5 Ways Your Small Business Can Participate in Black Friday Without "Selling-Out".

Black Friday, love it or loathe it; it's still going to happen and it's four weeks away, falling on Friday 23rd November.

50% of shoppers that plan to spend on Black Friday say that are they are also planning to spend more; from an average of £170 in 2017 to almost £200 this year. Clothing, toys, homewares, stocking fillers and electronics are items topping their wish lists.

- PWC

As many of you know, I am a huge advocate for "Shop Independent" and I want everyone to shop small, shop local and consume consciously. Last year I was quick off the mark to support Sarah Hamilton and her fantastic "Just A Card", Indie Week campaign with a bonus podcast episode; talking about Indie Week, which is running again this year.

However, I am seeing more and more small businesses "taking a stand" against Black Friday and refusing to participate. Although I understand and fully respect their decision; you can participate without being seen as, or feeling like a sell-out. Last year I had several small businesses reach out to me after Black Friday saying that they felt they couldn't participate because of the "mob-mentality" around anti-Black Friday and they really regretted not participating as they felt it negatively affected their sales, all because they were worried what their fellow traders would think of them if they did.

This made me really sad, and angry as who are we to tell each other, or force each other into making decisions that can make or break another business? This year; I want to tell you some facts that may make you change your mind, and also some ideas as to how you can reward your existing customers, entice new ones and get involved without ugly Black Friday banners or underselling yourself.

1. Discount Old Stock

Do you have some old stock hanging around that you're struggling to shift? Sat on weeks and weeks of cover of a product you thought would sell through but didn't? Discount it! Low cost to you, frees up space and is essentially just an end-of-line clearance sale.

2. Gift-With-Purchase (GWP)

Ooooh we all love a free gift! This is a hugely popular mechanic in retail to entice us to spend more! Free beauty bag, when you buy three products, free teacup when you buy a multi-pack of tea, free jewellery box when you spend over a certain threshold in a high-street jeweller.

Time is not hugely on your side if you are wanting to bulk purchase your free gift, but much like discounting old stock, you can give it away. Stuck with a load of Christmas themed goods from last year? Give them away on Black Friday, have a mixed selection of products? Why not offer a "mystery bag" or "lucky dip"?

Set a spend threshold and be sure to make it clear how much your free gift is worth (only if it has actually been on sale at that price), to entice the sale. It is important to remember here that the free gift needs to be attractive and worth the customer spending that little bit more, a £5 keyring for a £50 spend isn't going to cut the mustard.

90% of free gift receivers indicate that they are at least somewhat likely to buy more frequently from an online retailer after receiving a free gift.

- Business Wire

3. Offer an Exclusive Promotion for Newsletter Subscribers

A newsletter is incredibly important for a small business and any of my 1:1 clients can tell you I bleat on at them to get their newsletters planned and penned in advance. If you're trying to build your list, this is a great way to not only keep your Black Friday offer under the radar but entice people to sign up to your list. If you want to take advantage of this offer; you need to start TODAY, start advertising your mailing list and say that you will be doing a Black Friday offer just for subscribers.

The benefit of this is that many of those new sign-ups will stay on your list long after November; you're also rewarding existing loyal subscribers by delivering an offer straight to their inbox and you're not splashing your discount all over your website and marketing. The cost to you, is you need to offer something such as a discount, free shipping (or free expedited if you normally offer this) or a gift with purchase.

4. Offer an Exclusive Promotion for Existing Customers Only

This won't help you build your mailing list, but it’s a really nice thing to do to reward customers that have already spent with you, and are in theory, more likely to spend with you again.

To take advantage of this, you need to segment your mailing list to customers who have purchased and then craft your offer and email it out to them.

That's it. Simple.

5. Flash Sale

This mechanic does involve a little more planning, but it can be highly successful as it works on the premise of limited timed.

Over the four day Black Friday, Cyber Monday extravaganza you could offer four different offers (free shipping one day, 10% another day etc.) or four different products with varying offers, with a limited 24-hour window.

Instagram Stories is great for this, especially if you already have an audience. Stories automatically only last for 24-hours so you are able to create assets with your offers and share them to stories at the same time over four days.

If you choose this mechanic make sure to talk about it on the week leading up to Black Friday letting your audience know you will be doing a flash sale over on your Stories and each of the four days (if you choose to do all four days) there will be a different offer. If you don't promote it in advance you are hoping they will remember to check and with the shopping frenzy in full swing, they are likely to forget unless prompted.

Failing to plan, is planning to fail.

If you've decided to participate there are a few things you want to do ahead of this key sales period:

Finalise Your Offers

Decide which of the above you're going to do, don't do them all. Choose one offer and run with it. Make sure to stock take all your inventory; you don't want to oversell as that is never a good customer experience.

Messaging and Copy

Create the key message that you will be communicating to your audience via your website and marketing and stick to it. If you're calling it a "Black Friday Sale" then stick with this name on all your messaging and promotional material. Once you've decided, write your copy for your newsletter and your social media and schedule it all in. Over the sales weekend, you will want to send more than one newsletter, ideally two.

Assets

Create your assets for your website, newsletter and social media, now. I love Canva, it's free and has great templates that you can adapt for your business. If you pay for the premium version you can upload your own fonts and colour palette; ideal for brand consistency.

Website

"60% of Black Friday spending is expected to be done online, with 31% on mobile."

- PWC

Check your site; both mobile and desktop on a variety of devices and do what so many businesses don't bother to do, buy something! Either do it yourself or better yet, get a friend to buy something. Ask them to test the search function, edit basket quantities, add an extra item, change sizes/colours, add a coupon. Make sure everything is working smoothly; so there will be no hiccups either on Black Friday or on the run-up to Christmas, as trust me the last thing you will be wanting to do in December is fiddle with website code.

And that's it, five easy ways you can participate in Black Friday this year, without feeling like a "sell-out" and my top tips for helping you to ensure it all goes to plan.

On Black Friday I will be sharing a selection of offers from small businesses with my audience, so be sure to tag me @samburgessuk in your Instagram posts or Stories so that I can share.

Good Luck.