Inside Small Business Saturday With American Express

Technology PCmag

The weekend between Black Friday and Cyber Monday is the Super Bowl of consumerism. The marquee shopping period is when businesses of all sizes sell more products through both e-commerce sales and in-store at the point-of-sale (POS) than at any other time of the year. However, Black Friday and Cyber Monday are not the only important events this weekend: Welcome to Small Business Saturday.

Continue Reading Below

For local small businesses and entrepreneurs, Small Business Saturday is arguably an even more important shopping day, and is nestled in between Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Last year, 12 million shoppers spent a reported $15.4 billion at small businesses on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, according to the 2016 Small Business Saturday Consumer Insights Survey that was commissioned by American Express (Amex) and the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB).

Organized by Amex, this year's 7th annual Small Business Saturday combines community initiatives and social campaigns with deals, discounts, and credit card processing promotions to drive sales and customer engagement with local establishments. PCMag spoke to Amy Marino, Vice President of Brand Marketing, Experience & Partnerships at Amex, about the story behind Small Business Saturday. We also discussed this year's partnerships and how local businesses can take advantage of all the resources available to make the most of the annual shopping period.

PCMag: Amex launched Small Business Saturday back in 2010. Can you talk about the initial inspiration for the event and how it came about?

Amy Marino (AM): In 2010, in the wake of a recession, we were searching for a way to support small businesses. Through our [annual] OPEN Small Business Monitor survey, we were able to ask small business owners what their most pressing need was, and what we heard was that they needed more customers. So we launched Small Business Saturday with this singular goal in mind.

PCMag: Define Small Business Saturday in a nutshell. What is its primary objective?

Continue Reading Below

AM: Small Business Saturday is a day to celebrate the places in our community that we can't live without, whether it's your favorite coffee shop or your trusted dry cleaner. The day was created to drive more business to small business, and in 2016, an estimated 112 million consumers shopped at small businesses on the day.

PCMag: How would you describe the value of a dedicated day like this for supporting local businesses? What does Small Business Saturday give these small businesses that the rest of the holiday shopping season doesn't?

AM: The weekend after Thanksgiving is often the busiest time of year for small businesses, and we believe that Small Business Saturday is helping them kick off the holiday shopping season with a bang!

PCMag: Let's break down the programs and resources available to small businesses. To help small businesses market themselves and drive customer engagement on Small Business Saturday, Amex provides a number of customizable or pre-written materials as well as community-building tools and programs. Can you explain what resources are provided and what small businesses can do with them?

AM: Small business owners—whether brick-and-mortar or online—can visit the "Shop Small" Studio at ShopSmall.com to create customizable print and digital marketing assets in just a few clicks. The Studio offers everything from custom banner photos for Facebook to event flyers and save-the-dates. Small business owners can also check out the Small Business Saturday 101 content hub on ShopSmall.com, which features how-to guides, tips, and insights from other small business owners and influencers who share their best practices. These free resources are meant to help business owners and shoppers keep "Shop Small" top-of-mind all year round.

PCMag: Talk about the increasing role social media plays in driving store traffic. How should small businesses focus and target their social efforts for Small Business Saturday?

AM: Social media is a vital tool that small businesses should leverage to reach existing and potential customers. Small Business Saturday actually launched on Facebook, reaching more than one million people in the first year, so we understand the impact this medium has. To help spread the "Shop Small" message on social media, business owners should leverage the "Shop Small" Studio...where they can customize digital assets—this includes everything from template posts and customized banner photos for Facebook. These assets, as well as using #SmallBizSat and #ShopSmall [hashtags], sends a message to their followers that these businesses are participating in the day.

PCMag: This year, Amex is partnering with Etsy, The Wing, the Museum of Ice Cream, independent record store Record Store Day, and independent bookstore Indies First. Can you talk a bit about each of those and how they factor into #ShopSmall value for local small businesses?

AM: This year, we're showing more love for more places with a focus on diverse types of small businesses. From our collaboration with The Wing, which is spotlighting women-owned businesses, to bringing online [businesses] offline by teaming up with Etsy, American Express is continually looking to join forces with companies and organizations that help amplify the "Shop Small" message to new audiences.

  • Etsy is helping us show love for artisans and online small business owners by hosting holiday pop-up markets in five cities on Small Business Saturday. Shoppers in Los Angeles, New York, San Antonio, San Francisco, and Wichita will have the opportunity to shop one-of-a-kind products on November 25.
  • Visit The Wing, a network of co-working and community spaces for women, for a curated shopping event featuring the flyest gifts of the season. The space will be open to the public to shop items from some of New York City's favorite women-owned businesses in celebration of Small Business Saturday. Guests can also treat themselves to a DIY hot cocoa bar and mini-manicures by [all-natural nail salon] tenoverten.
  • The Museum of Ice Cream, an interactive museum and ice cream extravaganza, will invite shoppers to attend events at the newest Museum of Ice Cream location, and receive access to a special retail experience featuring items from independent artisans.
  • Record Store Day is celebrating Small Business Saturday by releasing a limited edition vinyl album release in partnership with the Los Angeles-based band Dawes. The special edition, live double album will hit shelves at local record stores across the country on Nov 25.
  • We all have our favorite local bookstore, and Indies First will help us mark the day by hosting special events and activities with authors, supported by publishers at select local bookstores.

PCMag: Let's talk about the Neighborhood Champions program. What does that entail for businesses, and can you explain the grassroots mindset and value behind it?

AM: Neighborhood Champions are the boots on the ground, activating across the country by rallying their communities and getting shoppers excited to show their love for their favorite local businesses. This can be anyone from a small business or local organization to a passionate consumer who is willing to rally their community on the day. In return, we provide them with tangible marketing materials like tote bags, balloons, and banners to bring their event to life.

PCMag: How does Small Business Saturday compare with other small to midsize business (SMB)-focused events and programs, for instance, the Small Business Association's (SBA) National Small Business Week held each spring?

AM: Like the SBA's National Small Business Week, Small Business Saturday is an annual event that celebrates the small businesses that help our communities thrive. Based on research we have commissioned with the NFIB, we also know that Small Business Saturday encourages shoppers to "Shop Small" all year round and not just on the Saturday after Thanksgiving.

PCMag: Does Amex coordinate with the SBA or any other government/non-profit organizations for Small Business Saturday?

AM: Over the past seven years, Small Business Saturday has garnered increasing support from non-profit organizations and government officials. American Express and the US Small Business Administration share a passion for helping small businesses. As in years past, we are working with the SBA to spread the word about Small Business Saturday, and encourage shoppers to show their love for independent businesses in their communities on November 25 and year-round.

PCMag: How has the holiday evolved over the past seven years from what Amex initially envisioned, and where do you see it going from here?

AM: As mentioned before, Small Business Saturday is a grassroots campaign that launched in 2010 on Facebook. Fast forward to this year and the day has grown into a movement, with the US Senate unanimously passing a resolution designating November 25th, 2017 as Small Business Saturday. Year over year, we see more communities making the day their own by adding their local spice—and that's what success really looks like for us.

This article originally appeared on PCMag.com.