Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving, and it’s the biggest shopping day of the year in terms of foot traffic to stores. This day also serves as the unofficial kickoff to the winter holiday shopping season. Black Friday marketing typically begins early in November, though retailers build their Black Friday strategies months beforehand.
Black Friday marketing helps retailers get their products and deals in front of customers. Shopify makes marketing products easy with tools to automate email and social media marketing, SEO tools, and analytics to see which products and customers are most profitable. Every Shopify account comes with an online store and a point-of-sale (POS) app for in-store sales, plus a blog to share all of your store deals and happenings. Visit Shopify for a free 14-day trial.
What is Black Friday?
There are many stories on the origins of the term Black Friday. The most pragmatic version says the day is named Black Friday because the day after Thanksgiving is the day most retailers start to make a profit for the year. In other words, they go from being “in the red” to “in the black.”
Another popular version says the origin of Black Friday actually has nothing to do with shopping. Rather, the term was coined in Philadelphia in the 1960s because of the extremely heavy vehicle and pedestrian traffic the city experienced the day after Thanksgiving. Over the next two decades, the term spread nationwide.
“In 1966, Black Friday received its moniker when The Philadelphia Police Department used the term to describe the traffic jams and intense crowding of the downtown retail stores, and was quoted in The American Philatelist, a stamp collecting magazine. Retailers today have little concern with the origin of the name, but have taken full advantage of its global recognition as a day (along with Cyber Monday) to make a significant portion of their yearly sales with one-day-only and doorbuster promotions.”
— David Zyla, author of Color Your Style and How to Win at Shopping
No matter the origin of the name, the day after Thanksgiving has been a huge shopping day for decades. In 2005, Black Friday officially became the busiest shopping day of the year. Since then, Black Friday weekend has become a cultural phenomenon. For retail businesses, Black Friday marks the busy start of the most profitable time of the year.
Black Friday was historically an in-store shopping event. However, in recent years, online browsing and shopping have started to make up a significant portion of Black Friday sales. In other words, online and brick and mortar stores of all sizes have plenty of opportunities to use Black Friday to boost their sales into the black.
13 Black Friday Marketing Tips to Boost Sales
A successful Black Friday sales day typically requires a bit of planning, the right products, a persistent marketing strategy, and great customer service. Small businesses can use a variety of strategies to boost their Black Friday sales.
1. Plan Ahead for Black Friday
Any successful sale event requires a concrete plan. Black Friday is no different. Even though shoppers are actively out searching for deals, you still need to work to make your store stand out from the crowd. In order to stand out, you’ll need popular products and a compelling offer, both of which take time to strategize.
“One marketing mistake that entrepreneurs make with Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Small Business Saturday is waiting until the last minute to plan out a marketing strategy. Are you going to host one sale for the week, offer a flash sale each day, or increase the price of one product as the week goes on? Planning this strategy out early is key. This is also a highly saturated marketing week. Does a pre-sale make sense for your business? How can you break through the noise? Should you create an interest list before the sale releasing? Marketing should not be done last minute. This is one of the best times of the year to make sales. Don’t miss out on money due to a poor marketing strategy and planning.
—Jenny Hale, owner, JH Marketing Results LLC
2. Publish Gift Guides
Shopping for others—even friends and family—can be difficult, especially during the holiday season when customers are shopping for many people at once. Create gift guides with your top-selling items and gift ideas for different recipients to inspire your shoppers. These guides can be digital images that you display on your website and social media, an email newsletter that goes out to your customers, and a print guide that you keep in-store.
3. Refresh Your Store Layout and Merchandising Strategy
Black Friday is all about deals and discounts, but store layout and merchandising are what help shoppers find those deals once they are in your store. Especially during the holidays, shopping is a busy and stressful experience. Having items placed in a way where they are easily accessible makes the shopping experience more enjoyable. Having a strategic store layout and displays can also create an effective traffic flow pattern and make it easy for shoppers to find the items they need while also promoting impulse buys.
Of course, Black Friday shoppers are also looking to get into the holiday spirit. Your store should not give the impression of “business as usual.” Whatever holiday or winter theme you select for your store, go all-out. Create a themed window display, interior decorations, and special gift wrap, at minimum.
