This year, in a word: overwhelming. Holiday shopping, in a word: overwhelming.
From Black Friday doorbusters to Cyber Monday flash-deals, customers are burnt out. If they weren’t already, the added stress of a pandemic has made the holiday shopping season of yesteryear one shoppers wish to avoid.
Insert Small Business Saturday, a retail holiday nestled square in the middle of the shopping-focused weekend. Overwhelmed customers may enjoy the more personal shopping experience of a small business. This year, customers also want to support local businesses that have been impacted by the pandemic.
But challenges of whether those businesses can operate safely remain top of mind for customers and business owners alike. While the pandemic brings new challenges, it also brings opportunity to create traditions that shape our “new normal.”
Small Business Saturday. A day that’s anything but small
Like Black Friday launches big-box into its busiest shopping season, Small Business Saturday does the same for local retailers.
An estimated $19.6 million was spent at small businesses on the retail holiday in 2019. Those dollars mean success for not only small businesses, but communities they serve. For every dollar spent at a small business in the U.S., 67 cents stays in the local community. Compare to 43 cents that stays in the local community when shopping non-locally.
In America, 99.7% of businesses are small businesses. Like big-box retailers, small businesses offer similar discounts. Unlike big-box retailers, small businesses don’t have major marketing dollars to display their sales and promotions.
Still, it’s just as important small businesses cash in on the holiday season expected to be like none other. For business owners, the challenge of how to get sales numbers close to the typical holiday season while protecting your business and your customers is a tricky one. No business can afford to be the site of a super-spreader event.
You want to maximize your sales without compromising the health and safety of you, your employees, or your customers.
What small businesses can do
To take on the task, it’s appropriate to push for a new tradition — one that emphasizes safe shopping. Embrace safety and ask that your customers do the same for you.
It’s also a good strategy to lean on changing customer attitudes. This year, we know that attitude is spending dollars early and not late. At least 42% of consumers say they started their holiday shopping in October. Another 41% plan to get underway in November, according to a survey released by the National Retail Federation.
Holiday shopping is top of mind as American families seek to create normalcy and keep traditions alive. Purchasing gifts for friends or loved ones is one way consumers can shift the focus of pandemic-caused fear and stress to hope and prosperity. You know this best as retail therapy.
Big business isn’t known for personalized service. Each year, Small Business Saturday draws interest from people who want to connect with their common-interest neighbors.
Successful small businesses nurture camaraderie between themselves and their customers. The best small businesses positively nurture camaraderie amongst their customers.
One reminder: Community is key
It’s easy to get caught up in the bottom line of Small Business Saturday — spikes in sales and transaction numbers. Winning Small Business Day is less about sales and more about relationships. Part of the allure to supporting small businesses is supporting the people.
Something that’s easy for the public to forget is that behind every business is an individual. In our communities, these owners and operators are our neighbors — our friends. To put this in focus, use your resources. Tell your story, and make it personal.
Wondering where to begin? Start by answering this question: Why do you do what you do?
People love to hear a well-told story. In fact, the human brain is wired to respond to a well-crafted narrative. Science proves that storytelling is the best way to instill memories and establish recognition among your customers.
Have your story? Take it online.
Forging connections with your community (and soon-to-be customers) can and will drive business. Now more than ever, these connections are taking shape in digital communities.
Engage with your customers where they are, be that Facebook, Instagram, or the like. Interacting with customers online can help create a neighborhood feel that’s not bound by geography.
Join other businesses by encouraging the community to support local business on Nov. 28 and the rest of the holiday season.
OK, community is the foundation. You want to build positive relationships. But in the end, it all comes down to sales. What’s the remedy?
Here are five things your small business should do ahead of Small Business Day.
Add an option for pick-up
Salesforce estimates overall volume of packages will exceed shipping capacity by 5% globally this year. With shipping snafus expected, anticipate a surge of customers buying weeks ahead of the holiday.
Still, a crowd of late shoppers will likely stick around. Offer curbside pick-up, if you can, to help these customers hedge against expected shipping delays. Curbside, already a pandemic favorite, can help provide safety to your team and your customers. Plus, customers will love the added convenience.
Extend the life of your discounts
Customers anticipate the best prices and deepest discounts to come out in late November. This year, while many will want to get their shopping done early, many will want the assurance they’re getting the best price.
Consider offering a discount guarantee to give customers peace of mind. Such would reassure them the price they pay early won’t be discounted in the days and weeks following.
Equip your business for online sales
Projections tell us three in four people will do some, if not all, of their holiday shopping online this year. Fitting your business for e-commerce takes a product catalog, and a secure online payment system equipped to handle transactions. This addition can help you cash in on the increased demand for online shopping this holiday season.
Plus, added bonuses to an online store: Your business can easily extend its shopping season. Your business can participate in Cyber Monday. An online store for your small business may appeal to customers who want to shop local, but beyond their geographic neighborhood.
Oh, and anticipate an influx of online traffic. Ensure your business is equipped to handle additional web traffic, and create a plan for monitoring online sales. You may need to restrategize or reposition your staff to assist with online sales.
(Bonus tip: Give your social media some TLC)
With extra online traffic anticipated, it’s a good time to review your website and social media accounts. Customers should be able to view your website and social media accounts and get up to speed on any promotions, plus other important business information. Double-check that your store hours, business address and phone number, among other things, are easy to find.
Encourage customers to spend on themselves
The National Retail Federation estimates an increase in individual consumer spending in all but one category — personal spending. While the objective of most holiday shoppers is to buy for friends and family, many traditionally will spend on themselves. But this year, that may be different.
It’s been a tough year, there’s no doubt about it. Positively remind and encourage customers that spending on themselves is OK and not only helps them, but helps you. Besides, who couldn’t use a little something for themselves?
Promote gift cards for safe shopping
It’s clear the coronavirus pandemic has pushed many out of stores. While some may not feel comfortable shopping in-store right now, there will come a time when they will. It’s important to give them a reason to return when they feel safe.
Forecasters anticipate gift cards to rise this year, especially among small businesses. Gift cards may signal to customers an opportunity to support local business now, while giving them an opportunity to enjoy something special later. If your business is equipped for gift cards, it may be wise to stock up and push that option online and in-store.
Acumen Connections wants to remind you that the best gift is peace of mind.
Help make it a happy and healthy holiday season.
Take the stress out of holiday shopping by equipping your business with the essentials, like the capability to process online transactions and contactless payment. If you’re not already equipped, Acumen Connections can help.
Show customers that you’re ready early, and they’ll thank you.