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8 ways SMEs can give back this Black Friday

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With Black Friday around the corner, everyone seems to be counting down the days until they can grab amazing deals – and this year, it’s all about the virtual experience.

Since lockdown, many South Africans have become more comfortable with shopping online. This is probably a good thing, since the queues outside brick-and-mortar stores are likely to be staggering, thanks to social distancing requirements. Apparently, we’re also ready to splurge: BlackFriday.global predicts that the average South African will spend R1,735 on the day.

Yet as many as 12.5 million children are exposed to hunger on a weekly basis, and another study suggests that the pandemic pushed 34% of the population into vulnerability.

More than half (55.5%) of South Africans live below the poverty line, with about three million losing their jobs during the national lockdown. And things are not bouncing back as hoped, even after restrictions have been lifted. Worse still, groups that were already disadvantaged before the crisis, have been disproportionately impacted, once again.

How can SMEs help?

Now is the perfect time to recalibrate your corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategy, and find ways to adapt it to the post-lockdown “new normal”. CSR has proven to not only enhance employee relationships with the company, but by demonstrating that you care, you can also attract customers.

In fact, 70% of consumers want to know that the brands they support are doing their part to address social and environmental issues, and 46% pay close attention to a brand’s social responsibility efforts when they buy a product.

Choose your cause wisely, with the broader impact of the crisis in mind. Prioritise ways of giving that empower communities, not just “handouts” that offer momentary relief. Think education, training, infrastructure, and focus on initiatives that provide resources for micro-businesses and entrepreneurs.

Here are 8 tips for doing this year’s Black Friday differently:

  1. Encourage customer donations

    Make it easy for your customers to donate to a worthy cause, by asking for a contribution as part of the checkout process. This also subtly reminds them of the less fortunate. Take your lead from online retailers like Takealot, which drives awareness and support for the children’s charity Beautiful Gate, all year round.

  2. Use your success to donate

    Your business could also pledge to donate to a charity for every sale you make, or a percentage of total sales for the week leading up to Black Friday. Ideas for helping underserved communities include funding or dropping off hampers of food, toiletries, baby care necessities, medical supplies, masks, and sanitisers.

  3. Volunteer your skills

    If you’re not in a position to donate cash or physical goods, there’s always something you can give. Foster a sense of community involvement with your team and find ways to volunteer based on your individual strengths. You could pledge a few hours towards helping out a local charity with their online bookkeeping, introducing them to the benefits of cloud software, or refocusing their marketing efforts.

  4. Offer the best deals on essentials

    If your business sells basic goods like food, baby products, toiletries, etc, why not assign your biggest discounts here? Cutting these prices will boost inclusivity at a time when everyone could use a win, and more people could potentially benefit. If this isn’t your market, perhaps you could support a specific group, like learners, for example. Could you offer great deals on school supplies or children’s clothing instead?

  5. Use your social channels

    Promote a struggling small business in your area or share a local jobseeker’s profile on your social channels. You could also find creative ways to bring a smaller business on board with your own online marketing, by showcasing their complementary offering. For example, a sneaker shop could promote the services of a small shoe-cleaning outfit.

  6. Educate and empower

    Sponsor or offer online courses and workshops for people who have lost their jobs and make a lasting difference. Mentorship is also a great tool, providing a human touchpoint for someone out of their depths. Just making a call to help someone get their foot in the door can change a life.

Tip: Take it further by offering courses in the skills your business needs, and if possible, employ or mentor them at your company.

  1. Use your corporate voice:

    Advocacy is an especially important tool for boosting overall corporate social responsibility. Use your social pages, website, and online store to talk about continuing the fight against the spread of COVID-19, or highlight the plight of vulnerable groups, and the opportunities for uplifting them. If there is a cause you feel strongly about, you could even ask customers to sign a digital petition at checkout.

  2. Discourage irresponsible buying:

    The frantic, hyper-consumerism of Black Friday sales has been heavily criticised, sparking protests around the world. But this is an unmissable selling opportunity for many SMEs that have been struggling for months. Striking the right balance means drawing the line when it comes to encouraging buying on credit or spending that will push vulnerable families into unmanageable debt. Not wanting to miss out on a “one-time” offer can feel intoxicating, and businesses need to remain sensitive to the consequences.

SMEs have more power to influence and revive the economy than they may be aware of: nearly two thirds of the South African workforce is employed by small businesses, and this leads to stronger, more resilient commercial communities. The ripple effects of the pandemic on our economy and citizens will be felt for some time, but we can make a difference now. Use this Black Friday as a chance to reinvigorate your CSR strategy, and be a responsible brand that gives back.

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