Last year, shoppers spent $9.12 billion on Black Friday—the discount and deals holiday immediately following Thanksgiving. But it’s not just the big brands that benefit—small businesses also can take advantage of the annual shopping extravaganza, if they prepare wisely.
And if there’s one group of experts who know the magic of Black Friday ecommerce and Shopify, it’s Shopify Partners; the professionals providing services in the Shopify Experts marketplace and building apps for the Shopify App Store.
We reached out to these experts to get their advice on how to best prepare for Black Friday as a small business owner in 2023. Here’s what they say are the best Black Friday bets.
- Delight your customers
- Make sure your store is fast
- Make it easy for customers to find the products they want
- Consider your timelines
- Offer exclusive Black Friday deals
- Collaborate with other small businesses
- Enhance the in-store experience
- Optimize your online presence
- Leverage your email marketing strategy
- Extend the Black Friday sales period
1. Delight your customers
Stand out to your customers this Black Friday by taking the extra time to connect with your customers. “People are looking for connection and inspiration,” says Bita Shahian, founder of Shopify Plus ecommerce agency Exhibea.
To build that sense of connection with your customers, don’t be afraid to show shoppers that they’re buying from a real person—not a faceless entity. One way of doing this, Bita suggests, is to leverage different surfaces to share messages of gratitude.
“Incorporating a note of gratitude to your customers in Shopify’s order confirmation emails is a great way to thank your customers for continuing to consider your store when they want a little indulgence,” Bita explains. “Or get creative with new ways to reach and delight your customers by incorporating meaningful copy on different areas of your Shopify storefront.”
While Bita suggests a note of gratitude by email, there also are other ways to show your appreciation:
- A gift or sample in each order
- Post-purchase discounts
- Handwritten thank-you notes
How you show your thanks will depend on your unique business, but the benefits of doing so will extend beyond the holiday season. Gratitude can go a long way in creating loyal customers who have trust in your small business.
2. Make sure your store is fast
Speed is vitally important to your conversion rate—the faster your store loads, the more sales you’re likely to make. Checking the online store speed report in your admin is a great first step in determining how your store performs compared to others.
Ensuring that everything is running quickly and smoothly is paramount according to web developer and digital agency founder Celso White.
“Given COVID-19 and the amount of online shopping we expect to see this Black Friday and Cyber Monday, I recommend focusing your efforts on site optimization,” Celso says. “Evaluate what is essential and how you can improve performance on key pages. If you know the pages that will be visited the most, then focus your efforts there first.”
One of the places to start is with your site’s visuals. “Make sure they’re lazy loaded, so they only load when the user sees them,” Celso adds. “This will improve the initial page load and make your site feel zippy to users. Images should also be loaded at the right size for each device.”
Optimizing your images means reducing their file size without sacrificing quality, making them load faster and look great no matter what device your customer is using.
Bita fagrees speed is important, cautioning that apps and unnecessary scripts can slow down your site if you’re not careful. “If you’re looking to improve your site speed as we approach the Black Friday and Cyber Monday season, collaborate with a developer to remove unessential apps beforehand,” Bita says “Before installing a new app, ensure it’s vital to your business and growth goals.”
Shopify experts are another option to speed up your store’s performance. You can connect with these trusted professionals in the Shopify Experts marketplace, and find help with Black Friday Cyber Monday (BFCM) strategies.
3. Make it easy for customers to find the products they want
A clean user experience makes it easier for customers to find the right item, which means you have higher chances of making a sale.
“Customers have lots of online options, and you don’t want to bet on them putting in the hard work of discovering products they may love on your site,” says Sharon Goldstein, CEO of LimeSpot, a Shopify Plus certified personalization app. “Consumers are conditioned by marketplaces to expect a personalized experience.”
A personalized experience means understanding what customers need at every stage of the buyer journey. Sharon recommends focusing on a few specific areas:
- Top-of-funnel visibility for your products: “Make sure that your full product catalog is in Google Shopping, and that your email cadence with customers includes inspirational emails with personalized recommendations,” Sharon says.
- Product discoverability: “Use personalization to put the right products in front of the right customers so they move from browser to buyer in fewer clicks,” Sharon explains. This can be done using personalization apps so you’re targeting customers as they click through your store.
