The big weekend is nearly upon us. What has long been crowned the biggest shopping weekend of the year, the familiar sequence of Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, and Giving Tuesday that has local businesses and big box corporations, alike, vying to gobble up holiday revenue.

Unsurprisingly, this has resulted in a perfect storm of barriers, including increased competition, price slashing, continued diversification of shopping channels, evolving customer expectations and inevitably, holiday shopping fatigue. While analysts are always quick to project trends and decry the ecommerce proliferation, make no mistake, there are still countless ways for smaller, local businesses to win big on Thanksgiving weekend.

Before we get started, let’s look at some of the revenue forecasts for Thanksgiving weekend 2017:

  • Consumer spending over the Black Friday weekend is expected to increase by 47% from the same period in 2016.
  • Consumers plan to spend an average of $743 this year during the weekend that runs from Black Friday through Cyber Monday up from an average of $505 over the same weekend last year.
  • Nearly seven in 10 consumers will shop over the Black Friday holiday weekend this year.

Best Practice Basics:

To get the ball rolling, let’s get back to basics. These are the best practices that will go a long way, both this weekend and beyond. There’s a variety of strategies at play – do you focus on just ONE of the many shopping-themed days to come, or spread your ideas, promotions and tactics out Small Business Saturday planningacross each of the weekend’s themes? Unsurprisingly, we recommend finding a balance somewhere in the middle. It can be precarious to put all of your eggs in one basket, so we suggest spreading some themes and tactics out throughout the entire weekend. One example is extending store hours to maximize buying hours and offer flexibility to busy consumers. However, it still often makes sense to choose one day to really focus on, with additional, exclusive events, promotions, giveaways, and effort.

It all starts on your website (even if you don’t sell anything online). Customers will come armed with a plan of attack this weekend. Which translates into doing even more online research and prep than usual. Oftentimes, your website and online reputation are the first two impressions prospects will have of your business. As far as the website goes, make sure it’s an accurate representation of the business you’ve built. The week leading up to Thanksgiving weekend is the perfect time to audit your site to ensure all the information displayed is accurate and up-to-date. Include links to social profiles, review sites, and press. With so many shoppers relying on smartphones to coordinate their siege and navigate the days, it’s essential that your site is optimized for mobile. Quick load times, and pages that scale accordingly are must-haves. Call buttons, and directions will certainly sweeten the pot.

Optimize for local discovery. Ok, I’ll admit this is an aspect of your site and online presence, but it merits its own section because it’s essential for success. When it comes to ever-elusive SEO efforts, there’s small hope in competing against the big guys with a national, pervasive presence and brand recognition. However, more consumers are searching with local intent, so you should be adjusting your strategy to take advantage of this. Again, keep in mind that a lot of consumers will be out-and-about this weekend, so they’ll spend time in between stops consulting their phones for businesses to check out in the area. Make sure you update your holiday hours on your website, across directories, and on your Google My Business (GMB) page. GMB sent out emails reminding businesses to do this, so make sure you follow up!

Staff to impress. Make sure you have enough support to mitigate wait times, both for assistance and for check-out. Hire seasonal help as needed, and ensure that all employees are well-versed and can speak in detail about your business’s offerings, current promotions, store information, and policies. Nothing is more frustrating for consumers than being told something is on sale, and finding that to be incorrect during check-out. All employees should serve as ambassadors to your brand and represent your customer-centric emphasis

While we’re on the topic of staffing, don’t forget to express your gratitude for your employees either. As hectic as this time can be, they are often right there on the front lines with you. Although they often have less at stake, you rely on them to serve your customers well, so stay mindful of this commitment and acknowledge their dedication throughout the weekend. Small gestures, like bringing in fresh coffee to jumpstart busy mornings, catering lunch for those too busy to take a usual lunch break, or even just ordering a pizza at the end of the day. These small gestures will go a long way.

Get the word out by utilizing ALL your channels, pages, and assets. Call out any special promotions or events across all your channels, from your website, social pages, as well as anywhere you advertise. Different customers may be subscribed to only one channel, so you want to make sure your bases are covered. You can change the messaging and images from place to place to keep it interesting to those who are receiving in multiple places, and to take into account the nuances with each network. For social, make use of hashtags to get noticed, and be sure to include geotagging or use a hashtag for your local area, so your audience can easily find out where you’re located.

The holidays aren’t just for reserved for retail anymore – Get creative! There are always new ways to adapt to the theme of the holidays and the spirit of gratitude and giving that they represent. We’ve come across stories of exterminators and recreational businesses finding a way to leverage holiday fun. Find a way to plug into that holiday excitement, regardless of your industry.

Thanksgiving

Consider a tasteful send while you have their attention. It’s important to find a balance between annoying customers and seizing the chance of increased audience attention. More time with family means people will be sneaking screen time before and after the big meal. Plan to do an email or SMS send to kick off the weekend, and you’re more likely to get their attention. Just be careful when crafting the content and tone of the email; you might find more success in balancing a more subtle communication of offers or promotions, with gratitude for their patronage throughout the year, or other things you’re thankful for in order to honor the values of the holiday.

Set the stage for a successful weekend. Schedule email, SMS, and social sends for the rest of the weekend so that no matter how busy you get, your online efforts will stay on track!

Black Friday

Don’t compromise the value of your offerings. You can’t compete with the big box retailers and brands who are able to slash prices left and right, and trying can be costly. You have to do what makes the most sense for your business, so do the math and make sure you’re not putting yourself and your business in danger by over-discounting products or services.

Consider expanding hours to attract those who prefer to come out later in the evening, or make the rounds for doorbusters.

