Do you see Black Friday and Cyber Monday as a deadly threat or an exciting opportunity?
With the right approach, it's possible for smaller Irish businesses to grab a share of the pre-Christmas spending splurge.
Irish consumers are counting down the hours to Black Friday (23 November) and Cyber Monday (26 November). The popularity of these bargain bonanzas continues to snowball, with 2018 likely to smash retail records.
The average Irish customer spends €300 on Black Friday shopping alone — with the expectation of saving €450 from their bargains, according to research . Clothes, electronics, shoes, cosmetics and perfumes are among the hottest sellers.
But is the shopping frenzy simply a time for global mega brands to vacuum up everyone's spare cash? It doesn't have to be this way. Here are five ideas that can help smaller Irish businesses to seize the opportunity.
#1: Embrace the moment
Whether you like or loathe Black Friday and Cyber Monday, they put millions of consumers in the mood to buy, so why not take advantage? Use your social media channels, paid online advertising, your website and signs outside your door to build interest and add followers. Use suspense to intrigue customers ("Black Friday: Just wait and see what's coming ...").
#2: Deliver a unique experience
For online consumers, Black Friday and Cyber Monday can be an overwhelming, unrewarding experience. In the high street, shopping can be hugely stressful. So why not give your customers something entirely different — and relaxing? Become an oasis amid the chaos. You could open up early and offer free coffees, hire someone to give five-minute shoulder massages through the day, and then stay open late and offer Prosecco, canapés and a party atmosphere. Tell your social channels you'll be providing the perfect antidote to shopping mayhem.
#3: Provide value where you can
Few smaller businesses in Ireland can go toe-to-toe with major global retailers when prices plummet by up to 60%. But these occasions can be good opportunities to discount old inventory, give out free gifts with sales, and also offer limited stock of a handful of your best-selling lines at a tempting price. Take unique photos and publish the best on Instagram and other channels in the run-up to the weekend and throughout.
#4: Build loyalty
Black Friday and Cyber Monday are perfect opportunities to kick off or re-energise a loyalty card scheme, so you can create strong relationships with new and existing customers. The timing is ideal because you can tell them they'll hear about upcoming special offers for Christmas and the New Year, just weeks away. You could preload loyalty cards with points as an extra offer online or in store.
#5: Offer smooth, secure payments
If demand rockets, it would be a tragedy to lose sales at the final hurdle. Last year, sales in Europe soared by 391% on Black Friday compared with an average Friday in November. Long queues at the till can be overcome if you provide extra staff cover, enough card payment devices and offer ultra-speedy payment methods, such as Apple Pay. With your online sales, run a test order — just to double check your customers can check out efficiently. Also, make sure your payment channels are secure. Sadly, it's likely that fraudsters will be attracted by Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Christmas too. So make sure every euro comes your way.
 'Average Irish shopper spends €300 on their Black Friday shopping survey reveals' - Irish Mirror, October 17, 2018
 'Cyber Weekend 2017' - Campaign magazine, 27 November, 2017