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The 3 things all retailers need to be doing now to be ready for Black Friday 2018

By Michelle McSweeney

It’s that time of year again. The evenings are getting a little shorter. That distinct autumnal chill is in the air. For retailers, this can only mean one thing... the countdown to Black Friday is well and truly on!

91% of UK retailers ran Black Friday promotions last year. So, it’s safe to say that if you don’t have an offer for your customers that’s ready to go live on November 23rd, you’re missing a massive opportunity to sell.

With just weeks to go before the shopping period that is forecast to top 2017’s record-breaking online spending of £1.8 million per minute, we’re sharing the three things all retailers need to do now to be ready for Black Friday.

1. Get your website up to speed... literally!

If your store can’t handle a surge in traffic, you’re undoubtedly going to be fighting a losing battle during Black Friday. You need to ensure that you can deliver a consistent experience, whether there are 5 or 500,000 users on your online store at any given time.

I don’t know about you, but as a customer, I get that same jittery feeling on Black Friday that I used to get as a teenager standing in a mile-long queue to buy concert tickets on the morning they’re released. The fear of those dreaded words ‘sold out’ popping up is real.

If I somehow don’t manage to get my hands on my chosen items on Black Friday through some fault of my own, that’s one thing. But not being able to buy something on Black Friday because the site crashed at the payment stage... well, that’s another kettle of fish entirely.

Busy marketplace

47% of web users expect a page to load in 2 seconds or less, and every one-second delay decreases page views by 11% and conversions by 7%, and leads to a 16% reduction in customer satisfaction. Clearly, time is money here. So to get your site up to speed, calculate the following:

  • What your average page load time is
  • What size your webpages are
  • How many resources it takes for the standard page to load
  • What your average server delay is in time to first byte

Then, you should measure these figures against the average load times for your industry to determine where you need to put development time in to make the changes your customers will thank you for, not just on Black Friday, but every other day of the year!

2. Get your stock and delivery strategy in check

If you want to truly keep up with customer demand on Black Friday, you need to make sure that all of your inventory is synchronised. That way, products will only be listed as ‘out of stock’ on your website when they are actually out of stock, not when there are no units left in your central warehouse but plenty on the shelves in your physical stores.

Adopting an omnichannel strategy is a move in the right direction for retailers, no matter what time of the year it is, but when it comes to Black Friday in particular, it’s crucial that you have a system that will track your inventory in real time. Otherwise, you are, without question, going to miss out on sales unnecessarily.

Gifts in bags

Once your stock is in order, you need a first-class delivery strategy to go hand-in-hand with it. Black Friday deliveries are time-sensitive, so it’s vital for retailers to have all of the necessary resources and logistics in place. Now is the time to determine the answers to all of the following questions:

Are your standard delivery options going to be available to customers on Black Friday?

Are you introducing a promotion that specifically impacts your delivery process - e.g. free/expedited shipping?

Will you need to assign extra resources in the warehouse/logistics to keep up with a potential surge in orders that need to be shipped (e.g. shipping labels, customs documents, tracking, etc.)?

Remember, 74% of customers are likely to shop again with a specific retailer if they have a good delivery experience, so there’s no better time to make a lasting impression than Black Friday.

3. Fail to prepare, prepare to fail

Good ol’ Murphy’s law. It never fails to apply itself at the exact moment that you need things to run smoothly. So, in the least negative-sounding way possible, you need to assume that everything that could possibly break on your online store on Black Friday is going to! Ok, maybe we don’t have to be quite so dramatic, but now really is the time to start nailing down your contingency plan in case anything does happen to go south at any stage during the Black Friday madness.

Let’s just assume that you’ve planned a 50%-off sitewide promotion to run on Black Friday only. But for some unknown reason, when the clock strikes 12am, your online store doesn’t display the updated pricing that you had scheduled to go live. Social media posts have already triggered to promote the sale in various markets, and queries are starting to come in from visitors who aren’t seeing a discount appearing in their shopping cart at checkout. What do you do?

Hourglass

Well, aside from staying calm (or as calm as you can be in that situation!), you need to have a network of experts that you can call on to troubleshoot in the event that something doesn’t go to plan on a day like Black Friday, which has the power to drive huge revenue for your business.

Determine exactly who those people are (e.g. key developers, your digital commerce platform account manager, members of the digital marketing team, etc.) and start developing your Plan B now. Best case scenario is that you never have to use it. Worst case is that you might experience some small bumps in the road, but at least Black Friday sales won’t be a complete write-off for your business as a result!

Time is ticking, so take every chance you have to prepare for Black Friday 2018 now. Because if the predictions are anything to go by, customers are going to be ready, willing, and able to spend big on November 23rd!

Michelle McSweeney, Content Marketing Specialist, Kooomo

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