Laying the foundation for a successful Small Business Saturday®

Larry Chay

With Small Business Saturday® just around the corner, what is your retail business doing to get ready for one of your busiest times of the year?  Your checklist probably includes arranging inventory, scheduling additional staff, finalizing promotional plans and preparing for the anticipated rush of eager customers to come through your doors.

But what else could you be doing to ensure your store makes the most out of this special event? I’d like to suggest five specific areas you should be focusing on to proactively prepare your small business for a successful day.

Cybersecurity: Block malicious attacks

In today’s retail environment, most retailers have a local area network and IoT devices, and they might even provide in house Wi-Fi for customer use. This raises their vulnerability to cyberattacks. And those attacks are more frequent than you might think. Research from Symantec, an American software company, shows that as many as 43 percent of cyberattacks (specifically phishing attacks) target small businesses.

Because of this, it’s important to double check that your IT integrator has put the proper security protocols in place to minimize the chance of a successful cyberattack. Hackers are constantly on the lookout for network vulnerabilities, so make sure you’re keeping systems up to date and doing everything possible to mitigate risk. This includes updating system passwords and limiting access to certain point-of-sale operations and the network to a few trusted employees.

Insurance: Cover potential liability

Now is a good time to review your insurance needs to make sure you have adequate coverage for things like customer ID theft, cybercrimes, merchandise theft and slip-and-fall accidents. Considering the average cost of a slip-and-fall injury is $30,000, according to research published in the Journal of Safety Research, you need to have the right insurance and be ready for a potential worker’s compensation claim if the incident involves an employee. Common sense things like stacking and shelving merchandise correctly, quickly clearing spills and blocking off wet areas can help lower the chance of an accident.

Video surveillance: Keep a watchful eye

Video surveillance technology provides another kind of insurance, one that offers forensic evidence to prosecute or refute liability. It can also help protect you and your employees; increased foot traffic on Small Business Saturday means greater potential for shoplifters and accidents.

Verify your video cameras and recording devices are fully operational. Check that the cameras are pointed in the right direction and that their fields of view aren’t obstructed by merchandise or promotional displays. And make sure you’re familiar with how to access the recorded video in case an incident occurs. The last thing you want is to have to rereview video only to find the needed footage doesn’t exist.

Furthermore, consider installing some cameras on the outside of the building. You’d be surprised how many thieves wait until they’re at the front door to hide their face. And don’t forget to monitor loading docks. Video can be a great auditing tool for verifying merchandise discrepancies.

With new (or temporary) staff being hired, keep in mind that employee theft is the single biggest cause of loss to retailers, according to a Retail Knowledge Group study of loss prevention directors or managers of 91 retailers with annual sales totaling over $840 million. Cameras at checkout can help deter sweethearting. And lastly, to protect the integrity of your cameras and video recordings, limit system access to only a trusted few.

Social media: Increase store traffic

Social media is the new marketing model, so it’s important to jump on the bandwagon or risk getting left behind. Leverage digital platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to get the word out about your store and the specific promotion you’re running for Small Business Saturday. Consider engaging local influencers to create a buzz about your message and drive more awareness (which should translate into more customers through the doors). But make sure you start early to give your story plenty of time to spread across your target market.

As an added incentive, you might consider including clicks to coupons, discounts and free merchandise to entice social media users into your shop. If your target market also includes an older demographic, consider marketing your Small Business Saturday promotions through more traditional media, such as mailers, ads and coupons in local newspapers and magazines. If your local Chamber of Commerce is driving the event, make sure your company is included in their promotions as well.

Networking: Participate in a sales multiplier

Team up with other local small businesses participating in Small Business Saturday to create the ultimate shopping experience. Find ways to cross-promote each other’s business with fun events, marketing offers, sales discounts or unique incentives. It’s a great time for thinking outside the box.

Businesses with complementary products and services could co-sponsor gift basket drawings. Even competing businesses could benefit from some friendly rivalry, inviting customers to sample contending goods and services and vote for their favorites. These could include anything from the tastiest cupcakes to the most artistic nail designs. In addition to drawing more customers into the premise, the winning retailers would have bragging rights they could capitalize on long after Small Business Saturday has ended.

Plan for success

Invariably, what you get out of Small Business Saturday depends on what you put into it. It’s in your best interest to begin preparing early to drive people to your establishment. That means cyber hardening your network, confirming you have adequate insurance coverage, strategically placing your video cameras to deter theft and minimize false liability claims, leveraging social media with compelling messages and networking with your fellow small business owners to bump up the excitement. Once you do all that, be prepared to handle the crowd that walks through your doors.