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This Black Friday, Smart Small Retailers Could Make a Bundle

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That 2021 Black Friday and Cyber Monday (BFCM) shopping is going to happen largely online shouldn’t be a surprise to any retailer. But the trends of how customers want to shop and where they’re going to hunt for deals have changed noticeably since last year.

According to a recent study on BFCM trends by Tidio.com, a sales software vendor, both online and brick-and-mortar shoppers intend to spend more, but only after doing more homework. The study gathered data from 1,052 respondents using Amazon’s Mechanical Turk (scroll down to see the full infographic).

As mentioned, Tidio’s results showed that the vast majority of shoppers—64%—will be taking their business online. Of these, however, a notable 35% will search for the best deals using social media ads rather than browsing aimlessly on the vendor’s website or looking for deals in the display ads of third-party websites. This is good news for small or local businesses, especially ones that back up their physical stores with online retail options.

The 2021 Social Media Factor

Small businesses benefit from social media advertising because sites like Facebook can slice and dice ad recipients well enough that smaller retailers can hit exactly the audiences they need and for a lower ad dollar than more general channels.

So while the majority of Tidio’s respondents said they’d be looking to take advantage of bargains from the big-name retailers, such as Walmart and Best Buy, that 35% searching via social media could be low-hanging fruit for smaller retailers. If those retailers can get their ads into the feeds of exactly the customers they’re looking for, they can compete directly with the big-name players.

They’ll have trouble doing that based solely on price, but Tidio’s study shows that this year’s customers are looking for more than low cost. Some folks, for example, are interested in shopping from small or minority-owned businesses (29%) and especially from local ones (18%). Make sure your ads hit local customers, and those buys are yours.

Additionally, 88% of respondents said they wanted to inspect product quality prior to purchase this year, and that’s one thing big online retailers have difficulty providing. Shoppers using major online stores must take quality on faith and rely on returns for low-quality items. Those that choose to inspect physical products have to brave the huge crowds big stores attract during the BFCM season. Smaller stores, on the other hand, can play up their ability to let customers look at physical products quickly and easily in a much less crowded setting. They also have an implicit trust advantage with in-person customer support, easy returns, and local delivery, all of which Tidio’s survey respondents said are particularly important to them this year.

Brick-and-mortar businesses might have a revenue advantage, too, because 66% of Tidio’s survey takers said they not only wanted to frequent a physical store, but they also wanted to spend more this year than last. That’s compared with only 46% of online shoppers saying the same.

There are some caveats for small retailers, though. A big one is customer safety. According to Tidio’s respondents, 75% of potential shoppers said they’d skip stores they felt would endanger their health or even that of the store’s employees. And 58% want to book shopping appointments at physical locations. Apparently, that’s not only to alleviate health worries but primarily so those customers can avoid crowds.

If you take those factors into consideration and attach the aforementioned customer service and local delivery factors, then your small shop could have a very merry holiday season. Just don’t mess up, because 23% of this year’s shoppers said they’d never again buy from a store that gives them a bad experience this year.

Yes, Big Retailers Will Still Dominate

Tidio’s data clearly shows that small retailers that play it smart have opportunities for good sales this year. But it also shows that big retailers will still garner the lion’s share of holiday bucks, simply based on lower prices.

Next to that, they also have more in the way of technology tools. That can be a powerful draw, as 50% of Tidio’s respondents said that while they’d look for deals and ads using social media and websites, they wanted to do their actual online shopping via an app rather than a web browser.

Building a slick and reliable shopping app is definitely beyond the abilities of most mom-and-pop shops, even those with an e-commerce site. Apps not only give customers a curated, one-brand experience, they can also incorporate more advanced shopping features, such as artificial intelligence–fueled product comparisons or conversational chatbot buying advice. Both were things that all of Tidio’s online-shopping respondents said they wanted this year instead of more traditional mechanisms, such as finding price deals through email newsletters or display ads.

Tidio’s study also found some overall BFCM shopping trends that will be important considerations whether you’re working for a big retailer or manning a small, local store. For one thing, 90% said they’d saved money specifically for BFCM shopping. Another 75% said they were looking to purchase items they’ve been eyeing for a while. Finally, all of them said they were looking to compare brands and individual products and would use customer rankings and reviews to do that.

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