In less than 10 years, Black Friday has become a significant sales day to reckon with in South Africa. Bricks and mortar stores were the first to bring the originally American concept to our shores in 2016 and it didn’t take long for online retailers to implement key Black Friday strategies. After the relative quiet of 2020, Black Friday sales have risen steadily and 2023 looks set to be a bumper year. But is it all it’s cracked up to be? Yes and no, says Duncan Colville, Shopify expert and development director at The Digital Media Collective (TDMC), one of South Africa’s leading e-commerce agencies. He shares his insights:
As we see the images in the media of consumers jostling to get the Smart TV they’ve been eyeing all year for a discounted price, it’s hard to consider that Black Friday could be about anything other than crazy sales and fantastic discounts, but key to this period is building a powerful customer base, says Colville. “Getting people onto your platform and trying to loop them into your customer journey should be your primary goal, that’s why we often tell our e-comm clients that the data they gain is so much more valuable than the sales they might make at often unsustainable discounts,” he says. “This is because your chances of converting visitors to loyal customers is higher using effective communications once they’re on site.”
It’s one thing deciding to engage in Black Friday, but it’s another to ensure it goes relatively smoothly, says Colville. “First you need clear marketing and sales goals and a sound idea of which channels you plan to use for these – organic marketing is never going to be enough to get the word out. Then you need to allocate some spend to paid media to cast your net wider, especially given the noise at this time.” Practical measures are key at this time too, he says, and this includes ensuring your inventory systems are sound, your supply chain network is optimised, and that your physical processes like picking and packing are planned for high traffic execution. Importantly, says Colville, you need to ensure your servers are ready to scale for expected capacity. “This is where a platform like Shopify is really useful since they can handle capacity – you can even implement queuing systems to manage customer expectations efficiently.”
Consumers are savvy and at this time of year are hungry for what they perceive as real deals. “One of the easiest and most effective ways to increase sales is to offer bundle deals or cross-selling options that unlock discounts according to basket size,” says Colville. He adds that Black Friday is an opportunity to move product while at the same time mining for valuable data. “If you can sell excess stock at a lower price point and still gain potential future customers, that’s a good sale,” he says.
After the Black Friday dust settles, what now? “After sales support and communication is just as important as the deals themselves,” explains Colville.
Black Friday is just one sales period in the year – Christmas is just a few weeks later, so this period of time after the customer checks out is invaluable. Re-engaging customers is key, he says. “We recommend up to four customer contacts after a purchase and encourage including subscriber-only discounts and reviews to cement that relationship.” Building relationships is key to fostering trust and repeat business, and you can do that through efficient and positive communications and by incentivising customers to lean into your community.
“Black Friday can’t fix fundamental business issues,” says Colville. While there is a lot that Black Friday can do in moving stock and growing a bigger customer database, it is a tool and not a solution for businesses, and especially e-comm retailers. He says Black Friday will only ever act as a band aid on a business that is struggling. Since Black Friday relies on significant outlay in terms of logistics and manpower for businesses it may be more prudent to focus financial efforts on fixing fundamental issues first.