Prepare your small business for Black Friday (2023)
If you’re a small business owner, chances are that Black Friday is circled in bright colors on your calendar—and with good reason. Black Friday has routinely been the busiest day of the year for retail in the United States, and officially cuts the ribbon on the Christmas shopping season. That means big sales for consumers, and potentially big profits for businesses. It also means that retailers—small and big—need to be prepared.
During Black Friday, and its online cousin Cyber Monday, shoppers flock to online and in-person stores to score the best deals of the year. Due to the pandemic, more and more shoppers also take part in the frenzy online, which has forced businesses to think about their brick-and-mortar and e-commerce stores as equally important.
To take full advantage of Black Friday, small businesses need to properly prepare their teams, marketing strategies, inventory, and sales infrastructure to capture and handle the spike in demand.
Are you ready for the Black Friday shopping frenzy? If not, this article will help.
When is Black Friday in 2023?
Black Friday takes place on November 24, 2023. It will be quickly followed by Cyber Monday on November 27, 2023, officially kicking off the holiday shopping seasons in the United States.
5 eye-popping Black Friday statistics
Anybody who’s owned a retail store—or worked in one—can attest to the significance of Black Friday. But that becomes even clearer when you consider some recent Black Friday statistics.
Adobe Analytics data estimates that there were $9.12 billion dollars in sales on Black Friday in 2022.
Shopify alone says they processed $7.5 billion in sales through both online store and point-of-sale systems in 2022.
According to the Mastercard SpendingPulse report, both online and brick-and-mortar sales saw a major jump last year. In-store sales were up 12%, while commerce climbed by 14%.
Keep in mind these are statistics for just one day of sales. This means that Black Friday not only drives enormous revenue numbers for retails, but that revenue is also increasing by double digits year-over-year.
Five consumer categories in particular make up a sizable chunk of these sales. According to a report by Lightspeed, the top selling product categories in 2022 were:
House decor (25%)
Any retailers in these categories should pay particularly close attention to Black Friday. But the sales potential applies to virtually all small businesses who sell products or services online, or in person.
Why preparing for Black Friday is important
We’ll get into specific, actionable steps you can take to prepare for Black Friday in a second. But first, let’s double click on why preparation is important for retailers.
Black Friday, as we’ve highlighted already, is a massive day for retail sales. Because of that, it’s likely to drive a significant spike in one-day or weekend traffic to your in-store and online properties. That traffic—and the sales that it brings—can set you up nicely as a business going into the holiday season, but can also put strain on your existing systems and staff if you don’t properly prepare.
Stress testing your website, inventory, fulfillment, and team processes in advance—and putting temporary processes in place to handle the increased volume—will help to ensure that everything can operate properly at this larger scale. The last thing you want is one or multiple parts of your system to break down during the busiest shopping day of the year.
Of course, a spike in traffic and sales isn’t a guarantee. This is where the second part preparation comes in—promotion. Preparing for Black Friday also means planning which discounts you are going to offer, and how you intend to communicate and promote those offers to new and existing customers.
How to prepare for Black Friday e-commerce sales
Scalable systems and proper promotion are the two high-level themes of Black Friday preparation. Let’s dig into some actionable advice and steps from top e-commerce sellers in the PhotoRoom community to help you get ready for this year’s sales season.
1. Start preparing for Black Friday early
Black Friday is a one-day event, but proper preparation can take weeks and, sometimes, months depending on the size of your business and the complexity of your promotional campaigns.
In a recent roundtable discussion hosted by PhotoRoom, most participating retailers said that they start to prepare for Black Friday at least one month before the holiday weekend. For some, preparation begins as early as three months ahead of the event.
“Consumers are getting used to holidays coming sooner and sooner, and start to think about Christmas as early as late September or early October,” says Karen, founder of Whimsical Confections.