“Identify your top sellers and fast-moving products early on and ensure sure you have plenty of these items in stock ahead of the holiday rush. As your customers are preparing to purchase their holiday gifts, keep in mind there are four distinct styles of shopper and you’ll need merchandise available for them all. The Black Friday Warrior, the Early Bird, the Steady Shopper, and the Procrastinator will all accomplish their holiday shopping at different times, but they’ll all want access to your products.”
—Kurt Rathmann, CEO & founder, ScaleFactor
4. Plan Gift With Purchase Sales
Gift with purchase (GWP) offers are attractive to shoppers, particularly around the holiday season because they provide an upgraded gift, a gift for a second recipient, or a gift for themselves at no additional cost. GWP offers are ideal for retailers too because they provide an opportunity to introduce a new product line or advertise through branded merchandise. Overall, GWP offers are a great value-add for shoppers that don’t take too much away from a retailer’s profit margins.
5. Offer Hourly or Timed Deals
Flash sales are extremely popular for shoppers and retailers on Black Friday. Doorbuster deals are a Black Friday marketing staple and help draw out early morning shoppers. For small retailers, it doesn’t make a ton of sense to compete with department and chain stores on those doorbuster deals. However, it is worthwhile to borrow that concept and plan limited-time deals throughout the day and evening on Black Friday to attract shoppers with targeted product offers throughout the day.
6. Sell Limited Product Bundles to Move Merchandise
Similar to offering limited-time promotions, retailers can offer specific product bundles on Black Friday that give customers an excellent deal on several products when purchased together. These kinds of promotions help stores sell greater volumes of merchandise. This tactic is especially good for stores that have some slow-moving or seasonal items they want to make sure are sold during the holiday shopping season. Pair these products with a popular or bestselling item and offer a steep discount on Black Friday.
7. Send Targeted Emails Before Black Friday
In general, independent retailers don’t email their customers enough. This is especially true during the holiday season when customers are actively looking for sales. Send out several emails leading up to Black Friday highlighting different sales and products.
If you’re using Shopify to manage your business, you can install Kit, a free automated marketing tool that will build and send marketing emails and social media ads based on customer interactions. Businesses communicate with Kit via iMessage, Facebook Messenger, or Shopify Ping to create and implement marketing emails.
8. Prepare Your Website for Extra Traffic
During the holiday season starting on Black Friday (if not before), retailers of all sizes can see an increase in traffic on their websites. Some shoppers will be looking to make purchases online, while others will want to scope out deals and in-stock products before making the trip to your store. In order to meet these customer demands, retailers need speedy websites that can accommodate higher traffic volumes.
Ahead of the holiday season, consider upgrading your web hosting with either more memory or a dedicated server. Some providers will let you upgrade just for the holiday season. Alternatively, Shopify is one of the best ecommerce platforms when it comes to handling traffic spikes. Shopify and many businesses using Shopify report virtually no downtime, even on busy shopping days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
“Studies have shown that if a page doesn’t load in three seconds, 57% of shoppers will move on to another site. After eight seconds, 47% will not only leave; they will never return to your brand. When independent retail brands have slow page loads, they experience lower conversions. Since the holiday season has become pivotal to a retailer’s yearlong success, a retailer’s website must be up to speed with consumer expectations.”
—Bob Buffone, Chief Technology Officer, YOTTAA
9. Provide BOPIS or Click & Collect Fulfillment
Shoppers don’t like waiting in line, especially during the holiday season. Buy online, pick up in-store (BOPIS) services, also known as click and collect, let shoppers place orders online and pick them up the same day. This buying method helps customers save time and ensure they get the item they are looking for. A study by GPShopper shows that of customers that are interested in using in-store tech, 67% would try BOPIS to make their shopping experience easier.
Incorporating BOPIS to your store operations creates a smoother shopping experience and can help drive sales. However, it requires highly accurate inventory tracking. Shopify POS lets businesses sell in-store and online with one central inventory and customer management system, so shoppers can buy online and pick up their purchases in-store. Businesses can offer this service without having to worry about overselling items.
10. Promote Gift Cards For Black Friday
For retailers, gift card sales are a win-win. In addition to the customer who purchased the gift card, the recipient will also make a trip to your store. Once in-store, a majority of gift-card shoppers will spend more than the value of the gift card. To increase gift card sales, retailers should advertise gift cards throughout the store as well as at the register. Use BOGO promotions to entice customers to buy a higher-valued gift card. Wrap it up in a special box or packaging so that the gift card looks like a complete, wrapped present.
