The last several years have uprooted what many people around the world thought of as “normal.”

For many small businesses, the holiday season can be prime time to overcome the challenges and fluctuations of the year. While we’re always proud to stand with small businesses and see them rise to the challenges of the marketplace, we know this is a great time of year to encourage people to support small businesses. Because when we support small businesses, it makes a big impact!

The holiday and giving season is a great time to think about how you’re supporting your local small businesses and community. We encourage you to use our list below to show your support throughout the holiday season and beyond!

10 things you can do to support small businesses right now

So what can you do, as a consumer, to continue to support small businesses during the holiday season and beyond? Here are some ideas to get you started!

1. Buy gift cards

Gift cards are a great way to support a small business now by getting yourself, or someone else, something in the future. This is a great idea for your local boutiques, go-to restaurants, and pet supply shops. Plus, many small businesses are now offering the option to purchase gift cards online, saving you the trip to the store.

Gift cards also make great gifts, of course. You can give them to friends as a way to introduce them to your favorite small businesses, furthering your impact.

2. Shop local — online or in-person

Many of your favorite local small businesses now offer online shopping! Consider shopping small for the majority of your holiday shopping, or getting a headstart on any other upcoming holidays, birthdays, or “just because” purchases. Think of it this way — you’ll be able to cross that task off your to-do list while also helping a small business get through a tough time. It’s a win-win!

Do you have a favorite shop that hasn’t, in the past, offered the option to make purchases online? Check again. Many businesses are making the switch to online stores this holiday season as a result of coronavirus and you may be pleasantly surprised to find they are now listing the products you love online. Supporting small businesses from the comfort of your own couch?! Count me in.

Most stores have also reopened their physical locations for in-person shopping, potentially with a few added precautions like masks or limited store capacity. So, if you feel comfortable, consider doing your shopping from a small, local store rather than a large big-box chain. You’ll still be providing for your family and friends, but will help the owners of these businesses put food on their own tables as well. 

3. Order takeout or delivery

Restaurants were some of the hardest-hit businesses in the last couple of years, as they were restricted in how they could do business safely. Luckily, many were able to pivot to offer new or expanded online ordering and takeout options, giving them a stronger foundation for a later reopening.

These days, most restaurants have done just that and reopened to in-house dining, albeit in a limited capacity, and often with reduced staff and/or adjusted menu. However you decide to dine with your local restaurants, being considerate of the changes they’ve undergone over the last few years can go a long way.

Which leads me to the next tip (pun intended) …

4. Tip a little more than you usually would

It has been a very tough couple of years for service and hourly workers financially. Without the steady flow of tips they usually see on, say, a busy Friday night, these employees found themselves short on cash. And as businesses opened back up, many struggled with staffing, putting added pressure on these workers.

If you are in a place to do so, tipping a little more generously can go far for service workers. If businesses near you are offering discounts or free delivery, take the money that you are saving and instead add it on to your normal tip. The delivery workers or kitchen staff will appreciate the help and you’ll be doing your part to make sure that you can continue enjoying your favorite restaurants and small businesses.

5. Leave a positive review online

This one is completely free, takes only a couple of minutes, and can be done from the comfort of your own home. And as an added bonus, it’s relevant and impactful no matter what time of year it is or what’s going on in the marketplace as a whole.

Small businesses rely heavily on reviews. Think about it — when you’re looking for a new place to try in your neighborhood and you see they only have two stars on Google, you’re probably less likely to stop there than one with five stars. 

And since the holiday season is a time where folks are looking for new products and services to try out or buy for loved ones, now is the perfect time to hop on Yelp, Google, or Facebook to share a kind note about your experience with a local business. Be sure to include photos of the delicious food you ate or the beautiful layout of the store to add even more value to your review. 

If you’re a business owner yourself, now is also a great time to make sure you’ve claimed your business on review sites and that you are taking the time to respond to reviews with a kind note. 

6. Donate to a local nonprofit

Nonprofits certainly aren’t immune to the impact of the last several years, or to the importance of the holiday season on shoppers and donors.

Demand for the services provided by nonprofit organizations is a year-round concern, so while volunteering and participating in giving-centric days like Giving Tuesday can be a huge boon for your local nonprofit, there are additional ways to support these local organizations that can reach far beyond the holiday season.

As an example, you can do double the good by buying a gift card from a local business and donating it to a nonprofit that can use it. For example, your local pet shelter would likely love a gift card to the small pet supply shop in town. You’ll be providing the pet supply shop with immediate revenue and giving the shelter resources they desperately need.

7. Share, share, and share some more

Everyone loves a good recommendation. And, sometimes, advocating for your favorite small business is as easy as clicking ‘share’ on their latest social media post. 

I personally have many friends who operate side hustles or small businesses of their own. As an example, photographers have begun using their Instagram Stories to share the work of fellow photographers across the U.S., hoping that by providing them with more eyes they will garner new business. Other small businesses and small business supporters have started conversations on social media to gather small business recommendations that can be shared out more broadly, creating a growing word-of-mouth network for people interested in shopping small.

Now is the perfect time to scream your favorite small business names from the proverbial rooftop. If you share one of their posts to your Facebook feed or Twitter account and a couple of your followers make a purchase, you’ve directly helped this business by merely sharing your love for them! So share the holiday love by talking about your favorite businesses online.

8. Sign up for their email list (or other method of outreach)

We may be a little bit biased here, but email marketing newsletters are one of the best ways to stay in touch with your favorite small businesses! By signing up for your favorite business’ email list, you’re telling them, “I want to hear more from you!” Remember, there is a real human being behind each of your favorite small shops, so every time they get a new signup it assures them that people support their work and are rooting for them. Plus, signing up for email lists means you’ll be the first to know about their upcoming announcements, such as product drops or new offerings.

Are you less connected to your email and more likely to respond to a text message? Keep an eye out for your favorite small businesses who communicate by SMS text messaging and make their day by signing up for their messaging program.

9. Engage with small businesses in new ways

A lot of businesses have expanded into new options — like virtual classes — in the last several years. In many cases, these options actually helped them to evolve their business and reach people in new ways, so see if you can take advantage of these new options to support them.

Many gyms, from established chains to small operations, branched out into online video sessions in recent years to provide continuity to their members, and these virtual services have continued to grow and thrive as an additional, value-added offering to tradtional in-person workouts. As winter rolls in across most of the U.S., these virtual services provide a great way to get your workout in at home and fight off cabin fever.

Another great example I’ve heard was a local ice cream shop who understood stopping in for a cone wasn’t the only option people might be interested in, so they began selling packed pints to-go, a great way to keep making sales while also providing customers with a great at-home snack.  

The point here is that many of your local small businesses may have diversified their usual alternatives to their usual products or services. Take a minute to check in on some of your community’s go-to spots to see what new features and capabilities you haven’t tried out yet. 

10. Simply say thank you

There is a lot to be thankful for when it comes to small businesses. They create tons of new jobs every year, provide personalized support experiences, and support your local community.  Have you had a personal experience with a small business? Drop off a music gift card so the barista you talk to about music every morning can download those new songs. Buy coffee for your dry cleaners to thank them for removing so many coffee stains from your shirts. Or, just say “thank you” to let local businesses know you appreciate the time and effort they put into making your life better.

It’s more important than ever that we continue to support small businesses!

During the bustle of the holiday and into the busy new year beyond, consider implementing a few of these ideas to help support your community’s small businesses this holiday season. They will benefit, and so will you.

As always, our team at Constant Contact is here to help. If you need any marketing advice or want to learn more about supporting your favorite small businesses, reach out to one of our Marketing Advisors — we’d be happy to chat with you!