Celso agrees that removing friction between your customers and the products they want is key. “It’s especially important during Black Friday and Cyber Monday to structure your site so it’s clear, quick to navigate, and has very little friction in the purchase experience,” Celso says.“It’s the time to optimize your site’s user experience and design. By working on one aspect, you assist in the optimization of the others. Don’t be afraid to reduce the clutter.”
For help with discoverability and optimization, check out the sales and conversion optimization category on the Shopify App Store. Depending on your use case, these apps can help you target your efforts to your audience and increase your order volume.
4. Consider your timelines
With Black Friday and Cyber Monday fast approaching, it’s important to remember your timelines and get started in advance. “Customers will start their shopping early by doing research,” says Sharon of LimeSpot.
“Buying experiences will start on Amazon, in Google, or via emails, so you want to be highly visible on at least the latter two. And given financial realities, customers are likely to do more research upfront to optimize their deals.”
With research starting early, it’s important that customers can find your store easily. We’ve already touched on optimizing your online store for Google search, but Sharon’s advice also highlights the importance of getting your email marketing in order leading up to Black Friday.
Celso agrees that managing timelines is key, specifically from a technological perspective: “If you’ve been working on a new and more complex feature or upgrade to your site, then I recommend holding off on releasing it until after Black Friday and Cyber Monday. You want to limit the number of things that can go wrong in the code, especially when dealing with high traffic.”
Now’s not the time to introduce big changes—instead, you want to spend this time testing your store, to be sure your customers won’t run into any trouble when Black Friday shopping. Place a test order to make sure your checkout, order processing, inventory, shipping, email notifications, and taxes are all working correctly.
5. Offer exclusive Black Friday deals
Black Friday is a major holiday shopping season because customers know they can get special deals from their favorite brands. Take this into consideration and offer discounts to both new and existing customers this Black Friday.
Percentage-based discounts are easiest to manage since you can create them in the Shopify dashboard and determine when and where the code can be redeemed. But this can leave you open to dents in your profit margin—especially considering most people expect a Black Friday discount of up to 30%.
Alternative ways to capitalize on discount-hungry Black Friday shoppers include:
- Free gifts or samples with any order
- Gift cards to redeem on their next purchase
- Limited-time special offers that expire at midnight on Black Friday
- Buy one, get one free deals
- Bundle discounts to increase average order value
Lauren Witwicki, owner of oatmeal brand 5oat5, offers an exclusive product throughout her business’s Black Friday campaign.
“Given the fact that we are a fairly new category of product in the packaged goods market, we want to use the excitement around Black Friday to offer our biggest discount to encourage people to give our product a shot,” Lauren says. “We will also be offering a limited-time-only flavor of oatmeal that will only be available during the Black Friday weekend.”
Regardless of which deal you’re offering, promote it through Black Friday social media posts and email marketing campaigns. Use countdown timers to create a sense of urgency. It could be the nudge that convinces new and existing customers to hit “Checkout.”
6. Collaborate with other small businesses
Unlike big-box stores, small businesses have the advantage of collaborating directly with other entrepreneurs to reach the same goal: more sales.
Find complementary businesses that don’t directly compete with your own. If you sell coffee roasting beans, for example, find a local independent coffee shop and run a joint promotion that gets people in their store and drinking your roast.
Other collaboration ideas for small businesses include:
- A shop-in-shop
- Collaborative products
- A gift guide featuring products from local small businesses
- Joint marketing campaigns where you cross-promote each other’s products
7. Enhance the in-store experience
Not all Black Friday shoppers head online to take advantage of deals. Some 30% of Black Friday shoppers still intend to shop in-store.
Decorate your store with Black Friday–themed displays to entice in-person shoppers. You could offer complimentary refreshments or a sales event, run small giveaways, or host fun competitions like “Guess how many products are in the jar,” where the winner gets a special prize.
Above all, customer experience should fall highest on your priority list. Train retail staff to provide exceptional customer service to everyone who comes through the door. Even if new customers don’t purchase during their visit, a positive first impression increases the odds of them coming back.
Wendy Wang, of F&J Outdoors, says it’s important to be prepared for the influx of Black Friday shoppers. “Our biggest struggle was managing the surge in customer queries efficiently. We fell short in terms of speed and effectively keeping up with customer communications during the sale days,” Wendy says. “We’re tackling this issue head-on this year by expanding our customer service team and implementing an improved CRM system. This will help us handle customer queries promptly and maintain high customer satisfaction.”
