They’re the two biggest shopping days of the year: Black Friday on November 24 and Cyber Monday on November 27.

For decades, Boxing Day or Boxing Week stood out as the busiest shopping season for Canadians, but those days are in the rearview mirror. According to 2023 consumer survey data from the Retail Council of Canada (RCC), Black Friday and Cyber Monday will continue to eclipse Boxing Day. The study finds that 40% plan to shop on Black Friday, 37% will shop on Cyber Monday, and 32% intend to shop on Boxing Day.

The RCC study finds Canadians anticipate spending $898 over the holidays this year (an increase from $792) in 2022. Other noteworthy findings include:

How to protect your business on Black Friday and Cyber Monday
  • Canadians prioritize sales and promotions (66%) and free shipping (55%) when purchasing.
  • For in-store shopping, consumers will seek exclusive offers (48%), value bundles (26%), and product sampling (25%) before buying.
  • Supporting retailers in their communities remains strong among Canadians, with 82% intending to shop locally, a leap from 74% last year.

Despite the encouraging news, the opportunity Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and the holiday season present also poses considerable liability risks for any small business or independent seller angling to get in on the action.

Ensure your organization has commercial general liability, product liability and cyber liability insurance, including if you sell goods and services online through your company’s website or a third-party marketplace like Amazon, Wayfair, Depop, or Etsy

That’s because you are liable for any injuries, illnesses, or property damage a customer suffers from goods they buy from you, whether or not you designed or manufactured them. Furthermore, you’re responsible for the safety and integrity of any customer data you store on your computing systems. Moreover, adding a peak season endorsement to your policy may be worthwhile if you’re holding additional stock and ensuring you’re covered in case of an unexpected loss.

Watch for These 2023 Holiday Season Scams

There’s another wrinkle retailers and online sellers need to be aware of: phishing scams, fraud, and cyber-attacks. Not surprisingly, when consumer shopping peaks as it does on Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Boxing Day, so too does cybercrime.

According to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, over $283 million has been lost to fraud as of June 2023. Moreover, cybersecurity provider Trend Micro finds Canada was the third most affected country in the world for successful ransomware-as-a-service (RaaS) and extortion attacks in the first half of the year.

Here are some the most common scams to be on the lookout for on Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and throughout the holiday season:

Website spoofing

Website spoofing is a scam involving creating a fake website and domain that appears like a legitimate, trusted retailer’s site to lure people to a phishing website. A cybercriminal aims to fool consumers into giving up their financial and personal information.

Gift card scams

If a scammer hacks a consumer’s credit card and purchases several gift cards from you, the victim of the fraud may be able to demand a chargeback successfully. Unfortunately, your business may be on the hook to pay for those losses.

Fake delivery scams

A consumer makes the mistake of ordering a product from a fake website that looks like yours but never receives a delivery tracking number. Of course, they don’t receive the product they thought they purchased either.

Fake order scams

Fraudsters can dupe a consumer through email, a text message, or a phone call to give up their confidential and financial information by telling them they need to confirm the order they made from your business, even though they never placed an order. It’s a type of phishing, smishing, vishing scam or buyer fraud that aims to harvest people’s private information.

Payment fraud

If a cybercriminal uses a consumer’s stolen credit card or other payment information to purchase an item from your business that you ship to them, but the consumer whose payment info has been compromised disputes it, you might be left holding the bag. In other words, you may have to swallow the cost of the stolen item by reimbursing the victim.

Social engineering attacks

Scammers may use manipulative tactics known as social engineering to deceive your employees into providing sensitive information or performing actions that compromise your company’s cybersecurity.

How to Prevent Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Holiday Shopping Scams

Here are ways to try to prevent fraud and scams from affecting your business during Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and the holiday shopping season:

Train your employees

An educated, vigilant workforce is your best defence against scammers and fraudsters. Train your employees never to email passwords and confidential data to anyone inside or outside your company. Also, encourage them to talk to one another if they think they see suspicious activity. That can help prevent employees from falling prey to the same attack since scammers target multiple people in any organization.

Protect your point-of-sale (POS) system

Safeguard your POS system’s hardware and software. Routinely check the equipment to see if it’s been tampered with, use strong, unique passwords for each employee accessing it, and CVC codes (card verification value or identification numbers) to verify that the credit card someone uses is legitimate and ensure all transactions are secure.