To meet that demand, retailers can begin to plan and promote Black Friday sales much earlier than the event itself. Apart from early promotion, preparation can also mean:
Identifying which products you’ll put on sale, and by how much
Ensuring you have adequate inventory to handle demand
Arranging the logistics to account for a spike in shipments and fulfillments
Ensuring your website is properly optimized for mobile and search and that it’s stable enough to handle a spike in volume
Getting sales collateral, graphics, and marketing collateral in order to promote your campaigns
Ensuring staff are aware of upcoming sales and ready to handle the spike in customer support inquiries
Many participants in the round table discussion said that they use PhotoRoom’s Batch Mode tool to help them update their listings and marketing materials ahead of Black Friday. This tool allows users to upload and edit multiple images at the same time, helping to expedite and simplify this part of the process.
2. Be intentional about your discounting strategy
Black Friday is about “deep” discounts that are significantly lower than shoppers can expect at any other time of year. This is what creates the demand and the record-breaking sales numbers.
According to Shopify data, the average retailers on their platform discounted products by 14.3% in 2022. While those deals are good, it’s not uncommon to see that level of discount at other times of the year.
To really stand out, you might want to consider going well below the average. Black Friday is the time of year to go low with your prices (if you can). The goal is to drive up sales volume for your business by driving down costs for the consumer. It’s a fine balance to strike, but one that leads to big profits for retailers every year.
Of course, any kind of deep price cut needs to be strategic. It’s usually unwise to lower the prices of your most in-demand products too much, as these are items that will likely sell anyway. Instead, target products and categories that you want to promote aggressively, and those that have potential for upsells and cross-sells. You can also target seasonal products for steep discounts, helping to drive up demand for timely products.
The timing of your discounts is also important. Some retailers, like panel participant Humberto, like to ramp up early.
“We start in early November as people are already buying and looking for deals. You really want to get ahead of the game so that you’re offering discounts to meet demand by November. That way you’ve already generated sales heading into Black Friday,” says Humberto, founder of Vintage Packs.
3. Think beyond Black Friday to the winter “sales season”
While Black Friday makes headlines for the single day sales volumes (and, let’s face it, the social media videos of the shopping frenzy), the entire holiday shopping season between Veteran’s Day (November 11, 2023) and Christmas is an opportunity to monster sales and revenues.
According to Adobe Analytics, retailers brought in a whopping $211.7 billion between October 1 and December 31, 2022. To address this demand, retailers should think of Black Friday as one part of a wider season of heightened sales that require more deliberate and bold marketing, and strategic discounting.
“For me as a reseller, the roadmap is to list, list, list, list. I see a spike in sales over Black Friday, and it keeps ramping up all the way to Christmas,” says Chris, founder of Cernoch's Connection.
4. Tailor your merchandising strategy to the sales event
Black Friday takes place in November, before the Christmas season and (for the Northern Hemisphere-ites readers) before winter begins. Depending on your location and business, that could have a direct impact on your merchandising and inventory strategy during Black Friday.
If, for example, you’re a business with significant seasonality—like clothing or sporting goods—you could consider discounting and promoting products that coincide with the upcoming seasons. These, presumably, are the products that most shoppers will be looking for on Black Friday.
Christmas is another consideration. In many cases, people will be shopping for gifts at a bargain. To meet this demand, source and promote items that make nice gifts for your target shoppers and their families.
This, of course, requires you to understand your target audience. Take a look at past years to see if there are any sales trends that coincide with the holiday season. If there are, consider promoting and discounting those items, and others in the same category.
“When you’re prepping, you want to look at sourcing items that someone would be looking for on Black Friday,” says Patricia.
5. Make sure your whole business is ready
We talked about this earlier, but Black Friday puts major pressure on multiple areas of a business, including:
Website and point-of-sale infrastructure
Inventory and merchandising
Shipping and logistics
Make sure you have a plan in place for each of these key areas, and are able to handle the increased sales volumes that are likely to come your way. For example, you might want to stock up on shipping supplies like packaging and labels to ensure that you don’t run out.
Likewise, you should consult with your e-commerce platform and POS provider to ensure that they have contingency plans in place to deal with a spike in traffic and transactions through their infrastructure.
6. Build an engaged audience you can retarget and nurture
Black Friday is the time to leverage the audiences and communities you’ve hopefully built up across your various marketing channels. Each of these audiences are potential target lists that you can advertise to—either through emails, organic content, remarketing ads, or direct messages.
