Black Friday is almost upon us! As a local business if you want to compete with Amazon you need to start preparing early. This is especially true for retail businesses, but really any business can take advantage of the shopping holiday. This also applies to B2B businesses.
Over $108 billion were spent in November and December of 2017 according to Adobe Digital Insights. That’s up 14.6% from their 2016 measurement of $94 billion. $19 billion, or 18%, of that 2017 spending occurred between Thanksgiving Day and Cyber Monday. And importantly for local retail businesses, $2.5 billion was spent on Small Business Saturday.
For comparison, the average day in November and December that wasn’t part of the Thanksgiving holiday weekend averaged $1.6 billion per day. That means each holiday sale day is 2.4 times as valuable as your average day in those two months.
Cyber Monday is the most important day by a factor of 4.1. Small Business Saturday is also important as it’s 1.6 times as valuable than the average day in the holiday season. Local businesses can see even better results than the nationwide average of 1.6, if they prepare properly since this day is geared directly towards them. This is doubly true in St.Pete where people are known to shop small and local.
Tips for Black Friday and Small Business Saturday
It’s not just the numbers for those five days either. Even worse than having a bad Black Friday or Small Business Saturday, is the negative tone it can set for the entire holiday season. Let’s dive into several tips that can make Black Friday and your holiday sales a huge success for your business.
1. Prepare as Early as Possible for Black Friday
The holiday season can quickly sneak up on individuals and businesses alike. And given the stakes, you want to make sure you’re ready to have a great holiday weekend coming out of Thanksgiving. That’s why as a small business owner or marketer you should make a concerted effort to prepare as early as possible.
Since Black Friday is in November, you should start planning your sales no later than September or October. If you stock inventory that has large lead times, you may need to start even sooner. Even if you don’t have long lead times, you still need time to plan out the actual sales.
You need to pick which items will be discounted. Will you have a storewide sale or will you try to push certain items out of your store that may become less valuable in the new year? Once you have a clear strategy on the items you’ll discount, figure out how to structure your sale. Will you offer coupons, a certain percentage off, BOGOs? Will the deals be all day or expire at certain times? Make sure you’re not discounting too much. Keep your prices reasonable, because a sale that is too good and not profitable will wreak havoc on the budget of your small business.
Finally, how will you promote your sale? Think about how digital marketing can help educate your customers in this area. If you have strong social media channels, take advantage of them. Encourage people to share your sales. One idea is to offer some sort of discount that requires or encourages organic promotion of your sales on your customers’ social media accounts.
Whatever sales you decide to have, you have to start early. Trying to rush something together in November is a recipe for disaster. You will feel rushed. You may not have the inventory you need to support the sale you want to do, and your vendors are likely swamped with orders from others who prepared sooner.
2. Register with American Express for Small Business Saturday
Small Business Saturday is actually a shopping holiday created in 2010 by American Express. They actually even have a trademark on using Small Business Saturday for “promoting public awareness of shopping locally.” While American Express is a huge financial services company, their idea to help encouraging customers to shop at small local brick and mortar stores is in line with the shop local vision that a lot of people have for St. Petersburg.
If you want to take advantage of what American Express is offering you have a couple of options. First, they offer free marketing materials on their site for your business that feature the #ShopSmall hashtag. The materials include social media artwork, email templates, images for physical signage, and more.
Secondly, if you accept American Express cards at your store, they will provide you even more resources. You’ll want to make sure you visit the small business resource center on their site. In this center, you’ll be able to check your listing that will appear in their list of small businesses. They will also send you physical products like signage at no cost. The catch being that it’s all co-branded with the American Express, but it is free.
If you don’t want to work with American Express you can still have a great Small Business Saturday. Just make sure you create your own marketing materials to support your sales. Also be sure to use appropriate hashtags when promoting your sales on social media including the official hashtag: #ShopSmall. We also recommend using #ShopLocal and any other appropriate local or regional hashtags for St. Petersburg.
3. Ready Your Website and Other Digital Platforms for Cyber Monday
Even if you’re a small business in St. Pete, you can capitalize on Cyber Monday. And it’s a great day to make money online because it’s the largest online shopping day of the year.
It’s great if your business has a website to maximize your revenues from Cyber Monday. It’s even better if you have an ecommerce website because people can buy directly on your website which is what most people do on Cyber Monday. People love to shop online while at work on Monday after Thanksgiving. Give them what they want and make some money!
If you have an ecommerce site, make sure all of your inventory is up-to-date. This includes checking product descriptions and inventory counts. You also need to remove items you no longer sell and add the new products you’ll be selling for the holiday season. Once you’ve got that done, create all the promo codes you’ll need for your sales. Try to create different codes for different campaigns and platforms, so that you can track the results later.
If you don’t have an ecommerce site, you can still use your website to increase sales on Cyber Monday. First, make sure your website is in good working order with no broken pages or outdated information like incorrect hours of operation.
