small business saturday 2019 tips

21 Tips to Get the Most out of Small Business Saturday 2019

Everybody is talking about Black Friday and how to prepare for it, but few mention another big shopping day that’s yet to come — Small Business Saturday.

If you are a customer-facing small business owner, you need every bit of help you can get to prepare for the customer onslaught and rake in some last-minute profits from the holiday rush.

This handy guide will teach you not only how to handle crowds on Small Business Saturday but also how to maximize your outreach. Make sure you read all the 21 tips to get the most out of Small Business Saturday 2019.

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The history of Small Business Saturday

Kicked off by American Express in 2010, Small Business Saturday has since then become a staple of the US shopping culture.

American Express’ goal was to encourage the support of both local and small shops, as opposed to Black Friday shoppers favoring big stores. In the words of Amy Marino, the director of global digital strategy communications for American Express:

“Our ultimate goal is to help small businesses do more business, and for Small Business Saturday that includes arming them with the tools to help make the day a success.”

small business saturday 2019

When is Small Business Saturday 2019?

Small Business Saturday falls on the last Saturday in November each year, and it always follows Black Friday. This year, Small Business Saturday is on Saturday, 30 November 2019.

Small Business Saturday in the United Kingdom follows a different schedule, as it falls on the first Saturday in December. This year, the UK version of Small Business Saturday is on Saturday, 7 December 2019.

Alright, ready? Marked down your retail calendars?

Let’s go!

I. Start planning for Small Business Saturday early

As the proverb goes, the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. When it comes to preparing for a shopping season, the same rule applies: the earlier, the better.

Some of the stuff you need to take care of ASAP, and some you will have to figure out as you go along. Luckily, there is still time till Small Biz Saturday, and it is time to get bizzy.

Prepare your inventory

First things first, you need to have enough products to last you the entire weekend. Here are the most popular things to buy on Small Business Saturday:

  • Groceries — 66.6%
  • Clothes — 46.3%
  • Shoes — 32.9%
  • Electronics — 25.4%
  • Books — 24%

You should also consult your internal sales data as well as comments on social media to understand which products will be the first to fly off the shelves.

Hurry up and stock up!

Get your store sales-ready

There’s nothing worse than suddenly realizing, with no time to spare, that you will be unequipped to handle huge crowds.

Think your layout through and ensure that one can easily access the different corners of your store. Doing so will not only solve the problem of overcrowdedness but also enhance the waiting room experience.

Other than that, make sure you have enough:

  • Room
  • Shopping bags
  • Receipt tape
  • Bathroom supplies

Have you stocked up on the essentials so that you won’t be caught unprepared? Appoint at least one employee to keep track of everything during the big day.

When in doubt, overstaff

‘Tis the season of seasonal employees.

If you’ve done marketing right, your usual workforce will likely not be enough to offer adequate service to all customers. Hire extra staff and teach workers how to manage stressful situations.

Small Business Saturday is a testing ground for visitors to see if your business can handle pressure. Make sure your employees don’t break under it by providing:

  • Snacks
  • Food delivery as a lunch option
  • Water supply
  • Multiple breaks
  • A quiet room.

Optimize your hours

Your first instinct is probably to extend your open hours, but this may not always be the right solution.

Study the traffic patterns from previous years. If you make your employees come earlier and clock out later than usual but no customers come at those hours, you end up with fatigued, frustrated, bored out of their mind workers.

Instead of forcing them to waste their and your time, optimize your hours based on historic visitor data. And if there are any changes in your open hours, let your visitors know about them as well as hour-to-hour traffic and best times to visit.

Know how to pick your battles

Because Small Business Saturday comes right after Black Friday, there is an urge to copy the bigger brands’ approach to Black Friday. Namely, impossibly low prices.

The fact that this works for large businesses on Black Friday doesn’t exactly translate to it working out for you on Small Business Saturday. As Marcus Lemonis, the businessman and host of CNBC’s The Profit, puts it:

“I stay away from Black Friday. Completely. Don’t do huge price cuts on Black Friday if you can’t guarantee that you’ll be able to earn that money back on other products.”

small business saturday tips

Prepare for an increase in traffic

Don’t be fooled by the words “shop small” — the crowds that you can expect on Small Business Saturday are anything but. You need to learn how to manage heavy visitor footfall.

