How can small businesses leverage the Black Friday trend?

lady with black friday shopping bags

Black Friday. What began as a post-Thanksgiving day of bricks and mortar shopping, latterly took on an online dimension with the ensuing Cyber Monday; and quickly spread from a North American phenomenon to an international one.

This frenzy of consumerism met with an inevitable anti-consumerist backlash, not helped by scenes of rioting on UK streets. But whatever your view on the phenomenon, Black Friday is now a firmly established commercial event.

Not only that, it’s a very attractive proposition for customers and marketers alike, especially considering the event is like a starting gun fired on the Christmas shopping period.

Research has shown that the number one influencer on how audiences select retailers is sales or price discounts, followed by the quality of products on offer.

There’s a strong economic dimension in play too, given that 30% of annual retail sales take place between Black Friday and Christmas.

So the question remains, what is the best way for small businesses to leverage the Black Friday trend?

Plan ahead

Black Friday should be seen as a seasonal event, a sort of inverted Christmas where a period of hype leads to a single day of frenzied buying. So rather than there being a long shopping period, everything relies on the extent to which you’ve got your Black Friday offers out there when the big day arrives.

And as with Christmas, brands are starting earlier with their Black Friday marketing campaigns. Each year deals are announced earlier and earlier. Having an email campaign setup in the run-up to Black Friday is a great way to introduce your customers to deals they can anticipate on the day. The trick is to do it early enough to get the message out there but not too early as to discourage customers from making purchases before your offers kick in.

Research from JCDecaux shows that OOH gets the most attention during the Christmas period. Make sure you book your ooh ads 8-12 weeks in advance to ensure you get panels in the best locations. And you probably want to start your Black Friday campaign a couple of weeks before the day itself.

Think about how out-of-home can give you an extra edge.

Despite there being a strong online element to Black Friday, it’s also an event ideally structured for the out-of-home environment. OOH gives you an opportunity to catch people’s attention given the over-saturation of online marketing content.

Window displays and posters are a great way to attract attention. And your creatives don’t have to be particularly subtle, they mainly need to flag up an attractive offer, have a clear design, and a straightforward call to action (CTA). Loudness and brashness is pretty much the Black Friday key note.

Even if you are looking to drive online sales this Black Friday, OOH is still a worthwhile investment of a portion of your advertising budget. Curry’s used a humorous billboard concept to encourage customers to pre-order products online to avoid “black eyes”.

Subvert the trend

It’s even possible to play to more ethical shoppers who may be put off by the overt consumerism of Black Friday. Greggs did this very well with an outdoor creative that rebranded Black Friday as “Fairtrade Friday”.

Think about adding a socially conscious element to your Black Friday marketing. Perhaps instead of offering discounts you could donate a percentage of sales to a charity organisation.

One US Outdoor clothing retailer even went as far as organising a boycott of Black Friday, offering to donate to a sports charity if audiences tagged a photo with their #OptOutside hashtag. Ethics aside, this is actually a very canny advertising strategy that is an example of a brand leveraging the Black Friday trend without even offering any discounts (in fact they closed their stores on Black Friday!). Real, man.

Be smart with discounts

An obvious problem with Black Friday, especially for smaller businesses, is that it encourages a race to the bottom in terms of prices, with marketers falling over themselves to attract the most price sensitive customers. But what’s the point of attracting consumers if you’re going to give all your stuff away? Use Black Friday as a way of reaching out to and rewarding your most loyal customers. You get to set the parameters of what constitutes a “loyal customer”; it could be anyone who signs up to your email list, for example. Target your offers to your loyal customers. This is also a great incentive to grow your emarketing list. This way you can deepen customer loyalty by showing your customers that you are thinking of them.

If you are going to lead with discounts, you don’t need to discount your entire inventory. Black Friday is a good time to discount end of line products.

Rather than giving straight-up discounts you can also offer bundle deals like buy-one-get-one-free.

Nail your online strategy

black friday e-commerce

When creating online content and engaging with Black Friday related conversations online, make sure you have a list of key search terms that you can use. October usually sees a rise in the search term “gift” and “Black Friday 2017” and “Black Friday UK” are popular terms to target. Take advantages of hashtags in your campaigns (both online and offline). #Black Friday and #BlackFriday2017 are good general categories and you could also consider creating your own hashtag and promoting it in your marketing materials.

Use email marketing to drive engagement with your Black Friday campaign. Email accounts for 25% of online sales, so this is an essential element of your strategy.

If you get a lot of online traffic, make sure you have enough server capacity to withstand a possible online rush to your store.

Door busting

Similarly, if you have a real world store, make sure you have plenty of stock in, not to mention that you have enough staff on hand to deal with a potential rapid influx of customers. Put up a window display, or take out ad space in an area near your store (use the Bubble map to help find the best spots).

Make sure your shelves are clearly marked with appropriate signage and that your check-out processes are as streamlined as possible. If you have to hire temporary staff to deal with anticipated demand, then do so.

In summary…

The main thing is to make sure that you have a clearly thought out Black Friday marketing strategy. It’s important not to leave anything to chance. You don’t have to sink everything you have into leveraging Black Friday and Cyber Monday; you could just focus on one or two actions or you could have a comprehensive strategy. The point is that no matter what scale of campaign you decide on, you will definitely be able to take advantage of the Black Friday build-up and it will set you in good stead to increase your market share in the run-up to Christmas.

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