10 Black Friday and Cyber Monday Tips to Help You Boost Sales and Stand Out

Black Friday and Cyber Monday, which will take place on November 29 and December 2 respectively, are famous for huge deals and steep discounts. That’s why participating in these days can seem like a big retailer’s game.

But what about SMBs? Can independent retailers reap the rewards (and profits) from these two shopping events? The short answer is yes. If you play your cards right, you too can use Black Friday and Cyber Monday to your advantage.

This post is a chock-full of Black Friday and Cyber Monday ideas you could try. Read through them below or quickly jump to a specific tip:

1. Make sure your store looks extra special (regardless of whether you’re participating in Black Friday or not).

Even if you’re not actively running Black Friday deals, it’s important to keep your shop in top shape. This is particularly true if you have a physical store in a mall or shopping center with a big box anchor. These venues see an uptick in foot traffic around Thanksgiving, and some of those shoppers will end up in your shop. 

According to Retail Touchpoints, foot traffic to big box stores are expected to increase by 34%, this year. Small and medium retailers near these stores, could expect a spike as well.

Here are some steps you’d want to take to capitalize on the additional traffic:

  • Spruce up your window displays and fixtures.
  • Bring out your best and newest merchandise.
  • Remember that people are in the mood to buy, so implement sales tactics that would get them to do so. These may include impulse buys, upsells/cross-sells, and suggestive selling.
  • Prepare your staff. Keep them on their best behavior.
  • If it makes sense, run a promotion (though it doesn’t have to be a big as what larger stores are doing).

2. Play to your strengths and don’t try to compete with big box deals.

Trying to compete with the steep discounts of big box stores have will just eat up your margins. So, instead of attempting to match the prices and deals of retail giants, level the playing field by focusing on things that you’re good at.

Astrid van Dorst, MD for CloudAnalysts.com, says that “smaller retailers should compete on their strengths rather than go head-to-head with a deep discounter. Customers tend to shop in smaller retail outlets because it’s more pleasant and convenient; the owners know them, and the personalized service is second-to-none. Sometimes prices are better there too, but it’s not the main thing why shoppers go there.”

Keep this insight in mind when strategizing for Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Identify your assets and use them to attract and delight shoppers. For instance, if you’re a neighborhood shop with strong relationships with customers, why not host a special event in your store? Invite your best customers, roll out the red carpet, and shower them with lots of attention. Give shoppers a refreshing break from busy and crowded big box stores.

Convenience is another potential strength that you can emphasize on Black Friday. Major retailers may offer big deals, but shoppers often have to endure long lines and wait times to get them. If you can provide a fast and easy shopping experience on Black Friday, you’ll be sure to attract some shoppers.

Another option is to give customers the best of both worlds. As van Dorst puts, it, “bargain hunters will be busy in the early morning. So by offering something for them later in the day, or online, customers can have their cake and eat it too: buy a cheap washing machine in the morning out of town at the big retailers, and have a nice time in your local shop in the afternoon.”

3. Be strategic with your sales to convert more customers.

Many people feel that Black Friday and Cyber Monday would be incomplete without deals, so if you do decide to run sales on these days, be strategic with how they’re carried out. The key, according to David Attard, owner of DronesBuy.net, is “to milk Black Friday and Cyber Monday in terms of publicity and promotions while making sure you don’t take a hit.”

Attard says retailers can accomplish this by discounting bundles of products, rather than individual items. “This way, you’re actually getting MORE money out of the discount.” And if you want to offer massive price cuts, Attard recommends to do it on older merchandise that you want to unload.

You could also set conditions with your discounts. For instance, you could offer free shipping with a minimum purchase amount.

Another tip is to offer promotions that add value. For example, you could throw in a gift when people purchase above a certain threshold (e.g. “free tote bag for every $75 purchase.) Or, you could offer an added service with each purchase (e.g. “free makeover with every purchase”).

Types of Promotions

Need a refresher on the types of promotions you could run? Here’s  a quick rundown:

  • Percentage discounts – Most common and popular promotion type
  • xx dollars off – An alternative to “percent-off” deals, this promotion involves discounting items by a flat dollar amount (e.g., $5 off or $20 off).
  • BOGO – Great for moving inventory
  • Multi-buys – Another great way to move stock, but the success depends on the type of product.
  • Multi-save and conditional – These include offerings like “Buy and save off the entire sale” or “Spend X and get Y”

Learn More

4. Beef up your online efforts

Cyber Monday — which takes place online — will obviously be a huge deal for ecommerce. But did you know that Black Friday gets a significant amount of online traffic as well? This is true now more than ever, as more shoppers go online to score great deals. 

