Making the Most of Small Business Saturday

Ray Hartjen
Ray Hartjen
Director, Marketing

A growing grassroots movement, Small Business Saturday is making its mark on the Thanksgiving weekend, and it represents retail opportunities for stores, whether small or not.

This just in:  Small Business Saturday is a “thing,” and it’s a critical business day for your retail store, whether you’re small or not.

As part of a 2010 campaign, American Express created Small Business Saturday to encourage American shoppers to support small, local businesses. Right out of the box, Small Business Saturday was big, and it’s only getting bigger as the years go by – last year AMEX estimated 95 million people participated at small businesses around the country.

Shop Owner

This year, Small Business Saturday is Saturday, November 26, two days after Thanksgiving and one day after Black Friday. Whether stores are open Thursday and/or Friday or not, an increasingly growing grassroots marketing effort will drive shopper traffic on Saturday. If you’re a small business, plan to participate and prepare in ways that will help you break free from the noise, from displays and promotional signage to email and social media campaigns. And, if you’re a big business, look for efforts to attract the shoppers who are already out and about, with a keen emphasis on mobile search, proximity and mobile marketing campaigns and tools.

Below are six tips to help you make the most of #SmallBizSat:

Optimize your efforts on local search

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 listings with address, phone number, website and store hours, 2) Ensure location is accurate on Google Maps, and 3) Actively solicit multiple positive reviews.

Activate your social media and email channels

Jump into the local discussions already taking place over social networks by using the right hashtags and mentions, and make sure to update your Facebook page and other social media accounts by Wednesday, November 23. While you’re at it, consider simultaneously launching an email campaign, keeping in mind these simple guidelines: 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).

Window shopping women

Promote #SmallBizSat and #ShopSmall participation with front door and window signage

Small Business Saturday attracts the not-so-usual shoppers to retail districts, and while some may be your “regulars,” most are not, and the weekend affords you an opportunity to get new shoppers into your store. Take advantage of the surge in surrounding foot traffic by designing an eye-catching, holiday-themed window display that “pops” and stops shoppers in their tracks. Incorporate your products if possible, and lure the shoppers who stop into your store any which way you can, including offering hot chocolate and cookies if you have to. Once in your store, it’s up to you and your staff to deliver the magical retail experience you’re so capable of.

Host a special event

Tailor a special event to your store, its products and services and your target customers. Be it a musical act, an expo of artisans handcrafting gifts and other products, a wine and food pairing experience, a custom gift designing workshop or whatever, aim to rise above the #SmallBizSat noise and differentiate your store and brand.

Provide a bounceback incentive

Once you’ve attracted traffic to your store on Small Business Saturday, don’t stop there! Create offers, promotions and other incentives to drive shoppers back into your store at least one more time before Christmas, and again between Christmas and New Year’s Day. Find a way to have shoppers opt-in to special offers with their contact information – like emailed receipts or gift cards – and be sure to follow up in a way that adds value … to the shopper. What’s good for shoppers is good for your store.

Ensure you’re adequately staffed

Small Business Saturday is not just about attracting traffic to stores, but to surprise and delight shoppers once they are there. Make certain seasonal associates are fully trained on all the basics, eliminating the need for any interpretation of policies and procedures, particularly those around finding inventory and ringing up sales. Lastly, ensure the schedule provides adequate staff coverage across the store, particularly during peak traffic hours.

Join the #retail, #inspiringretail and #ShopSmall conversations on Twitter @RayHartjen & @RetailNext, as well as at