Worried about sales this festive season? Take on your retail-giant competitors and boost revenue this Black Friday with these must-know tips.
The shop-till-you-drop season is upon us. While consumers are preparing for the long queues and cyber sales, you need to be preparing your small retail store for the holiday rush too. As a small business, you’re probably concerned about having enough inventory, your ability to fulfil orders on time and how to maximise sales during this busy time of year?
This comprehensive resource will answer those questions, and more, while giving you insights into how to compete with the giants of the retail industry.
But, first, you should probably know the motivation behind Black Friday, as this phenomenon begins to grow in popularity in South Africa each year.
How did Black Friday start?
Black Friday started in the 1960s. It was celebrated on the first Friday after Thanksgiving in the USA and today is recognised as the official start to the holiday shopping season. The reason it is called Black Friday is because the retail stores would host sales to move from being in the ‘red’ to being in the ‘black’.
Retailers in the USA realised they could draw in large crowds with discounted prices, which created the Black Friday shopping fever we know today. Many retailers, today, market their special offers and promotions days or weeks in advance to raise awareness, while others wait until the last possible moment to release their Black Friday adverts.
Last year, South African retailers joined this growing worldwide sales strategy by offering comprehensive savings on technology products and gadgets on Black Friday. This year, the trend is set to continue, with many more stores looking to maximise market share and revenue.
South African businesses cashing in on Black Friday
Checkers was the first retailer to bring Black Friday to South Africa in 2014. “In 2014 we served more than one million customers on Black Friday. In 2015, we had even more deals on offer, on everyday products that were carefully selected with our customers' shopping needs in mind,” said Neil Schreuder, marketing director for Shoprite Checkers.
Schreuder went on to say that the profits made from the day “exceeded their expectations”.
In 2015, many other retailers got on board with this shopping culture phenomenon. Makro reported an 80% bump in traffic, and that its turnover almost doubled due to its Black Friday sales promotions.
Makro also ran its first Cyber Monday promotion in 2015, and customers responded so well that its website’s upgraded infrastructure was put to the test. “The volume of orders also put increased pressure on the supply chain, and extra effort was made not to disappoint our customers,” says Makro e-commerce executive Paul van de Waal.
“We have learnt a lot from the last promotion, and look forward to giving our customers even better service, range, and pricing in 2016.”
Related: SA retailers jump on Black Friday bandwagon
Digital preparation for Black Friday
Black Friday and Cyber Monday can mean a significant sales boost for your business. Advanced digital preparation is needed, however.
Larger retailers may seem to dominate the Black Friday rush, but there’s a way for you to level the playing field. If you want to ensure your small retail business can compete with the best Black Friday players, start by moving your business online.
84% of shoppers consult online resources before purchasing at brick-and-mortar small-business locations, according to a recent study by Gannett, a digital marketing company. This means you can use the Internet to communicate with potential and repeat customers, but also encourage them through your door.
Here are eight tactics to ensure your retail business is prepared for the Black Friday weekend:
1. Prepare email marketing
Connect directly with your customers by sending out emails detailing your upcoming Black Friday sale. Major retailers build email lists by encouraging customers to sign up to receive alerts about specials, sales and, of course, news about Black Friday.
To capture an impactful audience, include a similar sign-up feature on your website. This will assist you in winning potential shoppers looking for specials. Additionally, you should use your email list as a way to announce various deals; you could also try to incentivise email sign-up by sending out exclusive coupons.
2. Engage with your followers
In the days leading up to Black Friday, engage with your social media followers and connections. Use your social media platforms to run contests and promote future discounts.
As an example, you can pick two items and tweet out a challenge: the item that received the most votes by midnight on Black Friday will be the featured item for the sale. Followers can vote for the first item by favouring the post and vote for the second item by retweeting the post. Twitter will help you tally the votes, while spreading your competition around.
3. Use # (hashtags)
Social media can help you reach thousands of potential clients. You can create a powerful campaign where you offer coupons and discounts or Black Friday deals revealed only to Facebook or Twitter followers. Don’t disregard Instagram either, as this visual platform is popular amongst the millennial generation, and they make up a significant portion of the market these days.
