Black Friday is an American sales frenzy that was introduced to the UK in 2010. It’s the biggest shopping event of the year and it takes place every November, offering people attractive retail discounts.
After a series of challenges caused by the pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis over the last few years, small businesses have plenty to feel positive about. It’s uplifting to see consumer confidence quickly returning, as people get set to start their festive shopping with Black Friday and Cyber Monday (BFCM) deals.
In this post, we share our top tips for small businesses to boost sales on Black Friday. We also discuss the key shopping trends of 2023 that you should be aware of when making your BFCM plans.
1. Set your targets
For a successful Black Friday, you need to understand your objectives – what do you want to achieve, what are your benchmarks, and how will your business be affected?
Remember that it’s not just about selling. The event opens many doors for SMEs, so whether you want to increase profits, draw in new customers, or boost your brand awareness, setting clear targets well in advance is fundamental to an effective BFCM and measuring success.
2. Prepare the right products
To get the right products and quantities, you need to know where your demand lies. In other words, find out what your current and potential customers want to buy from you.
A simple way to get an idea of your most popular items is to evaluate your sales data. Look at your year-to-date records and highlight your top sales generators, to get an idea of what is likely to perform well over Black Friday.
For more in-depth data, you could try what’s known as ‘social listening’. This is a free analytics practice that allows you to track the following areas on social media:
- Relevant keywords
- Trending topics
- Mentions of your brand
- Mentions of your competitors
- Industry hashtags
You can run social listening on most platforms, giving you real-time insights into what your target audience is talking about and what they’re interested in. This then allows you to adjust your inventory accordingly, to make sure you have the right stock to service demand.
How to set up social listening
If you want to give this a go, it’s simple to set up social listening. First, outline your goals. This could be learning about your competitors or industry trends, or how frequently people talk about your brand and products.
Next, choose the right platform. For example, if you want to track conversations, X (formerly Twitter) might be a good choice, or if you want to track product mentions, then Instagram could be more suitable.
Then, make a list of all the keywords and phrases that you want to listen to. This could be your brand name (or any common misspellings), your competitor’s brand names, key industry search terms, or specific demographics.
Finally, you’ll need a management tool like Hootsuite, a popular option that offers a free basic account. Once you’ve set everything up, be sure to filter your data and measure your results closely to adapt your Black Friday strategy.
3. Determine your offers
Once you know which products you want to promote, do the maths and determine discounts for each. Here, it’s important to find a suitable balance between meeting your profit margins and staying competitive.
Here are some discount strategies to think about:
- Bundle discounts (this could be particularly useful if you have surplus stock you want to shift)
- Free gift with a qualifying purchase
- Minimum 20% off
- Exclusive, one-time offers
Whichever method you choose, remember to keep it simple, genuine, and worthwhile. Consumers expect real, exclusive sales that they won’t get anywhere else or at any other time. That’s why a Consumer Insights survey by Google revealed that nearly 90% of shoppers say that knowing they’re getting a good deal is important when deciding which brand or retailer to buy from.
The bottom line is to find a discount structure that doesn’t damage your profits, whilst setting you apart from your competitors.
4. Start communication early
Many people rely on BFCM to get their hands on the best deal on Christmas presents, so once you know what your customers might want, start your communication nice and early. Ultimately, you want to build excitement, show that you’re competitive, and give them something to look forward to.
You can do this in many different ways. For example, if you have newsletter subscribers, try sending an email update a few weeks in advance with a clear and enticing subject line about the upcoming offers. Be sure to specify the dates of the event and what discounts they can expect to find. This will give your loyal customers a chance to prepare financially, as well as get an idea of what they want to buy.
Another option is to communicate via social media. Platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and X are excellent tools for companies of all sizes to reach their followers and give them notice of your Black Friday deals. You should post regularly in the lead-up to the event, to remind people of your offers and keep up the momentum.
As well as keeping your audience informed and excited, one of the biggest benefits of advanced communication is retention. Sharing news ahead of time makes your customers feel valued, which can help strengthen your retention rate and generate success beyond Black Friday.
5. Optimise your digital platform
Statista research shows that over 80% of the UK population shops online. In preparation for the biggest shopping weekend of the year, it’s vital that your website is running smoothly and efficiently for an optimal customer journey and to cope with the heightened traffic.
