In what has been an unprecedented and uncertain year for many businesses, some have had to turn their hand to trading online for the first time.
Many smaller local businesses have put their creative caps on in marketing their products and creating brand awareness, leading to a successful online presence.
As many larger corporations start their Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales, Cork-based marketing expert David Doyle weighs in on how best small businesses should navigate the shopping bonanza.
Marketing Consultant, David Doyle, said that there are certain things that should be considered before throwing loads of discounts or creative offers online this Black Friday and Cyber Monday, such as stock levels, marketing campaigns and budget.
Mr Doyle said that those who have managed to take their business online for the first time this year and have had steady purchases through an online platform should question whether they would be able to keep up if there was particular demand on discounted products.
He warned that Black Friday would have the potential to run business owners into the ground in trying to get stock levels up again for Christmas, which he reminded people is only a few short weeks away.
“Of course, it would be great to empty your stock during your first online Black Friday experience, but don't do it at the expense of the Christmas season which is just a few weeks away.
“Take into consideration that people might be slightly more organised and eager to shop early this year and will start Christmas shopping soon if they haven't already done so,” he said.
He said that Black Friday sales are a time for smaller businesses, who are competing with larger businesses, to be creative as part of an overall plan and marketing campaign.
“It's too late throwing the offers up on Friday and hoping for the best. It should be part of an overall plan in the days or weeks leading up. Teasing content online, awareness through email marketing, targeted ads through social media.
“Once again, think about Christmas which is just around the corner. Is this the year for you to partake? Maybe it would be best to put all your budget and time into a bigger Christmas campaign and learn from the process to be on top of it next year,” he said.
Mr Doyle said that such marketing campaigns do not have to be expensive and that awareness can be built through regular engagement on social media.
“I don't believe that all marketing has to be expensive or cost a fortune. If you have a regular following on social media and you are consistent in your usage, or have a steady readership through email marketing, start with that.
“Try experimenting and see what the reaction is. When looking to run campaigns or brand awareness around a day like Black Friday or Cyber Monday, it's generally not going to work if you just turn on social media for one or two days of the year.
“It's like any other part of your business, it needs attention and time dedicated to it. Social Media is like a shop window or reception desk it needs to be looked after,” he said.
For those that have been running such campaigns and are taking the plunge for the first time this Black Friday, Mr Doyle highlighted the importance of knowing that it is not always about dropping prices or huge reductions.
“Be a little different and think outside the box. The reason for this is so many businesses will be screaming the same message for the same few days. So can you offer bundle deals, packages or anything a little different. It's obvious that you might not want to offer up your best sellers but maybe put out some content around other products and services and educate people as to why they would be of benefit,” he said.
Mr Doyle is also Brand and Business Development Manager of Velo Coffee Roasters, a business that has seen the success of its online shop grow and is now investing in new machinery and hiring staff to help cope with new demands for coffee machines and coffee roasts.
He said that moving a business does take “hard work, dedicated hours and a bit of creativity” but that it is worth investing resources for such a move in an environment where physical shops can be shut for a period of time.
“I think businesses have done extremely well this year. It's been hit after hit for some businesses and it's crucial that we support our local businesses now more than ever,” he said.