The Ecommerce Black Friday Guide

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The holiday buying season, along with how consumers are shopping and their expectations for shopping experiences, has evolved drastically.

The planning for ecommerce Black Friday is changing but so are the potential impacts. Black Friday is more than a way to boost sales – it’s also a way to attract new customers, strengthen loyalty with existing customers and shape your brand’s image. 

With the importance of Black Friday in the world of ecommerce, Linnworks participated in a panel discussion, along with IMRG and Red Hot Penny, at the Hoxton Hotel in Holborn. 

Panelists included Simon Lye, Partnerships Manager, Linnworks; Andy Mulcahy, Strategy and Insight Director, IMRG; David Schulhof, Managing Director, Red Hot Penny; Gareth Hughes, Executive Director of Supply Chain Technology (UK and Ireland) The Estee Lauder Companies; and Jamie Huskisson, CEO, JH. These experts weighed in on the best strategies for how to prepare for Black Friday in Ecommerce.

Andy Mulcahy, Strategy and Insight Director at IMRG and Black Friday expert, says Black Friday started in 2009 when Amazon brought it over to the UK. “But it didn’t really kick in for a few years after that, to get that mass scale that it has now,” he says. 

More than a decade later, the-day-after-Thanksgiving shopping spree isn’t going anywhere. In 2020, Black Friday consumers spent $9 billion, online sales hitting $7.4 billion, according to Adobe Analytics Data. That’s an increase of 21.6% year over year, making it the second-largest online spending day in U.S. history. 

How to prepare for Black Friday in ecommerce.

The experts on the panel discussion shared their insights on how to prepare for ecommerce Black Friday and how to thrive.

Plan for a season – not just a Friday

First things first – stop thinking of “Black Friday” as a one-and-done day. As David Schulof says, it’s more of a “Grey November”. 

“Although it felt like a really good Black Friday and a really good period, when we look at year-on-year comparison, it was just spread over a much longer period, rather than a weekend of a big spike, it was just much more of a gradual increase,” Schulof says. 

Schulof adds that Google is predicting 30% of all British will do their Christmas shopping by end of October. “That’s nearly 10 times what it would normally have been in previous years. We are seeing evidence of that already,” he says. 

Seize the day

Don’t sit on a good thing, Schulof suggests. “Make your Black Friday period today,” he says. If you’re going to wait until November, you’re giving your competitors a chance to get that stock in, he points out. His advice is if you’ve got it and you know you’ve got it, and it’s in demand, sell it now.

“When that Black Friday comes around, you’ll have other stock to shift. If you know there is demand for it, use your search trends data, and your marketing teams can supply that,” he says. “Sell it now; don’t wait. Create your own Black Friday weekend. If that’s tomorrow, make it happen.” He says if you’ve got the stock and your competitors don’t, sell it now and then use Black Friday for something else, if you want to.

Prioritize customer experience

Simon Lye, Partnerships Manager at Linnworks, points out that 76% of consumers now value experience as a kind of key priority for them. This means an easy-to-navigate website and a seamless shopping experience from start to end. When it comes to delivery options, panelists suggest offering customers an option for same-day delivery with an extra cost.

Remember customer experience doesn’t end at check-out

It’s important to prioritize a customer’s post-sale experience as well, Lye says. “The focus from a new commerce point of view is often on the, “Let’s drive people to the website, let’s make sure they have a smooth check-out experience.” Actually, there’s a huge part that pays in the fulfillment as well. So, what are you using as your packaging? How you put branding on the packaging, but also just making sure that you can fulfill,” Lye says.

For customers, often the most pivotal part of having a positive shopping experience is receiving a package when it’s expected and having it be in good condition.  

Schulof points out that since Black Friday shopping is about the bargain, brands may often be looking for a cheaper way to get the product out. “Brands probably should be more thinking, “This is an opportunity to acquire customers”,” he says.

Focus on gaining loyal customers

Lye points out that Black Friday in the past, has been all about pushing volume, and a discount that is trying to drive more through. “I think, actually, there is that element of trying to seize that opportunity of getting more customers through the door, and actually focusing on that experience piece, to make sure you can drive and convert those into loyal customers, moving forward,” he says. 

He feels it’s crucial to make sure that you’re making the most of that increased traffic of first-time customers that you’re getting through this period and seeing how you can convert those into long-term customers. 

Inventory is key

Availability trumps price, says Schulof. 

Lye echoes that sentiment by advising to make sure you’ve got good understanding from a supplier point of view of what your availability is, understanding what stock levels you’ve got, but also looking at past trends of what proportion and performance of each of your sales channels had. 

“Looking at how you might be able to attribute and allocate a certain amount of stock, to be sold through those specific channels, but maybe, also looking at price points and margins that you can actually look to- and maybe delivery ways that you can look at,” he says.

He adds that people will pay more to get it the same day, even if they don’t need it the same day just because once you want to buy something you buy it. “We always say, if you know you can’t deliver it for 10 days, today, tomorrow, don’t spend the money driving that audience to your product, because you’ll probably waste a lot of it, because you just won’t get the conversion. We see a lot of that,” he says. 

“What I’m hearing at the moment is that some people are quite cocky about the stock that they’ve got. So, they think that they’ve actually done pretty well in getting that stuff in place,” Mulachy says. “Somehow, they seem to have a bit of knowledge about what their competitors have, or don’t have, or maybe they’ve made some assumptions about it. So, I think, you might see a real sort of disproportionate performance this year, ones that maybe didn’t get hold of it in time are, obviously, going to suffer for it a little bit.”

Be true to your brand

If you’re comfortable with your brand’s identify, stick with it, Schulof says. “As soon as you try and become something you’re not, you stand out and you alienate the customers.”

Here are more holiday ecommerce resources to check out:

Holiday ecommerce preparedness guide for 2021.

How to drive conversions & retention through personalized experiences for Black Friday/Cyber Monday.