November once again sees all eyes on the United States, not because of the presidential election, but because of the highly anticipated annual shopping days of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. However, no longer a phenomenon exclusive to the US, this fascinating period has certainly taken a hold on European shores over the last 2 to 3 years. Here’s everything you need to know about the event and some tips on how to make sure your e-commerce site can meet demand.
What is Black Friday?
Black Friday refers to the day after the US holiday of Thanksgiving. For decades, it has become the norm for retailers to offer reductions on stock to lure price-conscious shoppers into their stores, thus kickstarting the Christmas shopping period. According to one source, the day got its name because the Friday after Thanksgiving represented a difficult day for a particular police unit in Philadelphia that found it hard to deal with an increased number of pedestrians around the Thanksgiving celebrations.
In the financial world, it’s typical for ‘Black Tuesday’ or ‘Black Thursday’ to refer to a bad day on a stock exchange or a day a company releases disappointing financial results, but when it comes to Black Friday, the perception is mainly positive.
Along with Black Friday comes Cyber Monday, a day that emerged as an aftershock of pre-Christmas shopping involving online sales. Black Friday used to refer to instore promotions and deals that shoppers would have to nab in person, while Cyber Monday would pick up the mantle in Cyber space two days later. In recent years, high volumes of online sales are common across the whole period of deals and not just Cyber Monday.
Black Friday generated €100 million in Irish consumer spend in 2015 and is expected to rise once again in 2016.
Cautionary Black Friday Tales
While the cash is expected to flow once again this Black Friday, it’s not all good news for retailers.
Retailers are under undoubtable pressure to deliver big reductions on top of the range items. If this cost isn’t offset by a surge of sales on the day, then it can be difficult not to make a loss.
As a result of the fallout from Brexit, 2016 could see more Irish consumers than normal spending abroad during Black Friday as deal-savvy shoppers look to UK retail sites such as Amazon in order to capitalise on favourable currency exchange rates.
A demand for PayPal’s services on Cyber Monday 2015 saw the site experience two periods of ‘down time’. Although the surge in demand for the online payment processor is an encouraging sight, when shoppers are unable to checkout with PayPal seamlessly, they will quickly look for a similar deal elsewhere.
However, while these are all important considerations for Irish retailers, Black Friday does represent a massive opportunity to attract new customers that may not have shopped with you before. In the build up to this year’s Black Friday event, Littlewoods Ireland’s Marketing Manager told the Journal.ie:
“It definitely helps stimulate trade for the rest of the Christmas season, because once you get people shopping with your brand, if your brand is something they enjoy, they will tend to shop with you again.”
Is Black Friday Declining?
If one was to search news stories about Black Friday on the web they would find a lot of results talking about the “decline of Black Friday”. So, is this infamous day of holiday shopping disappearing? The answer is no, but Black Friday is changing in several ways.
Firstly, in the US the number of purchases in bricks and mortar stores are starting to decline on Black Friday. However online spending on deals is no longer confined to Cyber Monday and can account for some of these sales. Then there’s competition. Every year retailers are launching their deals earlier and earlier in November, extending the shopping frenzy well outside the traditional Thanksgiving weekend. In the words of one analyst, this is leading to the creation of a month long shopping extravaganza that should be renamed “cyberblackmember”, (a term that shouldn’t be searched in Google).
Retailers, especially those in bricks and mortar stores, need to find a balance between keeping up with the competition by putting early deals on offer while also keeping the best one-off deals for Black Friday or Cyber Monday to keep the hype going.
Equip your Business for Black Friday and Cyber Monday
These key shopping days in November aren’t going anywhere just yet and for online retailers 2016 is expected to beat last year’s sales figures.
Here are some pointers to help make sure your e-commerce site is ready for Black Friday, Cyber Monday and any other shopping days that are suitable for your business.
Ahead of time, write up an inventory of items that you are willing to reduce in price during the sales event. Calculate how much of a loss in profit you can afford on the items you want to feature; if you are reducing price on something aim for a clear goal such as increased traffic to the site or an increase in total sales to offset the decreased income on an individual transaction.
Design new website banners, Facebook ads, Google AdWords ads and any other assets that can attract people to your site during the event. Try and put aside some additional budget for digital advertising to give your site’s deals the best chance of being seen.
Talk to your web developer about testing the site for increased traffic and ask what backup or contingency plans you need to make to help things run smoothly.
There are endless digital marketing techniques that can help your site become an efficient e-commerce machine, but perhaps the most valuable are mobile optimisation and pixel placement. Shopping on mobile devices continues to rise in popularity so ensure your site is mobile friendly and offers a seamless customer journey for the entire shopping process.
If you use Facebook ads as part of your sales or awareness strategies, you can put a pixel on key pages of your site to help you with remarketing. This allows you to target ads in future to important audience segments such as cart abandoners or those who have completed a purchase before. If someone didn’t complete a transaction on Black Friday, you could target the same person with Facebook ads on Cyber Monday with news of a related deal.
Retailers in the online space have an incredible advantage over their bricks and mortar counterparts — real-time analytics. Dashboards in Google Analytics give e-commerce sites an opportunity to observe and adjust their strategy throughout the day, helping them maximise efficiencies and reduce the risk of any calamities in real-time.
For more on how to use Facebook ads to improve your e-commerce performance download the free e-book from Virgin Media Business.