Educate your customers

Encourage your customers to take precautionary measures when making online or offline purchases and protect their privacy. For example, ask them to double-check a website’s address before using a payment card online. Also, inform them your business does not ask for personal information like birth dates and social insurance numbers.

Report fraudulent activity immediately

If you suspect your business is a victim of fraud or think you’ve received a fraudulent payment, do not hesitate to report it to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, your financial institution, local police force, Canada’s national credit bureaus – Equifax Canada and TransUnion Canada – and notify your insurance broker.

Also, spend time upping your cybersecurity knowledge and protection.

7 Ways for Small Businesses to Make Big Sales During the Holidays

Time is short, and the list to prepare your business to take advantage of the last few weeks of the year is long. Here are seven ways to ensure your cash register rings often on Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and throughout the holiday shopping season:

1. Get creative and offer irresistible deals

Consumers expect Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Boxing Day deals to wow their socks off. Significant product discounts are expected but may not always be feasible for your bottom line. Instead, focus on making your customers feel they are getting value for their money. That may involve bundling products, including discount coupons for other goods they can use in the new year or offering free shipping.

2. Optimize your website

Ensure your site is updated and ready for an increase in traffic. Add an attention-grabbing banner on your homepage to direct consumers to the deals you’re offering, but keep it simple and your site uncluttered. Create out-of-stock and low-stock pages to inform customers if you run out of inventory. 

Plus, ensure your site is optimized for people who prefer to shop using a mobile device. Mobile commerce statistics from 2022 show that most Canadians (70%) make online purchases with a laptop or desktop computer. However, 60% use smartphones and 25% use tablets, surpassing computers and laptops for online shopping.

3. Get social with your deals

Social media has a significant influence on Canadian shoppers. According to a 2023 Salesforce report, 59% of consumers purchase through social media, and 60% use their mobile devices to research products online in a physical store.

Furthermore, data finds Facebook is by far the most used social platform in Canada with 86% of Canadian adults, followed by Instagram (55%), X (formerly Twitter; 44%), LinkedIn (43%), Pinterest (37%), Reddit (36%), and TikTok (24%).  

4. Leverage email marketing

All the online or offline sales you generate on Black Friday and Cyber Monday can fuel your holiday and Boxing Day sales goals. 

Collect your customers’ email addresses and get their permission to send them promotions on future deals you’ll offer during and after the holidays. Email marketing lets you send personalized messages to your customers and generate customer loyalty by enticing them to return to your store or website and take advantage of exclusive offers.

5. Modify search engine optimization (SEO)

Having a spiffy-looking website primed to rack up online holiday sales is one thing. It’s another thing if no one can find it when using specific search terms on Google or Bing. Modifying or optimizing your site’s content and metadata using popular search keywords and phrases makes a significant difference.

Start by ensuring your shop’s information on Google My Business is current, including your web and physical store address, hours of operation, and contact information. All of this info should be easily found. Then, conduct keyword research to identify relevant keywords related to your products and services. Use tools such as Google Keyword Planner for keyword ideas and search volumes, and look at your competitors’ keywords. 

Also, avoid duplicating website content from other retailers or product manufacturers. Craft high-quality, informative content that incorporates your chosen keywords naturally, and avoid keyword stuffing – loading up your site with excessive keywords or phrases – as it will harm your SEO efforts. 

6. Streamline the checkout experience

Whether in-store or online, improving your checkout processes can help reduce long customer lineups in your store and abandoned shopping carts online to provide a better customer experience. 

For example, get a point-of-sale (POS) system for in-store transactions if you don’t have one to allow for quick, secure, contactless payments and accept multiple payment options (debit, credit card, Apple Pay, Google Pay, PayPal and cash). Also, enhance your shop’s checkout counter layout to minimize traffic congestion. 

For online checkouts, ensure you accept multiple payment options, make sure your website is mobile friendly, allow customers to pay for purchases without creating an account, and provide product prices, taxes, and shipping fees that are visible and clear to your customers.

7. Review your business insurance policy

Your business is likely stockpiling inventory and merchandise for increased consumer demand. In doing so, injuries, damages, and unexpected incidents can squash any financial gains made over the holidays.

Are there any gaps in your existing coverage? Speak to a Zensurance broker and have them review your policy. Ensure you’re adequately covered with product liability insurance (typically included in commercial general liability coverage) and cyber liability insurance.

– Updated November 6, 2023.

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About the Author: Brandon Bowie

Brandon Bowie is a Team Lead, Professional Lines at Zensurance.