Holiday Ideas & Strategies

Your Small Business Saturday Guide: Tips, Tools, and Statistics for Local Companies

Victoria Fryer / 9 min read

Your Small Business Saturday Guide: Tips, Tools, and Statistics for Local Companies

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It’s safe to say that 100+-year-old Lammes Candies is already a household name in Austin, Texas. 

After opening in 1885, this local small business became an Austin staple famous for their pecan pralines — a southern favorite — tapping into customers’ Texas pride by using only Texas-grown pecans. 

And now, Lammes is going global. After expanding into five brick-and-mortar locations across the city, Lammes also created an online store that ships worldwide to confection-lovers across country lines. 

Lammes Candies Homepage Example

The Lammes Candies Website Homepage

Small business is the backbone of local economies. 

In fact, one study found that for every $100 spent at a local business, $68 of it stays within the local economy — compared to just $43 for large businesses.

grasshopper why buy local stats

Source: Grasshopper

But, more than that, small businesses create an atmosphere — the vibrant, unique elements of a community. They give community members a point of local connection and common experience. In this way, they collectively become woven into the fabric of a community’s image — just like Lammes has over the past 130 years.

This all adds up to the reason behind American Express’ Small Business Saturday initiative — an effort begun in 2010 to bring attention to and celebrate the value of small business in America. 

In this article, we’ll talk about how you can take full advantage of that opportunity — even if you have a small staff or limited resources.

What is Small Business Saturday? 

Small Business Saturday is a shopping holiday aimed at encouraging holiday shoppers to patronize small and/or local businesses. 

It falls in between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, to capitalize on one of the biggest shopping weekends of the year. This has boosted its popularity and helped produce a long-term upward trend.

The shopping “holiday” is a great opportunity for shoppers who want to support the local small businesses that keep their towns unique — and their community members who run them. With a number of community activities dedicated to promoting and supporting Small Business Saturday, it often also serves as a way to bring the community together.

The History of Small Business Saturday

Small Business Saturday was created by American Express in 2010 as a way to support local retailers and small ecommerce shops. 

2010 American Express Small Business Saturday Logo

The first Small Business Saturday logo from American Express

American Express hoped that Small Business Saturday would help strengthen a sense of community by encouraging support of small business and, subsequently, local economies.

Since 2013, individuals and organizations have been adding their names as Neighborhood Champions. These champions — numbering 7,500 across all 50 states by 2018 — are dedicated to rallying their communities around support of small and local businesses.

When is Small Business Saturday?

Small Business Saturday is smartly placed right in the middle of peak holiday shopping weekend, falling on the fourth Saturday of November — the day after Black Friday, and just two days before Cyber Monday. 

This year’s Small Business Saturday will fall on November 30, 2019.

Why Small Business Saturday Matters

Small businesses make up more than 99% of all businesses in the U.S., and employ 47.5% of the country’s workers. On average, only 50% of these businesses survive to pass the five-year mark. 

With the convenience of big-box stores and online marketplaces like Amazon, independent businesses can sometimes find gaining traction during the holiday season to be a challenge. 

But Small Business Saturday’s efforts to draw attention to the benefits of shopping local are working — to drive awareness of the importance of small business and to encourage shoppers to put their money into community institutions. 

Of the nearly 60% of U.S. consumers who reported knowing about Small Business Saturday, 80% say they plan to shop at independent retailers that day.

This is a huge opportunity for participating businesses — and not just for brick-and-mortars. Last year, ecommerce sales made up $3 billion of total spending on Small Business Saturday. 

Ways to Get the Most Out of Small Business Saturday

Preparing for the holiday shopping season can be a challenge for businesses of any size — there’s event planning to be done, decorations to be applied, and promotions to be marketed. 

It will require some hustle on your part. While the event itself will tend to provide a boost in your small business shopper traffic, that doesn’t mean you can sit back and expect it. 

But, although there’s much to be done to make the most out of the day, focusing energy in the right areas and finding impactful efficiencies can help even the smallest shops reap big rewards.

Here are a few ideas for promoting your small business on Small Business Saturday, including how to utilize marketing, advertising, and social media to build excitement around your shop’s participation:

1. Remind people about Small Business Saturday — and its benefits.

First things first. You need to make sure your local community doesn’t forget about Small Business Saturday! Don’t let the holiday get overshadowed by Black Friday and Cyber Monday, both of which are more heavily marketed and have been around longer. 

