For most retailers, the start of November signals the beginning of the busy holiday season. As Black Friday sales look to shift forward Christmas spending, we look at how this weekend is dominating the minds of retailers everywhere.
The difficulties of Black Friday
Last year, in the UK alone, shoppers spent more than £3.3 billion over Black Friday weekend. Sales were also up by more than a third on Cyber Monday; compared to 2014. Whilst the opportunities for sales and customer acquisition are obvious, they are less than guaranteed.
One of the best things about Black Friday is the surge in shoppers and revenue over the weekend. However, despite soaring figures for many, the sheer number of visitors can bring down even the most prepared website.
For retailers, including the likes of Argos, the spike in traffic can cause untold performance issues and, as result limit sales opportunities. Not only this, a surge in sales can deplete stock levels, causing warehouse and delivery delays.
Further compounding the above, and of particular concern to smaller businesses, are customer expectations of deals on Black Friday. As bigger retailers slash prices to meet shoppers’ extravagant saving expectations, smaller businesses battle with remaining competitive and maintaining profit margins.
With a bigger pie for all, new retailers battle to get their own slice, while existing players struggle to increase their own. The concentration of competition over this one weekend can make it difficult for even the loudest marketing messages to cut through the noise. Those with smaller budgets or without a good strategy risk drowning amongst stronger messages or better deals.
With pressure from all sides, it is essentials for businesses to have a plan that makes the most of Black Friday weekend, so here’s how to prepare for the big weekend.
Plan your offers
Having a clear and structured plan for Black Friday weekend is an obvious essential. This should cover everything from what products to put on offer, to deals, discounts and when they should be released. Creating a spreadsheet with a list of products, deals, prices, dates and other details will help track activity over the weekend.
While it can be tempting to simply cut prices in a bid to beat the competition and win over customers, carefully crafted offers are more likely to attract customers with popular products while achieving healthier profits on big-ticket items.
Voucher codes for planned offers and discounts should be tested and retested along with any other core processes to avoid unexpected complications on the day. Voucher code problems will hinder sales on the big day, as well as making unhappy customers.
Have a plan B
Having a clear and concise plan from the outset is important, but having a contingency plan can be just as vital in an emergency. Here is our checklist of plan B preparations you should look to make before Black Friday.
You’re website is your most valuable online asset; downtime or performance problems can cause havoc even on a quiet day. For Black Friday weekend, make sure that you’ve got the right support in place should anything occur. In 2015, retailers reported loss of service and slow loading times of as much as 8 seconds despite increased investment in server capacity and website capability.
Stock and suppliers
Equally, prepare your stock and inventory far in advance of Black Friday. Running out of stock will put your business under pressure as well as disappoint customers. Whether it’s making special arrangements with suppliers, or taking on extra manufacturing or warehouse staff; take steps to ensure you’ve got everything you need in place.
It’s also advisable to make additional plans to account for worst-case scenarios. If a supplier lets you down, what is your next option? Ensure your customer service department is prepped with the best responses to disgruntled customers by planning a series of solutions and setting a tone of voice. This should help with response time and minimise collateral damage.
Finally, don’t forget to think about delivery. Faster delivery continues to be a priority offering for many retailers as they struggle to stand out from competitors and win customers. The increasing popularity of Black Friday and immense pressure on delivery services has caused problems in previous years, so make sure to check with your courier before the event. Remember, don’t be tempted into making promises to customers you can’t logistically handle.
Have a PPC plan
If you want to compete in paid search over the Black Friday weekend you’ll need to set a clearly defined budget. You’ll have little time to test and optimise, so set aside a marketing budget you’re happy to spend on your Black Friday ads. To avoid compromising your existing ads, create a brand new campaign for Black Friday. Within this you can create unique ad groups & ad extensions targeted specifically towards your sale.
Experiment with different USPs and CTAs so each ad is different. If an ad is not performing well, having pre-planned replacements can save the hassle of thinking up new ad copy, and save valuable time.
As with any campaign, research is essential to creating a competitive keyword list and bidding strategy. It’s impossible to know for sure how your bids may need to change over the weekend in response to competition and changing demands, but it is still important to have a rough idea of how you want to run your compaigns over the weekend.
Keep customers coming back
Tough competition and wide consumer choice poses the problem of sustaining interest over Black Friday weekend. Savvy customers may purchase your cheapest offers and move on, while others may abandon their basket after researching a better offer and going elsewhere.
Planning a release schedule that spans the entire day or weekend may help to entice customers back. Promote your schedule, such as releasing a new offer every hour, in the run up to Black Friday weekend to make customers aware they should keep checking back. Spreading out offers and discounts in this way may help prevent a congestion of traffic in the early hours of Black Friday that could put your website under pressure.
We also recommend setting up automated emails to target abandoned shopping carts, which can be a problem given the rush of Black Friday. In 2014, cart abandonment for desktop was recorded at 62%, with even higher rates for tablet and mobile. Emails with an encouraging reminder or additional offer could be enough to persuade customers to complete their purchase.
Similarly, appeal to customers who may have left your site to research other offers with a remarketing strategy. Targeted ads to customers that have previously visited your site can help keep your brand front of mind over Black Friday weekend.
Look to the data
Crunch the numbers and look at the data before, during and after Black Friday weekend. Take a competitive view as well as internally, along with industry specific trends.
Google Analytics is your first port of call, along with any other tools you might use to analyse performance online. . Set up competitor alerts and monitor changes in keyword traffic in the lead up to Black Friday, this should help you to make fast and informed business decisions over the weekend.
If it’s available, look at data from last year’s Black Friday weekend and use the information to inspire improvements for this year.
A successful Black Friday weekend is only possible with a clear plan, from looking at the right data, to deciding on the right offers and choosing the right marketing. If you want to know more about optimising your digital strategy for Black Friday weekend, contact one of our team today.