This article is part of a larger series on Retail Management.
Black Friday is one of the biggest retail shopping days of the year. While 2020 saw a slight dip in spending (amid more online shopping), consumers are more ready than ever to spend and 77% plan to do their shopping in stores, according to studies from BlackFriday.com. As a retail business, you do not want to miss out on the Black Friday opportunities to boost your sales—both in-store and online.
Let’s take a look at some of the most successful Black Friday marketing strategies:
1. Build Hype Early (But Not Too Early)
In an age when people are constantly bombarded with ads, it is more important than ever to start marketing for any event, especially Black Friday, as early as you can. Repetition and a long-term marketing strategy will help you stand out in customers’ minds and boost the likelihood of people thinking of you on the big day—when their choices are endless.
Did you know? In 2020, 61% of consumers started their holiday shopping before Thanksgiving; only 15% saved their shopping for December.
You do not, however, want to start your push too early. This will only annoy your customer base and make you seem pushy. Here is a timetable that you can use to guide your Black Friday marketing campaign:
Late September/Early October
Start with a soft marketing initiative where you aren’t sending customer marketing materials directly or running long-term ads, but rather are using word of mouth or social media posts to begin building recognition and hype around your brand.
Late October/Early November
This is when I would begin your bigger and more aggressive Black Friday campaign. Start sending promotional materials like emails and texts and running Facebook and other ads around this time to maintain top-of-mind recognition and keep your customer base in the loop.
Black Friday Weekend
On the weekend of your Black Friday event, it’s time to get loud both online and in-store. Send out emails each morning of your sale to let customers know about your deals and how long they last. Use social channels to show people what your sale looks like and the products they can purchase. Don't hesitate to post both on your feed and at your stories—at this point you want your online presence to be strong so customers get excited about coming. You should also decorate your store, making it as festive and eye-catching as possible to entice any passing traffic.
At my local boutique, for example, we would start with a soft marketing push in early October for Black Friday—think social media stories and word-of-mouth promotion with in-store customers. A month or so from Black Friday, we would ramp up our efforts and try a more intense marketing strategy, using strategies like SMS messaging, social media partnerships, and email campaigns (all of which we will discuss below).
2. Account for Black Friday in Your Marketing Budget
When writing your annual budget and considering where you will spend money, set aside capital to invest in marketing around Black Friday. With consumers ready to buy and excited to engage with retailers, the time around Black Friday is a great opportunity to leverage social media, buy ad space, and use in-store marketing materials to promote your sale and business and capitalize on consumer buying potential.
As a general rule of thumb, small retail businesses allocate 5%-10% of their annual revenue to marketing. The best thing that you can do to ensure that you have enough funds to execute your Black Friday outreach campaign is to start planning early and get your road map sketched out.
When you have a marketing plan, estimate how much each piece of the puzzle will cost. Some initiatives might only be a few dollars—like in-store flyers or social media posts—while others, such as ad space or paid influencer partnerships, might be more of an investment. Once you have a picture of cost, you can either allocate funds throughout the year to make your initiative possible or adjust your Black Friday plan to fit the budget. Either way, planning and setting a budget early will allow you to execute a great Black Friday marketing strategy without affecting your bottom line.
Don’t forget that Black Friday typically requires a larger staff to manage traffic and keep your store tidy. The holiday might also demand that people work overtime. Don’t forget to factor in added payroll cost considerations when budgeting around Black Friday.
3. Try a Black Friday-Focused SMS Campaign
As part of your more aggressive social media push closer to Black Friday itself, send your customers SMS messages to alert them of your specific upcoming deals and remind them about your store. You can even send them special promotions and offers to build exclusivity.
To collect phone numbers and accrue a customer base, you can consider a customer loyalty program. This will allow you to exchange customer information for exclusive deals and discounts while also fostering loyalty. Additionally, you will want to choose a marketing text messaging service like Klaviyo, TextMagic, or SimpleTexting.