2. Implement a targeted email marketing strategy. 

Email is one of the most valuable marketing channels you can use to build anticipation in advance of any promotion, sale, or holiday. Start a few weeks in advance of the big day, and follow this important best practice: 

“Make sure you’re sending a plain-text/accessible version of each email (and not just one that links to the web version of the campaign). This is especially important if you’re sending image-only emails.”

 — Lianna Patch, Founder, Punchline Conversion Copywriting, www.punchlinecopy.com

But don’t shy away from using vibrant visuals showcasing your products and any special offers or promotions. Don’t forget about the subject line, either — after all, it’s the first thing recipients will see. 

“Holidays are times when people actively seek out offers and deals for their holiday shopping. So, highlighting your offer in the subject line is a good strategy to follow during the holiday season.” 

Shane Barker, Founder, https://shanebarker.com/ 

3. Utilize social media to encourage engagement.

Make sure your social media followers know you’re planning to participate in Small Business Saturday by highlighting any special offers or incentives. Find ways to build excitement among your loyal customers. Post behind-the-scenes content as you set up for holiday markets or other in-person events, or showcase some of your most giftable products.

Don’t forget to join existing conversations, as well. Increase your findability among potential shoppers by tapping into existing conversations on social platforms. When you post about your Small Business Saturday plans, make sure to use some of the following hashtags as appropriate:

  • #SmallBizSat
  • #ShopSmall
  • #SmallBusinessSaturday

Last but not least, depending on your niche, consider reaching out to local influencers. A simple Instagram post or Story could create big awareness — and some influencers will work with their local businesses for a discounted rate to support the local community.

4. Make the community part of your strategy.

Just like the holiday season itself, Small Business Saturday is about community. Tap into these connected values and remind your shoppers of that connection. Make sure your shoppers know that you’re involved in and care about the community. Do you participate in city-wide events? Are you active with local sports teams or charities? Your business is personal — and you can make it personal to the shoppers in your community, too. 

You could also utilize Small Business Saturday to offer promotions that give a portion of each sale to a local charitable organization, providing an added incentive for the community to patronize your business.

5. Use personalization as an advantage over large competitors.

One of the biggest advantages that a small ecommerce shop or local business can offer is personalized connection. 

“‘Why should I buy from you and not the other guys?’ You have to resonate with consumers in more ways than just discounted prices.” 

— Julie Causseaux, eCommerce Strategist, revenueriver.co

Add a personal touch to your packaging. A handwritten thank-you note along with a package delivery can work wonders in building brand loyalty among your customers. In-store, you could offer free coffee or cider to pull shoppers in off the chilly sidewalk or offer gift-wrapping services.

6. Provide top-notch customer support.

First things first — your ability to provide a positive and personal experience is a great way to set yourself apart from your bigger competitors. Make sure you have plenty of customer support on-hand, whether it’s representatives to answer phones or participate in live chat to answer questions quickly, or personal, in-store attention. 

7. Tweak your SEO strategy.

If shoppers are searching online for the best stores to visit during their Small Business Saturday outing (or browsing), you’ll want to make sure your website has the best opportunity of showing up in their search results. 

  • Promotional content: Clearly advertise — on your homepage, a specialized landing page, or both — any special promotions or events you’ll offer on Small Business Saturday. If you have a blog, make sure you have associated content there, too. Use keywords related to small, local business and Small Business Saturday, but remember that if Google perceives your keyword usage as spammy, that will only hurt your rankings — not help them.

  • Local content elements: Make sure Google knows where you are! Having local content elements on every page of your website — your business name, address, and phone number — will help ensure you show up when your local shoppers are searching. Include location-relevant content on your blog, too, if you have one.

8. Use American Express’ resources for easy-to-create marketing materials.

One of American Express’ goals is to help small businesses gain visibility — but they also know that, especially for very small shops, the time it takes to create specialized marketing materials can be prohibitive. 

That’s why they created a resource to help you create custom posters, social media graphics, emails, and more — in just minutes.

9. Host or join events.

You don’t need a brick-and-mortar shop to have a physical presence on Small Business Saturday. Consider participating in locally hosted events or holiday markets to capitalize on “window shoppers” and raise awareness of your brand in the community. 

Alternatively, you could host your own event. If you don’t want to go it alone, consider partnering with other local businesses with a similar target audience to draw in a broader customer base.

10. Increase foot traffic to your store.

If your brick-and-mortar shop is on main street — or any other high-visibility area — you can capitalize on the early holiday browsing excitement. Small Business Saturday can encourage foot traffic in locations with multiple shops. 

  • Draw in passers-by with a festive storefront and signage indicating any special promotions.
  • Attract online shoppers with “buy online, pick up in-store” (BOPIS). 

