Far before November is even on the horizon, millions of merchants across the globe get to thinking about how they can prepare for the annual sales bonanza that is Black Friday. And it’s easy to see why – online spend on Black Friday reached £1.49bn in the UK alone last year, and this level of spending is typical across the whole of Europe. Ingenico’s data from just one of its online payment platforms that caters to growing businesses saw European merchants process 90% more transactions during the 2018 annual shopping bonanza than on the average Friday, with consumers spending 175% more. Cross-border purchases also soared by 73% from 2017-18, a figure which is destined to rise this year as shoppers hunt for best buys beyond their domestic market.
The opportunities are evident, but if businesses don’t know how to tap in, they risk losing out. We spoke to Ingenico’s regional experts ViolaineRigaut (Country Manager, France), Oscar Martinez (Country Manager, Spain), and Ray Bak (Sales Director, UK, Belgium and Netherlands), to gather their top tips on how SMBs can make the most of the annual peak sales event.
What trends are you seeing in your region this year?
Violaine: In France we’re seeing an increasing number of people shop online, as well as waiting for special occasions like Black Friday to save money on Christmas gifts, with the usual winners –electronic devices, clothes, shoes.
Sustainability is also entering the scene, with the new generation eager to offset any environmental negativity associated with the peak sales day by adopting a more conscious purchasing behaviour, trying to reduce packaging and long deliveries especially.
Oscar: mCommerce will continue to be the main trend here in Spain. According to Hootsuite, 96% of Spanish citizens have a mobile phone and87% have smartphones. Furthermore, 43% of Spaniards use their mobile phones to make their purchases online, according to the latest Ipsos study.
To make the most of this audience, it’s important that merchants continue to build better mobile experiences for consumers and turn more smartphone visitors into buyers.
Ray: Both Dutch and Belgian consumers harbour lower awareness of Black Friday compared to their European counterparts, so there’s still work to be done. Nevertheless, Black Friday in the Netherlands is increasing in popularity every year, and last year we saw a 27% increase in online business. Both regions also present a budding market to growing merchants with around a quarter of consumers (26% and 23% respectively) preferring to shop solely with SMBs last year. So, although there’s improvements to be made on marketing and awareness to make it an even bigger success, the opportunity is apparent.
Black Friday in these regions sees particular successes in the sales of electronics, followed closely by clothing and accessories.For now, consumers will be shopping primarily for SinterKlaas and Christmas.
How can SMBs compete with the big players?
Violaine: The “Made in France” movement is gaining real interest over here, with consumers seeking out smaller, local retailers instead of shopping with the big ecommerce players. If smaller merchants are able to show personalisation, local production, take French identity and traditions into stock, and show that they are helping the community – for example, by employing locals – they have a true opportunity to thrive.
Oscar:Differentiation and exclusivity are key to entering the Spanish market. Move away from in-demand products for which you cannot compete on price and offer niche products instead.
Ray:Service is essential to differentiate from the big web shops – make customers feel valued with friendly service, good delivery times, low shipment costs and a personal touch.
Making sure your website is SEO-friendly is also a key way to compete against the giants with a small budget. Use social media as a budget marketing tool. By being active on social media, you will increase your Google ranking and your relationship with your customer.
Do you think it’s worth smaller merchants getting involved in Black Friday, or are there better ways to boost revenue and grow customer bases?
Violaine:Black Friday and Christmas are great opportunities for smaller merchants to promote their offering and stand out from ecommerce giants.However, it’s essential not to underestimate the importance of regional opportunities, where SMBs can promote themselves on a more local level. Local set-ups such as Christmas markets are a great way to promote visibility and brand awareness, as well as increase your customer base. Following these events with marketing campaigns will drive more people online and help increase customer loyalty.
Oscar: Black Friday doesn’t tend to bethe main source of annual revenue generation for growing businesses, so it’s always a wise move to look into other options.
In the USA there’s a rising alternative to Black Friday for small merchants called “Small Business Saturday”. The event was started by American Express in 2010 and is celebrated on the Saturday between Black Friday and Cyber Monday. It encourages consumers to get out and shop at their local neighbourhood stores,making it a good opportunity for small businesses to promote themselves on a more level playing field.
Ray: Don’t be afraid to battle with the big players. Take advantage of the marketing power that these large merchants will create on Black Friday by focussing on clever SEO and using the right social media.