Black Friday Alerts
Another SMS marketing strategy that can boost engagement around your Black Friday sale is to let customers sign up for Black Friday alerts. This way, you can send customers excited about your sale instant updates and additional texts without fear of annoying or pestering them.
This is also a great way to maintain top-of-mind recognition on sale day and let your loyal customers gain a sense of exclusivity.
4. Leverage Social Media (Don’t Forget Those Black Friday Hashtags)
One of the most powerful tools that you can use to promote your Black Friday sale and ring up hype is social media. In fact, according to a report from Social Media Examiner, social media marketing’s biggest benefit is increased exposure, with traffic boosts and lead generations being its next biggest advantages.
Did you know? More than a third (36%) of US social media users use Instagram to follow brands and get updates from companies.
To begin your social marketing push, you will want to be sure that your brand has active Instagram and Facebook pages, at the very least. You can also add Pinterest, Twitter, and other sources, but Instagram and Facebook should reach the majority of your customer base. Here you can share promotions, images, and sneak peeks to drum up hype around your Black Friday sale.
As we talked about before, even on social media, I would start with your soft push by using stories and hashtags to avoid being overly pushy to your followers. Then, closer to the actual sale, ramp up your social marketing with posts, influencer partnerships, and ads (all of which we will cover below).
I would also suggest making your Instagram shoppable so that customers do not have to leave their social platform to browse or complete a purchase.
Here will take a look at some of the best social marketing strategies that you can use to promote your Black Friday sale:
Influencer marketing is when your brand partners with an influencer, and you agree to compensate them in exchange for promoting your product, brand, or sale. In an age when people seem to follow more influencers than actual friends, working with these quasi-celebrities will help you boost your reach and influence when promoting your Black Friday sale.
Did you know? In a 2019 survey from Media Kix, 89% of marketers agreed that, when compared to other marketing channels, influencer marketing has comparable or better ROI. Specifically, they named Instagram as the most important platform for influencer marketing.
For promoting a Black Friday sale, you have a couple of different options in terms of what your partnerships could look like:
- The influencer can hype your brand—show off your merchandise and tell their audience more about your brand, only briefly mentioning the upcoming Black Friday sale. This type of promo, which should be done further out from the event, will help expand your reach and create top-of-mind recognition.
- The influencer can strictly promote your sale—tell people about the deals, the timing, and the exact discounts you will run. This type of influencer advertising is best suited for closer to your actual event, not as part of your soft push.
As an example, Boyed, a small women’s streetwear brand, recently launched its clothing line and used influencer marketing as the primary way to reach its audience and drum up excitement. Months before Boyed even launched, I started seeing people on my feed showing off Boyed merchandise and telling me more about the brand itself. This intrigued me, and I started following Boyed to stay up to date.
Then, a week before launch, much more detailed information, including pricing and sizing started to come out and get promoted by influencers (and the brand, too). By the time Boyed’s line finally dropped, I had gotten excited, built recognition, learned the products and deals, and was ready to buy.
You can look to this guide for a more detailed roadmap to acquiring and successfully using influencer partnerships.
The final Black Friday strategy that you can use to market on social media is running ads. All social platforms run ads—Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or YouTube—and you can buy space from them for anywhere from 75 cents to $10.00 depending on the website, its traffic, and the time that your ad runs.
As we discussed previously, you should reserve running Black Friday ads until a few weeks before the sale as part of your more aggressive marketing push. Your ads should focus on your discounts and deals, letting people know exactly what you will be offering. If possible with your budget, running more ads as your Black Friday event gets closer will also help your brand stay on top of customers’ minds when the sale day finally comes.
5. Advertise in the Local Thanksgiving Day Paper
A great way to reach local audiences for your Black Friday sale is to advertise in your local Thanksgiving Day paper. Many families look to this source before checking online, and by advertising locally, your ad will be well situated to reach potential customers.
Most newspapers also have an online website where readers can access content. Ask your local paper whether your ad will appear online as well or if it is restricted to print.
