Not long ago, word 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. These reports were wrong. “Brick and mortar is not dead,” says Lambert.
But sometimes shoppers need to be reminded of what they like about in-person shopping: the personalized attention, the experience of being able to touch or try on products, and the knowledge that their purchase will have a positive impact on that business. bottom, which is especially true for smaller companies. Small Business Saturday does all this and more.
Sandwiched 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. Started in 2010 by American Express
to raise awareness and support small businesses, the day has evolved to become an opportunity for retailers, smaller service providers and micro-manufacturers to shine.
Although it’s only one day, supporting smaller businesses during these 24 hours has yielded big results. The 2022 Small Business Saturday Consumer Insights Survey sponsored by American Express reported that approximately $17.9 billion was spent by US consumers with small businesses on that day in 2022.
This year, many companies are expanding Small Business Saturday into Small Business Week, or even Small Business Month.
That means it’s not too late for small business owners to prepare and promote all the reasons consumers have to go through the holiday shopping season.
To get a short-term or long-term jump in sales thanks to Small Business Saturday, consider taking one or more of the following steps to attract shoppers to your business and then entice them to spend.
Make it an Experience
“The longer shoppers stay in the store, the more they’ll spend,” says Lambert. The key is to give them a reason to stay. While it doesn’t have to be a full-on event like a trunk show or product demonstration, offer services that your buyers will appreciate, she recommends.
For example, in Elegant collections, a women’s clothing boutique in Malvern, PA owner Tina Corrado is offering free pet photos with Santa on Saturday for small businesses. In addition to hiring a Santa for the day, she also makes sure there are plenty of handlers to manage pets while their owners shop as well as helpers to take Polaroid photos of the cute companions in Santa’s arms. The fact that Corrado’s store does not sell pet supplies is irrelevant. She knows her best customers and that they bring their dogs with them wherever they go.
Brittany Cox, owner of South Local, which sells clothing and gifts, takes a similar approach, hosting monthly block parties with other boutiques in Alpharetta City Center, GA, as a way to increase awareness and traffic before Small Business Saturday. On Saturday, where more than 200 shoppers are expected, the store will offer Prosecco to lighten the mood. Cox wants shopping to “feel like you’re going to a house party. I want everyone to socialize, laugh and feel comfortable enough to ask for help.”
By keeping them in the store longer, they’re also more likely to spend more, according to Lambert.
Especially during the holiday season, customers will choose the easy over the hard. Hence the reason why valet functions appear in malls, for example. Think about how you can incorporate more customer service into your business, advises Lambert. Not only will this attract more shoppers, but customers will stick around longer, potentially spending more money.
Facilitating shopping could be as simple as offering comfy seat cushions for tired friends and free coffee or mimosas for parched patrons. Lambert also suggests offering free gift wrapping as another enticement. Being able to walk out with gifts already wrapped is a great benefit to the customer.
Partner with other Local Businesses
A few years ago, Princeton, Indiana, created a Monopoly-inspired card to encourage shoppers to visit every participating business on Small Business Saturday, reports Scott Hartley, who had a business based there. Each store stamped a shopper card, and once the card was full, the shopper was entered into a drawing for a large gift certificate that could be redeemed at any of the participating merchants, he says. “This not only attracted foot traffic and generated sales on Small Business Saturday, but also generated repeat visits from a large number of residents,” says Hartley.
“The strength of Small Business Saturday, especially with local retailers, is community,” he says.
However, cooperation should not be limited to local businesses. Abby Michaelsen, its founder and CEO Initial Statement, which sells Jack of all Trays, shares other small business brands on social media to drive business to them on Small Business Saturday. She says, “I love sharing other small women-owned businesses that I think my customers will love, especially ones with products that make great gifts!”
Offer a sneak peek
Use Small Business Saturday as an enticement to get in-store shoppers to try new products or flavors not yet available online, suggests Diamantis Pierrakos, co-owner of Laconic of Manassas, VA, which produces artisanal olive oils from trees on the family’s Greek estate. Tease, “Be the first to…” as an interesting message that will drive your customers to stop by. Then wow them with your products and services so they become long-term fans of your business.
Give a behind-the-scenes look
Statement Home’s Michaelsen doesn’t have a brick and mortar business, so she works hard to give her buyers a glimpse into the inner workings of her online small business. On Small Business Saturday, Michaelsen’s marketing “features my story, photos and videos throughout the journey of starting my business out of a garage and the successes throughout the day,” she says.
Instead of promoting a dollar discount or percentage savings like many of the big box stores, she highlights her business history to try to get attention.
Similarly, Carmen Lopez, its founder Current boutique, a design and vintage secondhand boutique that operates online and through three locations, works to create a personal connection with customers by “showing them a glimpse into our business and the people who make it all happen.” That means tagging staff members and showing behind-the-scenes videos of day-to-day operations and inventory, “which makes them feel more connected to our business,” he says.
Hang a gift with purchase
Cox of Southern Local had a small business creating custom sweatshirts to give away with every $175 purchase. The sweatshirts are marked “In My Shop Small Era” on the front.
Many businesses this year are offering gifts with purchase as a way to encourage spending. Businesses of all sizes advertise a free additional gift card with a gift card purchase, for example. Providing a complementary product with purchases from specific brands is another way to set a business apart.
Ask for the Business
It’s easy for deals and ads touting big discounts to get lost in the crowd this time of year. Buyers can be overwhelmed by the amount of information flooding their inboxes. That’s why Lopez makes sure to ask for the business. “One of the most effective methods to increase sales for the popular shopping day is to ask customers to come visit and shop on that day,” he says.
Lambert also advises small businesses to be innovative this year. Think outside the box to give shoppers more than they value, like free same-day home delivery from a local store to deter car thieves, free snacks or free childcare. Figure out what makes shopping challenging this holiday season, then offer it up. “Make it easy,” advises Lambert.