Consumers Moving Online For Black Friday: Are You Prepared?

1.4bn-online-sales2-350Black Friday once again returns to the UK this month, and over the last few years consumers have embraced this annual tradition as they search for bargain gifts in the build-up to Christmas Day. Many companies have been steadily watching sales in December decrease since the event came to the UK, with seasonal spend shifting more towards November and Black Friday itself. This has culminated in a study by Doddle estimating that five million UK shoppers will stay up to do their online Christmas shopping from the moment the sales start on Black Friday 2018. So with Black Friday clearly here to stay, recent years have pointed to one growing factor cementing Black Friday in the mainstream – online stores.

£1.4bn was spent online in 2017 on Black Friday with High Street shops suffering as a result, with many businesses reporting decreased footfall compared to previous years. Statistics like these stress the importance of being savvy and well prepared for online sales boosts, especially during events such as Black Friday and the January sales. Fail to ensure your online shop is up to scratch in comparison with competitors, and face watching your potential revenue be driven elsewhere.

With the UK event becoming increasingly online focused as consumers push to avoid the in-store rushes and queues, we look at some key considerations on how you can prepare for this mass cyber sale.

stock-predictions-350Know What To Expect & React Appropriately

With the Financial Times calling the season “the most important” in Britain’s retail sector, it is imperative to be prepared well ahead of Black Friday. With the right knowledge, businesses can begin to predict and analyse trends regarding what items will be popular, as well as those they can afford to reduce and still make a good margin. Using these findings, businesses can ensure stock levels are optimised ahead of the big event. If you rely on a supplier for your stock, or your product is manufactured in-house, consider the increased demand you’ll experience during the holiday season and make sure any lead times are taken into account.

In addition to optimising stock levels, businesses should also strive to ensure their eCommerce platforms accurately reflects the stock levels available. The last thing businesses want is to miss out on extra sales because they didn’t plan for the surge in shoppers and online channels aren’t updated with newly arrived stock fast enough. Additionally, businesses won’t want to oversell on these channels and have to deal with returns and dissatisfied customers. By having the correct measures in place to maintain accurate stock levels online, you can ensure your channels are ready for the spike in orders during Black Friday and handle them with ease.

Gain Consumer Interest

Knowing this event attracts millions of deal seekers means businesses should be taking the opportunity to grow their customer base by providing attractive Black Friday offers. Multi-saver promotions such as buy one get one free, buy one and get another 1/2 price can help entice Black Friday shoppers to spend more on your eCommerce site. Additionally, using tools to target offers based on customer spending habits such as previously sold or related items can also help to boost revenue over this key period.

What’s more, discounts should be focused on high margin items to further increase profits during the period. This will also allow businesses to offer free incentives, as these are a tried-and-tested method of hooking customers. Research suggests that offering free delivery on purchases can boost revenue by 10%, so being able to offer free shipping on high margin Black Friday purchases can further help to boost sales.

Mobile Friendly Sites Profit From Black Fridayphone2-350 Sales

Last year, Shopify stores saw more mobile purchases than desktop purchases during Black Friday for the first time. As the trend of mobile shopping continues to rise in general, it is essential that eCommerce businesses are thinking mobile first.

That said, statistics from Barilliance show this way of thinking might not be the case for a lot of businesses. According to their research, the average cart abandonment rate on Black Friday 2017 was 74.5%. Therefore to avoid falling into this percentage, having a website platform that is optimised for use on mobile and tablets can make the buying experience for all potential customers better. By having an easy, mobile friendly checkout process with ample payment options, businesses can help nurture Black Friday purchase through to the final close. So if your site isn’t responsive, then now is the time to consider updating your existing eCommerce website ready to capitalise on the increased mobile spend in 2019.

In the meantime, businesses can minimise sales lost due to abandoned carts by targeting these customers with their marketing emails. This way, when a customer adds a product to their cart but leaves your online store, you can follow up with a well-timed email that brings them back to complete their purchase.

email-marketing-350Turn Seasonal Shoppers Into Year-Round Customers

Your relationship with your online shoppers doesn’t need to end after Black Friday and businesses should be taking steps to nurture consumers to gain repeat custom all year round. You should consider having a comprehensive marketing strategy in place that keeps your customers engaged with post-sale emails and well-timed marketing campaigns to subscribers during the year.

According to eMarketer, 80% of retail professionals said email marketing is their greatest driver of customer retention. Not to mention, consumers who purchase products from email offers spend 138% more than those that don’t receive email offers. Therefore by encouraging the customers gained from Black Friday to repeat custom with new offers and personalised communications, businesses can build buyer confidence and loyalty in order to fully capitalise on potential ROI.

Create A Speedy Returns Process For Great Customer Service

A final point all businesses should consider is that with any large influx of sales, naturally comes an increase in returns. A survey conducted by Viga found that 22% of consumers say that products they buy online rarely meet expectations – and nearly half of these buyers will return items (48%). With Black Friday (and the Christmas gift-giving period in general) accelerating your normal rate of consumer purchases, it can be inevitable that some items are just not quite right.

It is no secret that dealing with customer returns can have a large impact on operational speed and business profitability, therefore it is important that returns processes are handled in a fast, structured manner in order to keep the costs incurred from returns to a minimum. For this reason, businesses should consider barcode scanning technology rather than manual paper based methods in order to quickly handle all aspects of their returns and alleviate the expected Black Friday surge.

By providing great customer service and easy return options, you can truly maximise on this high-spending shopping day, simply by earning customer trust for future purchases and encouraging them to return to buy again throughout the year.

So in conclusion, if you prepare well in advance and ensure your business has the right software in place to maximise sales, optimise stock accuracy and provide a first-rate mobile buying experience, your eCommerce channels can easily meet Black Friday demand and position you ready for this ever-growing online shopping frenzy.