small business saturday

For a tradition that only dates to 2010, you have to hand it to Small Business Saturday.

The unofficial shopping holiday now has 70% awareness amongst U.S. consumers, with 64% of survey respondents indicating that their primary motivation for shopping on the day after Black Friday was to support their local community.

And research shows that hundreds of millions of shoppers now turn out for Small Business Saturday each year.

But why is Small Business Saturday so important? And why should small businesses focus so much time and energy getting it right?

Though overshadowed by Black Friday and Cyber Monday—not to mention a certain celebration of gratitude on the preceding Thursday—Small Business Saturday is an opportunity for local businesses to compete with big-time retail.

What is Small Business Saturday?

After Black Friday, we “celebrate” Small Business Saturday: A shopping holiday in the U.S. meant to boost awareness and support for businesses both local and small.

The timing of Small Business Saturday helps it piggy-back off the Black Friday shopping fever, which is one reason it’s seen a long-term trend in growth:

small business saturday shoppers per year

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But the growth hasn’t been there every year.

In 2017—a positive year for the economy and the stock market—Small Business Saturday numbers actually went down both in terms of total foot traffic and dollars spent.

Small Business Saturday Pro Tip: Be Prepared!

eric carlson

For the holiday, the most important thing you can do is prepare. While during the holiday season you are likely to see increased conversion and improved sales, you are also likely to see increased ad competition on platforms like Facebook.

That being said, one of the best things you can do is try to build up the “people that know you” before the holiday season kicks in. This means building your email list, messenger list, and generating more pixel traffic that later can be retargeted.

– Eric Carlson, Co-Founder, 10xFactory.

The History of Small Business Saturday

While the name “Black Friday” has been unable to shake its negative connotations—overconsumption and rabid retail shoppers—Small Business Saturday took off less than a decade ago as part of a dedicated effort.

American Express created Small Business Saturday (SBS) in 2010 with the goal of encouraging the support of both local and small eCommerce shops.

So far, it’s been a success.

According to Farm Bureau Finance Services, in 2012—in which American Express encouraged small businesses to take advantage of the holiday—$5.5 billion was spent in independent businesses across the country over the course of a single day.

When is Small Business Saturday?

Small Business Saturday typically occurs on the fourth Saturday of November.

Part of ‘Cyber Week’, it follows Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving.

This gives the shopping holiday a “roaming” date based on when Thanksgiving occurred—the fourth Thursday of the month.

This year, Small Business Saturday falls on November 24, 2018.

In 2019, it will take place nearly a week later—on November 30.

Why Small Business Saturday Matters

Once the holiday retail race begins, retail chains have no problem attracting customers.

In fact, in 2016, over one hundred million people had already gone shopping by the time Black Friday rolled around.

Small Business Saturday, however, is an oasis between Black Friday and Cyber Monday—a reminder that local communities could stand to benefit from the holiday spending frenzy, too.

Why worry about small business? Consider this:

  • Small businesses aren’t in the minority. Far from it. In total, small businesses account for 99.7% of all registered businesses in the U.S.
  • Local money stays local. Spending $100 at a local business reportedly results in $68 that stays in the community, compared to $43 for national and franchise businesses.
  • Small Business Saturday sales actually went down in 2017—both in foot traffic and overall dollars spent, according to CNBC.

So while big-time retail tends to win throughout the holiday season, statistics show that Small Business Saturday really matters for those smaller scale operations.

Small Business Saturday Pro Tip: Customer Research in Crucial.

Lianna Patch

Do. Customer. Research.

There is absolutely no replacement for following up with customers at every stage of the purchase journey (and I don’t mean just by sending a single “Please leave us a review!” email). Install Hotjar polls on your site.

Do user testing on new products. Mine your reviews for patterns and sticky phrases. This should be a constant process, and will yield soooo many useful insights.

– Lianna Patch, Head Puncher, Punchline Copy.

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Ways To Get The Most Out of Small Business Saturday

Small businesses shouldn’t simply be grateful for more foot traffic after Black Friday.

The boost in energy, attention, and sales is too valuable to pass up.

But is that boost enough?

Last year, foot traffic declined even on Black Friday as more customers went online to shop.

Here are a few ideas for getting the most out of Small Business Saturday.

1. Remind people about Small Business Saturday.

As a small business, you’re in direct competition with Black Friday sales. To get a jump on the holiday weekend, you should remind people about the event in advance using:

If you want people to show up, don’t count on the name of the day to do all the work. Treat Small Business Saturday like it’s your own special event.

Small Business Saturday Pro Tip: Avoid Complacency

Avoid complacency. Be tireless with optimizing your online store and marketing channels for increasing conversion rate.

If you haven’t tried 50+ changes to your approach to see how it impacts your metrics, you haven’t experimented enough.

– Nick Raushenbush, Cofounder, Shogun Landing Page Builder.

2. Tell people about the benefits of Small Business Saturday.

On Thanksgiving weekend, customers have their wallets ready to go.

RetailMeNot reports that the average customer is ready to spend some $700 on the weekend between Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

But not every customer knows about the benefits of spending locally.

