The holiday season is in full swing, and small retailers are aiming to attract last-minute shoppers. The good news is that spending should remain strong throughout December. Results from American Express' 2022 Small Business Saturday® Consumer Insights Survey show two-thirds (72%) of shoppers strongly agreeing they will continue to Shop Small® throughout the holiday season because of the impact it has on their local community.*
Eager to try to claim your share of these December sales? Here are four tactics small retailers should put on their list.
1. Create a frictionless omnichannel experience.
Shoppers tend to consider your brand as one entity whether they are visiting your physical storefront, completing a purchase online or placing their order online for pick up. Often, they will move seamlessly between experiences: for example, starting their search online and then coming in to compare colors or verify sizing; or likewise browsing your store and then finalizing their choices from the comfort of their couch.
A recent survey commissioned by American Express and PayPal and conducted by StudioID’s Retail Dive, confirmed this channel-agnostic behavior: 29.5% say their shopping is evenly divided between in-store and online, 11.9% plan to shop entirely in store, 23.7% shop mostly in store/some online, 28.0% shop mostly online/some in store and 6.8% shop entirely online.
The key is to make shoppers aware of all the ways they can access your brand, through a robust search engine optimization (SEO) strategy and staying active with digital marketing.
“There are many creative ways small businesses can work to actively attract and retain shoppers,” notes Brett Sussman, Vice President Head of Sales & Marketing, at KabbageTM from American Express. “One trend we’re seeing is that small businesses are investing in new marketing strategies. In our latest Small Business Recovery Report ‡, we found that 47% of small businesses have increased digital marketing spend this year alone. To offer customers more advantages, retailers can create loyalty programs and promote the use of gift cards online and in-store, among other ways. They can also build an app for their store; our data showed that 29% of small businesses are prioritizing mobile and investing to build a mobile app for their small business.”
To make the omnichannel experience seamless, encourage your own store associates to explore your website themselves so they are familiar with the platform to quickly answer guests’ questions. And make sure inventory is accurately reflected online to avoid customer frustration.
2. Promote the unique advantages small businesses have.
Small businesses have unique advantages that shoppers prize. For example, the American Express/ PayPal survey found 50.3% of respondents believe small businesses have a different and varied product selection than can be found at larger brands.
The ability to be agile with your offerings can be an extra asset this holiday season, as your business may be able to pivot more readily than larger stores which can be bulked up with advance orders and may have difficulty shifting as easily to meet customers’ new merchandise tastes and preferences. So, if a bustling Small Business Saturday® crowd expressed interest in a certain line of wares, try contacting your local network to access more inventory and then connect with local shoppers when you’ve restocked.
Small businesses also may benefit from a positive “halo effect,” with 93.9% of survey respondents agreeing small businesses are important to a community. Build on that goodwill by doubling down on friendly holiday service and underscoring your support for your local neighborhood. Shopping at stores that are welcoming and inclusive is important to 83% of all shoppers, according to a recent poll of 550 small business leaders conducted by Kabbage from American Express.**
3. Offer value in unique ways.
Given today’s economic uncertainty, price is top-of-mind for most consumers: In fact, 73.2% of shoppers from the American Express/PayPal survey say better pricing and promotions would earn more of their business. However, there are ways to keep margins strong by emphasizing “value” over deep discounting.
For example, use bundling strategies that give customers more, rather than charging less. Package an array of themed items in an extravagant basket, which provides a convenient solution as your customers aim to winnow down their gift list, while also potentially getting you a bigger sale than you would from a single item. Or, offer an add-on product at a slight discount from your normal price, which provides a small perk that’s still an upsell.
Any service that saves time is likely to be appreciated during the hectic holiday season. Providing gift wrapping removes yet another chore from your customer’s list and can also create an aura of luxury when you use lavish branded materials.
And don’t forget to actively promote curbside pickup to eliminate shipping fees that would otherwise cost you or your customer.
4. Prioritize security and payment options in your checkout process.
As the final touchpoint with a customer, the checkout experience is your last opportunity to cement a positive impression. According to the American Express/PayPal survey, the two features most important to shoppers in the payment experience are that their payment information is secure (81.1%) and their preferred payment option is available (49.5%).
Fortunately, with today’s innovative payment solutions, small businesses can tap into the same types of offerings as big brands. Make sure you prominently display trusted brands that you accept, including American Express and consider upgrading your systems so you can accept a variety of payment options. Shoppers are increasingly embracing these new methods; 56.9% of respondents said they place some level of importance on the ability to pay with a mobile wallet, using a solution like PayPal, ApplePay, etc.
As you close out the holiday retail season and look ahead to 2023, keep an eye out for the many resources available to help you attract customers. “American Express works to help small businesses attract shoppers through programs like Amex Offers that connect Card Members and Merchants, helping them find new customers to grow their business year-round,” says Ann Sattin, Vice President and General Manager of Retail. One resource you can tap into right away is the Shop Small Resource Hub. Check it out today to explore complimentary marketing materials.
American Express & PayPal commissioned an online survey to US consumers, conducted by StudioID’s Retail Dive in October 2022. 396 respondents provided input on their small business hopping sentiments. Survey respondents were 18 years of age or older and indicated doing more than 50% of their household’s shopping.
*The American Express 2022 Small Business Saturday Consumer Insights Survey was conducted by Teneo on behalf of American Express and the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB). The study is a nationally representative sample of 2,471 U.S. adults 18 years of age or older. The sample was collected using an email invitation and an online survey. The study gathered self-reported data and does not reflect actual receipts or sales. It was conducted anonymously on November 27, 2022. The survey has an overall margin of error of +/- 2.0%, at the 95% level of confidence. Projections are based on the current U.S. Census estimates of the U.S. adult population, age 18 years and over.
‡Small Business Recovery Report issued by Kabbage from American Express, September 2022. The online survey was conducted between July 14th – 25th, 2022, surveying 550 small business leaders, including 250 at the smallest small business (<10 employees), 200 at a medium small business (11-100 employees) and 100 at the largest small business (101-500 employees). Respondents represented industries across retail, marketing, healthcare, financial services, technology, food and beverage, construction, automotive, manufacturing, media, professional services, education, agriculture and more. The margin of error for the full sample is +/- 4 percentage points.
**The online survey was conducted between September 20th – October 3rd, 2022, surveying 550 small business leaders, including 250 at the smallest small businesses (<10 employees), 200 at medium small businesses (11-100 employees) and 100 at the largest small businesses (101-500 employees). Respondents represented industries across retail, marketing, healthcare, financial services, technology, food and beverage, construction, automotive, manufacturing, media, professional services, education, agriculture and more. The margin of error for the full sample is +/- 3 percentage points.