Create a hashtag, such as #blackfriday, to increase your sales traction. Besides posting regularly, you need to ensure your content is interactive and that you’re actually engaging your customers. To increase your followers, you’ll need your customers to share your content, so make your content worth sharing.
This content could include polls, contests, giveaways and pictures of your on-sale merchandise.
4. Optimise your (mobile) site
Once you’ve set-up your email and social media campaigns, you’ll want to ensure your website is up to standard for Black Friday. You’ll need to ensure your site will appeal to both traditional computer-based browsers and mobile users.
There is a mounting uptake of smartphones within South Africa. So, ensure these potential customers can access and navigate your site with ease. Offer them products like mobile coupons, prompting them to make purchases straight from their smartphone. This will mean your merchandise should be clearly and easily displayed on your website. This will help you to convert sales from the undecided shoppers who were comparing stores and prices.
5. Keep your customers on their toes
Your website and storefront need to mirror image each other as much as possible, ensure your sales strategy reflects this too. The day before Black Friday, post coupons on the website for special in-store Black Friday discounts that last for just that weekend.
After Black Friday weekend, offer customers a special code that they can use for additional savings on Cyber Monday. By only offering your consumers deals the day before, you create excitement.
6. Use indoor beacon technology
This technology allows you to send customers a coupon or greeting on their mobile smartphones when they walk pass your store. Indoor beacon technology actually allows you to do this, and it can assist you in reaching frequent visitors to the mall you’re in.
Beacon technology is relatively inexpensive and attaches to a wall or counter. It uses Bluetooth connections to transmit messages and prompts to your customers’ mobile devices. Get ahead of the beacon curve before everyone is doing it.
7. Optimise and record
The impending shopping rush comes with a unique opportunity to do some informal market research. By installing analytics tools on your website, and connecting your checking out process with your virtual accounting process, you can track what your customers are looking at the most and what they’re buying frequently.
Understanding who and where your customers are, and their typical buying habits can assist you in determining how best to market your services to them in the future. Cashing in on Black Friday and Cyber Monday is one thing; being able to use your sales information for the future is quite another.
8. Build expectation
Across every marketing medium you use, it’s important to create a sense of urgency and exclusivity for your deals. You need to stand out from your competitors by highlighting what makes your store and your sale so much more appealing.
Build anticipation by adding Black Friday countdown clocks to your website, and create excitement by previewing the price cuts. Build eagerness by hyping a giveaway on the actual day.
Keep in mind that the Internet enables you to market your small business’ Black Friday sale like the giants do.
Related: Black Friday tops the $1 billion mark
How to offer Black Friday Deals
“Most entrepreneurs with physical or online retail establishments simply don’t have the financial resources to do what the huge national outfits do,” says Dan de Grandpre, CEO and editor-in-chief of DealNews.com, an online aggregator of consumer retail deals.
“Larger stores buy bulk goods which become rock-bottom-priced deals which lose money. Entrepreneurs can’t afford these kinds of losses, so they need to rely on the smarts that made them become entrepreneurs in the first place.”
Here is some advice on how to offer a Black Friday deal:
1. Make your storefront temptation itself
“Large retailers know the value of the ‘doorbuster’ to lure customers inside. Essentially, entrepreneurs who conduct even a small aspect of production in public serve as their own doorbuster and may invite foot traffic.” Ensure the most enticing element of your shop is in the window to draw people inside, and then keep them inside with well-placed sale items and interesting displays,” de Grandpre says.
2. Allow your customers to guide you
Let your customers’ shopping preferences guide your sale offerings. Which items sell the fastest? Would your customers prefer a percentage discount or a price-reduction discount? Ask them and find out. Then implement your findings into your Black Friday strategy. By doing this, your customers will feel heard and engaged with, which will increase their loyalty and frequency of visits.
3. Inventory management
Ensure you have enough stock, or can get enough stock should you start to run low. The last thing you want is to start turning people away because you ran out of stock. Take note of items that are the most popular and overstock on those items to ensure you don’t run out.
An idea would be to contact your suppliers and ask them to be prepared, should you need more stock quickly.