Your local marketing strategy can showcase statistics that reinforce the value of local spending as part of your social media and marketing campaigns to give customers a reason to ditch the big-time retail outlets come Saturday.

3. Create incentives that the big companies can’t rival.

Don’t just create discounts and call it a sale.

Think about specialized services that only a small business like yours can provide.

This might be things like special gift wrapping, personal shopping assistance, home delivery, etc.

Need more ideas? Marcus Lemonis of CNBC’s The Profit has 21 ideas for small businesses during the holiday shopping season.

4. Tag your social media efforts.

Small Business Saturday in 2016 saw nearly a quarter of a million social media posts using some variant of the following hashtags:

  • #SmallBizSat
  • #ShopSmall
  • #SmallBusinessSaturday
  • #DineSmall

As you promote your business on social media, don’t forget to use at least one hashtag.

5. Use American Express’s resources.

American Express is more than happy to boost the visibility of Small Business Saturday and does so by offering resources that are exclusive to small businesses.

If you want to get a head start on the big day, take advantage of the year-round “shop small” resources at American Express.

How popular are these resources?

Even the Small Business Administration recommends a free Shop Small kit from American Express.

6. Mobilize.

Is your small business mobile-friendly?

If not, you may be missing out on sales.

According to Google, 64% of shoppers use mobile search on smartphones for product ideas before heading to the store.

BigCommerce store owners benefit from mobile-optimized stores and templates that cater to mobile users who are researching and shopping on the go.

7. Get specific.

What’s more enticing: “Small Business Saturday deals” or “Show up in store and get 15% off any full-priced item”?

When you post to social media, make sure you include visuals instead of simply telling people about your offers. Specificity matters.

Make sure your efforts are as specific and memorable as possible.

8. Get ready for the deluge.

Entrepreneur recommends: “When in doubt, over-staff.”

Think of Small Business Saturday as an audition for your company.

You’re auditioning yourself for the crowds of new customers.

If you’re understaffed and underprepared, it’s not a good representation of your company during the other 364 days of the year.

Hire and train extra staff early, and make sure they’re on-deck for Small Business Saturday.

9. Leverage the foot traffic.

Foot traffic is its own reward—but only if you capitalize on it.

Try the following:

  • Business card contests: Drive more customer engagement by holding contests at points of sale and online.
  • Sending out coupons next year: Once you’ve captured enough information, you can then create emails for next year with even more day-specific incentives.

10. Create Small Business Saturday packages.

Black Friday brings the discounts.

That’s not your day.

You don’t have to offer sales to get the most of your Small Business Saturday experience.

Instead, try marketing “experiences” rather than cutting prices.

What products and services can you package together for a unique experience? What will draw in more foot traffic? What pairings inspire people to come into your shop?

Small Business Saturday Pro Tip: Integrate and Align All Strategies

Josh Brisco

Ensuring your promotion and marketing execution strategies are aligned.

Having a solid game plan as you roll into the thick of the holiday season, as well as actually executing in terms of channel coordination are absolutely crucial to Q4 success.

– Josh Brisco, Sr. Manager of Retail Search Operations, CPC Strategy.

Use Small Business Saturday To Get Customers To Buy Online

Remember that bit about most people searching for local companies on mobile eventually making a purchase?

You’re going to want to get in on that.

But how do you make the shift from local attraction to online mini-retailer? Here are a few suggestions:

1. Capture emails.

Building an email list is like building a personal directory of customers who are ready to buy what you’re selling.

A robust email list can be great for promotions, flash sales—and even maximizing your sales next Small Business Saturday.

But you need a way to get your customers to sign up. Here are a few ideas on how to grow your email list:

  • Contests: Use a contest to “trade” something in exchange for customer email signups—one free entry in exchange for their email.
  • Samples and free incentives: Who doesn’t like the occasional freebie? Set up free giveaways at the point-of-sale to get people to convert from foot traffic to digital follower.
  • Be mobile-ready: Tools like MailChimp Subscribe allows you to use mobile technology to capture emails in person.

2. Advertise your willingness to ship. recently found that many local businesses—especially those in categories that tend to do well on Small Business Saturday—are willing to ship to their customers.

They just don’t advertise that fact.

If you work in a shipping-friendly category like clothing, electronics, or games/toys, reconsider your store-only policy.

You may find that many customers prefer the convenience of online shopping to the no-shipping benefit of shopping in person.

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

If someone “likes” your business on Facebook, do you have a “Shop Now” button in place?

Consider your social media and in-person presence not as separate entities, but two faces of the same store.

The more you link them together, the easier it will be for customers who want to support you to actually pull it off.

Small Business Saturday: The Gift that Keeps On Giving

Small Business Saturday is anything but a side attraction.

One survey found that 83% of customers find that the shopping holiday inspires them to “shop small” all year long.

But Small Business Saturday won’t be a boon to your business unless you’re ready to capture some of that enthusiasm.

In a day nestled between two hallmark shopping holidays for the big guys, small businesses like yours can take advantage of the shopping frenzy—but only if you’re ready to think big.

Want more insights like this?

We’re on a mission to provide businesses like yours marketing and sales tips, tricks and industry leading knowledge to build the next house-hold name brand. Don’t miss a post. Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

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