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

After last year’s holiday season amid the pandemic, 2021’s holiday season will look a bit different this year, especially for businesses. Consumers who wanted to do their part to shop consciously and support small retailers where they could last year now have favorite local shops. To build on existing community support and continue to grow, small businesses can boost consumer awareness and reach more holiday shoppers by participating in Small Business Saturday, an annual shopping holiday dedicated to supporting local companies.

American Express launched Small Business Saturday in 2010 and encourages people to Shop Small in their local communities, especially during the holiday season. To help Americans find and support local small businesses, it created the "Shop Small" map that plots out small businesses across the country.

If you want to sign up to be featured on American Express’s Shop Small map for Small Business Saturday 2021, here’s what you need to know.

What is Small Business Saturday?

Small Business Saturday is the “shopping holiday” between Black Friday and Cyber Monday where consumers are encouraged to #ShopSmall. Sponsored by American Express and backed by legislation, it's a chance for small businesses across the country to get increased exposure at the start of the holiday shopping season.

This year, Small Business Saturday will be observed on Saturday, November 27, 2021. As a direct result of the challenges COVID-19 continues to present to small businesses, American Express encourages small businesses to register and add themselves to its Shop Small map and encourages shoppers to find and support those local businesses year-round, whether home for the holidays or on a road trip during the winter season.

[Read: How Any Business Can Make the Most of Small Business Saturday]

Small Business Saturday registration

Signing up for Small Business Saturday and adding your business to the Shop Small interactive map can be done in a few simple steps.

First, submit your business’s Employer Identification Number (EIN) through American Express’s merchant profile page to verify your business. From there, you’ll confirm your shop’s location on the map (you’ll need to toggle on the “Show on Shop Small Map” option to see it). You’ll have the ability to log back in with your EIN to edit your information and change the location of the shop later if necessary.

For more information, American Express created this instructional video to help small businesses complete the registration process.

In many shoppers’ minds, “deals” are synonymous with “Small Business Saturday.” As you prepare events, products, displays and more, consider the coupons or special offers you’d like to feature and begin to advertise them.

Why sign up for Small Business Saturday?

Small Business Saturday is a great way to gain exposure at a time when small businesses need it most. Here are a few reasons why signing up can be incredibly beneficial for you and your small business:

Increase awareness of your business and reach a wider consumer base

During these times, every business needs as many sales as they can get. 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.

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, as sales have shifted heavily toward e-commerce during COVID-19. 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.

[Read: Retailers Bet on Virtual 'Shoppable Moments' to Drive Holiday Sales]

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 at a time when most businesses are slashing their budgets and trying to save cash.

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

How else to get involved in Small Business Saturday

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

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 92% of consumers believe suggestions from friends and family more than advertising. So, organize an in-person or online event during Small Business Saturday, advertise to your most loyal customers and offer a great experience.

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 (i.e., a bakery partnering with a bookstore or a brewery partnering with a restaurant) or leverage your own social media following to advertise what your business will be doing or the deals you’ll be running for Small Businesses Saturday.

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

Plan the deals you want to offer

In many shoppers’ minds, “deals” are synonymous with “Small Business Saturday.” As you prepare events, products, displays and more, 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.

Personalize experiences

Customers love to have unique and customized shopping experiences. From the moment they enter your store to the customer service they experience and the packaging on the product they buy, it’s important to treat each consumer as your favorite and tailor their experience to their wants, needs and likes. While it’s easier said than done, consider training your employees on taking the time to customize their approach to different customers and to practice offering great customer service.

Extend hours

With employees returning to work on a normal or hybrid schedule, extending your hours on a weekend can help garner as much visibility as possible for your business. Customers value flexibility and personalized experiences (as mentioned above) 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 can be helpful too. If some consumers are uncomfortable shopping in person, add options for online or mobile app shopping.

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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Published October 13, 2021