November 24th might sound a long way off, but ecommerce businesses will already be working on their Black Friday strategies. The Black Friday weekend is a snowballing seasonal engagement opportunity for retailers.
In 2016, Black Friday surpassed $3 billion in online sales, with Cyber Monday just ahead with $3.45 billion. It’s a crucial peak trading period for retail brands, but how can you make the most of the opportunity in 2017?
Space 48 Founder Jon Woodall was recently on UKFast’s webinar panel of ecommerce experts discussing Black Friday trends. We’ve compiled 5 key Black Friday takeaways from the webinar, including quotes from Jon and the other ecommerce gurus.
Jonathan Bowers – Webinar host and MD of UKFast
Jon Woodall – Founder of Space 48
Mark Blackhurst – CEO at Digital Next
Sunny Deo – Creative Director of Access Advertising
1. Purchases via mobile growing fast
The panelists talked about the influence of mobile shopping and how Cyber Monday, which was initially the digital sales day to complement Black Friday, has been incorporated into the Black Friday weekend phenomenon.
“Mobile is growing, and will get stronger and stronger. It’s inevitable Black Friday and Cyber Monday will merge.” (Sunny Deo)
Black Friday, as we mentioned earlier, was only just behind Cyber Monday in total online sales last year. And $1.2 billion of Black Friday sales were purchased on mobile[PS2] . So, you need to make sure your ecommerce websites are fully optimised for mobile. You can buy with Amazon on mobile in a couple of clicks, so ecommerce brands need to follow suit.
Jon Woodall said: “We’re seeing a huge move in mobile. Traffic volumes going to 70% of total traffic. Consumer expectations of being able to buy products on mobile have increased. This is closely related to social behaviours on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.”
2. Impact and opportunities for small businesses
UKFast host, Jonathan Bowers, posed the following question: “Does it mean the smaller players are lowering their prices so much that it puts them under pressure?”
Small businesses need to assess the suitability of Black Friday and Cyber Monday for their brand. Mark Blackhurst said: “Some brands don’t like to lower their prestige by getting involved in Cyber Monday. But for other brands it levels the playing field, where some smaller brands can take on the bigger brands by having the right story and the right marketing.”
It’s key to be prepared for the spike in traffic and orders, so good hosting is crucial. UKFast has seen a lot of queries around issues with site performance, due to heightened demand. If your site speeds drop significantly, brand loyalty might not be enough for small businesses to prevent customers going elsewhere.
Jon Woodall issued his recommendations for small businesses during Black Friday: “With smaller businesses, you’re going to be working with limited resources. You need to understand your most effective channels and double down on these.”
Make sure you capture the right data and use automation to get the most out of the opportunity and gain a bigger audience for the future.
3. Brands planning further in advance
The Black Friday weekend presents a huge opportunity for ecommerce businesses, so it’s crucial to do the required planning.
Sunny Deo touched upon the growing emergence of CDPs (customer data platforms) helping ecommerce businesses to be more prepared for opportunities like Black Friday, with integrated campaigns. He said: “Companies like Smart Focus help companies review and respond to data, retargeting customers (almost instantly) in the right way during peak periods.”
Black Friday has changed how retailers and customers prepare for Christmas and post-Christmas sales. Jon Woodall said: “It’s really interesting how, for some of our clients, such as Better Bathrooms, Black Friday and Cyber Monday influence other trading periods. What might start as a post-Christmas sale, starting on Boxing Day, still exists and sometimes runs into February, but we’re seeing that consumers have got the power to buy earlier.”
Mark Blackhurst added: “We encourage our clients to roadmap out the year and be fully prepared for key trading periods. Then they might want to ramp up their AdWords spend or Facebook Ads during Black Friday.”
4. Brand storytelling remains important
It’s crucial to build your brand story and differentiators over time, so when peak seasons arrive, you’re ready and customers go to your site looking for deals on your products. Brands like John Lewis create inspiring brand stories in the build-up to Christmas. Storytelling leads to brand buzz and engagement in the lead up to Black Friday and Christmas, especially on social media.
Mark Blackhurst offered a word of warning though: “Try not to be heavily reliant on these events.”
Be sure to maintain focus on your overarching strategy and brand messaging for the full year, to deliver a consistently good customer experience across all channels and devices.
5. Tweak your tactics for Black Friday
Here are some top Black Friday tactics outlined by the webinar panelists
- Use specific landing pages for your Black Friday offers
- Make it easy to insert data and remove barriers from the route to purchase
- Consider using live chat to improve customer service
- Load test your site in advance to make sure it can handle the volume of traffic and orders you’re expecting and gain a win over your competitors!
- Use your data to deliver the right offers and personalisation
It’s worth considering varying trends in different countries when planning your strategy.
- Be agile to meet changing customer expectations – consider a 70/30 rule where you know 70% of what is happening, with 30% subject to change. (Jon Woodall)
- Plan well in advance and find the right partners to help your business maximise impact. (Sunny Deo)
- Get delivery costs right for your offering, whether it’s free delivery over certain thresholds or proportionate delivery pricing. (Sunny and Jon)
- Don’t copy competitors too much, focus on what’s right for your brand and customers. (Sunny Deo)
- Avoid being over-reliant on the Black Friday weekend – you don’t want to be left with a lot of stock! (Mark Blackhurst)
- Don’t throw in too many variables that it becomes unquantifiable. (Jon Woodall)
- Only partake in Black Friday if it’s right for your brand – some ecommerce businesses stay clear and actually gain good PR for swimming against the tide. (Jonathan Bowers)
Get the full UKFast webinar replay here.
We hope these Black Friday tips, trends and tactics help you in your approach to the Black Friday weekend – if you choose to be part of it! If you need more advice on Black Friday and maximising your impact during seasonal sales periods, download your free copy of The Ultimate Guide to Black Friday Success.