Small businesses across the country are looking forward to a tsunami of customers hitting their stores with the approaching of Small Business Saturday, a once-a-year event nestled between Black Friday and Cyber Monday. It’s a day when shoppers – often thinking ahead to the coming holidays – actively show their support for the small businesses in their area. As the son of a small shop owner, and having spent many hours working behind the counter, I know that I will be shopping in support of this initiative.
But unlike with Cinderella, the good fortune doesn’t have to end at the stroke of midnight. With a little strategizing, small businesses can use the annual event to drive up traffic and sales throughout the year.
There are plenty of reasons for optimism. The small business community marked the most successful Small Business Saturday on record in 2015, with spending reaching $16.2 billion. It was a 14 percent increase from 2014, the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) reported. More than 95 million shoppers supported Small Business Saturday last year, marking an eight percent year-over-year increase, the NFIB added.
Even more encouraging was an American Express and NFIB survey that revealed 55 percent of Americans are now familiar with Small Business Saturday. The annual event has inspired 83 percent of those consumers to support small businesses yearlong. With consumers already willing to shop locally, business owners can do a lot to further persuade them to do so.
Get to know your customers
When shoppers come rushing into your store on Small Business Saturday, it doesn’t have to be a one-time thing.
Businesses can — and should — use this increased traffic to help position their company for further success. Store owners must look beyond the short-term sales surge to evaluate how to use this opportunity for long-term business growth.
First, offer consumers a warm welcome and take some time to learn more about their needs. Capture as much information as possible during a customer’s visit. Learn about his or her tastes, communication preferences, and budgets. Of course, inquiring about a customer’s place in the product cycle is important, too, if applicable.
This knowledge will benefit your business in a number of ways. First, it will show customers you care and are committed to best serving their interests. Also, from a business standpoint, it will help you determine how to best communicate with them in the future with regard to when you reach out, how you reach out, which product or service you offer them, and how you show them you understand and care about their needs.
Keep them coming
Use the information you’re now armed with to keep those customers coming. Whether they’re first-time shoppers or long-time clients, the knowledge you gained during Small Business Saturday can increase the odds of customers shopping with you again. You can adjust prices or improve products, for example, to show you’re serious about satisfying customers’ needs. You can also consider bringing in new inventory to appease the evolving tastes and needs of your customers.
Remember to follow up with customers and reiterate your commitment to serving them, while asking them for feedback on how you could further improve your business. After all, it’s easier to sell to a repeat customer than it is to establish new ones. As Small Business Trends notes, the odds of selling to an existing customer are between 60- to 70 percent, while your chances are selling to a new customer is between just five- and 20 percent.
Shoppers aren’t the only ones enthusiastic about the world of independently-owned stores. The NFIB’s small business optimism index rose 0.8 points to 94.9 during October, indicating that business owners had grown more optimistic about business conditions. Plans to increase inventories rose by nine points.
Meanwhile, experts are projecting Small Business Saturday sales to continue breaking records this year. Grasshopper.com expects small business sales to reach $17.8 billion on November 26.
There is plenty of reason for optimism on both sides. Now is a great time to establish lasting relationships with new customers while strengthening and improving existing ones. Consider Small Business Saturday the matchmaker that helps facilitate such relationships.