6. Partner With Your Neighbors for Black Friday
You don’t always have to look far to reach new customers and promote your sale. Try partnering with neighboring stores so you both can expand your customer base and benefit on Black Friday. Your partnership can take several forms:
- You run a joint Black Friday sale advertisement
- You hang flyers in your partner’s shop
- You host pop-up tables in each other’s stores
Whatever the case, looking to your neighbors will help you target traffic already in your vicinity and reach and convert new customers.
Some partnerships may require contracts or cash investment. Be sure to discuss these terms in advance and factor any associated costs into your budget.
7. Use Your Email List to Promote Black Friday Deals
While social media is a great tool to expand your reach and build brand recognition, marketing via your customer email list will help you reach existing customers and get them excited about your Black Friday promotion. Pitching to people who already shop with you might seem like a waste of resources, but marketing to loyal customers is the best way to boost your sales. In fact, a commonly cited statistic says loyal customers make up an average of 65% of businesses’ annual revenue.
As with SMS messaging, to acquire a list of customer emails, you can start a customer loyalty program or, at minimum, collect emails by offering digital receipts. From there, you can start sending soft and hard promotional emails for your Black Friday sale. Unlike with your other marketing channels, you can actually start promoting your Black Friday sale more aggressively early on in the soft marketing push. Rather than annoying shoppers or feeling pushy, this will feel like a sneak peek or special treatment.
8. Send Black Friday Sale Invites
Another Black Friday strategy for reaching your audience and building excitement is sending out invitations for the big day. This will make the day feel like a holiday party and not just another sale; it will also make your brand stick out and foster a sense of exclusivity that shoppers will want to capitalize on.
Make your invitations festive and holiday-inspired. Anything you can do to make your sale more enticing to your customers will pay off and get people through the door.
Make your Black Friday sale into a holiday party to get people through your doors. Bring out the food, drink, and holiday music (or even carolers)—anything to make it festive. This will make coming to your store an experience, help to harness that holiday spending potential, and entice holiday lovers to visit your storefront.
9. Release Holiday Gift Guides
Another way that you can harness that holiday spirit and give people a glimpse of your Black Friday promo is by creating a gift guide with all your discounted products. This will give people an idea of what they can expect to find on sale and give the stumped gift giver some inspiration.
For example, around the holidays, we always got a lot of boyfriends and husbands shopping for their partners. Rather than letting them walk around the store aimlessly, we provided gift guides “for your girlfriend,” “for your wife,” “for your daughter,” etc. These made the shoppers’ lives so much easier and kept them coming back for a stress-free gift-giving experience.
10. Use Your Black Friday Promotions Strategically
If you are not planning to run a storewide sale, you can use your Black Friday promotions to target specific products that you want to sell. Before your Black Friday sale, count your inventory and determine what you have on hand. Once you have a picture of your merchandise, you can determine the items you need to sell through and incentivize the sale of those products. This might be seasonal items, old merchandise, more expensive pieces, or products that have not sold well.
For Black Friday at my boutique, we brought in four sales racks of last season’s winter pieces and sold them for 50% off. The deal was such a huge draw that we could always sell through our racks, which made for successful sale days and freed up space for new inventory.
11. Hold In-Store Black Friday Exclusives
With Black Friday increasingly moving online, one of the best ways to drive traffic to your physical storefront is by holding exclusive in-store discounts. You will also want to be sure that you are advertising these exclusives on your website, so you can alert shoppers planning only the shop electronically. This will give online shoppers a reason to visit and check out your savings.
12. Offer a Free Product With Holiday Appeal With Minimum Purchases
One promotion that you can use to attract customers to your Black Friday sale is to offer a free product with a minimum purchase. For the holidays specifically, you can make your giveaway special by making it holiday-themed.
For example, at my boutique’s Black Friday sale, we held a promotion where we offered a free mini Christmas candle with any purchase of $100. While we normally sold these candles for $10, we found that shoppers were spending $20 to $30 extra to reach the minimum and get their free product.
Pro Tip: Be sure you remove your free product from your sales floor before running this promotion.
