It’s official, the countdown to Christmas has begun, Black Friday is now just one week away.

Black Friday Sales 2018

It’s official, the countdown to Christmas has begun, John Lewis have released their Christmas ad, the shops are full of mince pies and Black Friday is now just one week away.

We look at how the retailers prepare for one of the biggest shopping days of the year. It’s all about the deal this is not an event for regular shoppers. Consumers are wise to tactics, so promoting a deal that has been the same all year is not good enough and can harm long term brand reputation.

According to the Office for National Statistics, there was a 1.5% decline in the volume of UK sales last December (month on month) following a particularly strong November. Consumers are buying earlier, taking advantage of Black Friday sales.

Black Friday is a huge opportunity for retailers.

Defining the aim of the event is vital – do you want to use Black Friday to acquire new customers, clear old stock, or simply boost sales?

To really manage a successful campaign, planning early is important, most retailers begin in July deciding budget and KPIs. But it’s not too late to put together a Black Friday sales campaign. We’ve put together a checklist to help.

1. Check your online platform is up to the challenge – check the traffic from last year, this will help determine the volume to expect and the user scenarios. You can also run stress tests (to understand capacity limits) and load tests. You can test server load capacity with tools like Load Impact and if you do find issues or bugs there are scalable hosting solutions to deal with traffic surges – Amazon Web Service and Google Cloud are two of the most popular.

2. Prepare for customers who have already started researching – let people know about your upcoming sale. You need to ensure customers find you.  Build suspense and buzz with a teaser campaign, sneak peeks of what’s to come. The arrival of GDPR means a change in the approach to email marketing in the lead up to the event – but it is still a key way for brands to target customers.

3. Re-target past visitors and customers – if you’ve already set up a Facebook Pixel on your store, now is the time to use it. You’ll reach people who may have forgotten about your store and would not have checked out your sale.

4. The most effective email strategies rely on segmentation – create content based on relevancy and personalisation, using knowledge of your customers purchasing behaviour and brand interaction. This enables retailers to personalise the message with urgency or rewards. For example, exclusive discounts or bigger rewards should be reserved for regular and high spend customers to drive loyalty, could be as simple as offering them a chance to access the sale earlier. Whilst customers who have shopped on Black Friday before (but aren’t engaged at other times of the year) could benefit from reminder emails based on what they could save this year. Perhaps an exclusive offer or discount just for subscribing to your email list.

5. Inviting and engaging creative and graphics are vital for social media and digital advertising – a count down, reason not miss out, snap shot of what’s on offer. Create banners and hero images, free templates and online tools are available, sites such as Canva and other online platforms like Creative Market mean you don’t need to be a graphic designer to get things done.

6. Use a Black Friday web landing page that has been live throughout the year – this gives retailers a head start on search rankings, but content needs to be refreshed including meta descriptions and the key messaging of your products and services, things such as speed, delivery, exclusive deals etc.

Think mobile, last year, Shopify stores saw more mobile purchases than desk top purchases for the first time.

7. Create content that differentiates you from the clutter – in some cases this can be a stance against the event – Asda staged a mannequin challenge to highlight the fact that it offers low prices every day of the year. Donating a percentage of sales to charitable or environmental causes gives you a different voice and an opportunity for joint marketing activity.

8. Choose the products you want to run a sale on and schedule start dates and sale prices – a good way to boost conversions is to use shareable discount links for redeeming offer codes. Once you’ve attracted customers to your site use a few proven tools to boost average orders – such as free shipping thresholds or product bundle offers.

9. Make sure your return policy is clear, fair and well communicated – It might just convince on-the-fence customers to go ahead and purchase, as you’re showing confidence in your product and removing potential risk.

Don’t be shy about letting shoppers know when a deal is about to end or item sell out, this drives customers to move faster.

10. Ensure you have quick and courteous responses ready – customer service is important and under pressure can be hard to maintain especially if you are using agency or temp staff to assist during the busy period – a few standard phrases prepared and written down will help with consistent, helpful and quick response times especially on how to handle upset customers effectively and empathetically.

How you market and present your merchandise is also important for the in-store experience. In the same way you may run a ‘jaw-dropping’ offer on an item online to entice customers. Have one area of your shop filled with ‘I can’t believe it prices’. In some cases this product may be a loss leader. This is an opportunity to shift demo products alongside returns with damaged packaging, slash the price, put it on a bargain table and shift the stock.

Supply – keep communication open with your shipping partners and plan for contingency to ensure you can quickly restock inventory if you sell out earlier than expected.

Finally, make sure you have your google analytics set up – this free website tracking tool allows you to see exactly what your customers are doing on your site, giving you valuable insights for purchasing behaviour to inform future campaigns.

Be memorable this year and customers will remember to come back next year.

If this is your first Black Friday, treat it as a learning experience, track everything, take notes and screenshots and reflect on what worked and what didn’t.

If you would like to discuss shipping, supply chain or e-commerce retail solutions please contact one of the team.

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