7 Tips for Making the Most of Small Business Saturday 2017

Ray Hartjen
Ray Hartjen
Guest Contributor

Never a small movement, Small Business Saturday has only grown in importance to retail over its relatively short existence, and it represents a huge, once-a-year opportunity for stores, small or big.

There’s no getting around it – Small Business Saturday is a “thing,” whether you’re a small business or not. Created in 2010, the #SmallBizSat and #ShopSmall movement gained traction across the United States with the sponsorship of American Express, who bought Facebook ad inventory and donated it to its small merchant account holders. From there, the grassroots effort gained traction and it hasn’t looked back since.

Small Business Saturday is the Saturday after Thanksgiving, nestled immediately after Black Friday. This year, it’s Saturday, November 25, and if you’re not planning something special, you’re already behind. Below, find seven tips for your retail brand to make the most of #SmallBizSat.

It’s not just another Saturday, so make it stand out

Of course you’re going to open on November 25 – it’s a Saturday, after all, and if your idea of retail success is being closed on the busiest retailing day of the week, well … good luck. But, don’t treat this once-a-year Saturday like any ordinary Saturday, for it’s not. 

Consider opening your store earlier than usual, as shoppers are going to be out and about during the holiday weekend. If Target is open at 8:00 am, you should be open too, for you want to capture your fair share of shoppers before they spend all their money elsewhere. While some people will shop exclusively small business that day – like me, for instance – other shoppers will be shopping anywhere and everywhere, so be open and accessible for them.

Band together with your neighbors and cross-promote

If you’re open early on Small Business Saturday, but your neighboring stores aren’t, you’re likely not to attract enough shoppers to make an early start worthwhile. Come together with your neighbors to develop a joint strategy – think “progressive dinner party” – and make the day as big an event as you can.

Look for synergies between stores, like apparel and accessories, for example, and use your respective social media platforms to cross-pollinate your individual communities around a central thread or theme. If it makes sense, create your own hashtags to build and maintain buzz. And, remember, those relationships and conversations with your fellow retailers and shoppers alike can carry on well beyond just the single day.

Produce an in-store event

Give your non-traditional customer base a reason to come into your store by producing an in-store event. Whether it’s serving coffee and donuts in the morning or cocktails in the evening, having local artisans produce crafts and gifting products right on site, musicians creating a festive atmosphere or most anything you can possibly imagine, create an event that first stops passersby in their tracks, and then engages them and welcomes into your store. Look for ways shoppers can capture and share memories with their networks – say a photo booth, for example – and empower them to further spread the word through their own social networks.

Get a head start – like right now – with your email campaign

Social media provides the potential upside of “going viral,” but the old workhorse of email is a proven top performer for direct-to-shopper marketing messaging. Get your existing local customer base fired up for your Small Business Saturday activities and promotions by adhering to four simple email best practices: 1) Write concise subject lines, 2) Use simple layout designs, 3) Attract interest with images and GIFs, and 4) Present a single, clear call-to-action (CTA).

Optimize your online presence for both search and mobile

Make it easy for new shoppers to discover your store. Local search accounts for over 75 percent of online activity, and browsing shoppers are dependent on search for identifying local stores that can fulfill their needs. Best practices for optimizing local search include: 1) Complete your store’s listing with correct address, phone number, website and store hours, 2) Ensure location is accurate on Google Maps, and 3) Actively solicit multiple positive reviews to populate the feed.

But, that’s not all! Mobile is the key engager with shoppers, particularly with those shopper generations who are “digital natives,” like millennials and Gen Z. However, shoppers aren’t the only ones who pay attention to mobile browsing. Google punishes websites that aren’t mobile-friendly by pushing them down in search results, and no business can afford that. Test your site’s mobile responsiveness today with Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test tool.

With each passing holiday season, mobile becomes a bigger and more important touchpoint, and mobile is increasingly the very first branded touchpoint in today’s new shopping journeys. Ensure your branded content is mobile-friendly for smaller screens, but stop looking at mobile as a one-way street of broadcasting and informing. Resist thinking of mobile as a channel, but rather as a relationship, and employ good relationship skills like listening and observing.

Also, consider dropping a comprehensive approach to mobile in favor of delivering one piece of outstanding value through your mobile engagement efforts and gradually growing out your offering from there. For example, you’d never use your favorite airline’s mobile app if it weren’t for easy boarding passes. Find your store’s “boarding pass,” execute on that flawlessly for Small Business Saturday and beyond, and build up and out from there.

Engage your audience through social platforms

Start now with your #SmallBizSat conversations across your social media platforms. Preview the discounts, promotions and special attractions you have in mind, and make your posts as interactive and two-way as possible. Try polls and other interactive tactics, or simply ask questions and respond to the answers you get back from you community.

Additionally, use your social platforms to listen in on the conversations that are already taking place relevant to your business. Follow the accounts and hashtags of your town, business district or mall, and pipe in where appropriate. And, make it easy for your community share your messaging – nothing helps spread your marketing messaging like a band of devoted brand ambassadors.

Above all, don’t forget to have fun!

In general, the holiday season is a huge source of stress for both you and your shoppers. If you’re not having fun, shoppers won’t be having fun, and that’s not good for anyone. Ease the stress by keeping your sense of humor and delivering a surprisingly delightful, magical and memorable shopping experience for your customers.

The holiday season and Small Business Saturday tends to draw new traffic into stores, and it’s a once-a-year opportunity to make the sort of spectacular first impression that pays off in return visits over the short- and mid-term. You can proactively encourage just that sort of shopping behavior by providing some sort of “bounceback” incentive on Small Business Saturday, so put on your creative hat and think up the perfect promotion for your store.

Happy holidays, and good luck on Small Business Saturday.

Join the #retail, #inspiringretail and #SmartStore conversations on Twitter @RayHartjen & @RetailNext, as well as at www.facebook.com/retailnext.