If you don’t want your employees drown in the visitor deluge that is to come, invest in powerful queue management software. Digital signage can help you keep traffic ways clear, and virtual queues will take the load off of your employees’ shoulders.


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II. Get the word out

What good is your participation in Small Business Saturday if your customers aren’t even aware of it? Let them know that the shopping holiday is on.

Promote your participation ASAP

You need to prepare for Small Business Saturday as if it were a marathon, not a sprint. You have to announce your participation in Small Biz Sat way in advance, to let as many people know:

  1. Small Business Saturday is a thing.
  2. Your store takes part in it.
  3. There is a tangible incentive to check your store out on SBS.

By promoting your participation, you send a powerful message to your existing and potential customers. Explain the benefits of spending locally: for every 100 dollars spent in a small store, 68 USD go back to the local economy.

Spending locally, therefore, is not about shopping but investing in your own community.

Use American Express’ resources

Need a visibility boost for Small Business Saturday? American Express, the brain wizard behind the holiday, offers free “shop small” resources that are exclusive to small businesses.

From custom posters, decals and other marketing materials to spit-shined social posts ready for resharing, you should take the most out of the American Express Shop Small Studio and put your business in the spotlight.

Plan incentives

Give people a good reason to come to your store on Small Business Saturday. In 2016, shoppers in Oakland County, Michigan had a chance to become $5,000 richer:

“Shoppers who enter a picture of their receipt from a purchase made on Nov. 26 at a small business in Oakland County are eligible to win $5,000, courtesy of North American Bancard.”

The second and third prizes were 2,000 and 500 USD vouchers, respectively. That might seem like a big investment on the business owners’ part, but the uptick in the number of visitors spoke for itself.

Offer a referral promotion

People are social beings for a reason: 82% of Americans look for recommendations from friends and family when considering a purchase.

Every customer experience expert worth their salt knows that satisfied customers tend to praise and promote your business within their social circle. Why not offer them a further incentive to do so?

With a referral program, you can get more people in the door. A coupon or other similar rewards present a win-win situation for both your business and your customers.

Reconnect with dormant customers

Small Biz Saturday is a time to not only win new customers but also win old customers back. If you’re using CRM, and you definitely should be, check it for a list of customers who you haven’t engaged with in a while.

You can win these customers back, or at the very least reinvigorate their interest in your store, with an exclusive email offer. Send them a personalized message or newsletter to let them know you haven’t forgotten about them.

Perhaps Prince Charming should’ve woken up Sleeping Beauty not with a kiss, but with a special promo.

Make your website mobile-friendly

While the majority of your visitors on Small Biz Saturday will make offline purchases, you can’t ignore online shoppers. Make their virtual checkout journey silky-smooth and be sure to offer online support in case of unfortunate issues.

But even if take online shoppers out of the equation, people might want to check out your website regardless, to see your inventory, open hours, shipping and return policies, etc. All of this information needs to be:

  • Clear
  • Accurate
  • Relevant
  • Transparent
  • Up-to-date

The bigger reason why you can’t ignore online visitors, though, is that 78% of mobile searches result in a purchase. Do not scare visitors away, or you risk losing out on a sales opportunity.

Utilize social media

There’s no better way to reach out to your client base as well as prospects than through social media: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or, hell, even TikTok.

Tap into the power of social media by telling your brand’s story through pics, selfies, Instagram stories, short videos, etc. You can whet your customers’ appetite by hinting at promotions or sharing images of highly sought-after products.

Don’t forget to maximize your outreach with hashtags:

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III. Market experiences, not sales

Instead of leveraging sales, focus on delivering unique experiences.

Shopping sprees can cause a lot of stress to customers — pressure to get the right gift at the right price, not waste time looking for it while staying on budget, and have a good time doing all of that.

Take away that customer stress, and you will be rewarded in kind.

Join forces

Collaborate with neighboring shops and store to give shoppers more reasons to pay you a visit. Cross-promotion is a powerful marketing tool that can greatly benefit all parties.

Let’s say you’re in a donut-selling business, and there’s a trendy coffee shop down the street. Why not create a campaign where each customer who has bought an X amount of donuts gets a coupon for a free cup of coffee, and vice versa?

(This is a very original idea off the top of my head, please do-nut steal.)

