It surprises me how many small businesses don’t have their ecommerce website ready for the holidays yet, so here are 12 pandemic-inspired Black Friday tips for small businesses. Having a collection of quick and easy gifts is essential this time of year. Many more potential customers than usual are shopping online right now, worried about postal delays, so I recommend you adjust your website right away to make the most of Black Friday/Cyber Monday (BFCM) this year.
I have started my online shopping for gifts this year. I can’t see most of the people I will be giving gifts to in person, due to the pandemic, so I am going to do most, if not all, of my holiday shopping online, but I also really don’t want to stand in a post office line myself.
That means that if I want to send a gift box to someone, I want to make sure I can have it sent directly from the company I’m ordering from, and I want it to look nice. I’m not going to be ordering gifts, wrapping them myself this year, and sending them back out.
I am looking through the sites of some of my favorite small businesses and I’m being disappointed over and over. I see so many missed opportunities.
12 Black Friday tips for small businesses
Here are some things your business could leap on right now to be ready for the holiday shopping rush:
1) Put a “Gifts” category in your main website navigation
This is an easy one! It’s particularly helpful if some of your items are more gift-able than others. You can easily pull out the products that you stock that make the best gifts and save your customers the time and trouble of hunting. Your familiarity with your products means you’ll probably have better and more interesting ideas of what and how to gift than I will, too.
People are notoriously impatient when browsing online, so giving them an easy start means they’ll be less likely to click the back button on their browser, and more likely to explore your store more thoroughly than they would if you hadn’t given them that easy way in.
2) Create gift lists in your navigation for easy shopping
To go a step beyond just having “gifts” as a category in your shop menu, consider adding filters or subcategories, so people can shop by recipient, price, age, or even type of gift recipient. If you don’t already have these categories, you can add a Gift Guides menu to your navigation and throw together different collections very easily.
If you sell craft supplies or kits, a collection of quick and easy gifts is super helpful. Remember that your gift giving customers may not be as savvy about your craft as your normal shoppers are, so make sure to indicate clearly what age range or experience range the kit is for, and reassure your buyer that everything that is needed is in the kit, or whatever you need to do to put someone unfamiliar at ease.
3) Reorient your homepage around gift shopping
Along with the navigation changes, make sure your main/first call to action on the home page is relevant to the holiday shopping season. It can help to show gifting categories, gift guides, and/or gift lists below that main area to get people headed off in the right direction.
Right now, many of your customers are coming to your site with a mission in mind: gifts for the kids in their lives, something special for their mom they haven’t seen for months, something they can buy multiple of in case they have a group of coworkers, group members, or employees they’re purchasing for. Think of those various “missions” and help those people find their way.
Imagine your website as a department store, and the navigation and homepage as the store signage customers are greeted with so they know where to go. What do they want at this time of year, and how can you get them headed off in a fruitful direction?
4) Create gift guides
If you have a blog or a newsletter, include a photographic gift guide. You can feature other brands that go well with what you do, or your gift guides can be just your products, if you have enough items in your shop.
You can divide this up into categories, such as gift guides for certain family members (moms, brothers, etc.), for types of interests (for nature lovers, for bookworms, etc.), and whatever else would make sense for your brand.
Gift guides are a great way to bring helpful marketing messaging to your customers. They want to have their “what do I get for Aunt Evelyn” problem solved, so will be glad to hear from you. Doing a gift guide a day is a good way to stay top of mind during the biggest sales weeks without feeling repetitive.
It’s also a great idea to reach out to other people creating gift guides to get your own products featured. If you didn’t do that this year, make it a priority for other holidays, and for next year’s Black Friday / Cyber Monday.
5) Create gift boxes and bundles
Grabbing one or two products from your shop doesn’t feel as special as it does for me to be able to choose some curated gift boxes to send to people. For example, just a candle doesn’t feel special enough, but if I can pair a candle with a mug and a treat, I feel like I’m really giving a gift.
I may see a few things on your site that would make a good gift box, but when I add them to my cart separately, I’m not sure what the presentation will be like for my recipient. If I find a gift box on your site that has a photo that shows me how it will all look together, including how it’s packed and wrapped, that goes a long way to reassure me that I’m sending something that will be well received.
If you need to track inventory on bundles or gift boxes, try the Bundles app for Shopify.
6) Make sure gift cards are easily accessible
Get gift cards set up and make sure they are easy to find on your site. For some people, it’s important to send a physical gift card to someone, rather than just a digital code. If you’re using the Shopify POS, you can create these physical gift cards.
