person's hands wrapping holiday gifts
From generating awareness for your business to potentially boosting sales, adding your small business to the Small Business Saturday map can offer many benefits at no cost to you. — Getty Images/DusanManic

Small businesses play a vital role in the economy, both locally and nationally. In recognition of this, American Express founded Small Business Saturday, an initiative to encourage people to “Shop Small” through the holiday season and all year round. Customers looking to support local small businesses can use the Shop Small Map, which plots out participating merchants across the United States.

If you want to sign up for American Express’s Shop Small Map for this year’s Small Business Saturday — Saturday, November 25, 2023 — here’s everything you need to know.

What is Small Business Saturday?

Small Business Saturday is the annual “shopping holiday” between Black Friday and Cyber Monday when consumers are encouraged to shop at small businesses in their communities.

Sponsored by American Express and co-sponsored by the U.S. Small Business Administration, this day offers small businesses across the country the opportunity to increase their exposure at the start of the holiday shopping season. Businesses aren’t the only ones who benefit, though: Consumers can take advantage of special promotions many stores offer during Small Business Saturday, while also exploring the unique products and services offered by local shops. Communities, corporations, and even government representatives can also get involved by encouraging local businesses and community members to partake in the day.

According to data from American Express, consumers have reported spending an estimated $184 billion at small businesses on Small Business Saturday since 2010. This increased spending not only bolsters individual small businesses; it also supports local, state, and national economies.

How to register for Small Business Saturday

Signing up for Small Business Saturday and adding your business to American Express’s Shop Small interactive map can be done in a few simple steps:

  • Log in through American Express’s merchant profile page to verify your business. You can submit your Employer Identification Number (EIN) and business zip code. Alternatively, if you currently use American Express Merchant Services, you can use the Merchant ID or Access Code listed on emails and financial activity statements.
  • Select your shop’s location on the map (you’ll need to toggle on the “Show on Shop Small Map” option to see it).
  • If you need to edit any information, such as your business name or contact information, click the edit icon next to the corresponding section.
  • Press “Save” to save your updates, which can take up to three days to appear on the Shop Small Map or Online Directory.

If you need to make any additional updates following your initial registration, simply log back in with your EIN or Merchant ID.

For more information about signing up for Small Business Saturday, American Express created this instructional video to help small businesses complete the registration process. Using American Express’s online tools, including the Shop Small Resource Hub, will also help you familiarize yourself with the online portals and identify ways you can attract shoppers through your own merchant profile.

[Read more: 7 Ways Your Business Can Get Ready For Black Friday (It's Not Just for the Big Guys)]

Why sign up for Small Business Saturday?

Small Business Saturday is a great way to gain exposure, especially ahead of the holiday season. Here are a few reasons why signing up can be incredibly beneficial for you and your small business:

You can increase awareness of your business and reach a wider consumer base

Participating in Small Business Saturday can, quite literally, put your business on the map and attract a greater number of customers through the holiday season.

American Express also reaches out to select businesses during the Small Business Saturday promotional period to feature them in video and social media content tied to the shopping holiday. This is yet another opportunity to expand your reach with AmEx’s large customer base.

It helps generate e-commerce sales

While Small Business Saturday started as a way to bring attention to local businesses, it can also help small retailers expand their national presence, particularly as e-commerce sales continue to gain traction. By listing your business on the Shop Small map and participating in Small Business Saturday marketing initiatives, your business will have a wider audience for any online sales or promotions you may be running for the holiday season.

It’s free

There’s no fee to list your business on the Shop Small map. By registering, you can get a leg up this holiday season without any additional marketing spend — a huge perk for small businesses trying to make the most of their cash.

Learn more about how to make the most of this shopping holiday in our Small Business Saturday guide.

[Read more: How Do You Turn a Negative Customer Experience Into a Positive One? ]

While Small Business Saturday started as a way to bring attention to local businesses, it can also help small retailers expand their national presence.

10 ways to get involved in Small Business Saturday

Looking for more ways to get involved with Small Business Saturday? Here are 10 ideas to get you started.

1. Host an event

Whether you host your own event, partner with another local business in a related industry, or attend a business alliance’s larger event, one of the most important ways to get involved with Small Business Saturday is to get out in front of potential customers in your community. Word of mouth and referrals remain one of the best ways to attract new customers and improve sales — in fact, Nielsen reported that 88% of consumers trust personal recommendations more than advertising or any other marketing channel. So, organize an in-person or online event during Small Business Saturday, advertise to your most loyal customers, and offer a great experience.

