4 Ways Retailers Can Boost Customer Engagement Beyond Small Business Saturday

 In Sales and Marketing

Small Business Saturday is all about encouraging consumers to support local businesses in the midst of the holiday shopping season. During the 2015 event, an estimated 95 million people shopped at small businesses according to American Express.

In our previous article – Your Small Business Saturday Game Plan: Learn From Previous Success – we helped you figure out how to come up with a game plan. In this piece, we’re going to give you some great ideas that will not only give your sales a boost, but that will also help you stand out and keep customers coming back, even when the holidays are over.

If you want to turn first-time visitors into long-time customers, the following strategies can help you to capitalize on this annual event.

1. Spread the word about sales early – but keep it engaging

If you want to put your business ahead of the competition, you can’t wait until the last minute to promote sales or other incentives you’ll be offering on Small Business Saturday. As previously mentioned, kicking off a teaser campaign two to five weeks in advance gives you time to build up buzz and get local shoppers interested in the promotions you’re offering.

But use this as an opportunity to not just promote, but to score bonus points and increase the engagement factor. Find ways to interact with customers as often as possible in your pre-holiday promotions. For example, let’s say you run a gourmet bakery with a solid social media following. Ask customers to post their top choices for holiday desserts or share funny pictures of holiday baking efforts gone wrong.

2. Gamify your business

Adding a gaming element to the equation can be a fun way to get customers interested in your store on Small Business Saturday. The idea is that by applying gaming mechanics to a specific task you’d like customers to execute, you’re increasing engagement with the “players.”

Using a QR code, a two-dimensional barcode, is a relatively easy way to gamify your customers’ experience. For example, create a unique QR code that offers a discount to shoppers when they scan the code in-store. To add a gamelike feel, design the code so that customers have to answer a question before they’re able to unlock the discount.

Planning a scavenger hunt that relies on QR codes is another option. You could place the codes in various places around your store near items that you want to showcase as part of your promotion. Again, you could require shoppers to answer a question or solve a puzzle to receive the next clue and eventually move on to claim their prize, which could be a gift certificate or a product sample.

3. Plan customer-centric events

Launching a sale on Small Business Saturday can get shoppers in the door, but it may not be enough to convince them to make a return trip. That’s where events that get customers involved come into play.

When planning an in-store event, it helps to keep your focus on two things: fun and creativity. For instance, if you’ve got employees to spare, you could give customers the option of reserving one of them as a personal shopper for a 15- or 20-minute window in case they need help choosing the perfect gift. If you want to lighten the mood, you could host an ugly holiday sweater contest and offer a special prize to the winner.

The kind of event you choose to host ultimately depends on what kind of business you have and who your customers are. The main thing to keep in mind is that whatever you decide to do, it should result in a memorable experience for the people who decide to frequent your business that day.

4. Be mindful of the little things

You don’t have to go over-the-top to have a successful Small Business Saturday. If you don’t have the resources to pour into a big marketing campaign, focus on the little things. Sometimes it’s paying attention to these smaller touches that can really get a customer’s attention.

Offer free gift wrapping.  Provide complimentary hot cocoa and cookies to hungry shoppers.  These little thing can go a long way towards fostering deeper customer connections. It’s not just the adults you should be thinking of either. Roping off a special kids-only section of your store.  Stock it  with crayons, coloring books, small toys, and an attendant employee.  Kids can have fun, while you give frazzled parents a break.

Once Small Business Saturday is over, you can keep the goodwill going by implementing a shopper-friendly return policy. This demonstrates that you’re willing to be flexible and go the extra mile to keep your customers satisfied. That may just the kind of encouragement they need to become loyal patrons for the long haul.

Strategic Funding provides needed operating funds to small businesses. Strategic Funding has helped businesses from hundreds of industries.  Industries served include: restaurants, personal services, construction, medical, manufacturing, agriculture, retail stores, automotive, and food stores.

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