It’s creeping up faster than we thought—the series of holidays that can make or break your bottom line for the year. Small Business Saturday 2023 (SBS) falls on November 25. Originally launched 13 years ago as a campaign from American Express, the day is meant to inspire consumers to turn to their own communities for holiday gift shopping. Not only did it stick, but it became a profitable and pivotal day for businesses looking to their end-of-year profit goals.
Even if you haven’t strategized yet about your business’s approach to SBS, you can still salvage the opportunity to connect with your community. It’s worth a little effort—last year, American Express reported $17.9 billion in consumer spending at small businesses that day. In addition, they concluded 72% of Americans want to shop and dine at small, independently owned businesses all year long, not just on this day.
Here are the trends business leaders and experts are predicting for Small Business Saturday 2023 and how you can optimize them for your business.
Small Business Saturday 2023: predictions and challenges
Staffing might be tight
Verizon Business recently unveiled the results of its 2023 State of Small Business Survey, in which they reported 1 in 3 business owners are worried about being adequately staffed for the important day. Consider looking to contractors, temps or other nontraditional employees to ensure you can optimize the day’s profit potential.
If staffing is too tight, ensure you are creating an easy-to-use online sales process. “Many small businesses need to ensure they are digitizing their businesses, as 35% of owners expect to see an increase in online traffic rather than in-store traffic,” says Aparna Khurjekar, chief revenue officer of business markets and SaaS at Verizon Business in Basking Ridge, New Jersey.
Slower sales than normal
Due to inflation and economic hardships, consumers are looking to cut back across all holiday spending, which includes SBS. So, Verizon Business predicts slower sales this year, though the day itself might still be worth the bump in interest. Constant Contact’s holiday report shows that 73% of small businesses rely on the day for more than a quarter of their annual sales, so a dip is something to plan for. To encourage foot traffic, make sure you sign up for the American Express Small Business Saturday map to show shoppers that your business is participating.
Small Business Saturday 2023: Strategies to implement for your business
Offer gifts to shoppers
Among the SBS strategies businesses are trying, some are offering consumers a free gift to both incentivize shopping and to build trust with their community. Anne Mauler, vice president of marketing for Soapy Joe’s, a family-owned, 21-location car wash operation based in San Diego, is offering new and existing customers specific membership offers.
“Our product was positioned to members for retention purposes: Stay a member in December and get a free gift for a friend. For new members and existing members, everyone was emailed a $20 wash to gift as they liked. It is a ‘let us take care of a gift on your list’ strategy,” she says. “We focus on offering these types of experiences because it is not enough to rely on the features or benefits of your product. This way you earn the right to their ongoing business and loyalty, and it’s a source of recurring revenue for the small business owner.” For Mauler’s business, it works, and she says it has led to a referral rate three times the national average for her industry.
Remove unnecessary electronic hurdles to buying
A consumer might be close to making a purchase, but then there’s a tech issue or the actual button to purchase a product is too buried, so they give up. That’s what Olivia Dreizen Howell, a certified business and life coach and CEO of Fresh Starts Registry, an online resource for starting over, is aiming to prevent this SBS. “I see many small businesses setting up sales funnels directly from their newsletters. This is a wonderful option, especially if your newsletter has a high open rate, and the conversion rate of sales through the clickable buy-now button in the email makes it easy for the customer to purchase the product or service directly from their email inbox,” she says.
She’s also turning to ManyChat this year, a social media tool to quickly respond and reply to each comment to send them a direct link to buy a product.
Highlight your brand values
SBS is a time when consumers are actively seeking out brands they believe in. Lindzi Shanks, co-founder of XO Marshmallow, a gourmet marshmallow company in Chicago, says to communicate that message behind your brand. “We use SBS to talk about our team, show the process of how we make things and remind customers that we support the same values and missions as them,” she explains. Co-founder Kat Connor adds that it’s also a time to communicate what you are doing for Giving Tuesday.
Ola Sars, CEO of Soundtrack Your Brand, says music is a key way to distinguish your store from others’ vibe. “Fast-paced music motivates people to move faster in a store and the path-to-purchase process. And of course, the opposite is true for slow-paced music, which could influence them to spend more money,” he explains. “Meanwhile, tempo affects people’s perception of time. When people are exposed to fast-paced music, they have the impression that more time has passed than when they’re exposed to slow-paced music.” So, at the very least, get that curated playlist ready for Saturday.
Use recognizable signage
In addition to your super cute sidewalk chalkboard, use social media and windows to post recognizable signage. American Express offers a full package of marketing materials. Liz Trotter, CEO at Core Profit Builders, a coaching company for small service businesses in Charleston, South Carolina, says not to forget all of the social media platforms, including TikTok, to advertise your SBS sales and offers.
Don’t panic and rush with AI
Sure, ChatGPT is tempting if you are scrambling to finalize SBS offers or content. But it can cost you, according to Richelle Peña, an entrepreneur, writer and speaker who co-founded a business with her husband and recently sold it for more than $20 million.
“We all do our best to build a roadmap, to strategize our mailouts going up to events like SBS. But sometimes things change, and you need to send out a last-minute newsletter, perhaps about a brand new SBS offer that you’ve had little time to promote. Panic sets in, and you may think AI will solve everything. My advice is not to use it,” she says. “Your audience, your potential SBS customers, will feel something is off. Instead, make a cup of coffee, sit down and spend an hour or so writing something you created, with all the subtle nuance and imperfection that we humans are famous for. People can still detect the soul in an email. All too often, text generated through AI lacks that.”