7) Offer gift wrap and show us how it will look
Like I said, I am not getting in a post office line this year, and I won’t be showing up at a Christmas party with gifts in hand, so it’s important to me that the gift I order from you isn’t going to show up in a plastic bag inside a generic bubble mailer.
Make it clear that you offer gift wrap, and show a photo of how gorgeous the wrap is going to look, so I can be confident ordering from you.
Being able to add my own gift message is super important, or else I’ll need to track down each of my family members and make sure they knew the gift was from me, so include a way for me to add a note. I’d love to pay extra for a handwritten card or any kind of card, so it’s not just fine print on a packing slip.
8) Consider giving the option of a gift receipt
If gifting is a big part of how your business operates, an app like Giftship is meant to make this all easier, even allowing multiple recipient addresses. If you can make it easy for your customers to buy gifts for multiple people at once, they may just do all their shopping with you this year.
9) Keep shipping deadlines in mind
With the post office being shaky this year, delivery cutoffs are a different situation than in years before. Normally, sharing these dates with customers can add a helpful “urgency” factor, but you may not want to publish a cutoff guarantee or promise and arrival date since shipments have been so unreliable. Instead, you can ask your customers to order as early as possible, to improve chances of on-time arrival.
10) Should you discount?
We are not big fans of discounting, particularly for artisan or creative brands. This just ends up devaluing your product. If you do decide to discount, be thoughtful about it. Let people know that this is the only time (or one of two, or whatever you do) of year that they can get your products on sale.
Don’t make the discount higher and higher as the season goes on. If you do that, you wind up with two problems: People may wait forever to get the lowest price, because they see prices going down. Or they may purchase early, then be mad that they could have gotten it for cheaper. If you do offer a discount, let people know that this is as low as it goes, and prices are going up on such-and-such date.
11) Offer installment payments
This can be helpful any time of year, but especially when people are buying for a bunch of people at once, they may appreciate being able to divide their payment into four. I’d suggest looking into Shop Pay Installments for this (Shopify partnered with Affirm to offer this solution natively).
12) Don’t forget to let people know
This is the time of year when people start thinking about what they’re going to get for who, and if you happen to solve that problem by mentioning a great gift idea on social media, they may just jump over to your site to shop and check one more person off their list.
It’s very important to have a mailing list to let your best customers know how you’re helping them out for the holidays. Please take the opportunity to email your mailing list about gift boxes, gift guides, what categories are available, and creative ways to gift. You might want to send out an email that explains all you’re doing to keep them out of the post office and make a warm impression on their gift recipients.
Anything you can do to help someone find a gift for that special someone and, above all, make it EASY for them will go a long way!
Remember to let people know on your site, as well. Not everyone comes in through the home page, so using an announcement bar or something similar on every page is a great way to highlight holiday specials.
Black Friday tips for small businesses – great examples
Companies that position themselves as gift companies have to have this working well all year long, so they’re great to look at for tips on how to improve your own site for the holidays. I’ve also found some examples of more niche businesses that are doing a great job with gifting this year.
Marigold & Grey are a great example of curating thoughtful gift boxes. Their whole business is gift boxes, so don’t despair if you can’t pull together something quite this beautiful, but imagine what you could do with what you have, and how you could use your own brand and style to make the unwrapping special.
Uncommon Goods are great at gifts! Their homepage starts you off with gift guides as the main call to action, then as you scroll down the page they have three recommended gift departments to start in, or you can shop by recipient, category, or occasion. Their entire navigation menu is organized around gifting, and it makes it easy for you to cover everyone on your list.
20×200, an Aeolidia client, has reorganized their home page with a gift guide feature front and center, a gift category in their main navigation, with subcategories, and a notice up top about shipping dates.
HoneyBee Stamps, another Aeolidia client, is highlighting holiday products on their home page, including a note about shipping dates, and is guiding people to find what they need to make their own Christmas cards and crafts. We also recently helped them set up bundles (using the Bundles app mentioned above) of multiple related products.
The holiday season and beyond
People shop for gifts all throughout the year, so even if your gift game isn’t the strongest this Black Friday / Cyber Monday, these tips are good to use at other times as well. I think you’ll find if you set your site up for easy gifting, people will use these features for birthdays, thank yous, and the other gifting holidays that come along throughout the year. It’s always a good idea to make your site easy for customers to use and easy for them to send gifts from, especially as we continue to be separated from loved ones, but still want to make connections with them.
Getting your online shop set up to easily sell gifts is a win-win situation for you and your customers!