Exterior of a shop where you can see holiday lights and decor set up inside.
From creating multisensory experiences for shoppers to offering free product giveaways, there are a few key tactics that small businesses can implement on Small Business Saturday. — Getty Images/EasyBuy4u

Consumers threw their support behind small businesses during the pandemic, but these local shops will need to continue to find ways to differentiate themselves from their competition during the upcoming holiday season. Small Business Saturday provides a key platform for such efforts.

Here, experts share tips on how to optimize the opportunities this November 25.

Provide elevated service levels and multisensory experiences

Small businesses can’t always compete on price, but one way to attract consumers to small businesses is to provide some extra attention that’s hard for shoppers to find in the big retail chains or online.

Kate Giovambattista, Founder of Beyond Main, an online platform for small businesses, suggests that companies focus on the key things that can differentiate them during the holidays, whether those are specific products, special events, or elevated levels of service such as free gift-wrapping or personal shopping for valued customers.

“If they can provide elevated levels of service, the consumer feels like they are getting immense value for their dollar at a small business,” she said. “Retailers should focus on creating experiences for their customers, especially during this time of year.”

For many shoppers, visiting small businesses is a pleasurable endeavor, said Giovambattista, and retailers should seek to enhance that as much as possible by paying attention to details that create a multisensory experience in the form of holiday music, the smell of fresh-baked holiday treats, and seasonal visual displays.

Businesses should promote the elevated experience of shopping at their store well before Small Business Saturday, so they create a lingering impression in the minds of their customers, added Dannah Dawood, Head of Marketing and Communications at Beyond Main.

Partner with other local businesses

Another key strategy that small businesses can leverage to drive traffic and sales on Small Business Saturday is to partner with other local businesses to create unique events.

For example, a retailer might team up with a local wine shop to offer a private shopping experience with drinks and hors d’oeuvres, thus promoting sales for both businesses.

“Those types of experiences are usually really successful when they just team up with one local business that is not competitive, but complementary,” said Giovambattista.

Businesses should also look for broader opportunities to collaborate in other community-wide events if possible, she said. Often municipal business organizations stage contests or other activities to drive customer traffic to business areas on Small Business Saturday.

Emily Washcovick, Small Business Expert at online review site Yelp, agreed that both cross-promotions with other small businesses and broader collaborations can be effective strategies.

“What I love to see is when business owners collaborate and really come together,” she said. “Small Business Saturday is a big national campaign, and you can really gather some attention around that, but are there neighborhood events in your area as well? What’s happening in your local area that you can align your business with?”

Small Business Saturday is a big national campaign, and you can really gather some attention around that, but are there neighborhood events in your area as well? What’s happening in your local area that you can align your business with?

Emily Washcovick, Small Business Expert, Yelp

Leverage social media

Small businesses should also make sure they are making the most of social media opportunities to promote Small Business Saturday.

“Small Business Saturday is something lots of people are talking about,” said Yelp’s Washcovick. “Can you use a hashtag when you post about a certain offering that you have right now, or an item that you're trying to sell?”

She also noted the importance of having holiday operating hours of the business updated on all online accounts, including Yelp, which is where other digital platforms such as Apple Maps and Siri obtain their business data.

The holiday shopping season also presents an opportunity to share testimonials from shoppers and promote user-generated content on social media and other channels, said Beyond Main’s Dawood.

“It’s an opportunity to really build that community around your business, and bring that sense of, ‘I want to shop there, and support local business,’” she said.

Put employees in the spotlight

Another way to help differentiate a small business is to call attention to the knowledgeable, helpful workers in the store.

“Maybe you can celebrate a staff member of the week or put a spotlight on the customer service that they’re providing during this time,” said Washcovick.

Highlighting employees on digital platforms is one way to help “humanize” a business online, something that’s increasingly important as shoppers browse the internet as they plan their holiday shopping strategies, she said.

Another option is to showcase gifts that are recommended by employees.

“That’s a way to funnel a customer toward a certain offering,” said Washcovick.

Offer free giveaways

Giving away a free product is always a great way to attract attention, said Frank Fennell IV, President and CEO of KloseBuy, a digital marketing platform for small businesses.

Fennell cited an example of a restaurant operator he knows who is planning to give a free beer to all its customers who walk in the door, for one full day. The strategy seeks to drive new traffic to the restaurant, which the owner then hopes to retain by showcasing the restaurant’s high level of customer service.

“Promote a ‘buy something, get something for free’ message,” Fennell said. “Everybody wants something for free. That can get them in the store, which is important. Businesses should be willing to take a slight loss, perhaps, to get someone to come into the store.”

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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