Businesses are preparing for the start of the shopping season, which kicks off with Black Friday on 29 November and Cyber Monday three days later. Although it’s the busiest weekend for most retailers, it can be a stressful time for smaller businesses that find it difficult to compete with their larger counterparts.
For a right to play on Black Friday, small businesses should think beyond sales and discounts and use creative alternative strategies to leverage consumers’ appetite to spend.
Appetite to spend
Last year, Black Friday sales increased by 15.92% over 2017, to reach almost R2.9 billion. That number is expected to increase again this year, with shoppers spending roughly R1,735 each on 4.5 items.
Black Friday has had a massive impact on the retail industry. In December 2018, retail sales decreased by 1.4% year-on-year – the first time the industry had seen a negative annual growth rate since February 2017.
Essentially, the data shows that sales performance is now better in November than in December, and that’s because of the growing popularity of Black Friday. This means that if your small business doesn’t participate, you might not reach your sales targets.
So, damned if you do and damned if you don’t, what’s a small business to do to take advantage of consumers’ appetite to spend and increase the size of its customer base at the same time?
Here are a few ideas:
- Start early. Consumers start looking for Black Friday deals weeks in advance. Start advertising your specials early and release a new one every day. Use a variety of touch-points, like social media, magazines, newspapers, your website, and Google AdWords to target a broad range of customers.
- Listen. Social media offers valuable insight into what your target audience is hoping to find on Black Friday. Search for ‘#BlackFriday’ on Twitter or Facebook to see what other businesses are offering, to understand what customers want, and to get new ideas. Check out this list of free social media monitoring tools to get started.
- Stay organised. Having an online presence is important but nothing chases customers away faster than a slow website. Test your site’s performance and load times, and consult with an IT professional to ensure that it can cope with the demand. Use a solution that updates your stock levels in real time, alerts you when you’re running low, and can even tell you what products are likely to sell well based on past performance.
- Market. Black Friday is an opportunity to grow your customer base using tools you already have, like social media and your mailing list. Create competitions that require participants to tag a friend, subscribe to your newsletter, or share a post. Offer discounts to new subscribers and use your growing email database to send personalised emails and offers to customers that can only be redeemed on Black Friday. Treat every engagement as a marketing opportunity. Even abandoned carts are an opportunity to entice customers back with an additional 5% off. Use content marketing strategies to keep people coming back to your website and use engaging calls to action (CTAs) to push them down the sales funnel.
- Be prepared. Be ready to deal with the inevitable chaos that comes with Black Friday by preparing for everything. Ensure that your logistics partner can handle increased deliveries and outsource to a different one if they can’t. Customers will have a fear of missing out on other deals, so they’ll want to visit your store, find what they want, and pay for it quickly. Make sure that your payment systems can deal with the increased demand by creating online payment shortcuts, and offering a variety of payment options that make it easy for customers to move from order to checkout to payment.
- Create a vibe. Small businesses can offer personalised experiences to customers. Own a small nursery? How about free gardening workshops throughout the day? Or, if you’re a hairdresser, why not throw in a free scalp massage with every cut? This way you’re not discounting your products or services but you are giving customers more value for their money. And when customers feel valued, they tell other people: 96% of customers say customer service determines their brand loyalty, and loyal customers are five times more likely to purchase again and four times more likely to refer a friend.
Black Friday is a great opportunity for your business to engage with and reward new and existing customers. Plan it right and you can increase your cash flow.