It’s coming: The biggest retail shopping day of the year. Are you ready? This is an important question for any business, but especially for startups and companies in a rapid growth mode. Black Friday falls on November 27 this year, and now is the time to start preparing your digital marketing strategy to reach the most consumers with your special promotions. But—this is 2020, and nothing is normal this year.
How Will 2020 Be Different?
Many companies will be starting early this year, for a number of reasons. Pandemic concerns have made many consumers leery of standing in line and being crowded into a brick-and-mortar store, so many retailers are offering online deals starting before Black Friday. Walmart and Macy’s have announced they won’t open on Thanksgiving Day, and Home Depot is attempting a two-month sale for the holidays instead of a mad rush on Black Friday.
“Black Friday was always about being first,” said Michael Brown, a partner at global strategy and management consultant Kearney. “But Black Friday is not going to be the launch of the holiday season this year… It will happen softly over the next month or so.”
Macy’s CEO Jeff Gennette told analysts, “I think this year is going to be different,” and suggested demand would start even earlier. That may be why Macy’s preview specials will start on Monday, November 16, with the second round of deals hitting on Tuesday, November 24.
But the Early Bird Doesn’t Always Get the Worm
People frequently line up outside larger retailers for Black Friday deals, but unless your business is already Walmart-sized, trying to compete with the big box stores for 4 AM Black Friday customers may not be the best strategy. Also, customers have been growing tired of the early-morning trek for Black Friday shopping in recent years, even before the pandemic.
What can you do instead?
Offer deals that start later in the day, once your audience has already scored what they want at the biggest chains. You may have offerings that were sold out at the bigger stores or more unique gifts they just can’t find at a big box store. Letting your customers know that they can come in later and still get the best prices is a smart tactic.
Focus on Your Strengths
Time frames aside, focusing on your unique selling proposition—what sets you apart from competitors, big or small—is always important in digital branding. It’s even more critical in Black Friday promotions this year when shoppers are being inundated with ads and may have seen some items on sale at multiple stores. Here are some questions to consider:
What items do you offer that shoppers would have a hard time finding elsewhere?
Do you sell any local or handmade products or services?
Do you offer any one-of-a-kind or personalized items?
Even if other stores sell the same items, can you offer a better deal in some way?
If you can’t offer a better price, consider whether you can offer a unique bundle deal of some sort, throwing in extras for free or at an inexpensive price.
Make Sure Your Digital Footprint is Ready
Now is the time to look not only at your social media and SEO strategies but also at what potential shoppers will see when they visit your website—as well as review sites. If you haven’t looked up your Yelp listing lately, now’s the time. One 2019 survey found that 71% of consumers think review ratings are important, and “47% regularly check ratings before making a purchase.” With more people than ever shopping online this year, this will be even more important.
Did you get a bad review recently? One bad review isn’t likely to sink you, but it’s still important that you respond in a polite, professional way if appropriate. If the customer has a legitimate complaint, you may respond saying you apologize for the inconvenience, have taken steps to solve the problem (for example, increasing staffing to reduce wait times), and would like to make it up to them. However, not every review deserves a response. If the consumer has written an unhinged rant about things you have no control over, it’s best just to keep scrolling and hope others see it the same way.
If you or your products don’t have many reviews at all, now might be a good time to ask your satisfied customers to leave a review, so they can help others learn more about your products. If you send out a newsletter via email, you can add a note asking for reviews.
Offer Online Deals Leading Up to Black Friday
With or without a collaborative partner, there are a lot of fun opportunities to get your audience into the holiday shopping mood before the big day. While you might not have the resources to do a huge Amazon-sized promotion for a whole week, you can offer one sale item each day leading up to Black Friday, then do a blanket discount off the whole store, or have your best deals available on the big day. You could follow Target’s lead—the big box store has announced they’re doubling digital deals this year during a two-day Black Friday period.
To execute this strategy, you’ll want to focus your marketing efforts on improving both your social media reach and your email marketing list. Let your audience know that if they sign up for the mailing list or follow you on Instagram now, they’ll get a special offer every day leading up to Black Friday. Targeted ads on social media, Google, and other search engines can help support this effort. Need help with your advertising strategy? Digital Delane can help answer your digital branding questions.
The great thing about this staggered promotion is that it not only increases sales in the short run but also improves your mailing list or social media reach in the long run. You can take advantage of this in January when sales have slowed but customers may still respond to clearance pricing deals.
Around key dates like Black Friday and Cyber Monday, schedule an increase in your paid search and social advertising plans, to help drive traffic either to your website or your product page on eCommerce sites. If your brand is sold on sites like Amazon or Alibaba, make sure you coordinate with them to plan sales for our items.
Consider the Current Climate, and Have a Backup Plan If You Do Have In-Store Deals
Every year has its challenges, and the pandemic is only one of 2020s challenges. Depending on your store’s location, there may be wildfires, weather problems, or other local issues that could prevent people from getting to your store. It’s important to keep these things in mind when planning your Black Friday strategy.
In addition to more online sales, you could consider a gift card promotion. For example, maybe customers can buy $100 worth of gift cards from your store for $80, essentially getting $20 worth of merchandise free. They can buy the gift cards online, and use them on a less crowded day. The twenty percent discount will help offset the difference if they were hoping to take advantage of a sale price. Plus by shopping later, there will be less of a concern with the item they want selling out.
Having a contingency plan or alternate discount offer works even if you don’t anticipate any difficulties on the big day. Things can go wrong unexpectedly, and even if they don’t, many customers will appreciate having different options to save money at your store.
Focus on Branding
It’s easy to get caught up in the “Deals, deals, deals!” mentality of Black Friday sales. After all, every other business out there is doing it, right? And promoting special prices is fine, but don’t forget your branding.
At Digital Delane, we focus on helping our clients differentiate themselves by establishing a unique, likable brand image. Think about ways you can do this with your Black Friday promotions. Are you promoting the products or services that best represent your brand? Will consumers immediately think of the mood and personality you want to be associated with your brand when they see your promotional materials? If not, you may want to consider a redesign to assure your branding is front and center. This will continue to serve you long after the Black Friday sale has ended.
Planning and executing a Black Friday strategy requires some prior planning but can be successful when done right. With a focus on customer needs and shifting sales models for holiday shopping, you can create promotions that will not only improve sales on Black Friday but keep consumers coming back to your brand throughout the year.