If anyone was in any doubt about the global nature of e-commerce, they should look no further than the sales phenomenon that is Black Friday. It used to be a very American affair, marking the start of sales after Thanksgiving. But since Amazon introduced the event to Europe in 2010, more and more online retailers operating on this side of the Atlantic are copying the vast discounting tactics.
Those keen to join in for November 2015 would do well to prepare for Black Friday now. Some key steps to preparing for the big day include:
Stocking up strategically – work closely with suppliers to net some useful discounts that might be applied on the big day and attract new customers.
Get your site ready – this includes updated product listings and descriptions, and special “Black Friday” pages in anticipation of customers doing their research early. And your site should be optimised for mobile shopping, if it isn’t already.
Get the word out – you may also want to get marketing campaigns lined up now, including emails and targeted content, rather than relying on a last minute push.
And through it all, be sure to prepare for increased demand on delivery, as any significant sales peak puts pressure on logistics and fulfilment operations.
Just look at the UK, where Black Friday And sales certainly peaked in the UK on 28 November 2014.
A report from Visa Europe predicted 8.5m online transactions would be made, – an increase of 22 per cent on the previous year – with consumers expected to spending £6,000 (€8,418) on their Visa cards every second.
This equates to more than £1m (€1.4m) spent every three minutes. A survey by Barclays Bank suggested as many as 65 per cent of UK retailers were going to take part.
When it came to it, British online retail association IMRG said online sales were 50 per cent higher than many experts had expected.
And although sales associated with the Black Friday weekend (leading into “Cyber Monday”) were at their most fervent in the UK, retailers across Europe were also starting to join in, including big names El Corte Ingles, Carrefour, Media Markt and Ikea.
Feelunique.com has claimed it tripled sales volume
Some retailers were left questioning how much extra revenue the sales event generated in 2014, arguing that it focused sales that might have been more evenly spread across the pre-Christmas period. But Europe’s leading beauty e-tailer, Feelunique.com, has claimed it tripled sales volume and that new customers were responsible for half of that increase. It also aims to double those sales figures in 2015.
That’s ambitious when retailers including the UK’s Marks & Spencer had to delay home deliveries by up to two weeks in 2014 so that its logistics could cope with the demand. IMRG referred to the issues experienced across the industry as a “delivery tsunami”.
But Craig Wheeler, the retailer’s e-commerce and retail operations director, said in an interview with The Drum*, that the industry was still learning and that managing expectation of delivery was fundamental to ensuring success. “If someone knows an order is going to take a week to get to them, they’re happy with that if they know,” he explains.
David-Alexandre Krupa, sales excellence manager at Asendia, emphasises that usual best practice should apply when preparing for such an event. This should start with talking to your logistics provider in advance about extra capacity and staffing up your logistics warehouse and call centres.
IMRG also warns retailers to consider the impact on returns; optimise packaging to minimise wasted space on delivery vehicles; and offer tracking as a priority – after all, good communication reassures customers.
Changing delivery options could also be the best way for small retailers to preserve profit margins.
But Krupa adds that with Christmas and January sales around the corner – which retailers are more used to preparing for – it shouldn’t be too complex for businesses to apply similar techniques to negotiate the peak in demand.
“Anticipation is always important,” he says. And as Black Friday gains ground across Europe and demand is only likely to increase, “it’s certainly one to watch out for,” he adds.
About David-Alexandre Krupa