Personalizing outreach is important here. Shoppers want to see ads that are relevant to them and their interests. To accomplish this, try segmenting your user lists based on factors like past purchases or topical interests. Once you have these segmented lists, you can create targeted messaging campaigns that you can send to the right audience, and the right times, to let them know about upcoming deals.
“I start SMS and email marketing at the end of October to get the customer’s attention so they know that a discount is coming,” says Humberto, founder of Vintage Packs.
7. Create an omnichannel experience for your customers
Shopping in 2023 is an omnichannel experience. Customers routinely shop in-store and buy online. Or shop online and buy in-store.
Because of that, 68% of global consumers prefer brands that offer an omnichannel experience—one that allows them to engage with brands, browse products, and communicate with support on the channel of their choosing. This is particularly important during Black Friday, when traffic and demand increases.
To meet this demand, retailers need to ensure that their products are shoppable on multiple channels—website, social media, and ecommerce marketplaces. Likewise, marketing outreach should also take an omnichannel approach, and include communications through emails, paid ads, organic social, blog posts, videos and more.
Together, this will ensure that you are reaching customers across multiple potential touchpoints, and allowing them to make transactions when it suits them.
This is also a good time to experiment with new channels that you haven’t used yet. Branch out to new platforms and tactics like social selling or live selling to see what resonates with your target shoppers, and what doesn’t. This allows you to test new sales and marketing tactics, new messages, and potentially attract new audiences who may not have found you through existing channels.
Some sellers in PhotoRoom’s panel discussion, for example, found success experimenting with live selling channels like WhatNot. Others have taken advantage of TikTok’s selling feature, or YouTube’s reach to attract new viewers and promote new sales.
“In every YouTube video I put out, I mention my upcoming sales on WhatNot. I saw a crazy increase in sales. One time, I held a glass sale starting at $1 per piece, and sold more than $1500 of product in two hours,” says Tim, founder of Over The Years.
8. Use Black Friday templates for social media graphics
Imagery plays a major role in promoting your products and brand during Black Friday. This is true all year round, but it’s particularly important during high-profile, time-sensitive campaigns that require promotion across multiple channels.
Small businesses need to be able to quickly and easily create campaign-specific imagery that can be used or repurposed across various marketing channels. Ideally, this imagery should make it clear that a particular product is part of a Black Friday sale.
Many small businesses struggle with the burden of creating tailors images like this at scale for a single campaign. It requires dedicated resources—either in-house or third-party—that can add significant costs for a business looking to make a profit from Black Friday.
PhotoRoom helps to expedite and simplify this process by offering pre-built Black Friday and Cyber Monday background templates that you can quickly apply to your product images. Batch Mode, as mentioned earlier, allows you to upload multiple images at the same time and apply universal backgrounds and sizing specifications across all of your images.
See some examples of PhotoRoom’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday templates at work.
9. Use Instant Backgrounds to create interesting and creative product photos
Black Friday—and the wider holiday shopping season—is also a time to market and position your products in new and exciting ways to drum up interest. One way to do that is to stage them for the season, or alongside bundles of similar products. Again, small businesses can find it challenging to pull this off at scale if they have limited marketing or photography resources at their disposal.
PhotoRoom’s Instant Backgrounds tool opens a new world of possibilities for small businesses, helping them to quickly create new versions of their product photos in just a few clicks.
Simply upload a product photo to the Instant Backgrounds tool. PhotoRoom’s AI technology will automatically create new backgrounds based on the primary object in the image. These backgrounds are a variety of contextual or lifestyle images, solid colors, or abstract art.
PhotoRoom Pro users can also input custom prompts that ask the platform to generate entirely new background images to create even more unique variations.
For retailers and shoppers, Black Friday lives up to the annual hype. It’s the single biggest shopping day of the year, and the official start to the holiday shopping season in the United States. Retailers who wish to join in on the fun need to take steps to prepare their stores and teams for the frenzy.
If product photographs are a top concern for you this Black Friday, then we invite you to try PhotoRoom today. It’s accessible on mobile devices and can be downloaded from the App Store or the Google Play Store, or you can sign up here directly. Set up your account in less than a minute, and start saving hours of your life for more important tasks.