBS has become a staple in the American holiday shopping furor following Thanksgiving and is gaining traction in the UK for the first Saturday of December. But that doesn’t mean the holiday needs to be confined to just the United States and the United Kingdom. Small businesses everywhere can tap into the ever-growing support for independent business success around the world
If you’re a customer-facing small business owner—even if you aren’t a retail business—you can still benefit from tapping into this event. To help you execute a successful campaign, we’ll be rolling out a three-blog series on how to prepare your business for the big day, how to make sure your small business is armed to collect all your in-store and online customer leads throughout the entire holiday shopping weekend, and how to make the most of them throughout the new year.
Now, let’s dig in with these five things you should be doing to prepare for the big day.
1. Start promoting for Small Business Saturday NOW
According to our 2016 SBS survey of 2,000 small business owners and employees, 70 percent of those who planned to promote their business for SBS indicated they got their highest return on investment (ROI) from digital marketing. However, more than 25 percent of these respondents also said they waited until the last minute to promote for SBS.
If that sounds like you, don’t worry. There are plenty of resources for plug-and-play marketing templates available on the internet, and American Express will even help you create your own, customized SBS marketing materials, both physical and digital.
2. Create a special offer
Think about it. Aren’t you more likely to visit a store (or website) or make a purchase when you’re offered a deal, like 30 percent off, or two-for-one? And during the holidays, it’s often the only reason to shop somewhere, since sales are everywhere. Chances are, this is true for your customers, too. Creating a special offer for SBS doesn’t have to be hard. In fact, some of the most common campaigns that businesses we surveyed have used are also simple to put together:
- Coupon/promo code: Offer customers a coupon or promotional code they can redeem at checkout. This limits the number of people who can cash in on your sale.
- Limited time offer: Try offering a sale that lasts for only a specific length of time. You could offer a deal for the entire day of SBS or even a flash sale that only lasts for a few hours. This creates a sense of urgency and encourages customers to act fast.
- Buy-one-get-one (BOGO): Pay full price for one item and get the second free or at a steep discount.
- Shipping: If you sell products online, consider offering free shipping specifically on Small Business Saturday, or on orders of $50 or more throughout the holiday season. Who doesn’t want to save money where they can?
- Discount on future purchases: By providing customers with a coupon that doesn’t go into effect until a later date, it encourages them to repeat their business with you a separate time, or even give their coupon to someone else (another prospect for you!) to benefit from.
3. Prepare your inventory
You can’t sell what you don’t have, so you have to stock up. But on the other hand, you don’t want to have an excess of inventory leading into the new year. Whether you’re expecting customers in-store or online, it’s crucial to make sure your inventory is well-stocked and well-organized.
A good way to make sure you’re ordering the right kinds and the right amounts of inventory is to use predictive analytics, a set of technologies that let businesses use historical data to make predictions on customer behavior and spending patterns.
Don’t let the techno-jargon scare you.
Another way to ensure your inventory management is staying on track and your customers stay happy is to streamline fulfillment. E-commerce shipping solutions like Shopify, USPS, and WooCommerce can plug right into your inventory management platform to help you do just that.
4. Segment your list
Sending a single promotional message to everyone on your list may be the easiest and simplest way to promote your sale, but you can increase the number of people who actually respond to your promotion by segmenting your audiences and marketing to them about something relevant to their interests and needs. To segment your audience, you’ll need to identify chunks of people who share common affinities. Some of these may include:
- Purchase history
- Geographic location
By segmenting your audience, you can craft a message that is more relevant to them, so they’ll be more likely to consider what you have to offer. For example, if you’re based in the Bay Area, but you know you have a segment of contacts based in the Northeastern United States where a cold snap is about to hit, you can push relevant materials to that group promoting your winter and cold-weather gear. Similarly, if you’re aware of a group of customers who have all previously purchased something similar, like a new bedding set, they may be interested in a discount on sheets or drapes. The more you know about your customers, the more power you have to shape your offers to their needs and increase the likelihood that they’ll respond.
5. Get your community involved
Operating your promotions on Small Business Saturday doesn’t have to be a solo venture. Consider deploying a co-opetition, or rather, partner with other businesses that may traditionally be considered your competition. For example, if you run a hair salon, consider partnering with complementary business, like a local spa or makeup artist, for bundle deals or cross-promotions. The operative keywords here are complementary and local. Co-opetition works best when the other partner is in the same realm of business as you but is not a direct competitor, and bundled deals and cross-promotions make the most sense when they’re able to be fulfilled locally. Check out these inspirational SBS case studies to see how other small businesses have done it.
Want to give your community involvement an extra boost? Consider donating a portion of your proceeds to a cause that’s important to you or your community, or host a donation drive for a local women’s shelter or soup kitchen. According to a report by Cone Communications, 87 percent of Americans are willing to purchase from a company if they openly advocated for an issue they care about. By showing that you sincerely care for your community, not only will you be seen in a positive light, your customers will be more likely to want to do business with you again if they know they’re supporting a good cause through you.
If you need some more ideas on how to get your community involved with your Small Business Efforts, American Express has some great tips on how to become a “Neighborhood Champion,” including a guide on how to host a community event.
Small Business Saturday is as much about raising the consumer’s awareness of your services or products as it is about raising their awareness of who you and your company are at the core of it all. Use these tips to your advantage as you prepare for Small Business Saturday, and the rest of your end-of-year planning, too. When you’re able to earn the consumer’s trust, meet their needs, and provide them an incentive to return, you’re sure to succeed no matter the day of the year.