Small Business Saturday 2020: Ultimate Guide for Small Business Owners

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Black Friday and Cyber Monday represent two of the busiest days of the holiday shopping season. But in-between them lies an opportunity for small business owners to claim a share of holiday shoppers’ budgets.

American Express Small Business Saturday is a way to celebrate small business owners and what they contribute to their local communities.

This year’s Small Business Saturday 2020 may look a little different from the events of the past as more customers shift their attention to shopping online in accordance with social distancing guidelines. According to a DealAid.org survey, just 60 percent of consumers say they plan to shop in-store, versus 87 percent who did so in 2019. And a CreditCards.com poll found that more than 70 percent of holiday shoppers plan to do most of their seasonal shopping online this year, up from just over half (51 percent) last year.

However, the National Retail Federation estimates that Americans are still poised to spend just under $1,000 on average for the holidays this year.  If you own a business, these tips can help you prepare for Small Business Saturday success.

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What is Small Business Saturday?

American Express Small Business Saturday first began in 2010 as an effort to shine a spotlight on small businesses. The purpose of this yearly event is to remind and encourage consumers to shop small and support independent businesses online and offline alike.

Since then, it’s grown into an annual event that saw consumers spend an estimated $19.6 billion in 2019, according to the Small Business Saturday Consumer Insights Survey from American Express and the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB). Collectively, American Express estimates that consumers have spent more than $120 billion supporting small businesses since the event’s inception.

Small businesses benefit from increased sales during the busy holiday season, which in turn benefits the communities where they’re located. According to American Express, 67 cents of every dollar spent at a small business—whether it’s a retail store, restaurant or something else—stays in the community.

Small Business Saturday 2020 may hold particular importance, as 62 percent of small business owners say they need to see spending levels return to pre-COVID levels before the year is out in order to keep their doors open.

When is Small Business Saturday?

Small Business Saturday always falls between Black Friday and Cyber Monday. It’s scheduled this way so that small business owners have an opportunity to compete with larger brands as consumers get their holiday shopping underway.

Small Business Saturday 2020 lands on Nov. 28 this year. And if you’re interested in planning ahead, here are some additional dates to pencil in on your calendar:

  • Small Business Saturday 2021: Nov. 27
  • Small Business Saturday 2022: Nov. 26

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How to participate in Small Business Saturday

American Express Small Business Saturday is designed to promote small businesses of all kinds, including those that operate online as well as traditional brick-and-mortar businesses.

You don’t need to sign up or register to participate in the event. If you want to promote the event, you can do so with free marketing materials from American Express. This includes downloadable materials you can use to advertise Small Business Saturday online or in-store, including:

  • Posters and other signage that includes Small Business Saturday quotes
  • Social media posts
  • Customizable decals

A separate Small Business Saturday kit which includes event merchandise is available by request. These are first-come, first-served and quantity is limited.

For Small Business Saturday 2020, American Express is offering a free e-book to help small business owners manage social distancing requirements for customers who shop in-store, along with social distancing signage. Additionally, this year’s Small Business Saturday kit also includes special marketing materials to show support for Black-owned businesses.

The Shop Small map makes it easy for consumers to find businesses that participate in Small Business Saturday. You can ask to be added to the map if you meet these requirements:

  • Your business accepts American Express cards as a form of payment
  • You’re located in the 50 states, District of Columbia or a U.S. territory
  • You have at least one but no more than 25 locations and no more than $5 million in American Express annual charge volume
  • You’re not part of a franchise
  • Your business isn’t in an excluded industry

Small businesses can ask to be added to the map through the Small Business Saturday website.

Small Business Saturday ideas for 2020

If you’re hoping to capitalize on Small Business Saturday this year, getting a head start on planning can help. But regardless of when you begin preparing, there are certain things you can do to make the most of this event.

1. Download the free marketing materials

American Express makes it easy to promote Small Business Saturday by providing you with the marketing tools to do it. So if you haven’t downloaded them from the Small Business Saturday website yet, that’s a good place to start.

You can also ask to have your business added to the Shop Small map. If you’re already included on the map, review your listing to make sure it’s up to date.

2. Get your physical (or virtual) storefront ready

If you’re banking on Small Business Saturday driving in a flood of customers, then it’s important to make sure you’re prepared to welcome them, either in-person or online.

For example, if you run a brick-and-mortar boutique, start by checking the layout. It should be easy for customers to navigate their way through your store while observing social distancing requirements.

Merchandising and displays also matter for drawing attention to the items you want to sell. And your point of sale system should be running smoothly so there are no snafus when you have a line of customers waiting to check out.

You’ll want to run similar stress tests if you operate an online storefront. Check your site to make sure items you want to sell are highlighted appropriately and the checkout is working. Be on the lookout for broken links or bugs that could turn shoppers away.

3. Take part in a local Small Business Saturday event

Joining in a Small Business Saturday event locally can help boost your business’s visibility and potentially lead to more sales.

There are two ways you can approach this. The first is looking for Small Business Saturday happenings that are going on in your local community. These can be sponsored by local organizations, including small business nonprofits or your Chamber of Commerce.

American Express maintains a list of Neighborhood Champions, which are organizations that support Small Business Saturday and shopping locally. You can search for Neighborhood Champions in your area through the Small Business Saturday website.

The other possibility is to host a Small Business Saturday event of your own. For instance, you could organize a charity event to raise funds for a good cause while encouraging customers to shop with your business. Or you might consider a cross-promotion with another small business.

4. Launch your holiday sales promotions

Just as big-box stores use Black Friday and Cyber Monday to promote sales, you can do the same to attract customers on Small Business Saturday. First, decide what type of promotion you want to offer. For example, you might consider:

  • Buy one (or two), get one free promotions
  • Offering certain items at a discount
  • Throwing in a freebie or two with a purchase
  • Hosting a raffle or contest

When planning Small Business Saturday sales, keep an eye on the bottom line. Slashing prices, for instance, could help you compete with bigger-name retailers but it could also shrink your profit margins. So think carefully about how to craft sales promotions so that you aren’t sacrificing revenue just to get people in the door.

Also, consider how you can keep customers coming back once Small Business Saturday ends. Collecting email addresses for a raffle, for instance, gives you a pathway to continue marketing to customers after the holiday shopping season draws to a close.

5. Fine-tune your marketing plans

Putting up signs in-store or on your website to let shoppers know about Small Business Saturday and other holiday sales is a good start. But there’s more you can do to market your business throughout the season. That might include:

  • Sending out email newsletters
  • Promoting Small Business Saturday sales on Facebook, Twitter or other social media
  • Investing in newspaper or TV ads
  • Setting up a cross-promotion with another business

When planning how to market your business during the holidays, consider what could give you the best return for your money to make sure your spending counts.

Don’t let Small Business Saturday pass you by

Small Business Saturday comes just once a year so it’s important to make the most of it. It could be especially important for 2020 as businesses struggle with the financial impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. Putting these strategies to work can help your small business thrive during the holiday season and all year round.