These sort of mistakes can really hurt your business any time of the year, but even more important given that it’s the holiday season. Next, add information to your website about your in-store sales. You can then link to this page from social media posts or other advertising you do online.
Even if you don’t have a website, you can still make this day a success. One thing you definitely shouldn’t do if it’s already September or later is to try to play catch up and get a new website created for your local business in a month.
You need to focus your energy on your actual marketing campaigns. Creating a website will just be a huge distraction at this point. It would be too rushed for such an important component of your business. It’s better to do it at a later time.
Table the idea of getting yourself involved in a big project like creating a website until after the holiday seasons. However, once you’ve wrapped up all your holiday sales it’s a great time to get started on that website, so you’ll be ready for the following year’s holiday season. Just don’t wait too long or you’ll be in the same situation again next year.
4. Turn Holiday Shoppers into Always Shoppers
When you get people to your retail store or website for the holiday season, don’t miss out on your opportunity to make them repeat shoppers. You’ve spent a lot of time and effort bringing these customers to your store, so give them a reason to come back.
One good idea is creating an opportunity to move your promotion onto digital channels where you can more cheaply advertise to them. For example, you can have people sign up for an email list at the store. You can then start them on an email campaign sending them regular new deals or updates on new products or services. You can also use this information to start online advertising retargeting campaigns on Google, Facebook and other platforms.
You can also keep things simple and in the physical world by giving away coupons that aren’t valid until the following year. Or promote an event or sale that will be in January either with physical signage in your store or by including a promotional insert in the customer’s bag.
You could also have your cashiers tell customers about reasons they should come back the following year. For example, you could tell customers about a complementary product that will be available in a couple of months or that more new products that are a similar style will be in stock then.
If you’re a small business, you can even mail a personalized Thank You or Happy New Year card a few days later. This is a great way to make shoppers feel special. The card should include a special offer or another reason to return to your business. It doesn’t have to be super fancy or expensive. Keep it simple and authentically you.
One final thing to keep in mind is that shoppers are not only looking for gifts for other people during the holiday season. In 2017, according to Deloitte, 50% of people also shopped for themselves while shopping for others. Keep this in mind in terms of increasing your sales during the holiday season and in how you market your business to encourage repeating shopping.
The goal is to come up with as many good ideas that will encourage your holiday shoppers to return to your store. Running a successful business almost always revolves around having repeat customers. The holiday season is the perfect time to start this process with people who might otherwise be once a year shoppers at your store. This is your opportunity to make them feel special and convince them to shop more often.
5. Do a Postholiday Assessment of Your Sales
When the holiday season is over, you need to assess how things went for your local business. If you don’t review what you did and what happened, you’ll be making your life more difficult for the next holiday season.
When doing your post-holiday assessment, look for both successes and failures. Looking at your successes may be more fun in the moment, and you can learn from them, but failures are ultimately where you learn the most. Even within your successes, think about what limitations existed within that success. How could you have capitalized even more on that success?
Maybe you ran out of inventory on a certain item that was profitable and super popular. Next year, you may need to spend more time planning your inventory buys. Or maybe you ended up with lots of leftover inventory because your competition had steeper discounts on the same items.
Another important tip is to watch what your competition does as well during the holiday season. You may be able to use some of that information this season, but it will become even more useful next season. Many people are creatures of habit and will do the same things year over year. And if your competition is doing this, you’ll be one step ahead of them before they even know it.
Make notes as things are happening; the good and the bad. This is way easier and more accurate than trying to recall what happened weeks or months later. If a certain promotional item wasn’t a huge hit, make a note. Ask customers for feedback as well. Ask them what they like about the items they’re buying. Most people will be happy to give feedback, as long as you’re not asking too many or inappropriate questions.
If you did amazing this year, give yourself a big pat on the back, but don’t get too distressed during your assessment either if things didn’t go well. You’re still learning and with this new valuable information, and you’ll be in a position to do much better next year. Just use the information to improve your plan for next year and set some new goals for your small business.
Make it a Great Holiday Season for Your Local Business
Planning ahead is a great way to get you and your local business ready for the holiday season here in St. Pete. If you start early and plan well, you’ll be prepared when your Thanksgiving meal ends and the madness of Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday begins.
A great holiday weekend following Thanksgiving also makes it much easier in December. Morale is high, you know your sales are working, and you can likely continue this moment through the rest of the year. Finally, by being ready ahead of time, you’ll have more time to shop yourself and enjoy the holidays with friends and family. After all, the holidays aren’t all about business. You should enjoy them and have fun.
Have any tips or tricks you use on Black Friday that your willing to share? Or maybe a great story about something you’ve experienced during the holiday season either as a customer, business owner, or a marketer? Let us know in the comments. We’d love to hear about it.