By joining forces with another shop, you can both get cheaper promotion opportunities. Find out who’s participating in Small Business Saturday and offer them your helping hand.

Celebrate other small businesses

To build up on the previous point, you should support small biz, period.

If you know that visitors can find what they’re looking for in another store, recommend them the best one. This may sound counterintuitive, but your visitors will appreciate your help, and so will the shops that get extra traffic from you.

It doesn’t even have to be demanding than sharing a few pieces of content online to show your support. It’s more than likely that the businesses you give love to will return the favor.

Support local charities

Small Business Saturday is all about local community, and that means giving back to it.

Your visitors will feel more motivated to spend at your store if they know that their money will contribute to a good cause. Find out local charities and announce that some percentage of Small Biz Sat sales will go to supporting them.

Pay special attention to usually underappreciated charities that deserve a visibility boost.

Invest in concierge services

One of the hottest customer service trends nowadays is personal assistance. People like feeling catered to on a personal level, so hire extra help to take charge of that.

A concierge can:

  • Greet visitors
  • Sign them into a queue
  • Help them find a special product
  • Explain how promotions work, etc.

A concierge can also help carry packages to the customers’ cars, especially in the case of elderly, pregnant or disabled people.

Finding surprising and personal ways to make shopping a painless experience requires a little bit of extra effort on your part, but it will not go unnoticed.

Invite a local celeb

Inviting VIP customers, especially those who have gained fame on a local level, can help create a buzz and attract much-needed attention.

The list of VIP customers is quite arbitrary — they can be local authors, actors, creatives, social media influencers or even politicians. What matters is that these VIP customers can use their media resources to bring more feet in the door and more profits on the table.

Create an event that would get people talking: lavish decorations, live music, and don’t forget about food! Nothing gets folks in the spirit of celebration quite like free snacks and beverages.

Reward check-ins

People should feel incentivized not only to make purchases at your store but also to simply visit it. You may offer a special discount to those who have checked in using social media or shared your content with their circle of e-friends.

For example, you can set up a campaign on Instagram, encouraging people to take selfies in your store and using a special hashtag (the exact name of the hashtag is up to you).

Any little bit that would raise awareness for your store helps.

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IV. The aftermath

When the dust settles down, you need to understand one thing: you may have won the battle, but the war still rages on. Customer loyalty is fickle, and if you don’t learn from both your mistakes and victories, you’re not going to get far.

Collect data

It’s not by chance that the word “data” is an anagram of “tada!” — the success of most of your operations rests squarely on the shoulder of visitor and service data you acquire.

If you collect information on your staffing, hours and sales this year, the next holiday shopping season is going to be much easier. You will understand:

  • Where you’ve gone right
  • Where you’ve gone wrong
  • Whether you need to overstaff or understaff next year
  • Which products were most popular and why
  • What common complaints were voiced, etc.

If you don’t – a common yet gravely mistake – well, now is the time to start digging.

Don’t forget about your customers, both old and new. Capture emails and build an email list so that you’ll be on top of your game on Small Business Saturday 2020 and beyond.

Start planning early… again

Congratulate yourself on a job well done, but don’t pat yourself on the back too hard. You should already be thinking beyond this year.

After the holiday season has ended, take stock of what worked and what didn’t. Chances are, many of these strategies can be repurposed beyond the holiday season, allowing you to strengthen the relationships you’ve created with customers and partners all year long.

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Here’s why Small Business Saturday matters: 83% of shoppers find that a locally-oriented shopping holiday inspires them to shop small all year long. Small Business Saturday is your chance by attracting new customers with shorter wait times, better service and superior experience.


To recap, here are the tips to help you make Small Business Saturday a success:

  1. Prepare your inventory
  2. Get your store sales-ready
  3. When in doubt, overstaff
  4. Optimize your hours
  5. Know how to pick your battles
  6. Prepare for an increase in traffic
  7. Promote your participation ASAP
  8. Use American Express’ resources
  9. Plan incentives
  10. Offer a referral promotion
  11. Reconnect with dormant customers
  12. Make your website mobile-friendly
  13. Utilize social media
  14. Join forces
  15. Celebrate other small businesses
  16. Support local charities
  17. Invest in concierge services
  18. Invite a local celeb
  19. Reward check-ins
  20. Collect data
  21. Start planning early… again

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