The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has truly uprooted what many people around the world thought of as “normal.”

For many small businesses, a crisis of this volume can be challenging, to say the least. Especially during the holiday season. While we’ve been proud to stand with small businesses and see them adapt to meet the challenges of COVID-19, we know it’s still as important as ever 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!

9 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 coronavirus pandemic 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.

Many stores are also still open for in-person shopping, potentially with a few added precautions like masks or social distancing. 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.

Consider supporting a local restaurant near you by ordering delivery. Many eateries have implemented contactless dropoff or curbside pickup in order to reduce contact and safely provide you with your food.

However you choose to order, your money will be supporting those who need it right now.

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 aggressively right now would go far for service workers who are trying to make a living during unsure times. 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.

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 a crisis has on the community.

With everyone practicing social distancing and staying mostly at home, nonprofit organizations dealt with a sudden decrease in volunteers, cancellation of fundraising events, and, for some, a decrease in donations. Chipping in, when you can, will mean a lot to a nonprofit near you. Even if you missed out on Giving Tuesday this year, the holiday season is always a great time to give back.

Want to do double the good? Buy a gift card from a local business and donate 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. One of my local photography friends has been using her Instagram Story to share the work of fellow photographers across the U.S., hoping that by providing them with more eyes they will garner new business. Another friend posted a question box to her Instagram Story asking her followers to share their favorite businesses so she could support them. She then shared the answers as well, providing word-of-mouth to others who may be 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

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.

9. Engage with small businesses in new ways

A lot of businesses added new options — like virtual classes — during the coronavirus lockdowns. 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.

My friend, Jake, told me earlier this year that his local gym was offering online video sessions for their members so they won’t miss out on their workout while they are closed. His gym hadn’t offered virtual courses like this in the past but had added them as an option when people were feeling trapped at home. Plus, working out is a great way to fight off cabin fever, especially as the winter rolls in! 

Another great example I’ve heard was a local ice cream shop who understood that maybe stopping in for a cone wasn’t exactly top-of-mind at the beginning of the pandemic, 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 (ok let’s be honest — I’ve totally eaten ice cream and called it dinner… no judgment).  

The point here is that many of your local small businesses may be offering alternatives to their usual products or services. Take a minute to check in on some of your community’s go-to spots to see if there are new, alternative ways you can support them during this time. 

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!

All of us are learning how to adjust to this period of time where things are unknown and in flux. After you’ve made sure that you’re taking care of yourself and your loved ones, consider implementing a few of these ideas to help support your community’s small businesses this holiday season. 

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!