The holidays are fast approaching. Black Friday is almost here, the day when millions of holiday shoppers will stand in line at 4am for deals on flat-screen televisions and the latest smartphone. It can seem intimidating for small businesses and local mom-and-pop shops to stand up to huge department chains with thousands to spend on holiday advertising.
But there’s good news. According to the 2015 Small Business Consumer Pulse Survey by Cox Blue, many consumers actually want to do their shopping at small businesses.
“An overwhelming number of consumers support small and medium-sized businesses in their communities by shopping at them at least once a week,” the survey says. In fact, 71 percent of people stated that they think it’s important to buy local.
So how can small businesses capitalize on this desire during the holidays?
1) Take advantage of Small Business Saturday. Created by American Express, this “shopiday” was founded in 2010 with the goal of encouraging shoppers to consider buying holiday gifts local instead of focusing only on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Many customers will already be motivated to head to a local business instead of a giant retailer. It’s a great opportunity for you to meet new customers and try to turn them into regulars! Use Small Business Saturday as your “Holiday Kick-Off” and host a special sale.
2) Offer homemade baked goods or warm drinks throughout the holidays. It’s a small luxury that customers won’t get at major chains. Christmas cookies and cocoa will be a nice surprise to cold customers popping into your shop, and will help reinforce for them exactly why they so enjoy the “local” atmosphere. Next time they consider where to shop, they’ll think of you and your sweets.
3) Try to greet people personally. Strike up conversations with neighbors you recognize—if your kids go to the same school, or they go to the same gym as you, it’s a great way to forge a connection and help them remember your store in the future.
4) Another way to stand out? Give back to a local non-profit in your area, emphasizing that it’s a generous time of year. On the one hand, giving is way to form a business connection; on the other, it also demonstrates to customers that you’re passionate about the community—and, of course, live out the holiday spirit! Host a book drive for the local children’s hospital, or donate 5 to 10 percent of sales to a charity people admire. Plenty of large franchises will give donations to charity, but your store can stand out by donating to somewhere local.
5) Host a holiday party! Most larger stores don’t have the freedom or flexibility to stay open after-hours, but for most small businesses, hours are something that can be changed on a whim. Host a special “late night” sale, complete with Christmas carols playing and a table to make Christmas cards—or another activity that makes sense for your business. At the same time, customers can peruse merchandise. By offering a fun, family-friendly activity, your small business can further cement itself in the community while continuing to showcase your products.
Since most consumers want to shop local, your only job is figuring out how to make the experience fun and convenient. With these tips, your show will be ho-ho-hopping in no time this holiday season.