While brick-and-mortar retailers can still expect their stores to be buzzing with eager holiday shoppers on the Friday after Thanksgiving, the real money to be made on Black Friday is online — specifically on Amazon. In 2018, Black Friday saw $6.2 billion worth of internet purchases, which, according to Adobe Analytics, was up nearly 25 percent from the previous year and the largest Black Friday in history. Cyber Monday set another record with more than $7.8 billion. That’s nearly $14 billion in online sales on the two biggest online shopping days of the year. Not surprisingly, most of those sales came from Amazon.
Indeed, the world’s largest online retailer said shoppers bought more than 180 million products over the five days starting with Thanksgiving and ending with Cyber Monday — a stretch it refers to as “The Turkey Five.” And among the biggest beneficiaries of this annual post-Thanksgiving retail sprint are small- and medium-sized businesses, who last year saw their Black Friday sales on Amazon grow by more than 20 percent over the previous year.
The verdict: SMBs that don’t take the proper steps to ensure that they’re ready for Black Friday, Cyber Monday and the days in between, do so at their own peril as there is a lot of money to be made.
Though the term “Black Friday” hasn’t become prevalent until recent years, the tradition of using the day after Thanksgiving to get an early jump on holiday shopping has been in place for decades. It seems to be linked to Santa Claus making appearances at Thanksgiving Day parades that were sponsored by popular department stores — Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City being the most well-known.
The term “Black Friday” started to appear in the 1960s and 70s in reference to the number of people who called in sick the day after Thanksgiving and, later, to describe the traffic problems that occurred as a result of so many people hitting the stores to get an early jump on their shopping.
Eventually, it became a term of endearment to describe what had become the busiest shopping day of the year — one that saw stores offering enticing deals and opening their doors early to accommodate the throngs of shoppers who often lined up outside.
In the age of eCommerce, Black Friday went digital and, as Amazon grew, so did the opportunities for online retailers and small businesses to sell their products on their site. Today, the phenomenon has grown to the point where these businesses must think about their Black Friday strategy all year long. Below, we have compiled a list of tips that all small businesses should consider if they’re hoping to get in on the action.
Start Early and Don’t Stop After Friday
Let’s face it: Black Friday is no longer just a Friday. Amazon’s “Turkey Five” are all key to any small business’s holiday shopping season. But it starts well before that — think of it as Black November. Businesses need to highlight their new items or services on their websites with an online product catalog starting as early as October.
Your site should feature products that are more popular around the holidays at the top of your online store and offer specials, bundles and exclusive deals all month long. You can create a buzz by getting started early with ads and promotions. Be sure to include the words “Black Friday” in all of your promos to boost click-through rates. Other businesses will be promoting their deals, so you should too!
Pricing wars are very real. You’re on Amazon because it’s the most popular sales platform on the planet, so someone else is certain to have your idea or sell a similar product — possibly even cheaper. This makes it extremely important to be unique and make your product stand out. There are a number of ways to do this.You could offer a distinctive deal or product bundle or provide free shipping without requiring a minimum spend. Consider enhancing your website with a countdown clock, which helps create a sense of urgency in your online customers. You could even split deals into Black Friday and Cyber Monday, offering different versions for each day. Since it often takes money to make money, consider dropping some advertising dollars to get listed on promotional websites.
Get Your Website Ready
If everything goes according to plan, Black Friday and Cyber Monday are going to give your website a significant traffic boost. That’s great news, provided your system is ready to handle it. In the days leading up to Black Friday, make sure you give your site a once over. If you notice that it’s loading slowly or working irregularly, make a call to your hosting provider, get it looked at and even consider increasing your hosting bandwidth as necessary. Finally, ensure your eCommerce store is protected with an SSL certificate and install the secure site seal on your website to show you can be trusted.
Notice Your Black Friday Trends
What kind of business did your online store do on Black Friday last year? How about the year before that? Which products sold the most? Anybody looking to cash in on the post-Thanksgiving shopping boom would be well-served to run analyses of their own business’s sales data for the last couple of years. You can track Amazon’s early sales and trending sales categories to see how your business might perform and tweak around that.
Tools like Algopix help you run bulk-product analyses to determine which products to buy, how much to buy, where to sell and where to invest your ad dollars. It’s also smart to know your competition by learning market prices and shipping fees and looking at product recommendations. Learning relevant AdWord search phrases can help boost your site traffic as well.
Offering bundled deals is a great way to create incentives for customers to buy more of your products. This usually requires some creativity to determine which products make sense to sell together. Consider it a good opportunity to go through your inventory and decide which lower-cost items might go with a bigger-ticket product and offer them as a package. “If you have a number of related products on Amazon, then you can strategically bundle them in an attempt to win the “Buy Box,” says Chris MacNeil, founder of E-Booster. “If you have some low-cost items that complement the main product, then offering a bundle can really make the difference.”
Be Ready to Ship — Immediately
Consumers have come to depend on eCommerce for their holiday shopping needs, making shipping and ease of receipt of purchased items is almost as important as the products themselves. It’s important to talk to your couriers ahead of the big weekend to learn if anything is changing in terms of schedules or deadlines. You should also take the time to pre-pack as much as you can — and take your bundled deals into account. The more items you have in boxes and ready to go beforehand, the easier it will be to slap a label on them and get them out the door. And if you really want to stand out, be sure to offer free shipping with a low-minimum spend. Holiday shoppers are always looking for ways to save.
Black Friday may be a decades-old holiday-shopping phenomenon, but it has traditionally held the greatest benefits for big-box retail chains. Unlike small businesses, they’re able to afford the doorbuster deals that bring shoppers to their stores in droves. The eCommerce age has leveled the playing field by allowing smaller players to get in on the action. Make sure you take the necessary steps to optimize your business for the biggest shopping weekend of the year.
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