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Around the Illinois Small Business Development Center of McLean County at Illinois Wesleyan University (SBDC), we are anxiously anticipating our biggest holiday of the year, and the most important sales opportunity of the year for our small business clients: Small Business Saturday, November 27th.
Over recent years, the five days after Thanksgiving have aligned themselves into an Olympics of retail: Black Friday and Small Business Saturday, followed closely on the calendar by Cyber Monday and Giving Tuesday.
For its part, Small Business Saturday was an invention of American Express in 2010 to encourage shoppers to support their local small and independent retailers as the holiday shopping season went into overdrive. The “Day” has been sponsored by the Small Business Administration since 2015. Last year, the American shopping public made purchases of nearly 20 billion dollars during the event, a new record.
I’m afraid to say that this may be a make-or-break holiday shopping season for a lot of local small businesses. In a survey conducted last month, fully two-thirds of U.S. small operators reported that COVID-19 has impacted their businesses.
Most of our clients have already started to prepare and if you have a small retail business, you should, too. I think you need to focus on three areas: Operations, Promotion, and Outreach.
Operations – The full weight of media attention is about to come to bear on small businesses and their positive impact on their communities. To reap long-term benefits from the blitz by creating new, loyal customers, you need to ensure that the shopping experience is seamless and rewarding.
Make certain you have enough help. It’s all hands on deck! Make sure you have enough inventory. You also want to check that you have plenty of capacity in your online selling options. Make sure you prepare your website for an influx of customers by checking page load speed, checking smartphone optimization as mobile phones account for 54% of ecommerce sales, and by ensuring website security to keep customers safe.
Promotion – We’re asking our friends and neighbors to buy local with their holiday shopping dollars. In return we have to offer them a deal or perhaps delivery service. Be creative!
Outreach – You must take advantage of the synergies that come from one big push by all the small businesses everywhere. Promote in all of your usual advertising and marketing channels (and some new ones?) and mention Small Business Saturday. Use your online sales infrastructure to extend the benefits of the boon into Cyber Monday. Create a partnership with a local non-profit to extend the benefits into Giving Tuesday!
There are a lot of opportunities for small businesses in the weeks ahead. Why not reach out to SBDC and we’ll help you make sure your enterprise is ready to take advantage of them? Stay safe and well! Illinois Small Business Development Center of McLean County at Illinois Wesleyan University website: www.mcleancosbdc.org (homepage, click top right button to request a meeting.)
FROM THE ARCHIVES: B-N residents shop local
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