Well it’s finally almost here and Black Friday officially lands globally tomorrow, followed close on its heels by Cyber Monday, and it seems to have become a fixed marketing day in the Christmas sales ramp-up. But is it a successful ploy for retail businesses and with all the hype and retail noise going on how can you use it your benefit as a small business?

It is predicted that Black Friday week is set to attract one in five British shoppers, resulting in it being even more popular than the last-minute festive week before Christmas. Price sensitive consumers will be won over by deals and heavy discounts but alas this one day ‘price war’ I feel is a risky approach for retailers. After all what they are doing is instilling in their customers to hold off buying their Christmas gifts and to wait for a single day with drastically discounted prices. Research from Fresh Relevance into online traffic prior to Black Friday suggests that traffic falls back slightly as shoppers delay purchases with the expectation of lower prices. Not ideal for any business.  Should you focus on attracting the most price sensitive customers to your brand? I’d say definitely ‘not’!

UK retailers should recognise that not all customers are created equal and some customers are more valuable than others. Therefore you need to focus on marketing to and rewarding your most valuable and loyal individuals, rather than losing money on a single hyped (and US created) event to appease the masses!

It is notable that many retailers have been running pre-Black Friday promotions (Amazon, Thorntons) or even boycotting it completely (ASDA) to try and encourage purchases before the single, hyped day of trading. This backs up my point that retailers are becoming nervous about this risky shift in the Christmas UK consumers’ behaviour.

So do you jump on the Black Friday bandwagon or take a slightly different approach?

US outdoor clothing retail brand REI has been running an interesting anti-Black Friday campaign on social media called #OptOutside. I think it is ingenious – great brand fit and personality – a brilliant example of how you can take a different marketing tact and use it to your advantage to stand out on social media and engage with your audience.

It doesn’t mean you have to ignore this key Christmas retail period completely and take REI’s approach of a boycott or anti-campaign (I think it’s quite clever though!) but be mindful of what behaviour you are encouraging with your discounts and promotions and how you can possibly boost sales without shocking discounting.

So here are my 7 Black Friday marketing tips and ideas:

  1. Don’t discount your entire range – it can be a useful opportunity to discount distressed inventory or end of lines.
  2. Email sign up incentives – between Black Friday and Cyber Monday your website is likely to have increased traffic so make sure you capture as many emails as possible for future email marketing.
  3. Extend the offer – don’t condense the purchase into one frenetic day – provide a longer buying window or as Thorntons is doing – different deals each day – think 12 Days of Christmas perhaps?
  4. Create a Black Friday celebration event – get your most loyal customers in store (or office) for a treat – free fizz and food, giveaways, special promotions for top spending customers.
  5. Reward your most loyal customers – give them a better Black Friday deal than the masses! Or give them the VIP treatment.
  6. A Cyber Monday email – send an offer with a longer shelf life and get the customer to claim it now and use it later.
  7. Do something for charity – why not support a charity and get customers to help you or donate. Christmas is about giving back too.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday has become about offering great deals to your customers. – don’t forget that a great deal isn’t just a jaw-dropping discount. Customers will also respond to marketing ideas like giveaways, VIP offers, supporting a charity and themed events. And even if you aren’t a retail business you can still have some fun with your marketing around this key Christmas period.

Be creative and have fun with your Christmas marketing and it will prove fruitful.