Since the 1950s, the term ‘Black Friday’ has been used in the USA to refer to the Friday after Thanksgiving – the day on which consumers begin their Christmas shopping in earnest. To capitalise on this spending spree, retailers began running special, limited time offers and discounts, resulting in Black Friday being the busiest shopping day in the States every year since 2005. But it's not just for our friends over the pond. More recently, this retail holiday has been adopted by retailers across the world, especially in the west.
Black Friday psychology: how does it work?
As consumers, we all love a deal. Half price? Go on then. Buy one get one free? Sign us up. Keywords and phrases like ‘sale’ or ‘discount’ grab our attention primarily because of the scarcity and urgency that they indicate. If we don’t purchase the discounted product or service while we can, we believe we will miss out on the opportunity to save some money. It’s this belief which makes offers and discounts so alluring and effective.
Where Black Friday meets B2B
Due to its retail roots, Black Friday special offers and deals have traditionally been directed at consumers.The shopping holiday is now so ubiquitous that consumers will visit their favourite physical store or e-commerce site on Black Friday expecting to find a selection of exclusive, limited time deals. And it’s exactly this expectation that can make Black Friday work for B2B.
It’s important for B2B merchants and marketplace operators to remember that:
- Business buyers are also consumers, so they will react to deals on their business purchases in the same way they would react to a special offer on a pair of trainers, for example.
- 73 percent of B2B buyers today are millennials, who prefer buying online. They are digital natives who expect a B2C-like shopping experience in B2B e-commerce.
- These buyers grew up during the period when Black Friday became popular in Europe.
- They might be looking to refill their shelves after a busy Black Friday of their own (or stock them in advance), or might be thinking about stocking up on extra products for the looming Christmas period.
In short, your buyers are already anticipating a day of exclusive deals in their personal lives and have the need to buy more than usual for their businesses. Meanwhile, you know they respond positively to B2C-like shopping experiences. With these facts in mind, it’s much easier to imagine how Black Friday might prove to be effective for your B2B business. However, it might not be the right call for every B2B seller.
Should B2B merchants take part in Black Friday?
This is not a simple question to answer and requires careful consideration depending on the merchant or marketplace.
Generally speaking, it’s going to be easier for you to run a B2B Black Friday campaign if you sell to businesses which run Black Friday campaigns of their own. These buyers will likely be B2C retailers offering products that are ordered frequently and easy to purchase. McKinsey research found that 85% of B2B buyers do not want to speak to a sales rep when carrying out repeat purchases, suggesting that a focus on discounting low-cost, accessible items could lead to sales growth.
Industries where B2B Black Friday deals might work include:
- Consumable goods
- Fashion and textiles
- Office equipment
On the other hand, sellers of products that solve a specific issue at a particular time may not be suited so well to Black Friday. For example, a marketplace selling replacement parts for aeroplanes.
If your customers are large corporations, you may also find that the Black Friday model doesn’t work for your business. Selling to big companies often requires approval from several decision makers, which is unlikely to happen over the course of one weekend. Similarly, the sale of complex B2B software can take place over the course of several days or weeks, diminishing the relevance of a limited time sale.
What to consider before diving in
So, you’ve identified that you operate in an industry where buyers will be receptive to special offers and determined that you can run a B2B Black Friday campaign. Now you need to work out whether you should.
Before diving in headfirst, consider the questions below.
- Does Black Friday align with your wider strategy? The ultimate goal of Black Friday is to increase sales, but if there’s another KPI that is more important to your business, Black Friday deals might not make sense.
- Can you afford to discount your products? This year has been financially tough for businesses of all sizes. If offering Black Friday deals will negatively impact your cash flow, it’s not worth it.
- If you can’t afford to run deals, can you do something else? For consumers, Black Friday is all about deals and discounts, but in B2B there’s more room for creativity (more on that below).
- Can you fulfil an influx of orders? Do you have the stock and staff required to handle a significantly increased number of orders? Is your website or e-commerce platform adequately prepared for a surge in traffic?
Which Black Friday deals should B2B merchants offer?
Now that you’ve decided that a Black Friday campaign is a good idea for your B2B business, you need to determine which types of offers, discounts or deals you’re going to run. Some types to consider include:
- Limited time discounts
- Discounts for the highest spending segment of your customer base
- Hourly promos
- Multi-buy offers
- Extended warranty
- Free gifts
- Special offers on best sellers
- Reactivation offers for dormant customers
- Personalised offers
If you’ve decided that you want to capitalise on the Black Friday buzz without slashing your prices, you could use the occasion to improve the image of your business or demonstrate support of a specific cause. For example, one business last year decided that, instead of offering discounted prices, they would plant a tree for every order that was made on Black Friday. This was an out-of-the-box way for them to help the planet, improve their image and take part in Black Friday without cutting prices, all at once.
Consider also when you’re going to run your Black Friday deals. If your buyers are more likely to place their orders earlier in the week, or you know they’ll be looking to stock up after the Black Friday rush, it might be better to offer Cyber Monday discounts instead.
How to communicate your deals
Once you’ve decided on the types of deals you want to offer and when you want to run them, it’s time to create your marketing and communications plan. After all, if you’re going to the effort of running a B2B Black Friday campaign, you want to make sure it reaches as many buyers as possible.
You can communicate your deals via all the marketing channels you usually use, such as:
- Personalised emails letting buyers know about deals tailored to their purchasing habits.
- A Black Friday newsletter detailing your best offers or your creative campaign.
- Social media posts to drum up anticipation for your deals.
- A paid advertising campaign targeting key segments of your buyers.
Top tip: In your Black Friday messaging, remember to play up to the urgency and scarcity that makes deals and discounts so impactful.
How to prepare for a B2B Black Friday
You’ve decided which Black Friday deals to offer, when you’re going to run them and how you’re going to make sure they reach your target buyers. All that’s left to do is make your final preparations.
Fortify your website
It’d be a huge shame to put in all the effort of a Black Friday campaign, only for your website to be unable to handle the inevitable influx of traffic. We strongly recommend carrying out a stress test of your e-commerce site (or asking your provider to do so) to ensure stability, functionality and uptime during a traffic spike.
Provide excellent customer service
Make sure your customer service team is fully knowledgeable of the Black Friday deals that are running. This will enable them to offer timely, impactful and memorable assistance. Make sure that contact info is displayed prominently on your site.
Empower buyers with their preferred payment options
The vast majority of business buyers (90%) expect B2B purchasing experiences to match those in the world of B2C, meaning that a quick and convenient checkout with instant credit terms built in should be available to all customers this Black Friday.
Book a call to find out how Hokodo’s payment terms solutions can help you to increase sales and grow your B2B e-commerce business.
Black Friday may not immediately appear to be directly applicable to B2B. Indeed, as we’ve learned, for sellers in some industries it will be more difficult to pull off. However, this pre-Christmas period of deals and discounts will fuel consumer demand, ultimately creating a positive knock-on effect for many merchants, marketplaces and manufacturers. Are you ready to capitalise on that opportunity?