How to have a bigger and better Black Friday experience

Peak retail season is fast approaching, and this year’s festive spike in sales traffic could yet again see records tumble.

Retailers are being advised to prepare for what could turn out to be the longest sustained period of sales discounting in retail history. With Black Friday due to fall on Friday, November 23, that leaves four full weeks of trading and five weekends in the build-up to Christmas itself, and no one is likely to let up on the promotions.

According to our data, 2017 was another record-breaking year. Major Australian retailers we work with saw orders on Black Friday itself up 39 per cent year-on-year and orders throughout Black Friday week up the same amount. We are anticipating similar growth this year.

By now, retailers should be at an advanced stage of planning both in-store and online to capitalise on what will surely be a make-or-break period for the year. The starting gun will be sounded on Black Friday itself, and everyone will want to hit the ground running on what is expected to be the single biggest day’s trading of the year.

So what can still be done to focus efforts and ensure you get off to the best possible start this peak season? Here are five tips for making Black Friday a summer spectacular.

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Prioritise mobile

Black Friday is now a mobile-first event, and you should be optimising commerce channels, check-out functions, promotional campaigns and back-end resources to support mobile traffic.

Last year we saw mobile transactions reach a tipping point – according to our data, 53 per cent of orders and 66 per cent of traffic came from mobile devices. This year we can expect those figures to increase as more and more consumers embrace the freedom and flexibility of shopping on the move on their smartphones. Even as shoppers browse your store, they are increasingly likely to be on their phones comparing prices and looking for the latest flash offers elsewhere. Not having your mobile channels optimised means missing out.

Integrate all of your channels

Mobile might have become the single most important channel for Black Friday sales and promotions, but multiple channels are still better than one. Just under half of all digital sales (47 per cent) still came through desktop last year, and your store remains a crucial resource for creating high-quality experiences for shoppers who like to get up close and personal with products before they buy.
What is essential is ensuring all channels, and indeed your entire business, are geared towards the same goals. For example, to take
advantage of the growth of mobile commerce, consider introducing a “click and collect” service through your store. That way you
create the option for customers to browse, head off elsewhere to compare, buy on the move and collect on the way back so they
don’t have to carry an item around with them all day. It is all about enhancing convenience and choice.

Prepare for an extended period

Black Friday is no longer a one-day, one-off event. It is telling that orders throughout the week following Black Friday grew more than
orders on the day itself last year – it may be that consumers are using Black Friday to head out to the malls and browse, grabbing the very best bargains, but then waiting to see what they can get online in the days that follow.

We saw several retailers caught out by this as they started to run out of stock later in the period. With a long run-in until
Christmas, it is crucial that your inventory operations match your promotional campaigns.

Be prepared for traffic spikes

The trend we saw last year was not just towards a prolonged promotional period, but a round-the-clock one too. As the majority of Black Friday sales activity has shifted to digital, the notion of traditional retail hours has been eroded. People are just as likely to
make purchases online late at night as they are early in the morning.

From a systems point of view, this makes it difficult to anticipate when peaks in traffic might occur. You simply have to be prepared at
all times, with a digital infrastructure that can cope with the highest anticipated spikes in traffic and then some throughout the period.

Get personal with promotions

As the Black Friday period gets stretched out, consumers are becoming increasingly savvy about playing the waiting game.
Inspired by Amazon’s introduction of “Lightning Deals”, they know that a great offer could just be around the corner and are prepared to hold off making purchases until they see one.

This turns promotional offers into a game of cat and mouse. Instant, in-the-moment, miss-it-and-it’s-gone flash offers will
drive conversions but require considerable planning and logistical agility. Personalisation and segmentation are key, using data from
integrated CRM to plot just the right offer at just the right time for your customers, and delivering the promotion via the appropriate, ideally mobile, channels – IM, SMS, in-app messaging and so on.

 

Piers Chapple is the APAC program manager for global e-commerce consultancy Salmon.

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