The forgotten shopping day

With the Thanksgiving food coma and the weekends biggest array of sales finally winding down, I thought I would reflect on the shopping festivities that surround this turkey day holiday.

There is one day that is often always lost amid the hype of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. And in my opinion this “shopping day” is pretty important – as it emphasizes more than just pure monetary profits. It is not about the killer deal (is 85% off actually a real thing?) or that buy-one-get-one-free offer you just can’t pass up… Instead, it surrounds and celebrates what makes the communities in which we all live in unique. It is what makes them familiar and cozy. It is what makes them feel like home.

And with that I bring you Small Business Saturday – falling this year on November 25th, 2017.

A little background on Small Business Saturday before we really dive into the nitty gritty. Founded by American Express in 2010, this annual shopping day supports independently owned businesses that create jobs and make local economies thrive.  Amy Marino, VP and head of Small Business Saturday at American Express emphasizes that, “our ultimate goal is to help small businesses do more business…that includes arming them with the tools to help make the day a success.” Small Business Saturday’s goal is to connect these mom-and-pop shops with the local community and encourage customers to show their love when they #shopsmall.

American Express actively works to provide small business owners with tangible tools – offering free business boot camps, online “SBS 101” educational content, and customizable print and digital signage for the day-of. Additionally, promotional content such as event flyers, posters, save the dates, and social media assets are available for business owners to customize and then download for free to promote their business. American Express has been committed to actually helping these companies thrive – even beyond SBS.

Since its inauguration back in 2010, Small Business Saturday has continued to grow. In 2016, an estimated 112 million shoppers and diners reported spending money on SBS – establishing a new record, and a 13% increase from 2015 reports. These individuals who shopped at local small businesses and independent restaurants also spent a total of 15.4 billion.  Things have been looking up for this shopping day, and I have optimism that the statistics from this past Saturday won’t disappoint, as predictions were high building off of last years success. According to a Deloitte survey, local stores are still drawing consumers for the shopping kickoff this SBS: 52 percent plan to shop at brick-and-mortar stores on Saturday, while 24 percent plan to shop online that day.

However, despite the excitement surrounding this shopping day these small businesses are still facing major challenges. What ultimately stands in the way of more long-term foot traffic and larger sales is these businesses hesitation to fully lean in and embrace technology. Although this is understandable in some aspects – as these technological innovations can be huge capital expenses, thus making it harder for these businesses to invest in certain technology. SBS is a great awareness tool – but word of mouth can only go so far, and these small businesses must learn to adapt if they want growth beyond just the hype of SBS.

Below are just a few of the ways small-businesss can work to pull ahead and take advantage of the hype that often follows the week after SBS. Adapting and implementing these digital technologies can help businesses continue to grow.

1. Collect data…but then actually analyze it:

I sound like a broken record here… but we all know that data is king when it comes to business. Even though small business retailers might be limited in the caliber of technology available for investment (due to limited budgets) – it doesn’t mean they can’t leverage data. There are plenty of platforms and applications that allow companies to collect data at a fraction of the price without a need for huge IT overhauls. Data about customer’s purchasing behavior must be collected from a variety of sources and then should subsequently be analyzed and used in future decision making. Additionally, small businesses must review the data received both online and offline – allowing them to provide a seamless integrated experience between digital and in-store, akin to what I stressed in my presentation from last week.

2. Invest in mobile point of sales systems: 

This simple investment can enhance the overall retail in-store experience. It allows employees to help customers check-out without having to wait in long lines. Mobile POS is also a great IT investment because it gives small businesses the freedom and flexibility to set up pop-up stores in other locations (as we all know that the “pop-up” trend is one the rise these days). The POS technology allows small businesses to expand their presence and collect customer data simultaneously.

3. Social Media is your best friend, so use it:

Social media can be used for an array of functions – discounts, promotions, new merchandise, etc. But the most important rule with any social content is ensuring that it is as interactive as possible. Creating a two-way relationship with the customer through polls or direct replies to questions creates both brand identity and deeper trust. Social media can be used to give your business and voice which will in-turn help you gain a following. (Sounds like @briandentonbc‘s Yard Goats to me??)

4. Make sure you don’t ignore any channel:

Social media isn’t the only place customers can look for information or advertisements regarding a small business. This is where leveraging discount apps as another promotional channel can come in handy. Offering consumers exciting deals on applications like Groupon, SnipSnap, and RetailMeNot – can provide visibility for your company, Additionally, it might encourage more consumers to come into your physical store with the incentive of a discount – when they otherwise wouldn’t choose to visit.

Overall, SBS has been able to provide a platform to bring awareness and to celebrate small businesses. They are what the American economy was built upon and in my opinion are what give our neighborhoods character. However, in order for these small businesses to weather the storm against big-name retail they need to be as up-to-date if not slightly ahead of the game with digital solutions in comparison to the major players in the industry. With the push to #buylocal becoming more “trendy” everyday small businesses need to make sure they are ready to satisfy the new wave of customers that are used to the perks offered by the big-names.





  1. briandentonbc · ·

    Great post! I actually wrote about small businesses a few months ago ( but I think you did a much better job explaining some of the challenges as well as points of emphasis that small businesses should be focusing on here. My family runs a very small business, and for the past few years we have promoted Small Business Saturday both in store and on our social media channels. I am not sure off of the top of my head if it has had any tangible effect on sales, but for many small business owners, having the day just to remind people the importance of independent businesses means a lot. I think it is very interesting that Amazon Express chose to invent the day, and that it has caught on so well for nationwide for being a corporate initiative that was only invented recently. Really cool post!

