It’s widely recognised that the busy festive period for retailers officially starts on Black Friday.
Black Friday 2016 – November 25th – is again expected to be the UK’s biggest singular spending day of the year. However, there are predictions by some that in actual fact, Black Friday itself may not emulate last year’s success, but the overall ’Cyber week’ or ‘Black Five-day’ period (the five days starting with ‘Grey Thursday’ – the day before Black Friday – through to ‘Cyber Monday’) will increase overall.
Predictions of a record-breaking £5 billion will be spent online in the Black Five-day period from Thursday 24th November through to Cyber Monday on 28th November.
The general feel for the industry as a whole are predictions of increased sales, spread over a longer period of time, together with an m-commerce boom.
So how can small business prepare and take advantage of the extra spending traffic around during this time?
The saying “prior planning and preparation prevents poor performance” probably hits home with every small business owner. Charting the ebb and flow of your business’ busy period in advance allows you to deal with peaks and valleys without missing a step.
One practical way to structure your business activity is to plan around key dates and popular holidays. This way you can smoothly co-ordinate sales, promotions, marketing, and staffing in advance, alleviating some of the pressure at these busy times and allowing you to better take advantage of time-sensitive opportunities.
To give you a sense of how lucrative these opportunities can be, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics, roughly £88.4 billion was spent during the Christmas 2015 shopping season, £28.2 billion during the Valentine’s Day 2016 shopping season, £42.5 billion during the Easter 2016 shopping season and £37.6 billion during Euro 2016.
Joanne Dewberry, from Charlie Moo’s Party Supplies says, ‘Remember setting your alarms, to sit outside shops ready to bag yourself a bargain or two in the Boxing Day Sales, queuing outside in a post-Christmas haze. Not any more, Black Friday has quickly become THE shopping day of the year and marks the start of the busy festive period for us retailers.’
How to get involved
For smaller independent businesses, especially online where your shop is effectively open 24 hours a day, taking advantage of the busy festive period couldn’t be easier. But like anything you need a strategy and a campaign.
Instead of having an overall discount giving customers a huge range to choose from, place two or three items on offer. Maybe look at having a different offer on different days to spark new levels of interest. Also limiting the available amount helps to engage with shoppers more and create a desire and fear of missing out.
Start teasing customers NOW
Don’t leave everything to the last minute! Start creating an interest in the products and your offers as soon as with carefully scripted hints and images.
Make sure you have adequate stock and the levels are correct in your shop so good inventory management is very important. Prepare your offers or discounts in advance and put them on hold until the start of any promotions, this will save you valuable time and keep your campaign on track.
Use Social Media
Most social media platforms embrace hashtags, twitter and instagram especially where it’s the most used search facility. Use the hashtag #BlackFriday or #christmasgiftideas for instance to promote and drive traffic to your offers. Save yourself some time and use scheduling facilities such as Twuffer, Buffer and Facebook to promote your offer every hour over your campaign period.
Have something special for regular customers
Send a newsletter out to your regular customers with a discount/offer just for them! Making them feel valued.
I think finally there’s two points I’d like to make. To ensure you’re ready to maximise the festive footfall, whether this is online or in-store, you need to have a website and online presence that’s fit for purpose. It must be able to cope with demand and easy to navigate visitors to the key areas of your site, usually the areas that offer the most profit for you, perhaps where the key seasonal offers are.
Secondly, you have to make it easy for customers to buy. Ease-of-use is proven to increase sales, so the shorter and simpler you make the purchasing process, the more your business will make over the festive period. Streamlining the checkout process is one of the best ways that retailers can make things easier for customers, and avoid drop-out rates.
For example, instead of requiring customers to register their details before purchase, it’s often better to leave this until after the sale. Many visitors to your site are just looking for that special something for a particular loved one – they might not be looking to become regular customers.
If you ask for less up front, they may well buy more. You can always give them the option of registering after they’ve bought their items. It’s also well worth thinking about diversifying the payment types that you accept.
Methods such as e-cheques, cash, deferred billing, or e-wallets make it easier to target the widest possible range of potential customers, while also letting you to perform detailed analysis of how much revenue is accounted for by different payment methods. This then enables you to improve your operations through Christmas and into the New Year and beyond.
With the right planning, operations and payment systems in place, your business can take advantage of the festive period and reap the rewards long into the new year.
Seamus Smith is CEO of Sage Pay