What does this mean for you? For starters, you need to ensure that your ecommerce site can handle the additional traffic that’s bound to come your way.

And if you’re running any Black Friday or Cyber Monday specials, make them as visible and easy-to-find as possible. Create unique banners announcing any deals or discounts that people can enjoy.

Here’s an example from Avery Dennison. In addition to a massive banner on the homepage, the retailer also has a bar at the top part of the page telling people about their promotion. Try to do the same thing for your site (but tailored for Black Friday/Cyber Monday, of course!)

Another helpful tactic is to create sections on your site that are dedicated to these special shopping days. So, if you’re running a Black Friday promotion, put all your products and offers in one place so people can see them quickly. Ditto for Cyber Monday (and any other shopping days, for that matter).

Check out this example from Walmart:

5. Get people excited beforehand.

Generate buzz and excitement beforehand by posting Black Friday and Cyber Monday teasers online. Using social media is a great way to accomplish this, so get on the networks that your customers are using, and post sneak peeks of your offers.

Here are some great examples:

Iris + Poppy, an online lifestyle boutique, has started posting about Black Friday on their Instagram feed and intends to continue teasing their deals in the coming weeks.

Over at Facebook, MP Couture, a women’s apparel boutique, created a Black Friday event to promote what they’re doing in their store.

6. Engage people after Black Friday or Cyber Monday.

Capture sales after these key dates by running post-Black Friday or Cyber Monday promotions. This is a good way to market any leftover stock and reach shoppers who missed your initial offers.

Online retailer Joyus did this last year and used an “after party” angle. “What’s a party without an after party?” they wrote in an email.

Consider doing something similar this year. Cook up an exciting angle for after Black Friday and Cyber Monday and then get those promos out there.

Featured Resource

Our friends at Marsello put together some excellent email marketing resources, including a calendar schedule with the best days and times to send your holiday email campaigns. They’ve also created a holiday email marketing cheat sheet that contains all the components of a successful email campaign. Swing by Marsello’s site to download these juicy resources for free!

Learn More

7. Boost results by teaming up with other businesses.

Connect with other businesses with Black Friday or Cyber Monday initiatives and see if you can help each other out. You might consider doing cross-promotions or sharing the costs to market your offerings.

These types of team-ups can be very effective. Just ask the businesses that participated in Little Boxes, a “Shop Local” movement in Portland. According to Oregon Live, Little Boxes is “the small-business answer to big-box Black Friday.”

It’s an annual initiative that rewards Portland consumers for shopping at participating businesses. In 2014, stores that participated in the program brought in an estimated $323,500 in added revenue, which is a great achievement considering they were competing with larger stores with steeper deals and deeper pockets.

8. Stand out by finding a unique angle.

Come up with a unique angle with whatever initiatives you decide to run on these days. Remember, plenty of other stores will be running major sales so a generic discount or promotion won’t grab shopper attention.

Take TopShelf Style (now Isalis), an apparel store in San Francisco. On Cyber Monday in 2015, TopShelf ran an “UN-CYBER MONDAY SALE” in which customers would enjoy a Buy 1, Get 1 50% off offer by shopping in-store.

“We would rather see you in person,” the shop said on Instagram.

Another excellent angle for these shopping holidays? Corporate social responsibility (CSR). As we mentioned previously, 87% of customers considered CSR in their purchase decisions and given a similar offering, 91% of consumers would switch to a brand that stands for a good cause.

Donating your Black Friday or Cyber Monday sales to charity could be just the hook you need to stand out and draw in shoppers. Have a look at Patagonia’s Black Friday campaign a while back.

In 2016, the retailer pledged to donate 100% of its Black Friday sales to charity. When they announced this initiative, they said they expected to reach 2 million dollars in sales. Instead, the retailer raised 10 million dollars, or five times the expected amount. Clearly, standing for a good cause resonated with consumers, and they were more than happy to shop at Patagonia because of their CSR initiative.

So this coming Black Friday and Cyber Monday, ask yourself: what can you do to spice up your initiatives? What “hook” can you use to stand out? Like Isalis, you could go against the grain and do something “un-Black Friday or un-Cyber Monday.” Perhaps giving to charity is a better way to go. Or maybe it’s something completely different.

