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SBA and Square: Holiday Marketing Tips for Small Business

Alise Bailey, Editor
Square

To help small businesses prepare for the holiday shopping season, the Small Business Association (SBA) hosted a Twitter chat. Lauren Weinberg, the global marketing lead here at Square, joined to share holiday shopper trends and best practices.

Read on for her tips on how to prepare for the biggest shopping season of the year.

SBA: What should small businesses know about shoppers this year?
Lauren: The opportunity is massive. Over 165 million Americans are shopping in stores and online from Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday. On average, these shoppers are planning to spend over $1,000 on everything from decorations and candy to gifts.

Each year, we see more consumers shopping online — in fact, in 2018, there were record-breaking sales for eCommerce with $7.9 billion being spent on Cyber Monday alone. Shoppers, especially younger ones, are shopping on their smartphones with over half of all online shopping visits occurring on a mobile device during the holiday shopping season.

Holiday shoppers are also procrastinating more each year. Fifty-six percent of holiday shoppers — around 134 million people — were still doing their shopping on “Super Saturday,” or the last Saturday before Christmas. Four percent even said they would wait until after Christmas Day to buy their presents. Because of the need for convenience, last-minute shoppers often purchase gift cards.

For Square sellers, we found that 70% of electronic gift card purchases occur on December 25. Not only are shoppers waiting until the last minute, but the shopping doesn’t stop after Christmas. Shoppers will continue to take advantage of post-holiday deals and use their gift cards well into the new year.

SBA: What are some inexpensive marketing tips for the holidays?
Lauren: Email marketing is a great way to promote your business during the holidays. People who buy products through email offers spend 138% more than those who do not get such offers. To get started, begin with people you already know love you (your regulars).

Encourage them to bring a friend to a holiday shopping event where they’ll receive a special discount, or offer an experience with you, your employees, or your products that gets customers excited and lets your business shine.

Social media is the perfect way to get customers excited about the holidays ahead, so start brainstorming clever ways to engage your audience now. Some ideas include:

  • Put together Pinterest boards of what’s trending, or post boards based on for whom people might be buying (like, “What Dad wants this year”).
  • Consider running a weekly Wish List in your Instagram Stories, where you feature one of your shop’s top items each week and ask customers to share what they’ve got their eyes on.

Whether you’re a brick-and-mortar or an online shop, think about having a presence at a pop-up or holiday fair. They’re a great way to get on your customers’ good sides by helping them save time and generate more awareness of your business. And if you’ll be at an event, be sure to let customers know via email marketing and social media so they know to stop by your booth.

SBA: How can small businesses get customers in the door?
Lauren: Shoppers are looking for discounts during the holidays. To entice customers to visit your business, try limited-time discounts or buy-one-get-one deals. Offer a deal of the day or even hour to keep your customers wondering what is next. Stock your business with special seasonal specialties that have short shelf life, since limited-edition merchandise generates more impulse buying.

Another opportunity to get shoppers into your business is to reward customers with extra perks. This might include special shopping hours, deals, or even experiences, like a meetup with a popular influencer, a fashion show, or a cooking class — whatever is relevant to your brand. You can also lure customers into your store with sidewalk signage or hold a raffle with a fun door prize. Make a big pot of hot cocoa and pass out cups as passersby walk through the door.

Finally, create custom gift cards that are special for the holidays to bring in shoppers after the holidays as well.

SBA: How can non-retail businesses take advantage of the holidays?
Lauren: Nearly a quarter of gift givers plan on giving an experience of some kind, and 40% of consumers would love to receive a gift of experience. When that field is narrowed to 18- to 24-year-olds, the number increases to 60%. The most popular types of experience gifts are ones that include food or beverages.

Shoppers like dining out, going to food festivals, or attending wine tastings. Outside of food-related experiences, other popular gifts include spa certificates or travel. Small businesses in the food and beverage space can offer these types of events or promote gift cards during the holiday season.

SBA: Small Business Saturday is November 30. What should small businesses know?
Lauren: Consumers who equate Black Friday shopping with big-box stores and overwhelming crowds often turn their attention to Small Business Saturday, when they can enjoy a more leisurely and personal experience. This is a great opportunity for small businesses. Here are some tips for taking advantage of Small Business Saturday.

  • Participate in social media: Whatever you decide to do for Small Business Saturday, make sure you’re part of the larger conversation by using hashtags like #ShopSmall, #SmallBusiness, #SmallBusinessSaturday, and #SmallBizSat so customers know where to find you.
  • Create a community online: Nurture a feeling of camaraderie by creating connections with your online followers on Small Business Saturday. Encourage your followers to share a holiday tradition or a funny gift fail.
  • Combine forces with other sellers: Cohost and copromote with other local small business owners to create community ties. Cross-promote and offer discounts for shopping in multiple locations.
  • Tell your brand story: Use your website and social media to open up and share what makes you unique — maybe it’s the story behind why you started your business, your philanthropic goals, or the fact that you have a pet “coworker” that hangs out with you while you ship orders.

You can learn more about preparing for the holiday shopping season with our eCommerce Holiday Guide.

Alise is an editor at Square, where she writes about how to start, run, and grow a business, highlighting our sellers around the world.