Black Friday is indisputably the biggest shopping day of the year for American consumers.
And while it’s not as common to see Canadians trampling each other, snatching products from the hands of toddlers, or pitching tents outside retail locations, Canada does have Boxing Day.
This somewhat similar day of discounts has long been considered the Canadian equivalent of Black Friday, though given the hysteria we see in the U.S., I’m not sure if it’s fair to compare the two.
However, Boxing Day is becoming less and less relevant to Canadians, who are now being bombarded with ads for Black Friday deals, just like consumers south of the border.
You can trace this trend back to the last time the Canadian and U.S. dollars were on par, and more Canadians were going south to take advantage of the door-crasher deals on Black Friday.
So, in an attempt to convince Canadian shoppers to buy north of the border, retailers in Canada started using the term Black Friday.
Initially, Black Friday deals in Canada were pretty lackluster, more of a crappy gimmick than anything, and Boxing Day continued to be the major discount holiday for Canadians.
But with every passing year, the term Black Friday becomes more pervasive, and the hype surrounding these sales sets consumers’ expectations so high that retailers have to offer better deals, and Boxing Day has become somewhat of a let down.
The chief commercial officer for Staples Canada, quoted in an article from The Huffington Post, said Black Friday is now a “higher volume holiday than Boxing Day.”
So, I think it’s important to highlight why Canadian companies need to be taking advantage of these traditionally American retail holidays, and how they can go about doing that.
A recent survey from the Retail Council of Canada shed some light on what Canadians think about Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
The survey asked Canadians what days they plan to take advantage of deals, and not surprisingly, Black Friday was at the top of the list, with 40 per cent saying they plan to make purchases on Black Friday, 35 per cent saying Boxing Day, and 30 per cent saying Cyber Monday.
They also asked Canadians what factors had the most influence on their choice of retailers for this year’s holiday shopping season.
Again, unsurprisingly, the number one factor was holiday sales.
More importantly, 87 per cent of respondents said that they feel it’s important to buy from Canadian retailers this holiday season.
So, things are looking good for Canadian retailers this Christmas, but now’s not the time to get comfortable.
Which leads me to my next point.
Even though Canadian consumers are excited about holiday sales and passionate about giving their business to Canadian retailers, they can see through the hype, and with each year that passes, they’re expecting bigger and better deals.
This means that the discounts being offered need to be competitive, impressive, and at least somewhat comparable to the level of savings that Americans are getting.
But being able to offer these kinds of deals is becoming increasingly difficult, especially for small business owners.
Not only is the Canadian market much smaller than its American counterpart, making it pretty much impossible to offer the level of savings seen in the U.S., but all the big box stores are offering deals that will be hard for small- and medium-sized businesses to match.
Searching for Black Friday on Google shows just how many retailers in Canada are promoting these sales. Companies like Walmart, Costco, Best Buy, Lowes, and Air Canada all show up on page one for Black Friday.
But if you’re a small business owner, you shouldn’t feel defeated, and you should still try to take advantage of these retail holidays, but you have to be creative and offer some real incentive if you want to be taken seriously.
Check out our tips below for a few ideas on how small- and medium-sized businesses can do this.
While it might be impossible for most businesses to undercut the discounts being offered by retail giants like Walmart, it’s not a waste of time for smaller businesses to have their own sales, as Canadian consumers’ excitement over these shopping holidays continues to grow.
Small- and medium-sized businesses, just like the big box stores, should be offering the lowest prices they can, providing customers with as much incentive as possible.
Even if you can’t afford to hold a blowout like Best Buy, it’s still a great opportunity to bring in new customers and provide your current clientele with one more reason to choose your mom and pop shop.
As the survey I mentioned above showed, a lot of Canadians would rather give their business to a local retailer than a huge corporation.
Even if it’s not that impressive, if you are having a sale, just using the term Black Friday is going to get people in the door, so no matter what you’re doing, you should be advertising your events relentlessly.
Even running a few weeks of Google Ads or social media advertising prior to Black Friday can be enough to bring traffic to your website and foot traffic to your store.
But you have to be different.
Look at what your competitors are doing and what they’re offering and figure out what you can do differently or what you have to offer that your competitors don’t.
You may not be able to compete with everyone, but you might be surprised what a little creativity can do.
This one relates back to my last point.
When you make use of marketing automation, you’ve got a wealth of data on your current customers and prospects, making your advertising that much more effective.
You can start by targeting those who’ve already bought something from you online, or looked at products on your website, serving them ads or sending them emails weeks in advance to let them know about your sale before they even start searching for Black Friday deals.
Even better, you can use retargeting to serve Black Friday ads to people based on what they’ve purchased in the past or what products they’ve looked at on your site, so you know they’re more likely to be interested.
If you’re not already selling your products online, perhaps some of the insights surrounding these holidays have got you thinking about investing in an e-commerce website.
A study from Insights West and Ayima asked Canadians how they spent their money on Boxing Day, Black Friday and Cyber Monday in 2017.
For Black Friday and Cyber Monday, 28 per cent said they shopped online, while only 17 per cent spent their money at store locations.
And across all three holidays, 33 per cent of respondents said they made purchases online, with just 26 per cent deciding to shop in store.