The best way to figure it out is to understand your shoppers. Put yourself in their shoes, or better yet, ask them about their Black Friday and Cyber Monday plans. Where will they shop? What will compel them to participate? What do they love and hate most about these shopping events? The responses you get will give you the insights you need to craft your initiatives.

9. Promote exclusivity 

If you’re not keen on blanket promotions but still want to do something around Black Friday or Cyber Monday, then why not be more exclusive with your initiatives? Reach out to your top customers and organize a private sale or event for them.

Rocketbook, a company that sells smart notebooks did just that. In 2017, Rocketbook invited existing subscribers to their exclusive private sale.

10. Consider other retail holidays.

Whether you can’t get enough of retail holidays, or you’re not too keen on taking part in Black Friday or Cyber Monday, you should consider participating in sub-holidays like Small Business Saturday, Green Monday, and Giving Tuesday.

According to Mike Catania of PromotionCode.org, while these holidays aren’t as big as Black Friday and Cyber Monday, “they’re still billion-dollar shopping days that will allow smaller and niche retailers to compete for national attention.”

Here is a brief overview of what these days are all about.

Small Business Saturday – As its name clearly indicates, Small Business Saturday is a holiday that promotes small biz shopping. It takes place the day after Black Friday, and it gives you a great opportunity to generate additional traffic and sales.

Last year, for instance, an estimated 112 million people reportedly shopped at small businesses — a 15% increase from the year before. And it’s important to note that Small Business Saturday continues to gain traction. According to American Express, in 2016, “72% of U.S. consumers aware of the day” (which was another record high).

If you plan to take part in this shopping holiday, head to the official website of Small Business Saturday where you can learn more about the initiative and even download free marketing materials.

Green Monday – According to CNET, “Green Monday is touted as the third-largest online shopping day of the year, behind Black Friday and Cyber Monday. It falls on the second Monday of December, or at least 10 days before Christmas. The origin of the name is unclear, but MarketWatch suggests that it’s simply named after the color of the American dollar.”

Green Monday, which falls on December 9, 2019, gives you a fabulous opportunity to engage holiday shoppers. With less than two weeks to go before Christmas, people shopping on this day will be on a mission to find presents and holiday-centric merchandise (think Christmas party outfits, supplies, and the like.)

Keep a close eye on your inventory and product movement on the days leading up to Green Monday and use that information to craft your offers. For instance, if one particular item isn’t selling too well, consider offering it a bargain on Green Monday, and market it as a Christmas present or something that customers can use in the holiday festivities.

And like for Black Friday and Cyber Monday, you’ll want to create a dedicated section or landing page specifically for Green Monday so shoppers can find all the products and deals in one place.

Giving Tuesday (often stylized as #GivingTuesday) – Feeling charitable? Then consider doing something on Giving Tuesday, which is celebrated on the Tuesday following American Thanksgiving (this year it falls on December 3).

As you might have guessed, Giving Tuesday is all about giving back. Organizations and consumers take part in charitable initiatives and social responsibility campaigns. Largely fueled by social media and collaboration, Giving Tuesday has been quite successful over the last few years.

According to Retail Dive, “U.S. non-profits reported receiving almost 1.1 million online donations worth $116.7 million on Tuesday, Dec. 1, based on numbers released by donation processors such as Blackbaud and PayPal.”

So how can you participate in Giving Tuesday? One idea is to join forces with a charitable organization. Retail Dive reported in 2015 that “Lands’ End partnered with the National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH) to donate a new coat for every one purchased online during one hour on Dec. 1.”

And if you have an active social media presence, use it to promote your #GivingTuesday initiatives. Check out what Home Depot did. According to the Giving Tuesday blog, in 2014, “the Home Depot Foundation USA launched a month-long campaign on #GivingTuesday that invited people to tweet using #DoingMore4Vets to support US veterans. From December 2 – December 31, the Foundation donated $1 for each re-tweet to four of their nonprofit partners, up to $400,000 total or $100,000 per organization.”

Your turn: What are your retail holiday plans?

We hope this post gave you some great ideas that you can implement in the upcoming retail holidays and beyond.

Now we’d like to hear from you: Are you planning to participate in any of these retail holidays? Why or why not? 

About Francesca Nicasio

Francesca Nicasio is Vend's Retail Expert and Content Strategist. She writes about trends, tips, and other cool things that enable retailers to increase sales, serve customers better, and be more awesome overall. She's also the author of Retail Survival of the Fittest, a free eBook to help retailers future-proof their stores. Connect with her on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Google+.