2. Advertise on social media

While word of mouth is a vital piece of marketing, social media should not be ignored. Join local business groups, partner with businesses in shoulder niches — for example, a bakery partnering with a bookstore or a brewery partnering with a restaurant — or leverage your own social media following to advertise your business’s Small Business Saturday offerings.

In the weeks leading up to Small Business Saturday, consider posting different types of content to widen the audience you reach. Create gift guides, publish tips for how to use your products, or source stories from real customers to diversify the regular content posted and connect authentically with your customers.

3. Plan the deals you want to offer

In many shoppers’ minds, “Small Business Saturday” is synonymous with “deals.” As you prepare events, products, displays, and other offerings, consider the coupons or special offers you’d like to feature and begin to advertise them. When creating the deal, though, ensure that it is a sound financial decision and doesn’t lose your business money.

4. Personalize experiences

Customers love to have unique and customized shopping experiences. From the initial experience of entering your store to the packaging of the product they buy, the customer should encounter a positive, tailored experience each and every time. While it’s easier said than done, consider training your employees on how to practice great customer service, including customizing their approach for each person who walks through the door or makes a purchase online.

5. Extend your hours and/or sales

Your clients’ work and personal schedules can vary, particularly during the busy holiday season, so extending your hours on a weekend can help garner as much visibility as possible for your business. Customers value flexibility, so opening earlier, closing later, and extending deals can help shoppers get the most out of their experience with you. Adding more ways to interact, including online or mobile app shopping, can also motivate more customers to make a purchase.

6. Prepare your physical store

If your business has a brick-and-mortar storefront, stock up on inventory of your best-selling products ahead of time to ensure your supply meets demand. You may also consider scheduling extra workers during this time to help customers find what they are looking for, answer questions, and get to know the people behind your business.

If you are the only one running your business, stay focused and organized by creating to-do lists or leveraging productivity apps. Additionally, create an email sign-up sheet at the register to help build your mailing list and hopefully turn one-time patrons into loyal customers.

7. Start an email campaign

Utilize your digital mailing list by using email marketing for the upcoming holiday. Before Small Business Saturday, create a series of emails, including any discounts and special offers, information about your business, and what customers can expect while shopping with you.

Plan the initial email announcing your participation in the holiday as soon as possible, followed by an email about a week prior, and lastly, a day or two right before the big day. This ensures your business is always at the top of your prospective customers’ inboxes — and minds.

8. Emphasize your small business identity

Small Business Saturday exists for the community to support a business like yours, so highlight your identity as a small business during this holiday season. Share the story of what inspired you to create your business across your marketing channels (including your physical store, if applicable), and make it the cornerstone of your business.

Remind your community members this giving season how your product or service has impacted your community and what you have done to give back. Emphasize how your small business differs from large-scale companies but still provides high-quality products or services.

9. Show appreciation for your customers

While customer appreciation should be a part of your standard procedures, showing a little extra gratitude can go a long way, especially during the holiday shopping season. Consider including a thank-you note (or video), free branded swag, or future-use coupons with each purchase. You can even offer free products or services for purchases over a certain dollar value.

When showing customer appreciation, don’t forget the power of online marketing. You can feature customers on social media through “shout-outs” or sharing user-generated content, such as reposting purchases from your business, to encourage your audience to continue shopping small.

[Read more: 6 Inexpensive Ways to Thank Your Customers This Holiday Season ]

10. Be responsive online

Part of providing a positive customer experience, particularly in a digital-first world, is answering online inquiries. Respond to any questions and comments — both about your seasonal offerings and your business in general — on your website or social media platforms in a timely manner. Additionally, you can build out an FAQ page on your website, update it with any offerings you might have for Small Business Saturday, and share it on your social media profiles.

Finally, if customers take the time to leave a review, acknowledge them. Express your appreciation for any positive reviews your customers leave, and work to resolve any issues presented in negative reviews. This shows your dedication to providing a positive customer experience, and you may even convert a dissatisfied shopper into a loyal client.

This article was originally written by Nicole Fallon, Katarina Betterton,and Kaytlyn Smith.

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