Ways to Capitalize on Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday

Ready, set, shop! Or, if you’re a merchant: Sell!

It’s November, which means it’s holiday shopping season and 30% to 40% of a retail business’s annual profits are likely going to be made in the next 60 days. No matter how prepared merchants are for the holiday onslaught, there are some last-minute ways to capitalize on the Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday madness.

No matter what your market, this holiday shopping season stands to be one of the best ever. Consider that since 2009, when the shopping economy posted a minimal gain of .2% following the nearly 5% decline of the Great Recession, retail sales have posted year-to-year gains ranging from 2.6% to 5.2%. The National Retail Federation says Americans spent nearly $682 billion or an average of just over $967 per shopper last year, which means merchants are in for a happy holiday season.

Thanks to marketing geniuses who organized the Thanksgiving parades – Macy’s in New York City (1924) and Eaton’s in Toronto, Canada (1905) – the appearance of Santa in those parades established the fourth Friday of November as the start of the holiday shopping season and would later become known as Black Friday.

The other days in the Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday shopping weekend are a bit more contemporary. Cyber Monday was named by Ellen Davis of the National Retail Federation in 2005 in response to the growth of online shopping. Small Business (SMB) Saturday, which encourages shoppers to patronize independent brick-and-mortar merchants, was started by American Express in 2010 in response to the Black Friday success of big-box stores. eMarketer reports that the Thanksgiving weekend combination of Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday accounted for nearly 18% of all holiday shopping last year.

U.S. Shoppers spent $7.9 billion on Black Friday alone in 2017. Cyber Monday added another $6.6 billion and was the single largest e-commerce day last year. And even though Small Business Saturday sales were down slightly from 2016, it still added $12.9 billion to the coffers of independent merchants.

“We knew going in that retailers were going to have a good holiday season, but the results are even better than anything we could have hoped for, especially given the misleading headlines of the past year,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said earlier this year. “Whether they shopped in-store, online or on their phones, consumers were in the mood to spend, and retailers were there to offer them good value for their money.”

Experts expect this year to be even better. Deloitte’s annual holiday retail forecast predicts up to $1.1 trillion in sales from November to January which would be close to a 5.6% jump from 2017. The report says e-commerce holiday sales alone will grow around 22% this year.

Some major retailers are pushing back this year against the holiday shopping creep – the incremental advancement of Black Friday sales to Thanksgiving Day openings – with more than 60 already announcing they won’t be open on the holiday. That seems to be OK with most Americans, too. BestBlackFriday.com’s Sept. 30 survey shows that only 24.7% of them like shopping on Thanksgiving Day while 47.7% dislike the holiday store openings.

Get a Piece of the Holiday Pie

With all that money in play, savvy merchants today don’t put all their gifts in one holiday basket. Even though the number of people braving the Black Friday crowds fell about 4% in 2017, close to 137 million still hit the retail bricks over the weekend, which is close to 30% more than 2015. And with 85% of holiday sales taking place in brick-and-mortar stores last year, it’s evident having both attractive online sales and engaging in-store shopping experiences is more important than ever.

The most recent survey – 2018 City Retail Services Study – says nearly three-quarters of shoppers plan to purchase gifts in a brick-and-mortar store this season.


of all holiday shoppers plan to purchase gifts in stores this holiday season

However, next-gen shoppers also said were planning to shop:


on a computer


on a mobile device


through a virtual assistant

Source: 2018 Citi Retail Services Study

“Omnichannel” is the popular buzzword for the all-encompassing sales approach that includes online and in-store efforts. Combining marketing, sales and customer management into a single, unified effort has been steadily gaining traction for years. More than 60% of retailers displayed in-store merchandise on their websites last year, a 25% increase over 2016.

That “omnichannel” effort can be made simpler through streamlining businesses processes in a digital business platform. Comprehensive systems incorporate features and integrations that simplify inventory management, customer service and relations, digital marketing and outreach, and back office operations.

