With the big day fast approaching, there is still time to make a noticeable difference before the big day. "We can expect Black Friday online sales to grow by at least 30% in 2019," says Williamson.

"While it's always tough to compete against the really big e-commerce outfits, there is definitely still time for smaller retailers to implement some strategic plans to capitalise on the opportunity," he adds.

The predictions, despite the slow economy, are based on the fact that this year's Black Friday takes place on Friday, 29 November, which is after payday. What's more, according to online marketing specialist and founder of SiteMeUp Michael Richards, shoppers are planning ahead to make the most of the bargains on offer.

"Online merchants will likely be more competitive this year and hopefully more organised in logistics," says Richards. "I would expect a few e-commerce businesses to dominate. However, I feel some smaller merchants will find opportunity still exists if they prepare properly." 

Finding your customer amidst the clutter is key

"Firstly, teaser campaigns are recommended for merchants to ensure their customer base is aware that they will be having a Black Friday sale. Merchants should be pushing their marketing efforts to build reach on all their digital channels," says Richards.

"Social Media (Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest) and Google Campaigns (Search, YouTube, display advertising and remarketing) should all be working together to achieve an increase in followers and sign-ups, along with with strategies to provide sneak peeks of the planned promotions," adds Richards.

"South African consumers have really caught onto the Black Friday and Cyber Monday craze and many of them will also be looking to maximise their spend this year. This will include setting aside a Black Friday savings account for the more pedantic, or simply putting a wish list and budget in place," he says.

"Merchants who have features on their e-commerce websites — such as wish lists and rewards — should be promoting these to incentivise users to shop with them come Black Friday," says Richards.

"Allowing folks to fill their shopping carts ahead of time can be a very useful trick. They can then simply check out when the sales open, saving time and ensuring they get the items they want. Merchants have to realise that they can either make it super simple and easy, or the consumer will just go to the next retailer on their search page," he adds. 

Richards says that merchants must keep shopping online simple so as not to confuse users. He says products should be categorised correctly, helping users to quickly find what they are looking for.

"Try having a dedicated page promoting all the products you have available for sale, sliders and pop-ups. Featured areas of your site should have a clear message and direct link to where your users can find your deals," Richards says.

Ensure that your website can function under the strain of additional traffic

Williamson says that PayGate's tech team has spent months gearing up for increased traffic this year. He says that managing the capacity of its cloud-based service means the company can quickly and easily respond to traffic on the fly — but he advises merchants to check how robust their own sites are ahead of time.

"Merchants should be focussing on getting the customer to their site as the first hurdle," says Williams. "Once they are there, merchants must be sure that the customer journey is simple, clear and results in as few abandoned carts as possible."

"This will include making sure that shoppers can end their experience by paying with whatever method they are comfortable. Ensuring you have an EFT option, like SiD Secure EFT, is essential for those shoppers who are hesitant about using their cards and also acts as a failsafe should card or other payment methods fail," says Williams. 

"Great e-commerce customer journeys must be planned from search to delivery. Making even small improvements now can ensure a more lucrative Black Friday, come November," he concludes.

For more information, visit www.sitemeup.co.za or www.paygate.co.za.