Offer free delivery of any goods purchased in-store. Black Friday customers are generally busy and often overburdened with parcels and shopping bags. Alleviate their load by offering complimentary drop-off of anything they buy, so they don’t have to lug it around for the rest of the day. Consider free shipping if you expect to have lots of out-of-towners stop by.

Instead of deeply discounting products and services, try bundling. Holiday gift sets, baskets or packages are a real win for your business and customer. It makes their job easier, by taking the guesswork out of purchases, and provides more revenue than if they had just bought a specific one-time service or single product. You can still offer a modest discount to make it a no-brainer for customers on the fence, but the perceived value will be far greater. Make sure to spend time on the packaging and design, as it goes a long way.

Small Business Saturday – #SmallBizSat

Keep in mind that the focus is different from other days this weekend. Whereas deals and doorbusters tend to dominate Black Friday and Cyber Monday, the spirit of Small Business Saturday is different. Last year, 112 million shoppers participated spending more than $15 billion.

Utilize available resources from Small Business Saturday sponsors. American Express can help with the heavy lifting, so definitely take advantage of this program. They make it easy to customize free downloads to aid in promotional efforts. They can also assist with coordinating community events (which we’ll expand on next), so see if your community has any special holiday events going on, and try to get involved!

Partner with other businesses in community, informally, or get involved in current efforts. At its heart, Small Business Saturday is about the community that businesses serve, and the people that live in those communities. There are countless role models here, such as the East Village Independent Merchant Association (EVIMA) in New York that helps coordinate themed days and activities, as well as produce guides with information about independent businesses in the neighborhood. Try pooling resources to distribute free coffee, savings guides, directories of businesses, or even hold events or workshops.

Incorporate a bit of festive, holiday whimsy. Win over families in the community by becoming a part of their holiday traditions. Have Santa come to hand out candy canes or hot chocolate, or small gifts to children. Hire carolers to sing a good mix of holiday classics. Lighting ceremonies are common and can transcend any one holiday. Or provide the materials for some light crafting in the form of holiday cards customers can send friends, ornaments, etc.

Make short videos to show a “behind-the-scenes look” into your business. Again, this day is about fostering a personal connection between members of the community and their local businesses. Connecting with your customers is already what you do best, so find ways to strengthen that bond when they’re online, as well as you do offline. Share on your social pages, at least on Facebook and Instagram, but also consider posting to your YouTube channel, if you have one.

Hold a holiday season kick off event. This can set you up for the rest of the year, and can be a great time to advertise any coming events or promotions. You can choose to keep these a secret, and just provide a sneak peek on the great things you have planned and are still to come.

Make a big deal out of “shopping small”. Optimize your physical location for fun and sharing. As much as a selfie station may make you want to roll your eyes, by curating parts of your store, office, or salon to make them Instagram-worthy to milennials and their families, you can let them do the marketing for you! Encourage them to take and post photos after a service or with products and tag your store. You can even turn this into a fun contest, and have them include what they’re thankful for, special hashtags, the #SmallBizSat hashtag, and select a winner.

Provide treats to keep them energized and happy (not to mention avoid hangry shoppers!).

Document the excitement. These days often end up being whirlwinds, with no time to catch your breath. Delegate photo responsibilities to someone on your team, to ensure your capture the excitement of #SmallBizSaturday to share on social pages, newsletters and more. It will also provide good material for next year’s promotions! You don’t need to hire a professional (although that’s definitely an option if you’re planning on going all out!), it can be anyone armed with a smartphone.

Why not get a jump on Giving Tuesday, and consider donating a portion of proceeds to a charity of your choosing? Or, allow everyone who makes a purchase to “vote” for what charity they’d like to support. Then, on Giving Tuesday you can announce the winner and do coordinated email and social campaigns to follow up on how much was donated, what it will be used for, and to spotlight the cause.

Cyber Monday

If you’re a service business, consider offering special packages that customers can purchase directly on your site, or through a landing page. Consumers have an ecommerce mindset on this day, as most return to work, so offer flexibility to allow them to purchase however they prefer. If you can provide a seamless experience for customers, they’re more likely to complete the purchase. If they need to come visit in person, they could forget or not follow through for a million different reasons. Make it easy for them to cross names off their gift list.

Try flipping the script. Promote stress-free shopping at your physical location on a day reserved for online shopping. Consider renting out a space for a curated “pop-up”; salons and spas can offer massage and relaxation specials for those that “survived Black Friday craziness” or “another holiday with the family” and so on. Again, don’t be afraid to get creative and have fun with it!

If you run a service business, consider promoting bundled services, or gift cards. Brainstorm some fun promotions around both, including Buy One, Get One (BOGO) deals to entice customers with a reward for themselves when they buy for their loved ones. The design and packaging of gift cards can make a big difference to consumers as well. Draw inspiration from larger brands there, like Nike that sends their gift cards in miniature shoe boxes.

Giving Tuesday

Giving Tuesday is a great way to get involved in both your local community and beyond. You can bundle these efforts with other promotions or charity drives that you’ve been running all weekend, or on specific days. If you’ve encouraged customers to vote on which charity to donate to, you can announce it, and highlight the great work they do. Host a Q&A with someone at the organization, and request information that you can turn into a blog post, social posts, emails and more. Again, it’s important to find the right balance in highlighting a deserving cause and shamelessly promoting your business’s contribution. Use these platform to raise awareness for the cause.

Volunteer with your employees, or collect items at your location for donation.

Check out this dedicated post on tips for getting your local business involved in Giving Tuesday

Don’t forget to download this free holiday planner to make sure your efforts stay on track and make this holiday season a success.