For some businesses, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday can account for a whopping 20% or more of their annual revenue. Shoppers are more eager than ever to buy gifts for their loved ones (and a few treats for themselves). They’ll be out in droves the weekend following Thanksgiving in search of the best deals. With so much competition for their business, it’s vital that you are prepared.
Are you ready for the post-Thanksgiving shopping rush? Whether you run an Etsy shop, a local cafe, or even a carpet cleaning service, there’s plenty you can do to capitalize on the busiest shopping weekend of the year.
Decide on a Schedule
Do you want to open your doors at 12:01 AM on Black Friday? Would you prefer to have a Saturday-only sale to showcase your small, local business? Will you ramp up discounts over the weekend leading up to Cyber Monday or stagger coupons at two-hour intervals?
Listen, you have an almost unlimited number of approaches to this busy shopping weekend. What works best for you will depend on where you are located, the type of goods or services you offer, and the size of your business. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution. If you’re not sure how to proceed, it’s not a bad idea to take a peek at what your direct competitors are doing.
Update Return Policies and Gift Receipt Options
During the holidays, you can count on a higher-than-normal volume of returns. That means you need to be prepared with ironclad policies to protect yourself while remaining fair to your customers. I’d say that you’d be surprised about the kind of shenanigans that customers try to get away with when making returns, but if you’ve worked in retail for any amount of time, then you already know.
Ensure that your policies are clear and easy to find. Always offer a gift receipt. And if you are selling goods online, work out a policy that covers you for potential shipping delays. In a perfect world, no customer would try to abuse your goodwill… but have a plan for all contingencies, anyway.
Double-Check Delivery Times
If you sell physical goods, ensure that you know exactly when shipping cutoffs need to happen for guaranteed holiday delivery. Post that information where your customers will see and clearly explain how much it will cost for last-minute orders to arrive by December 24th.
Although holiday shopping now kicks off in October, Black Friday is traditionally seen as the start of the season. In years past, it wouldn’t have been an issue to get an order from point A to point B in plenty of time. However, thanks to current global supply-chain issues and extended delivery times with carriers, you might need to adjust your cutoffs.
Staff Up Now
Do you have enough coverage planned for the holiday rush? You might think that you can do everything yourself (or with a small crew of employees). However, being caught short without enough help is a surefire way to make your holidays miserable instead of merry and bright.
It’s a competitive market right now, so hiring staff could be a challenge. Look at your budget and see how much help you can afford to take on. Then scale your expectations accordingly.
Optimize Your Site
Have you been meaning to give your eCommerce site a makeover? Now is the time–as long as you don’t accidentally break anything in the process. If you don’t feel completely confident in your ability to overhaul your website and online store, this might be better left to the professionals.
One of the most important aspects of your website is speed. Make it as easy and fast as possible for shoppers to navigate your site and check out. Any potential pain points, such as a cart that’s slow to load, could result in a lost sale. Abandoned shopping carts are a major issue in online sales, so it’s not a bad idea to set up cart recovery or a system that “holds” their cart until the next visit.
Use an online tool to test your site load speeds and check the server capacity of your site. If you’re concerned about a possible crash as virtual shoppers flood your store, it might be worthwhile to go ahead and upgrade. Talk to your web hosting company about options.
One aspect that too many small businesses overlook is mobile readiness. Does your site look great on a smartphone? That’s how the vast majority of shoppers access sites nowadays, so make sure that your site is optimized for different mobile formats. If you’re not sure how to do this, talk with a pro. Trust me, it’s worthwhile.
Upgrade Your POS
If your business involves taking in-person payments, now might be a very good time to consider upgrading your point-of-sale system. For many small businesses, a simple card reader that plugs into a smartphone is good enough. But if you’re very busy with Black Friday shoppers, do you really want to rely on getting a fast signal from your phone?
Investing in a new POS could be the difference between long lines of frustrated customers and a steady flow of happy shoppers singing your praises. Test your system during different times of day (and in different locations, if applicable) to iron out any issues before the big day arrives.
Think that print media is dead? Think again! For Black Friday, local papers (as well as radio stations and TV channels) will likely be highlighting businesses from the community. You could consider placing ads or–even better–teaming up with a reporter to spotlight something unique about your business for some free advertising.
You might also look into teaming up with other local businesses to buy a full-page ad in order to maximize your buying power.
Step Up Social Media
In tandem with local advertising, it’s smart to ramp up your social media presence as you get ready for Black Friday. If you haven’t been posting regularly on your platform(s) of choice, now is the time. Try scheduling posts using a tool like HootSuite or even enlisting a part-time social media manager to drive engagement.
Remember, your posts are for your customers, not you! Think about what they will find interesting and helpful.
Email marketing is not a relic of the past. In fact, your email list remains one of the most powerful tools in your marketing arsenal. A well-crafted email campaign keeps your most valued and loyal customers in the loop. Offer them exclusive discounts, previews of upcoming merchandise releases or markdowns, and other tempting tidbits to encourage them to shop with you again.
For most small businesses, keeping the discounts simple on Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday makes the most sense. While major department stores and big-box retailers may have staggered coupons, doorbusters, and giveaways for the first hundred customers, that isn’t necessarily the best way for you to go.
For one thing, you might be setting yourself up for a rush that you simply can’t handle. While your small business can certainly compete in terms of quality and customer service, you can’t go head-to-head with national retailers on sheer volume. If you find yourself swamped far beyond your capacity to fill orders, then you’ll end up with a lot of unhappy customers–and potentially disastrous word-of-mouth.
That being said, you can use strategic coupons to encourage shoppers to spend more and order earlier. That might include offering a free gift, such as a scented candle, with a purchase above a certain dollar figure. You could also offer free or reduced shipping on orders placed before a specific date. That way, you can (hopefully) control the flow of orders during this very busy season.
Offer Bundles and Gift Packages
Think that none of this applies to you because your business doesn’t offer traditional gifts? Think outside the box, my friend. With a little creative strategizing, you can find your way to a Black Friday promotion that makes sense for your business.
Gift cards and vouchers for future service are always popular stocking stuffers. Consider setting up a “Buy X, Get 1 Free” deal to encourage customers to buy a bundle of gift certificates as gifts for all their friends or coworkers. Every business from maid services to tax preparers can find ways to offer attractive holiday bundles.
Okay, this might not make a direct impact on your bottom line, but getting into the festive spirit can’t hurt. Whether you have a brick-and-mortar shop, a food truck, or an online t-shirt store, ’tis the season to deck the halls. Decorating for the holidays will put shoppers in a good mood and encourage them to think about gift-giving. For online businesses, consider adding a new background, shooting some holiday-themed product photos, or even creating a temporary logo that embraces the holidays.
Depending on your business and the area where you live, it might be best to stick with non-denominational holiday decor. However, you know your ideal customer best.