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How to prepare your small business for Black Friday

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Last year, South Africans spent almost R2.9 billion on Black Friday – almost 16% more than in 2017. Even more remarkable is that sales in South Africa were 1952% higher on Black Friday than on any other day.

The American shopping tradition grows year-on-year in South Africa, with this year expected to be the biggest yet. And, since Black Friday falls after payday – on 29 November – consumers will likely have more disposable income.

Here are some more interesting stats from last year:

  • Consumers bought an average of 4.5 products,
  • The peak shopping time was between 8am and 11am, and
  • South Africans spent around R1700 each.

So what does this mean for your small business? Yes, it’s an opportunity to increase sales, but small businesses have traditionally struggled to compete with bigger retailers: while large retailers reported record sales last year, small businesses reported a 10% drop in sales revenue and a 2% drop in sales volume, even though they offered more and larger discounts.

Rather than trying to keep up, why not approach Black Friday as an opportunity to grow your customer base and prove your loyalty to your existing customers?

As a small and medium business owner, you can stay competitive this Black Friday by ensuring a seamless customer experience, testing your technology to handle higher online and in-store sales volumes and foot traffic, and letting consumers know about your business and what you offer. Get these elements right and you could boost your customer base significantly, which should be the ultimate goal of Black Friday.

To prepare your small business for the big day, ask – and answer – these three questions:

  1. Should you try to compete with the behemoths?

Consumer shopping habits have changed. With Black Friday happening a month before Christmas, many consumers buy gifts and holiday supplies in November, which means they have little disposable income to spend on December and January sales.

You might feel like you have to go toe-to-toe with the big retailers by offering the same – or bigger – discounts. The reality is that you likely don’t have the same inventory levels, buying power, and budgets as larger retailers. But with some smart marketing tactics and by focusing on the customer experience above all else, you can secure a customer for life, which is worth far more than a once-off Black Friday sale.

  1. Can your technology cope?

Every year, videos of in-store Black Friday chaos do the rounds. To avoid the pushing, shoving, and altercations, many consumers choose to shop online from the quiet of their living rooms… until a website crashes or they miss out on deals because of limited online stock and long virtual queues.

While large businesses can invest in back-up technology and server capacity and hire more customer support personnel, many small businesses don’t have the flexibility to scale their technology on demand.

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But there are other things you can do to manage and stagger the increased traffic to your site or store, to ensure the shopping experience is as smooth as possible. Here are a few ideas:

  • Encourage your customers to create wish-lists before Black Friday. When something on their list goes on sale, send them an email or notification, with a direct link to the product.
  • Schedule deals throughout the day rather than putting all your sale items up at once. Remember the peak shopping times of 8am to 11am.
  • Use countdown clocks to show how many units of an item are still available. This creates a sense of urgency and encourages people to purchase faster.
  • Run load tests on your site beforehand and identify pages that can be compressed to reduce loading times.
  • Automate as much as possible, from invoice generation, to payment and delivery, so you’ll have more time to focus on your customers.
  1. How will you handle impatient customers?

Amid the excitement of bagging a great deal, people can become impatient and irrational on Black Friday. Most people have an idea of what they want, which means they expect a seamless process that allows them to find it, pay for it, and move on to the next item on their list. Nothing should hamper this: not your technology, processes, or customer service.

When customers have a good overall experience, they’ll tell their friends and family – and word-of-mouth marketing is a great way to cut through the Black Friday noise caused by every business punting every offer. Get the experience wrong, though, and consumers will not hesitate to name, shame, and drive business away.

Avoid this by making dealing with you as pleasant as possible. Offer exclusive deals to your loyal customers and make sure that your delivery partner can keep up with the increased demand. Simplify your processes and try to put a personal touch on the day. You might not be rewarded immediately, but customers will remember the gesture and give you repeat business throughout the year – and that’s the best Black Friday deal your business could hope for.

Get Sage Business Cloud today and save 20% on your annual subscription. With a real-time overview of your inventory and sales, as well as insights into your past performance and future forecasts, you can save time and money, and handle whatever Black Friday throws at you.