“Omnichannel retailers benefit by encouraging customers to physically visit the store and increase the chances of impulse purchases—in fact, almost 50% of customers will inevitably buy something else while in-store. 

— Sarah Toth; VP, Marketing; www.guidance.com

Small Business Saturday Offers and Promotions

Of course, everyone loves a good sale. But you don’t necessarily need a Black Friday-style price slash to attract traffic to your ecommerce or brick-and-mortar store. The most important thing is to use your shop to provide your shoppers a unique experience. 

Here are a few other types of offers or promotions you could try on Small Business Saturday: 

1. Offer a Small Business Saturday-exclusive deal. 

Offering a price cut or deal that’s not available at any other time of the year can be a strong motivator to draw in both new and repeat customers. And it doesn’t have to be a store-wide discount — you could also consider discounting just two or three of your best-selling products or providing a free gift with purchase,

2. Try a community-oriented promotion. 

When it comes to small and local businesses, shoppers often have motivations that extend beyond just finding the best deal. Tap into community values by offering a certain percentage of each sale as a donation to a local charitable organization. 

3. Reward social media engagement. 

Word of mouth will always be one of your strongest customer acquisition tools. Consider offering shoppers a special deal or discount for checking into your store on their social media channels or posting photos of their purchases. This will get you the added bonus of shoppers telling their friends about your business. 

Get Your Shop Ready for the Holiday

Whether you’re going all out for Small Business Saturday or just conducting business as usual, you should prepare for an influx of traffic — both to your brick-and-mortar storefront and to your ecommerce site. 

Make sure you have enough customer support and retail workers to keep operations running smoothly. And, with everyone in the shopping mood, consider expanding your hours to serve as many customers as you can. Providing a great experience will build loyalty and keep your customers returning for years to come.

Use Small Business Saturday to Get Customers to Buy Online

Find ways to capitalize on the added Small Business Saturday foot traffic or in-person interactions at holiday pop-ups or events. Shopping on Small Business Saturday is reported to make shoppers more motivated to shop small all year long, so use the opportunity to develop relationships with your customers and encourage them to visit your online store.

1. Capture emails.

Email marketing is still one of the best ways to reach your customers, keep them up to date on special offers and new product launches, and drive traffic to your online store. 

If they visit you in person, encourage them to provide an email address so you can make a year-round connection. It can be helpful to offer an incentive for them to provide an email address, like a special raffle, sample products, or other giveaways. 

“Our business is primarily brick-and-mortar, and we don’t do a whole lot of online advertising. Instead, we use receipt emails through Square to send out discount and coupon codes to people who have already purchased. Once we gather their email and their phone number, we can edit their digital receipt to include a coupon code. Those work really well, and for a while were how we got most of our online sales.”

— Brent Densford, CEO of BeachRC 

2. Advertise your willingness to ship.

Make sure your customers know that they can visit your ecommerce site to browse and purchase products to be delivered right to their door. Include signage in your shop and remind your community via your social channels. 

Be sure to include any special shipping options (buy online, pick up in store; free shipping for orders over a certain amount or to certain locations; etc.) as an incentive to shop online.

3. Connect your social, shop, and in-person presence.

Create a seamless experience among all your customer touchpoints, from your brick-and-mortar shop to your ecommerce site and any social channels. 

Think of your business holistically, with one multi-pronged strategy to reach your shoppers. When you build your brand with a robust and connected experience across channels, you can reach customers where they are and shop in a way that is most convenient and desirable for them.

Small Business Saturday: The Gift that Keeps on Giving

Arguably, one of the greatest impacts of Small Business Saturday is that it encourages small-business shopping year-round: 

96% of consumers who reported shopping on Small Business Saturday said they felt more inclined to shop small throughout the year.

Don’t miss out on the opportunity to capture this enthusiasm — take advantage of these tips to build out a strategy that will work for your business. 

And remember — BigCommerce is here to help! Our dedicated, in-house support team can assist you with everything from questions about your storefront to improving your marketing efforts and conversion rates. Get the assistance you need, fast, so you can focus on what you do best: selling.

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    Victoria Fryer

    Victoria Fryer

    Victoria is a content marketing writer, researcher, and content project manager at BigCommerce. Specializing in writing and web content strategy, she previously spent eight years in public relations and marketing for Tier I research universities. She holds a B.A. in English Writing and Rhetoric from St. Edward’s University and a Master of Liberal Arts from Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania.

    View all posts by Victoria Fryer
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