4. Keep some things a mystery
An increasingly popular technique is to have unidentified ‘surprise gift’ items on offer. You can value them as you want, then your customer inputs their size and seasonal preference and you give them an item for a discounted price that matches their preferences.
A small business owner in the USA did this and she plans to do it again this year: “Customers told us they were thrilled with their top-quality, name-brand items whose retail value were way over the USD15 they’d paid.”
5. Keep your technology up and running
If you haven’t met with your IT consultant in a while, you should probably do that before the busiest shopping weekend of the holiday season. You want a surge in online business to increase your revenue; you don’t want your website to buckle under the weight of all the shoppers.
6. Make customer service a priority
Even though the focus of Black Friday is on discounts, deals and sales, many customers will still be looking your quality service. “Smaller brick-and-mortar retailers should be totally focused on providing customers with a Black Friday shopping experience that fuels strong word-of-mouth,” says Lisa Haddock, a small business consultant and assistant professor of marketing at San Diego State University.
Keep in mind that if your staff are making it difficult for your customer to purchase something from you, they will go somewhere else and find something similar or an alternative to what they would have bought from you. Keep in mind, word of bad service travels a lot faster than good discounts.
Your sales people must know where almost everything is located in your store to prevent your customers having to wait any longer than necessary. Haddock suggests you should also serve food and refreshments: “Whatever happy customers can tweet or text about is good for business”.
The key to making Black Friday a success is to be memorable in a positive way, and often the only way to do that is to experiment to see what your customers respond to, and what they don’t.
Related: Has your customer support lost that human touch?
3 Last-minute trimmings to increase Black Friday sales
As a small business, you’re probably concerned about how your store will fair against the coming storm that is the holiday shopping season. Will you have enough stock? How will you fair against the giants in the industry? Will your customers walk out of your store satisfied or frustrated?
Here are three last-minute trimmings you can use to enhance your customers experience and your sales conversion rates:
1. Centralise your inventory management system
In today’s connected world, you will not only need to be on multiple social platforms, but also multiple marketplaces. You can sell on your own site as well as other sites to increase your market exposure and ensure your revenue puts you in the black.
In fact, reports reveal that by adding an additional site you can increase your revenue by 38%, and those that have two or more marketplaces can see an average revenue increase of 120%.
This process, of course, comes with its own drawbacks, as now you have to manage multiple channels, and inventory, which can be challenging. However, if you consolidate your inventory management into one solution you can automate order tracking, which will assist you in avoiding overselling and delayed fulfilment.
2. Increased fulfilment speed
Shopping days like Black Friday come with a spike in sales, and with this spike comes an equal rise in fulfilment demands. At this time of year, shipping expediency is one of the biggest customer demands, as many customers wait till the last possible moment to shop.
To keep up with these demands, ensure you include the following in your holiday fulfilment strategy:
- Have an organised and well-labelled storage facility
- Have e-commerce shipping partners for ease of delivery where necessary
- Have a defined customer shipping price strategy for larger products
- Ensure your item tracking is clear and that you’re in constant communication with your customers.
3. Superior customer service
Your business will need to create an overall positive shopping experience to truly win the loyalty of new customers. How a customer experiences your store will impact their interactions with you for the rest of the year, as an example, if they have a poor interaction they may never come back to your store even if the problem was later resolved.
Holiday sales and promotions attract numerous new customers, and you don’t want to miss out on an opportunity to convert one-time shoppers into life-long repeat customers. Cultivating relationships with your shoppers is also how you glean an advantage over the larger retailers. Here are some tips to help you provide superior customer service:
- Develop consistent branding both online and in-store
- Provide a user-friendly website
- Create bundle offers
- Streamline your checkout process. There’s nothing like a long queue to put people off your store
- Offer reward points and loyalty programmes.
Related: Go above and beyond with your customer service
With this comprehensive resource you can ensure that your small store is ready for Black Friday and the festive season shopping rush. Ensure that you treat your customers well, your staff have a working knowledge of your products and your store, and that your customers are served quickly and efficiently.
This will help you create long-term relationships with customers you impressed during this holiday season, and increase your market share amongst customers who would prefer a smaller, faster retailer to a larger one with a 100m long queue.