Black Friday is just like Small Business Saturday, is a day when more people are hunting out special deals online. In its third year, the awareness campaign will hopefully drive more online business your way, but is your business ready to meet any extra demand? Ensuring your website and social media channels are up to date and aligned is essential if you’re going to enjoy the benefits of a surge in consumer searches and visits. The ecommerce and IT systems that enable you to take, process and dispatch online orders on time, need to be resourced properly and secure otherwise orders might get delayed or go unfulfilled, damaging your reputation.

The day before Small Business Saturday is also Black Friday, a day when more people are hunting our special deals online. In 2014, UK consumers spent £810 million online on Black Friday and Royal Mail research found that 60% of consumers are preparing to shop online for this year’s event. But their research also suggests most SMEs are underprepared, despite this being a clear opportunity for small businesses to increase sales and revenue. The Royal Mail’s research describes the main concerns for what is likely to be the busiest few days in the Christmas retail calendar.

“Last year, the biggest challenges faced by SMEs on Black Friday were: coping with increased website traffic (48%); managing stock (44%); delivering their orders on time or quickly enough (33%) and distributing orders from their warehouse (31%). While small business owners are preparing for an influx of web visitors (39% arranging extra IT capacity), bringing in more staff to prepare orders (40% are employing additional staff) and improving the availability of products (55% ordering more stock), nearly two thirds are not preparing for the distribution and delivery of customer orders.

With that in mind, here are four tips to make the most of Small Business Saturday:

1 Have a dedicated webpage and keep it live all year round

Build your own web page dedicated to Small Business Saturday and keep it live all year round. Even though we’re only talking about one day in the year, there are benefits to this approach. It’ll be quicker and easier to manage in the future: the design can stay the same but the copy and imagery can be updated. Currys use this tactic with their Black Friday web page. But taking your page offline after the event would stop search engines displaying it so potential customers won’t be able to find it.

2 Facebook is a great starting point for a conversation

31.5 million people in the UK are on Facebook. This isn’t just where your friends are spending their social media time, it’s where your potential customers are likely to be spending a lot of their social media time too. Make sure you’ve set up a Facebook business page so customers can get in touch with you, become familiar with you and your brand and see your promotions. Your business page should express your brand’s personality, not just sales offers. If you’re short on ideas, have a look at how other small businesses have used Facebook to grow their business.

3 Make sure your IT system is safe and secure

Every business owner is concerned about their website or IT system being hacked, especially when special events like Small Business Saturday are driving more traffic to websites and more orders are being placed. We can all remember the recent TalkTalk hacking scandal and other big brands like eBay, Apple and Sony being hacked and losing customer data to the detriment of their customers and business reputation. But it can happen to small businesses too. Worldpay – an online card payment processing service - says “small businesses are by far the biggest target for hackers, accounting for 85.7 per cent of UK data breaches.” This underlines how important it is for small businesses to make sure during any uplift in online sales, security is maintained. Cybercriminals will target anyone the think may have weak security, it can happen to any business, big or small.

4 Ask the experts

If you are concerned your ecommerce and supporting IT system aren’t as secure as they could be, ask for help. There’s a good range of free resources on the web to help you understand how healthy and secure your IT system is. The National Crime Agency has prepared some guidance for small businesses on hacking and other types of online attacks. AVG’s free Small Business IT Security Health Check tool is a good place to start if you’re not an expert and are short on time. It’s quick and easy and offers clear advice about how to improve IT security. The government is also offering Innovation Vouchers worth £5,000. These can be used to pay for advice which will help protect and grow your business by having good cyber security in place.

At the end of the day

Making sure your website, social media channels and order processing system are in good shape, aligned and secure will help ensure your business is ready to benefit from the anticipated Small Business Saturday sales surge!

By Lee Carnihan, Digital Outreach Manager, Further