Another free product that you could tack on to minimum purchases is a gift card. Gift cards are some of the most desirable holiday gifts, so people will be incentivized to reach their minimum to get their prize. Besides that, gift cards work to build loyalty by making people come back after the holiday season.
13. Focus on Gift Cards
As we mentioned above, gift cards are popular items for gift-giving during the holiday season. In fact, the National Retail Federation estimates that consumers spend an average of $163 on holiday gift cards, amounting to $27.5 billion in gift card sales. You should capitalize on people’s desire to purchase gift cards by promoting them in your Black Friday sale.
In addition to offering free gift cards with minimum purchase, ways you can highlight your gift cards include:
- Discounts: Offer your gift cards at 10% off.
- Merchandising: Use displays and smart placement to draw attention to your gift cards.
- Rewards: Make people want to add more value to their cards by rewarding them with free dollars. For example, you could offer an additional $10 for every $100 loaded onto their card.
If you don’t want people to use their cards during sale day, you can restrict their use until after the Black Friday weekend. This will help to encourage people to come back to you after the holiday season.
14. Don’t Compete With Black Friday Doorbusters
A doorbuster sale is when big-box retailers offer a steep discount to get a high volume of people into their store at opening. While it would be nice if every mom-and-pop operation could run their own doorbuster sales, small businesses just can’t compete with the deals at Walmart and Best Buy without sacrificing their margins.
As a small business, your best option is to avoid competing with the doorbusters and run sales in the afternoon and evenings. As shoppers leave the larger stores after their morning “doorbust,” your store will be waiting with fresh deals and promotions that will capitalize on their buying intent.
This is also a good time to point out that you shouldn’t be discouraged if your store doesn’t experience that Walmart-like morning rush. Most morning traffic will be diverted to doorbusters, not making it to you until later in the day.
15. Offer Curbside Pickup for Black Friday Purchases
According to Adobe, retailers that offered curbside services for 2020 Black Friday sales saw a 31% higher conversion rate for online traffic. With people only getting more accustomed to shopping online this year, offering curbside pickup is a great way to increase your sales and accommodate all shopping preferences. Not only that, but for the savvy shopper trying to hit as many stores as possible on Black Friday, curbside is a popular option that will make them more likely to visit your business.
If you decide to offer curbside, be sure that you staff a curbside crew, create a curbside pickup area, and incorporate the associated costs into your annual budget. You can check out our guide for additional guidance on setting up a curbside system for your business.
16. Utilize Cross-Selling to Promote Gift Sets
One of the best ways to boost your Black Friday sale is by using cross-selling promos. A cross-selling promotion is when you sell complementary items together at a discount—say, a scarf and a hat. This is a great way to entice buyers to purchase things they might not have considered or to inspire an idea of how to use your pieces.
During the holidays, market your bundles as gift sets to inspire shoppers, make their lives easier when shopping for friends and family, and promote gift sales.
Another way you can promote cross-selling is by merchandising well, or in this case, by cross-merchandising. Place complementary items near each other and showcase how they might work together. You might not even need to run a promo to get them sold as a pair.
17. Try Black Friday BOGO Deals
Another way that you can boost sales for Black Friday is by running a buy one, get one (BOGO) promotion. This is a great way to move through high-volume inventory and get people to purchase things they might have never considered.
BOGO sales are also great for people shopping in pairs. In my own retail experience, I can’t even begin to count the number of times a pair would come in, and one would purchase a BOGO item just so both people in the duo could have it. Without the BOGO promotion, their buying motivation would not have existed, and we would not have made that sale.
18. Run Hourly Black Friday Deals
For stores that see high traffic flow on Black Friday, hourly deals are a great way to get people excited and promote all-day shopping. You can also structure this promotion to be on top of your storewide deal. So, you might offer 25% off storewide and hourly deals where T-shirts go to 50% off at noon and you get a free pair of socks with your purchases at 1 o’clock. Keeping things interesting and maintaining elements of surprise are great ways to engage shoppers.
