Love it or hate it, Black Friday is here to stay in the UK. This year it falls on 25th November 2016 and encompasses the four-day period from Black Friday through to Cyber Monday on the 28th November.
How you view Black Friday may well depend on your business. Whilst some online retailers welcome it with open arms, others find it more problematic and not necessarily something they are eager to embrace. According to Tech Radar businesses selling electronics or gadgets are likely to fare better over the Black Friday weekend than other industries. This is why it is important to plan your approach carefully to ensure both you and your customers are happy.
Black Friday 2015 saw record-breaking online sales in the UK
Traditionally Black Friday – certainly in the US – was more of a bricks and mortar affair however over the last couple of years in the UK we’ve seen it move steadily towards a major online event. According to research last year UK shoppers spent a record £3.3 billion online over the Black Friday weekend – with Black Friday itself taking in a record-breaking £1.1 billion online sales. This was an uplift of 36% from 2014 sales.
So, it looks like the Black Friday phenomenon is here for the foreseeable future with firm expectations from customers that there are deals to be had. So, as a small business owner, how can you ensure you make it both successful and profitable?
Planning is key to a successful Black Friday
Planning your Black Friday promotions is central to ensuring success. Probably the worst thing you can do is leave it to the last-minute, panic and whack out something like a 40% discount across the board. Not taking the time to work out your profit margins is likely to make your bottom line go pear-shaped very quickly.
Don’t plan in isolation – view Black Friday weekend as an element of your overall holiday planning and sales strategy. For many online retailers, the run up to Christmas is probably the biggest sale period of the year, so planning your sales and promotion strategy well in advance is essential.
Carefully consider your offers your promotional offers
Most importantly do your sums before you run any promotion. You should be confident that any discount you offer won’t adversely effect your profit margin. Of course you want to attract customers and show an uplift in sales, but this shouldn’t be to the detriment on your bottom line. Spend time working out what will numbers will keep both you and your customers happy.
Planning your Black Friday promotions in light of your overall Christmas sales strategy will help you implement the most appropriate and effective offers. Try and choose a promotion specific to Black Friday that stands out from the general seasonal promotions you have planned.
For example if you are running a regular general promotion over the Christmas sales period such as 10% offer with free delivery, then choose something else for Black Friday. If customers know that they can get the same offer from you in a week or two’s time there is little incentive for them to make a purchase. You want to create a sense of urgency amongst your customers – if they don’t take the offer up now they will miss out completely. Keep the promotion limited to a specific time frame such as the four days over black Friday.
What products do you intend to discount?
In the same way you look at the promotions you intend to run, think about which products you will include. For example to you intend to run a blanket sales promotion across all your products or are you going to be selective about what products are promoted and discounted.
If you decide to be selective then it can be a good idea to choose products, perhaps seasonal ones, that you think you are likely to find you have excess stock of in January.
Promote your black Friday deals in advance
Promoting your offers is essential to ensure customers are aware that you are running a specific, time-limited promotion over Black Friday. It’s about making sure that you generate awareness amongst customers and prospective customers that you have some special deals going on. Plan you promotions in advance – so you are ready to go on the day. This is far better (and likely to be far more effective) than trying to hastily put together some poorly thought-out promotions last-minute. Review last year’s activities – what worked well and what fell flat?
It can also be a good idea to give you customers some advance warning that you will be doing something for Black Friday. Some of the bigger retailers have holding pages on their website months in advance – for example here is Argos’ Black Friday holding page.
Email: Email is a great way to promote your black Friday deals. Indeed, according to Forbes, email accounted for 27% of Christmas sales in 2014. Consider flagging up Black Friday in your newsletters or running teaser emails beforehand so customers know that your business will be holding a special promotion. Then ensure you alert customers on the actual day to any special offers you are doing. Create a sense of urgency by being very clear this is for Black Friday / Cyber Monday only and that offer is for a limited period.
Here is an example of 2015’s Black Friday email offering from Gap.
Social Media: Don’t forget social media is a great place to promote your special black friday offers. Share you promotions across all your social media platforms. Use eye-catching images to help increase engagement and don’t forget to include relevant hashtags such as #blackfriday or #cybermonday.
PPC advertising: Competition is likely to be higher at this time of year but PPC can still offer you an additional channel to get your promotion in front of your audience. You may have to spend a bit more time crafting the right keywords – try looking at long-tail search terms and implementing some negative keywords to help make your search more relevant.
Potential sales uplifts can have a knock on effect of other areas of your business. More traffic may mean more customer service queries, a surge in sales may result in longer delivery and fulfillment times so take a moment to consider any potential impact.
For example do you intend to entice people in with free delivery? If so you will need to factor this into your costs and your profit margin.
Equally if, due to the costs associated with the promotion, you decide to only offer a standard delivery service then make sure this is clearly stated during the checkout process. Customer may well be content with longer delivery because of the saving they have made on your Black Friday promotions but only if you have made this clear upfront.
And, be realistic – are you likely to need to help to ensure your delivery and fulfillment runs smoothly? If you think demand will be high, then you may have to accept that you and your staff will need to work longer hours or you’ll need to consider bringing on temporary help to ensure you products are fulfilled and delivered when promised.
Black Friday looks like its here to stay – at least for the foreseeable future anyway. To make the most of the potential sales opportunities it can offer your business, ensure you plan it into your calendar and most importantly look at it as a key element of your overall sales strategy. By planning your promotions, carefully considering what products to discount, implementing an effective marketing campaign and taking into account areas such as delivery and fulfillment, you are far more likely to find the right balance – one that keeps your customers happy and your profit margins healthy!
We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences on Black Friday, so please do leave a comment.