With consumers shopping online 24/7, Black Friday is becoming less important. Here's how small businesses can make the most of the shopping season.
With deals cropping up throughout November and December, shoppers are less convinced they should care about Black Friday--and Cyber Monday, billed as the e-commerce blowout of the year.
According to the National Retail Federation, online holiday sales are expected to increase as much as 15 percent to $82 billion this year. Those numbers will only keep rising as shoppers whip out their smartphones and tablets to make on-the-spot purchases and perform price comparisons that help them make decisions in stores, says Jordan Edelson, CEO of New York-based digital agency Appetizer Mobile. Here are some tactics--via Edelson and Scott Steinberg, CEO of TechSavvy Global, a consulting and marketing research firm--that small businesses can use to bolster sales as the Black Friday hype begins to fade.
Provide Passbook and Wallet integration
Passbook allows Apple smartphone users to store promotions and coupons redeemable in store, similar to the Google Wallet feature on Android. Both are powerful tools with geo-targeting features that let retailers send notifications about sales to customers within spending distance. These tools can also alert shoppers of price drops as they occur, equally powerful in a cash-strapped economy. “A lot of applications allow retailers to set notifications as items change in value,” says Edelson.
Track customers in stores
Small businesses are just as concerned about showrooming (when customers peruse products in stores, only to buy them from a different retailer online) as their big box counterparts. Some businesses are fighting back by offering their own applications with highly targeted information. “These are designed to keep you in stores,” says Edelson. Plus, the technology provides stores with a general sense of where shoppers are browsing. With the aim of creating a more engaging ecosystem within the retail environment, Edelson expects these stores to track customers' movements so that when they hold up their phone to a product, they’ll not only receive a pop-up with information but a video showing just what’s inside.
Create eye-popping promotions
Retailers that lack the tech tools mentioned above need to find even more creative ways to stand out, says Steinberg. For some, that might mean pushing sales even earlier or creating "jarring promotions" that clash with traditional promotions (think Patagonia's "buy less" campaign, which encourages consumers to wear their products until they're ruined). Companies can look for ways to create perceptions of value by marking down excess inventory. Or compete on customer service, say, by adding extended warranties free of charge. "It's a constant crush to compete on price and value and for a customer's attention," he says. "Shopping is done 24/7 and is practically infinite."