  2. kaitlinardiff · ·

    Great post, Taylor! It’s definitely true that small businesses feel the strain in our world of Amazon. I find that many people still preach buying “local” in terms of food, but when it comes to non-perishable items such as clothing, we leverage the transparency of the Internet to find the best deal and best shipping (which usually turns out to be Amazon.) I think that small businesses should find a way to come together or utilize the platforms of bigger giants, like selling to Amazon or really leveraging social media as expanding past their immediate geography is necessary.

  3. andrewmanginelli · ·

    Nice post. I think it’s hard for these small companies to truly realize the importance of being an active player on social media. Many of them have limited time and resources to begin with, so they want to focus these on business operations, rather than dedicating someone to manage a Twitter feed. I think it is very important that all businesses get involved online, be it using GoDaddy to have a better web page, or simply just sending out tweets/Facebook posts every once in awhile.

    Although a lot of us feel good about shopping small, I find it hard to believe that small businesses can last unless they are able to provide a better or cheaper product. The only small business I’m truly loyal to is a coffee shop at home that has now grown to 6 or 7 locations in my county ( very cool site and vibe if you’re interested). I’m loyal to them because they provide a higher quality product and a better, more friendly overall experience. Besides foods, I question whether smaller stores can truly compete with the giants.

  4. Hilary_Gould · ·

    Super relevant post! I love going home because it means I can go to all the local shops that I know and love AND that don’t have a website! Growing up, my mom hated going to the mall and my town has a ban on most chain stores, so I grew up largely going to local stores around town. Unfortunately, there are now a lot of empty store fronts especially in recent years due to the increase in online shopping. I think this is largely because of the convenience aspect of either being able to buy everything you need in one place or having the ability to shop from the comfort of your own home. I think “Small Business Saturday” is a great way to try to encourage people to come in and shop local. I know my town has a lot of “shop local” events which is great, but I’m not sure how successful they actually are. I love all the local shops in my town, but I also enjoy the convenience of other retail options. It’ll be interesting to see if small businesses can survive or maybe make the switch to digital.

  5. paulandresonbc · ·

    Great post. To be fully honest, I hadn’t ever heard of this holiday before reading this. Still, I’ve thought about a few of these things before and how implementing them in small family businesses is often so much more difficult than it is in large corporations because of the limited resources and people. Social media is such a vital outlet for these businesses to leverage as just another way of staying active in the consumer’s mind.

  6. Really good post! I did not realize how new of a development “small business Saturday” is! The fact that it started in 2010 blew my mind! I also did not realize it had such a rich and forward thinking history. I really liked the background you provided in this post, it provided a solid foundation for the rest of your post. Furthermore, I really liked how you used your knowledge from class, experience, and past blog posts to offer suggestions. I think that this really allowed for your voice to show through and it was truly a great and informative read!

  7. I loved the post. I have never heard of it either as Paul mentioned.
    I think its always important to help and buy from local stores, mom and pop, small Businesses, call it as you want. I try to do it all the time. I have to ways: 1) in Boston, locally in Allston there are many local shops like coffee, i.e. Pavement, 4A. Hardware store, i.e., value and others which I always go out and buy things from them. I could go to Amazon or Starbucks, but every once in a while I do try, and sometimes it’s better!! 2) As Hilary mentioned, back home is great to support SBs. And even more in Mexico, where the city is HUGE, literally, there are thousands of small stores to buy chips, sodas, candy instead of going to Seven-Eleven. And that is just a small part of local shops. There are local food shops, restaurants. But the best way to help Small businesses is to buy from local indigenous communities and handcrafts.

  8. As others have said above, I have never heard of Small Business Saturday before your blog post, but I love the concept behind it. Shoutout to Amex for supporting the mom-and-pop stores; I think our generation leans more towards supporting the authentic, original content and products over larger and more generic production. You did a really great job providing a foundation of Small Business Saturday while incorporating class learned material and conversation, great post!

  9. Great post. I had forgotten about small business Saturday, but these are some great takeaways.

  10. alyssacasale4 · ·

    Great post! Over the past few years I have heard a lot of advertisements on the radio for Small Business Saturday – encouraging shoppers to “shop small,” and to remember local businesses when doing their holiday shopping. I have only heard about Small Business Saturday from these radio advertisements though. I wonder why they don’t advertise it more on TV/on social media?

    I found it really interesting to read about all of the benefits that American Express has for small businesses. When I looked into American Express’ rewards, I saw that in 2013, American Express actually rewarded their customers $10 when they spent 10$ or more at a small business. I think that programs, such as this one, are important – large companies should do more to help local businesses compete in an increasingly difficult market. Small businesses represent 99.7% of all United States businesses – the success of the economy depends strongly on the success of these businesses. In addition, according to the Seattle Good Business Network, small businesses donate 250% more than larger ones- showing that supporting small businesses would not only support the economy, bus also charities and local communities as well.

  11. Yvette Zhou · ·

    Great post! Technology does help small business a lot! Alibaba has created Nov 11 as shopping day in China and it has been helping many small businesses online. I do like your analysis on the strategies that small business should apply. Online platform has broke the monopoly of huge companies and given opportunities to everyone who wants to do business. To some level, it stimulates the competition and brings us a more healthy market.

  12. whitmcdonald2 · ·

    Happy someone took advantage of this amazing Day! I used to spend Thanksgiving in the mountains in a small, local town and Small Business Saturday was such a major deal there. It was so awesome to see the excitement and the support of the community. Great use of the strategies and although these may see simple and easy to us, it is so, so difficult for Mom and Pop stores to adapt to this especially without younger employees, etc. Great insight!

    Fun fact: American Express is one of Digitas’ clients and Small Business Saturday was one of their most successful campaigns :)

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