19. Make a Holiday Deal Calendar
In addition to hourly deals on the day of your sale, you can also create a daily or weekly deal calendar from your Black Friday sale through the end of the holiday season. This is not only a great way to keep people engaged and excited about your offerings long after your Black Friday sale ends, but it also will save you from having to run massive storewide deals that cut into your bottom line.
For example, you might offer 20% off one department the first week of the holiday season and then 15% off another category the next. Or, you might just host a Friday deal that changes weekly. The deals can change however you need them to—your calendar is fully customizable. This is another great opportunity to target stock that you want to sell through.
20. Offer Surprise Black Friday Savings & Deals
Maintaining the element of surprise is a great way to get people to check out your site on Black Friday. Surprise savings, however, do not mean that people don’t know they are coming. You should still market your surprise and build excitement for your secret deals like you would any other. You also might consider revealing a storewide deal and saving secret discounts for smaller deals on the day of Black Friday.
21. Give Your VIPs an Exclusive Black Friday Discount
One of my favorite Black Friday strategies is to offer special discounts or offers to your VIP members. As we said before, your loyal customers are your biggest asset, so rewarding them typically pays off and continues to nurture their loyalty. Try offering early access, exclusive deals, insider information, or other rewards and prizes that will inspire them to shop.
At my boutique, we let our VIP members come in an hour early on sale day. Early access let our VIPs see and shop the merchandise before anyone else, and because we were offering limited quantities and sizes, this was a huge draw for our loyal customers. Not only that, but it let us open before other stores on our street, so there was limited competition.
22. Multiply Gift-Giving Opportunities With Bundle Discounts
Another deal that you can try for Black Friday is bundle discounts. This is when you offer discounts to people who buy certain combos or quantities of products. For example, you might offer three puzzles for $10, when an individual puzzle is $4. Bundle deals are a great way to get people to make unplanned purchases, buy more than they planned, and clear out some old or excess inventory.
Pro Tip: Market your bundled products as stocking stuffers or gifts. This will incentivize people to buy because the purchase will multiply their gift-giving potential and save them money.
23. Donate a Percentage of Your Sales to Charity
Get in the holiday spirit and donate a percentage of your Black Friday proceeds to charity. Not only will it benefit something you care about, but it can appeal to shoppers who aren’t reeled in by discounts. The holidays are the season of giving, so there is nothing more festive than donations.
Another way that you can raise money for charitable causes in your store is by creating a place where people can donate, like a toy donation bin or a secure way that customers can give cash. You can also partner with local charities and host events in your store.
24. Create a Black Friday Discount Code for Your Online Store
According to Adobe Analytics, while in-store sales were down in 2020, ecommerce Black Friday sales were up 21% from 2019 to 2020. While in-store shopping is certainly projected to rebound, you don’t want to miss out on online sales this Black Friday. Provide users with a Black Friday discount code for your website and be sure to market that code throughout your more aggressive marketing campaign.
Open that code for use when it hits midnight on Black Friday, and be sure you have staff that can manage your online orders as they come in. The last thing you want is to save your orders for the end of the day and realize you sold out of things that people already paid for online.
If you use a POS system integrated with your website, your inventory will update in real time online, so you won’t have to worry about advertising out-of-stock merchandise.
25. Extend Your Black Friday Sale
The National Retail Federation anticipated that American consumers would spend between $755 billion and $767 billion between November and December 2020. As people have continued to spend more and more money around the holidays, the trend has been to run your Black Friday sale through to Cyber Monday, at the very least, and more often than not through the next week or longer. This will help to capitalize on buying potential and drive your bottom line.
You don’t have to carry the same sale throughout the extended Black Friday period. You could offer daily deals, limited-time offers, and other promotions to protect your margins. Either way, any promotion will help drive traffic and—with all that holiday buying intent—boost sales.
There is plenty of consumer buying potential around Black Friday. With the right Black Friday strategy, you can capitalize on this potential and boost your sales for a successful holiday season. Use the guide above to learn about all the Black Friday campaigns you can use to make your sale a hit.