Do you have an online store? Take note of these tips for retailers who want to scale up and build loyalty during Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Singles' Day.
This time is perhaps the most important trading period for most online retailers wanting to sell out the year's stock. For retailers worldwide, it marks the beginning of the holiday shopping season and the busiest time of the year. Almost 50% of all Christmas gifts are purchased during the period from Black Friday to Cyber Monday. This year, Black Friday kicks off at midnight on Friday, November 24, 2023.
People flock to the internet in search of good deals and offers, but this year, price alone won't be enough to remain competitive. Even though consumers pay less for products, it doesn't mean they are willing to compromise on poor quality, slow delivery, lack of products, long loading times on websites, and so on. People shop online to avoid standing in line, to have easy access to products, and to have a good selection. The better the Black Friday experience is for customers, the higher the likelihood that they will come back for more. So, for retailers, it's important to be able to meet the increased demand and provide customers with the shopping experience they desire.
Here's how you can get ready for Black Friday:
There are many things to keep in mind, and this period can quickly become a headache for both online stores and consumers, so it's important to be smart. Here are some tips for preparations, with explanations below:
Focus on smart and safe Black Friday shopping instead of personal consumption. Encouraging excessive consumption may leave a bitter taste for many customers.
Communicate well in advance to make customers aware of your online store's offers during Black Friday.
Build trust by being transparent with pre- and post-prices.
Use different messages for those buying for themselves and those buying gifts.
Keep your customers informed throughout the process until the item has been delivered.
Offer flexible exchange and return policies.
Ensure that you have the right delivery options in place, such as express and home delivery.
Good customer service
When orders start pouring in, it's extremely important that your backend functions like a well-oiled machine and that you have enough people available. To reduce the pressure on customer service, consider implementing a chat or chatbot on your online store to handle returns, complaints, product questions, etc.
1. Good customer service
When orders start coming in, it is extremely important that the backend functions like a well-oiled machine and that there are enough people available. To reduce the pressure on customer service, you should consider implementing a chat or chatbot in the online store to handle returns, complaints, product inquiries, and more.
2. Fast delivery and good alternatives
It may not come as a surprise, but consumers expect short delivery times, especially during the holiday season. It contributes to a more enjoyable Christmas Eve with satisfied children.
- Provide customers with regular updates on delivery status.
- Allow customers to choose where they want the package delivered (home, work, click & collect).
- Offer multiple delivery methods with different frequencies (including next-day delivery).
- Choose a transportation company that your customers like and that works well for you.
3. Seamless returns and warranty process
Many consumers are turned off by online stores with poor return policies and cumbersome solutions. Depending on the industry, 10-30% of online purchases often end up being returned. If a retailer hasn't done a good enough job with the return process, the likelihood of consumers choosing their online store in the first place decreases.
One of the best ways to reduce the volume of returns is to understand why customers are returning items and work to minimize them.
- Provide users with a user-friendly interface for online returns and, if applicable, an included return label in the package.
- Allow for exchanges and extend the return period during this time.
Remember that many orders during this period are Christmas gifts. Christmas is a stressful time for many, and you can gain a lot from providing good customer experiences during this busy period. It can make a difference between a one-time purchase or a first-time buyer who keeps coming back.
4. Regular communication with customers
I've already mentioned providing regular delivery status updates, but it's also important to communicate with customers well in advance of the sales period to make them aware of your offers. As many customers don't trust Black Friday deals, it's wise to clearly display pre- and post-prices that customers can rely on.
Only 12% made impulsive purchases while online or in physical stores during Black Friday 2021.
65% responded that most of what they bought were items they had planned to purchase and that they were looking for good deals.
- Clearly display pre- and post-prices that customers can rely on (they will check comparison websites).
- Prepare newsletters and offers well in advance (remember that customers receive a flood of newsletters during this period).
- Create a landing page for Black Friday and prepare customers for the deals and exciting surprises that await them.
- Write compelling content that can drive traffic to your online store, such as "10 Christmas gift ideas for men who have everything" or "These dresses will make you the queen of the ball on Christmas Eve."
5. Advertise with caution
During Black Friday, there's a lot of competition, and advertising can be expensive and noisy for consumers. It's important to think tactically and from the consumer's perspective. For some online stores, it may be more beneficial to hold off on advertising until after this period.
- Choose niche products or a smaller selection of products for advertising that can drive traffic to the rest of your inventory.
- DO NOT advertise products that are out of stock or have very limited availability (as this can lead to angry customers and long delivery times).
- Select the right advertising channels with well-packaged messages.
- Focus on remarketing campaigns (although you shouldn't necessarily start remarketing immediately).
- Invest in product reviews from your customers.
Many people will have their first encounter with your online store, and consumers often rely almost as much on personal recommendations. Consumers are often more generous during this period, both with positive and negative reviews. So there's a higher likelihood of more sales during this period if product reviews are in place.
6. Prepare your infrastructure for the traffic
It may be obvious to many, but every year I see online stores faltering due to poor infrastructure or preparations. So make sure your servers are ready for traffic spikes, and spread out your sales offers across several days to reduce them.
One of the most important factors for sales in an online store during Black Friday is loading time. The longer your site takes to load, the higher the likelihood of a higher bounce rate and lost sales.
- Have a responsive and mobile-friendly online store.
- Offer customers the opportunity to buy more (buy the style, recommended accessories, related products, most purchased, others also bought - use the shopping cart effectively).
- Ensure fast loading times for your pages (they should be under 2 or 3 seconds).
- Check your hosting and server (and CDN)
- Conduct stress tests to ensure your website can handle the increased traffic.
7. Conduct a test well before Black Friday
If you have been visible for a period leading up to Black Friday, the likelihood of customers buying from your online store increases. This way, you have created awareness, they have seen your logo, your selection, and you are slightly more recognized when the time comes.
Check newsletters, offers, ads, channels, the customer experience in the shopping cart and product search, and talk to some of your customers to find out what they are looking for. That way, you have a greater chance of success with your offers and selling out inventory during Black Friday.
8. Things to avoid
The final tip is to try to avoid some things to make Black Friday go a bit smoother, both for you and your customers.
- Lack of updates on delivery and long delivery times for products.
- Advertising products that are out of stock.
- Starting communication too late and therefore not being visible in the lead-up to Black Friday.
- Avoid unnecessary interruptions in the purchasing process. If you use pop-up banners for newsletters, etc., it can be disruptive to the buying process. Especially for new customers who may have already been exposed to a consent form.
- Do not ask if the customer found what they were looking for or if they are satisfied with the online store after 5 seconds into the visit.
- If you are not participating in Black Friday, remember that there are good opportunities outside of this period.
There are several online stores that have chosen not to participate in Black Friday but instead focus on donations to good causes, support for other businesses that consumers should buy from, advocating for promoting conscious consumption, or Green Friday - which focuses on shopping from small, sustainable stores. So, there are several options.
The time outside or after Black Friday, Black Week, Cyber Monday, and Singles' Day can also be a good opportunity to attract customers with a bit less competition.
Thomas is CCO in Frontkom. His background is from the agency industry with more than 20 years as manager and senior advisor within eCommerce. Thomas is an expert at building complex customer journeys for online stores. He writes about eCommerce, customer club, integrations and how to succeed with your online store.