8. Optimize your online presence
Online shoppers might see your Black Friday campaigns through sneak peaks on social media or email. Don’t leave them feeling confused when they visit your online store.
Make the experience consistent by updating your website with Black Friday banners and clear calls-to-action in the following locations:
Wendy says that keeping all your customer-facing surfaces in sync is critical to a healthy Black Friday and Cyber Monday season.“We are optimizing our website for the anticipated increased traffic during these sales to ensure a seamless shopping experience for our customers,” Wendy says. “We’re currently setting up strategic online marketing campaigns using SEO, PPC advertising and social media to further spread the word about our offer. We are also revising our shipping and return policies for the sale period to keep it hassle-free for customers.”
9. Leverage your email marketing strategy
Email marketing is a powerful and direct way of communicating with holiday shoppers. Instead of relying on ever-changing social media algorithms, your Black Friday marketing messages get delivered straight to customers’ inboxes.
Build an email list of existing and potential customers using Shopify Email. Then, send targeted Black Friday email campaigns with exclusive offers based on interactions they’ve already had with your small business, such as:
- Sales they’ve shopped
- Products they’ve bought
- Time since their most recent purchase
“One of the biggest strategies we are using is ramping up our email and SMS collection,” says Jeff Moriarty, owner of Moriarty’s Gem Art. “Each year we find these channels to be our most successful. We are not only using pop-ups, but social media campaigns and third-party tools like Retention to grab more emails than ever before.”
Jeff says that the subject line is a key focus for this year’s campaigns. “In the previous years we have found our open rates dropping, which is a struggle,” Jeff says. “Because of that we are trying more AI-generated subject lines. It has worked well so far this year, so we will see how it does over Black Friday.”
Take the same approach for your small business by using Shopify Magic inside Shopify Email. Simply click the magic button and describe the subject line you want to create. The generative AI tool will suggest several subject lines you could test.
10. Extend the Black Friday sales period
For small businesses, there’s a lot of work that goes into Black Friday. Extending the sales period can not only squeeze more value from your campaigns, but also capture shoppers who are still looking for deals over the Black Friday Cyber Monday weekend.
That might mean:
- Early bird deals the week prior to Black Friday
- Small Business Saturday specials
- A “last chance” or coupon that expires the day after Black Friday
- A promotion that spans the entire BFCM weekend
“Last year, we had so many orders in one go it pushed our delivery times up, so we want to try to avoid that,” says Clare Jones, outreach manager at Custom Neon.
This year, the brand plans to mitigate this problem by extending the discount window, and “plan to run multiple flash sale promos to score some fabulous deals before the Christmas rush. We hope this may help stagger sales a little.”
Prepare your small business with the best Black Friday ideas
Commerce is ever-changing, and this year, it’s changing faster than ever.
This advice from experienced Shopify experts will help get your small business ready for the biggest shopping day of the year. Increase holiday sales by delighting your customers, speeding up your store, optimizing the shopping experience, and getting started early.
Need extra help? You can hire experienced Shopify experts in the Shopify Experts marketplace who can help you get your store ready for the Black Friday Cyber Monday weekend. Or, add additional tools and functionality to your store with Black Friday apps from the Shopify App Store.
Small business Black Friday FAQ
Is Black Friday good for small business?
Yes, Black Friday is good for small businesses if they are prepared and have competitive deals. Promote your business beforehand to draw attention from customers looking for discounts. Don’t worry about competing with the big brands and offering bigger discounts than them. Just do what’s best for you.
What is the small business version of Black Friday?
The small business version of Black Friday is “Small Business Saturday,” which occurs the day after Black Friday. It’s a day that encourages consumers to support and shop at their local small businesses, promoting community and growth.
How small businesses can prepare for Black Friday?
Small businesses can prepare for Black Friday by analyzing past sales data to forecast demand and stocking up on popular or discounted items. They can also create unique promotions to attract customers and prepare staff for the increased foot traffic during the event.
How does Black Friday affect small businesses?
Black Friday can give small businesses a big boost in sales if they can tap into the shopping frenzy. You have to prepare enough resources, inventory, and staff to ensure customers get their products and are happy with the experience.