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Black Friday, taking place on 26 November, was traditionally an American shopping phenomenon brought on by a stock market crash in 1869 which grows in popularity every year throughout the world. South African consumers flock to shopping malls to take advantage of discounts that are exclusively available on the day or into ‘Cyber Monday’ the following Monday. Since the onset of the pandemic, e-commerce retailers have been positioned to capitalise on the fact that people now prefer to shop from the comfort and safety of their own homes or offices.

Last year, just under 50% of South African adults made purchases during the Black Friday period, with online transactions spiking more than 60%. This year, predictions are that up to 74% of South African adults will make a purchase on Black Friday provided that the discount is more than 50% – an indication that consumers are tightening their purse strings and being more discerning.

Retailers across the board are going to need to pull out all the stops in terms of their marketing efforts. We’ve previously seen large retailers implement various strategies to maximise sales during this period; with some extending Black Friday throughout the month of November, hosting weekly or daily deals, or implementing a “countdown deal” strategy.

Small businesses have their work cut out for them. Breaking through the noisy marketing space during this incredibly busy period is not an easy task, but for SMEs who are able to carve out a niche for themselves, the results are promising.

These are some ways that SMEs can take advantage of the Black Friday shopping rush:

  • Offer giveaways instead of discounts

It’s difficult for small businesses to compete with mass retailers who buy stock in bulk and have the balance sheet to offer this stock at hugely discounted rates, but there are ways to circumvent this challenge. SMEs can offer giveaways and use the opportunity to clear their shelves of excess or old stock. Hair salons for example, can offer a free head massage or treatment for anyone who gets a haircut on Black Friday. Thrift stores can offer their customers a free accessory when they purchase an item of clothing. Gardening or landscaping companies could, for example, offer a free follow-up consultation with every service. The ultimate aim for SMEs is to make sure that a giveaway deal will not set them back more than a huge discount would.

  • Boost basket size

As an SME, you can use Black Friday to encourage your customers to increase their basket size and shop more than they usually would. A 3 for 2 special – where customers who buy three products from your store, get the cheapest item free – is an effective way to increase their basket. This strategy has worked exceptionally well for larger retailers like The Body Shop, but it can also work on a smaller scale. Another highly effective method of increasing basket size for online retailers is to offer free shipping on purchases over a certain amount.

  • Build hype

If you’re an SME with an email database that you’ve been building over time, now is the time to optimise your communications strategy. Email open rates are very likely to be higher during the Black Friday period because consumers are expecting good deals and discounts. SMEs who may not have the financial standing to turn Black Friday into “Black November” need to find ways to make the most of the 24 hours. A tactical way of doing this is by having hourly sales – every hour a new product or collection of items can go on sale, with a very clearly communicated cut-off time. This will produce a sense of urgency in potential shoppers, whose attention may be diverted from competitors due to the time limit on your hourly sale. Social media and email are useful tools to create some hype around these hourly deals, offering “sneak peeks,” and “early bird VIP access” to regular shoppers.

Remember, data is a powerful tool. Do a reconciliation every year after Black Friday to determine which strategies worked the best, and then build on that the following year!


About the Author: Ben Bierman

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Ben Bierman has been our Managing Director since 2015. He joined our company in 1990 and has risen through the ranks occupying various positions ranging from being a management accountant, Head of Information Technology and Chief Financial Officer. Ben is an avid reader, enjoys classical music and being in the outdoors including for hunting trips. He is our go-to-spokesperson for our SME Confidence Index, SME sector policy and trend matters, and business leadership articles.