Click vs Brick: The Real Business Impact of Black Friday for SMEs

Now that we have had nearly two weeks to recover from the chaos of the yearly Black Friday frenzy, it’s time to reflect on the real world impact for small to medium businesses. What this blog will outline is the direct results of Black Friday 2018, and how you can begin to better place your business for greater success come 2019.

Firstly, before we dive into the aspects that contribute to the major winners of Black Friday 2018, we need to set a bit of context of the overall success of this year's festive frenzy.  Sigma, a user experience agency, reported that this year's Black Friday gave the UK's retail sector an impressive cash injection of £7 Billion! Though Vend, a retail management platform, reported that in-store spending dropped by as much as 7% over the Black Friday period. All the while spending has increased by a whopping 28% compared to previous weeks.

With all this in mind, these numbers tell a very sobering story for many SMEs, with a small amount of online retail giants soaking up a vast amount of the Black Friday glory. One thing is obvious though, each of these giants has three very common traits that massively contribute to their overall success.

Below we will outline these three common traits, then conclude with how you can prepare to take advantage of Black Friday 2019. Yes, we said it, Christmas 2019, and we haven't even said goodbye to 2018 yet. When will it stop!

1. Digital Dominates

I know, this is an obvious one, but there are some very simple reasons as to why online sales continue to rocket through the roof. Firstly, we have become creatures of comfort, being able to avoid bustling high streets, crazy cues, and fistfights in Asda makes online shopping a breeze. Also, online retailers have the added benefit of launching Black Friday offers hours before brick and mortar retailers. Being able to launch offers from any time, means customers can have purchases made before they even go to bed the night before. This, amongst many other advantages, has put even more of an emphasis on SMEs establishing a solid digital strategy to remain competitive. Remember though, throwing up any old eCommerce site isn't a solution. The modern day digital consumer has high expectations, thus, being able to offer a solid customer experience is vital to closing business. Statistics compiled by UKFast emphasise this most, citing that over half of consumers accessing a site from a mobile device will leave if the site takes more than three seconds to load.

“Black Friday is an incredible opportunity for online retailers to offer their best deals, but preparation is key. There’s nothing more frustrating than spotting a product you like and clicking through to a website that’s too slow to load.” – Lawrence Jones, UKFast

2. Speed is the Name of the Game

As cited above, speed comes into play for a digital consumer when it comes to site load speeds. Though this isn't the only aspect where speed is vital to Black Friday success. The majority of success stories from Black Friday come from online retailers who have fast and efficient processes and systems that allow them to be agile enough to react to trends and demand. These organisations are streamlined enough to fulfil orders, ship, and process accurately and quickly. The name of the game here is solid processes supported by modern back-end business systems. This allows them to be in complete control of the entire customer experience and transaction. For many SMEs, the ability to compete at this level can often seem like a pipe dream, but there are solutions on the market that are made specifically for SMEs to be able to compete like a retail giant.

3. Preparation is Vital

Last, but by no means least, Preparation! Organisations like Amazon take upwards of 12 months to prepare for their Black Friday event every year. Now, we all know that SMEs like us don't have the manpower, nor the ability to invest so much time betting on Black Friday every year. One thing is for sure though, ensuring your business is prepared and capable to deliver, with the correct systems and processes in place, is one way to solidify your offering.

How Should You React?

Simply put, you need to embrace this shift to digital first, this isn't a fleeting trend that is going to fizzle out. Digital is here to stay, and you can't fight it, only embrace it and play it at its own game.

However, bricks and mortar stores shouldn’t be shutting up shop just yet.

In the recent budget announcement, chancellor Philip Hammond pledged £1.5 billion pounds worth of business rates relief and infrastructure funding for high-street retailers. But how should they make use of the money? The answer? Focus on developing leading customer experiences that flow from digital to in-store. Connect the dots, and create an omnichannel experience that accommodates the preferences of your demographic.

The ultimate strategy for embracing this shift is by adopting the right back-end processes and systems to support this level of customer service. You will need to have an integrated view of every customer's interactions with your company, their journey, purchase history, average spend, etc. This information should flow seamlessly into your financial system, warehouse, inventory, marketing, e-commerce, and more. Establishing the processes that are supported by the right integrated systems, places you in a position to maximise your delivery of the ultimate customer experience, in-store & digitally.

Action Points

Take the next year to prepare your organisation for growth;

  1. Establish and outline your utopia. The best-case scenario for how your processes would work in offering the ultimate customer experience.

  2. Research and understand the systems that can offer you the correct support in implementing these processes.

  3. Find a solution provider for your system of choice that can support your goals and vision.

Once you complete the three action points above, you are well on your way to discovering how you can achieve your utopia! Next discover the price of the systems and process changes you need, conduct an ROI discovery of implementation costs and benefits, and begin negotiation for purchase and transformation from your provider of choice.

In summary

This is a big process and can be a daunting undertaking, but the question stands, can your organisation take the chance of not embracing a modern strategy for digital transformation? Ultimately, there are only two choices, keep going like you always have and hope that something drastically changes the market, or embrace and benefit from the current climate.

If you want to learn more about how 3EN is helping organisations around the globe transform their business by embracing modern processes and systems, click here to book in for a free meeting with one of our business consultants.


As always, thank you for reading, and we would love to hear your experiences of Black Friday if you are an SME. If you have any questions, queries, or comments, please feel free to leave them in the comments section below.