“If you are still selling paper gift certificates it’s time to change to the plastic version. Studies show that retailers who switch from paper gift certificates to plastic gift cards increase gift card sales from 35% to 50% percent. There’s more: 61% of customers spend more than the amount of their gift card, 75% spend more than the value of their card, and 55% of gift card recipients require more than one shopping trip to the store to spend the balance of their card. The more times they come to your store the more they are likely to buy something.
People buying gift cards can be easily enticed to spend more if you sweeten the deal. Try a buy $25 in gift cards, get a $5 gift card for free or buy $50 in gift cards, get a $10 bonus card promotion. The caveat is that the bonus cards are not valid until Dec. 26, so they can’t be used to purchase additional holiday gifts. Who doesn’t like to get something for themselves, especially when it’s free?”
—Rich Kizer and Georganne Bender, Keynote Speakers and Retail Consultants, Kizer & Bender
11. Partner With Other Local Businesses
Small businesses can boost Black Friday sales by partnering with other local businesses to host a larger event. Utilize outdoor space for pop-up sales tents and refreshments. Plan out cross-promotions between different stores. For example, spend $50 in one local business and get a $10 coupon for another business. Create a simple name and hashtag for your shopping event that every participating business can promote.
One of the biggest advantages of bringing multiple businesses together for a joint sales event is that you can pool your advertising budgets to create a much larger campaign. Black Friday marketing can get very competitive, and a pooled advertising budget can go a long way. Take out an ad in the local paper or spring for a billboard in addition to social media and email advertisements.
“Independents are in a great position to attract consumers (especially Millennial and Gen Z shoppers) who are more interested in connections and experiences than commodities by capitalizing on unique local assortment and social channels. Partnering with other neighborhood businesses can drive excitement, traffic and sales.”
—Patricia Vekich Waldron, CEO & Founder, Vision First, Contributing Editor, RetailWire
12. Reward Your Social Media Advocates
Retailers can gain social traction during Black Friday by offering discounts or special deals to customers that check into your store on Facebook or post an Instagram Feed or Story post tagging your store’s account. These kinds of posts will help introduce your store to new potential customers.
Even if you decide not to offer a social media discount, it’s important to make sure your online presence is updated before the holiday season. Make sure all of your listings such as Google, Yelp, and Facebook have updated hours and contact information.
“One of the most important things independent retailers can do to increase sales this holiday season is to make sure they’ve claimed their business listings on all of the major review sites—Google, Yelp, Facebook, TripAdvisor, etc. Why? Because nine out of 10 people conduct online searches when deciding where to spend their money. Ninety-seven percent of people read online reviews for local businesses. Businesses that claim their business listing on at least one of the major review sites earn 25% more annual revenue than those that don’t claim any. Businesses that claim their business listing on at least three major review sites earn 43% more annual revenue than those that don’t claim any. The more often your retail shop can be found online, the more likely it is people will stop by and spend money.
—Dallin Hatch, Sr. Manager of Marketing Communications, Womply
13. Skip Doorbusters—But Stay Open Late
Department stores, big box stores, and chain retailers all compete on blowout doorbuster deals early Black Friday morning. For many Black Friday shoppers, this part of the day is as much about tradition and spending time with family as it is about shopping. Instead of competing with Walmart, Target, and other retailers with doorbuster specials, small shops can host major sales in the afternoon when many of the larger stores are slowing down on sales. Stay open later to catch last-minute shoppers, and host a shop and sip happy hour to help customers wind down after a busy day of shopping.
Bottom Line – What is Black Friday?
Black Friday is a cultural shopping phenomenon that marks the unofficial start of the winter holiday season. Black Friday marketing is crucial for maximizing sales on one of the biggest shopping days of the year. Independent stores can compete and attract customers with careful planning and a little creativity. Select new and bestselling products to build a gift guide, revamp your store with holiday merchandising, plan specific deals for Black Friday, update your website, and start sending out promotions.
Black Friday marketing is significantly easier when you can manage your entire retail business from one platform. Shopify lets businesses sell products online and in-store with one centralized inventory, order, and customer database. Plus, Shopify has tools to automate email marketing, social media promotions, and insights so businesses know which products to promote to which customers. Visit Shopify for a free 14-day trial.