Small businesses continually face challenges in Ireland today. In 2016 today, research by the Central Bank of Ireland highlights access to credit as one of the major challenges encountered by the SME and small business sector. How does a small business maintain excellent cash flow with little credit and still reap the benefits of Black Friday and Cyber Monday?

Discounting is what consumers have come to expect from these two marathon shopping days, but it can seriously erode your cash flow. Typically consumers flock to the larger bricks-and-mortar-retailers on Black Friday, and then descend upon the eCommerce giants on Cyber Monday. The issue for small business owners – whether physical or online – is giving the customer a perception of value so that they can truly participate – and still gain profit – from the shopping and spending buzz. How is it done then? With a very simple precept:

Don’t Discount – Offer Perceived Value.

What small businesses have, that larger chains don’t have, is the ability to be seen as offering boutique, handmade, custom, unique and/or specially selected quality products. Discounting will only reduce the perceived value that customers put on your products and that leads to a slippery sales slope. If the perceived value and the actual value of the price appear similar then the urgency to buy will disappear for the customer, but if there is a significant gap between the actual value and the perceived value, the impulse to buy is very strong.

Here are our top five tips to getting the most out of Black Friday and Cyber Monday:

1. Create content

Small businesses need to create lots of buzz about their products by creating content promoting their products. Ways to do this include blogging and professional photography. Video and memes are also highly shareable and see high volumes of clicks and shares. Use social media to its full advantage by spanning as many social platforms as you can.

2. Organise testimonials 

Create social proof, which is often considered more powerful than word of mouth. A great way to do this is to hire a well-known blogger to try out your products and therefore giving great testimonials to an already established audience made up of your target market. If you don’t have the budget to hire, send a free sample anyway and you might get the mention you were hoping for. You can also offer rewards for anyone wishing to try out your product – to keep the costs down offer a VIP experience – perhaps to a VIP evening product launch or advance purchase option.

3. Upscale the context of your products

Offer people an alternative to the madness and mayhem by offering a relaxing and high class environment in your store. Creating a calming atmosphere of relaxing music, scented candles, even delicious culinary treats to hungry shoppers will transform your store into an oasis of calm. More importantly, it increases the social perception of your store and therefore the perceived value of your products. If you are an online retailer, you can achieve this by changing your visual design for the day by removing pop up ads from your site, increasing negative space for a sense of space, and doing A/B Testing with colours in advance to see what calming colours convert more to sales.

4. Publish a clear guarantee/returns policy

Customers might be wary of making that impulse buy if they feel uninformed about your policy. Add reassurance and service with a smile to your sales process by being clear and transparent. This is equally achievable for online retailers by adding it clearly on the checkout process.

5. Be ready for the increase in volumes

So after creating buzz and testimonials, getting social proof and word of mouth referrals, don’t fall at the last hurdle by being unable to cope with large volumes of customers or sales. Bricks-and-mortar retailers need to ensure they have sufficient staff and a clear area for customer service, have staff on the floor and at the changing area – anticipate all the bottlenecks and staff appropriately. Online retailers should ensure their system is scaled to take large volumes – get it tested in advance if you are not sure. The last thing you want is your website to crash on the busiest day of the year.

Remember that even after the days have passed, you still have opportunities to convert leads to sales. Did you run out of a certain product on the day? Email your leads when it comes back into stock. Many customers may have blown their budget on the day, but still have their eye on a particular product. Assess what is getting attention on your social media and arrange a VIP event to sustain the excitement by offering a select group access to your store at an evening event where they can escape the Christmas mayhem.

Successful businesses are always learning and evolving – so ensure that you do an assessment in the aftermath to see what was successful and what you can learn for next year to make it an even bigger success!