“Stores need to embrace new ideas and all technology offers. Merchants need to create a strong digital image for their stores including customer loyalty programs, geofencing marketing efforts, automated customer satisfaction surveys, mobile-friendly e-commerce customer portals, digital advertising, and strong, secure in-store Wi-Fi,” says Dan Nesmith, president of Paladin Data Corp, which develops and provides digital business platforms. “Consumers expect more from merchants today. Due in part to the evolution of retail, which now offers more personalized choices from e-commerce companies, shoppers want similar features from their neighborhood stores.”

Holiday Selling Checklist

There are some easy ways for merchants to make sure Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday are the most wonderful days of the year.

Focus on customer service.

Personal service is the realm where brick-and-mortar stores rules. E-commerce sites can make all the automated search engine “suggestions” they want, but shoppers respond to engaging shopping experiences and customer service representatives who have personal experience with the products they’re selling. Make sure your seasonal employees are well-trained in your product line.

Emphasize immediate gratification.

“Brickandmortar stores in smaller cities and towns still have convenience on their side. Remember that even with Amazon Prime, free shipping still takes two days,” says Deborah Sweeney, CEO at MyCorporation.com which advises independent retailers. Google says product searches with the terms “near me,” “can I buy” or “to buy” have grown over 500% over the past two years, giving evidence to the sound health of brick-and-mortar retail.   

Stock up on gift cards.

The National Retail Federation found in 2017 that 6 in 10 consumers hoped to receive gift cards at Christmas, and gift-givers planned on buying an average of four cards worth roughly $45 each to spread their holiday cheer. Total gift card spending was expected to reach more than $27 billion.

Click and collect.

An easy way to both attract online shoppers and improve in-store sales is to set up a location in your store where your e-commerce shoppers can pick up their merchandise. According to the  “Future of Fulfillment Vision Study,” many store owners are adding to or altering their stores to serve as fulfillment centers for people who order products online.

The service is also paying dividends for in-store sales. “The Rise of the Click and Collect Superconsumer,” a study by OrderDynamics, says 51% of people who click and collect make unplanned purchases when they pick up their orders, spending, on average, an extra $40 per trip.

Payment preparation.

Double check your website to make sure it can handle holiday traffic. Also make sure your e-commerce and in-store payment processes use the most current verification to smooth sales transactions and avoid fraudulent charges. Nothing puts the Grinch in holiday shopping like sticky customer checkout.

Go mobile.

Make sure your website is mobile friendly. Total Retail reports orders from mobile devices reached record highs during the fourth quarter of 2017, and Thanksgiving was the first time ever computer-based orders dipped below 50% of online purchases.

Last Christmas marked the first day that mobile accounted for more than 50% of all purchases. Mobile devices also accounted for 30% of Cyber Monday sales last year, so making sure your website is smart phone-friendly is huge. Data from Hitwise, an internet company that tracks website activity, reports that searches with the phrase “Near Me” have increased 500% since 2015. It also says these searches spike during the holiday season and are most frequently made on mobile devices.

Also make sure your store is available to local search engines such as Local.com or Google.com which can improve holiday foot traffic. For more information about how to optimize your business for search engine traffic, see our article on How to Optimize your Google Business Listing.

Don’t Forget Super Saturday and Beyond

As much attention is paid to Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday, Super Saturday, also known as Panic Saturday, has proven to be the biggest day of the retail season at brick-and-mortar stores.

Americans’ penchant for procrastination was highlighted in a 2016 survey by the National Retail Federation that found 66% of Americans, approximately 155.7 million, planned to shop in brick-and-mortar stores on the last Saturday before Christmas. That was more than the number taking to the stores on Thanksgiving weekend.

The same study showed that 48% of consumers planned to shop after-Christmas sales and 44% planned to look for post-holiday e-commerce bargains.

Ho, Ho, Holidays

Even though your holiday marketing plans are already set and in motion, and the anticipation and tension are building, it’s not too late to improve your year-end sales pitch.

Brian Bullock