Black Friday: what’s all the fuss about?

By Dominique Sandwith

Posted on 14th November 2018

The tradition of ‘Black Friday’ came about in the USA in the1950s, when customers took to the shops to start their festive shopping the day after Thanksgiving – celebrated yearly on the fourth Thursday in November. Although this expression is now world-renowned, this was not the case until the early 2000s when the rise of globalisation spread the tradition around the world.

A little history lesson

It’s not confirmed as to where the name came from. There are a few different stories, such as that in Philadelphia it was used to describe the disruptive number of pedestrians on the streets or more recently to describe retailers moving from being ‘in the red’ to being ‘in the black’ – therefore turning a profit.


Conventionally ‘Black Friday’ is a day of extreme sales with retailers trying to clear stock by discounting it by 50% or even more. However, despite the benefits for customers, the day is starting to get a bad name as customers go to the extreme to get the best deals – inciting violence and bad behavior to get what they want (a far cry from the positivity of Thanksgiving and all it stands for).

How to get involved

That being said, if executed in a professional way, jumping on to the Black Friday trend can be a good move for businesses – even down here in South Africa. Here are five tips to ensure that you take advantage of interested customers and make as much out of the day as possible.


1.    Start early. If you’re reading this in November 2018 and thinking maybe you’ll do a Black Friday sale this year – don’t! This should get you to start thinking about 2019 and planning this sale into your strategy for the year. Plan your offer as early as July so that you have three months to start teasing your customers and a whole month or more to really market the deal that you have decided to offer.


2.    Be prepared. Whether you’re going to do this sale in-store or online, you need to prepare for the worst. If you’ve done all this marketing and customers have a bad experience then you’ve lost out on an opportunity to convert new customers to loyal ones, and will have a hard time convincing customers to come back again.


Prepare your stock for the deal, ensure that you’ll have delivery way in advance or stock up for a few months before you pack it out on the big day.


For online sales, make sure your site is running fast, there are no broken links or technical issues and that the site server is prepared for a massive increase in users.


3.    Offer something once off. Make this promotion the biggest and greatest one you’ll offer this year. Since you’re planning so far in advance, you should have an idea of what sales you’ll be running for the whole year so make sure you build up to something that will catch your customer’s attention and stand out from your competitors. Whether it’s 30% off everything or 50% off certain items or a free X with every Y – it needs to be big. It goes without saying that you don’t want to bankrupt yourself though, so make it the biggest deal you can afford and market it as well as possible.  


4.    Communicate. It goes without saying that you need to communicate this deal as much as possible to every potential customer on every touch point. Be strategic with your message and consistent across all platforms.


This should include a good social media campaign (a bit of humour or satire will go a long way to stand out here), a few newsletters reminding them of the deal as well as one on the day which provides the relevant promotion code (if there is one), in-store marketing material if relevant or even some flyers in your area to get the word out. You can’t communicate enough here as this is your only chance to make your offer known.

5.    Deliver what’s promised. Once you get your customers to your store – be it physically or online – make sure you deliver what you promised. Many of these customers are brand new and may never have interacted with your brand before.


You want them to have the best possible experience with your brand. This means that they get what they were looking for, and if not because of stock availability then they are able to buy a lesser deal or ‘consolation prize’ if possible.


It also means they should receive excellent customer service and that you make your returns policy as clear and easy to follow as possible – in case there are a few that have buyers’ remorse after the rush of Black Friday chaos settles. If it means refunding one or two people, but gaining loyalty for future purchases – it’s worth it!


6.    Learn from it. Once the dust has settled and you’ve recovered from this very busy campaign, it’s time to look at what worked and what to fix or avoid next time. Go over your website analytics, look at the customer data and see who bought your products, report back to staff or management on how you felt the campaign went, and write it all down. The following year when you start your Black Friday planning you’ll be thankful for the notes and you won’t make the same mistakes again.


It’s not imperative to get involved in the Black Friday experience but one thing you have to keep in mind is that it’s all or nothing. This is one day that customers won’t just buy for a 10% discount, the competition is strong out there and customers will go where the product offering is the best for the greatest discount.


Whether you’re offering something in store or only online, make sure you’ve ticked all the boxes and your customers will reward your efforts with lots of sales this holiday season. 

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