Don’t forget that your website or app is your customers’ 24/7 gateway to your products and services, so if there are any issues, your business could be missing out. So, do some test runs to make sure your site is running well, and give yourself enough time to fix any bugs.
Also, think about any potential improvements that could make the consumer experience even better – perhaps a quicker check-out process, additional payment options (such as buy now, pay later, Apple/Google Pay, etc.), or a dedicated landing page to showcase all your Black Friday offers in one convenient place.
Your customers will notice an easy interface and it will encourage them to return and use your site again.
6. Adapt your store
While the majority of us shop online, in-store shopping is still important. Especially as we approach Christmas, visiting the high street is a popular evening and weekend pastime.
On top of this, shopping locally is a key trend this year. A study carried out by IW Capital found that over half of Brits planned to support small businesses when shopping in 2023, and nearly 60% said they’d shop more on their local high street.
With this in mind, you should adapt your in-store points of sale (POS) so that your deals are clear to passers-by. You could try a fresh window display, big and bold banners, flyers, or posters to entice shoppers to come in.
If you have a physical store as well as a website and a social media following, remember to keep your advertising consistent. This includes the design, content, and the discounts themselves. A coherent omnichannel approach shows all your customers – no matter how they shop with you – the same offers and experience.
7. Ask customers to share and engage
If you want to improve your brand awareness this Black Friday, why not ask your customers to spread the word? For example, you could incentivise purchases with a discount in return for a product review (on your website or an external review site). This is a common technique that can help boost your brand credibility and build trust with new customers.
Another option is to ask your shoppers to share their purchases on their social media, also known as user-generated content (UGC). These are non-sponsored, authentic reviews created by genuine shoppers.
People want more than just good value nowadays. They want great, unique products and memorable experiences. If they get this from you, they’ll be more than happy to recommend your brand to their friends and family.
Likewise, potential customers want more UGC. A post-covid consumer shopping and trends report by Nosto shows UGC to be the most trusted form of social media marketing. The vast majority of millennials, Gen Z, and Gen X shoppers (81%, 86%, and 73% respectively) said that they are more likely to buy products supported by UGC photos and videos.
If you haven’t tried UGC yet, this could be your secret weapon to a successful Black Friday and beyond.
8. Maintain authenticity
Our final top tip is to stay true to your brand values. BFCM can get very competitive, and it can be tempting to cut corners and bypass your own rules for a quick sale. However, you should remember to keep your brand consistent and authentic for a great sales weekend.
The Nesto survey mentioned earlier also revealed that:
- 83% of people said they want more authentic shopping experiences
- 88% of people said authenticity is important when choosing a brand to support
- 70% of consumers said they want a personalised experience from a brand
Small, independent retailers are in the advantageous position to be able to deliver unique products and memorable experiences more easily than some of the bigger players. So, try to base your BFCM strategy on your unique selling points (USPs) and authentic brand values.
This year’s Black Friday trends
Finally, let’s cover some of 2023’s key shopping trends. A Black Friday in the UK: Statistics for 2023 survey by Finder shows that even though overall spending is predicted to drop compared to last year, shoppers are still keen to bag the best deals around this winter.
Brits plan to spend £3 billion this Black Friday, £900 million less than last year. That’s an average spend of £113 per person, down from £190 in 2022. However, this downward trajectory is to be expected since high inflation started in 2021.
Unsurprisingly, consumers remain conscious of their spending, and many will compare deals before committing. But over half of UK shoppers are still planning to spend money this Black Friday, the highest spenders being Gen X (49%), millennials (70%), and Gen Z (79%).
The e-commerce platform Shopify also notes that:
- 53% of UK consumers have actively put money aside each month to spend on Black Friday
- Online and in-store browsing are almost equally important
- Social media purchasing is on the up, with over 30% of consumers willing to buy products directly via Facebook
When is Black Friday?
Friday 24th November 2023. However, it has evolved over the last decade into a weekend-long event, with most retailers offering discounts between Friday and Sunday.
But it doesn’t stop there. Cyber Monday now follows on Monday 27th November 2023. The additional deal days give people more opportunities to grab unmissable offers.
Even after a series of financial difficulties in the last few years, Black Friday remains the biggest shopping event of the year. Despite tightened budgets all over the country, spending intention remains high, and independent retailers have excellent prospects for a successful weekend.
We hope this guide has helped you build an effective BFCM strategy for your business. If you have any comments or questions, please post them below.