Independent retailers have faced a lot of uncertainty this year, but there’s one thing they can count on: Small Business Saturday will look much different in 2020 than it has in past years. The annual event—on November 28 this year—celebrates small locally owned businesses and typically includes in-store events and promotions.


Even as communities continue to reopen during the pandemic, not all shoppers are eager to spend time in physical stores. One recent survey found that many shoppers plan to do far more holiday shopping online this year.


“The consumer path-to-purchase has changed wildly in the past few months,” says Nicole Leinbach-Reyhle, founder and publisher of Retail Minded, a publication for independent retailers. “That means retailers need to prepare for a new twist during the upcoming holiday shopping season.”


The good news? Consumers are more invested than ever in supporting their local small businesses during this difficult time. Here are five ways to make Small Business Saturday successful this year, despite the challenging environment:

1. Build your digital presence—now

More than ever, consumers are browsing online before they step into a store. So retailers must make sure they are hitting all of their customers across all channels, especially online. “Offer shoppers multiple avenues to connect with your brand,” Leinbach-Reyhle says.


Likewise, consider some form of digital engagement around Small Business Saturday. For example, many independent bookstores have hosted local author readings for Small Business Saturday. This year, those readings could be done over video conferencing or a social media streaming tool such as Facebook Live.

2. Work with your community

“Main Street” businesses often come together with their neighbors to coordinate Small Business Saturday events and promotions—such as providing shoppers with free gift-wrapping or punch cards that provide a free gift if shoppers go to multiple stores. While those efforts will probably look different this year due to social distancing, neighborhood collaboration will be all the more important.


Consider brainstorming joint promotion opportunities with your local Chamber of Commerce and business associations to create a safe but profitable shopping experience.

3. Consider ‘social selling’

Social media is a perfect place to promote your Small Business Saturday plans—as many customers will be happy to support you during these trying times. But beyond using social to simply promote the day, consider also using it to sell your products or services.


Thanks to new technology, small retailers don’t always need an online store to sell their merchandise. Apps, such as CommentSold, let customers purchase directly from your social media pages by leaving comments on the posts. They create a cart for each user and send an invoice after a comment-based purchase. “It’s a very organized and easy-to-use application once it’s in place,” Leinbach-Reyhle notes.

4. Offer private shopping experiences

Customers will feel more comfortable shopping in-store if they know the store won’t be crowded. So consider offering a private, “VIP” shopping experience for those customers. Of course, to fit in all of your appointments, you may have to extend your specials beyond that single Saturday. But this could be a great opportunity to elevate the shopping experience for your best customers, Leinbach-Reyhle adds.

5. Create the right discounts and promotions

Some shoppers will be extra cost-conscious this holiday season due to the economy, Leinbach-Reyhle cautions, so offer a variety of merchandise at different price points. Moreover, you can drive more interest on Small Business Saturday by giving shoppers both in-store and online a special deal—whether a free gift or a nice discount.


One big challenge for many small retailers this season is that dealing with COVID-related reopening issues has delayed their holiday season preparations. So the most important thing you can do to ensure a profitable Small Business Saturday is to start now, if you haven’t already.


“Being optimistic is one thing, but being proactive is something else,” Leinbach-Reyhle says. “Be proactive in order to be prepared.”


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