By Claire Odom, Client Strategy Director, The Tapestry Agency
As another Black Friday approaches, once again, it’s embroiled in uncertainty as consumers return to physical stores, the cost-of-living crisis bites, and there’s a winter World Cup and strikes. All these factors make forecasting challenging.
And there’s the question of whether to participate or not. While many will, others are shunning it and avoiding deep discounting. Some are choosing to adopt a corporate social responsibility approach by supporting relevant charities that fit with their brand values or embracing a Green Friday stance.
For those planning to run promotions, here are 5 action areas to consider based on in-market trends and conversations with our ecommerce retail clients.
1. Make sure you’re jumping the gun
Just like Christmas, Black Friday is getting earlier. And there’s a growing trend here. Far from being confined to a few days, it’s now spilling out over a week and beyond. While we anticipate around 50% of retailers will start their Black Friday activity on Monday 21st November, IMRG indicates that some plan to start two or even three weeks out. And we expect some to bring forward their activity in early November, transforming a once weekend focused event into a month-long one.
If you think this is overkill, UK consumers appear to welcome Black Friday messages well in advance of the day. Research highlights the majority are happy to hear about deals two weeks prior, with 27% happy to receive communications up to four weeks out. And we’re already seeing an uptick in searches around Black Friday in the UK.
Facing a cost-of-living crisis, cash-strapped consumers may be on the hunt for bargains as early as possible. Going early will allow you to attract savvy shoppers and distribute your revenue over a more extended period. It can also help you avoid being drowned out by all the activity nearer the day itself and provide an opportunity to warm up your audiences to maximise your impact.
This year we anticipate early – and deep – discounting will be the name of the game.
2. Take a leaf from Amazon
Amazon launched its Prime Day for the second time this year in October – and the first time in July. Why so close to Black Friday and the Christmas period?
Most obviously, it gives them another bite at the sales cherry during this period. But it allows warehouse capacity challenges to be managed by helping flatten out demand over a longer period rather than managing a huge sales spike over Black Friday itself.
You might wish to think about how you can spread demand for your business. From offering earlier promotions to giving exclusive access to your sales to loyal customers, you can look at ways to capitalise on buying behaviours shifting earlier.
3. Treat Black Friday and Cyber Monday differently
As Black Friday naturally rolls into Cyber Monday, they are often lumped together as one continuous event. Instead, you might look to refine your strategy around them. Breaking them out and providing a point of differentiation can help you prolong consumer interest.
While sales are typically lower on Cyber Monday than the Black Friday peak, they still tend to provide a welcome uplift. So rather than simply offering deeper discounts, you can identify ways to vary your promotions. For example, give a free gift with a purchase, bundle up an offer, or focus your discounting on a different range. All of this might help maximise your sales over this critical period and maintains buying momentum.
4. Extend your offers
The announced national Royal Mail strike dates across October and November will have some impact on the crucial trading period. While attempting to bring mailing dates forward should be a consideration, the reality is that landing dates will be disrupted. Instead, you can consider when to end your promotions. For example, extending offer dates may lessen consumer upset and reconsidering any timed promotions or activities that might prove to be out of your control this year. You may also want to extend your offers to less active groups beyond Cyber Monday to encourage buying up until the start of the Christmas sale period.
5. Always be mindful of your customers
While the focus is naturally on shifting products and driving sales, you can also ensure your activities don’t impact customer satisfaction.
Carefully consider the progression of your promotional programmes. You might avoid offering a promotion one day, which is replaced by an even better one a few days later. While resulting in obvious buyer dissatisfaction, it will likely lead to order cancellations and reordering, having implications for your returns and your warehouse and customer service teams.
You can set delivery expectations with customers as much as possible in advance. Be realistic. Let them know not to expect next-day delivery or your usual delivery promise, as the supply chain pressures and strikes will put pay to these. Instead, provide reassurances, especially for purchases occurring nearer to Christmas itself, that they will receive their purchases in good time. It’s a classic case of under-promise and over-deliver. And when things do go wrong, you can let the customer know. Proactive communications will go a long way to avoiding reactive customer complaints.
What online and offline tactics can you implement to make the most of this period? Well, here are several ideas that are worth looking into.
Tactics for digital
While we’re facing economic challenges, this is not feeding into lower digital media costs. Indeed, expect to pay higher prices over this period to secure what you need. But these may be sweetened by higher conversion rates, with many shoppers holding off making purchasing decisions to take advantage of deals over Black Friday.
Promote early: Promote early, drive awareness, and build your audience in anticipation of when your offers go live.
Understand your key metrics: Optimise your bidding strategies to acquire customers that will become profitable. This is often achieved by knowing your actual acquisition costs, how new customers will feed into your customer retention programme, and their anticipated future value.
Engage your loyal customers: Black Friday’s more than just acquisition. Ensure your email database has high engagement and deliverability amongst your loyal, profitable customers. And focus on email best practices to deliver campaigns that persuade and convert.
Speed up conversions: Timed promotions, countdown clocks and low stock messaging may reduce the consideration cycle, encourage action and get people to buy quicker.
Tactics for direct mail
With increased competition on the doormat, planned Royal Mail strikes, and postage cost rises in November, there’s much to consider around your printed media. While it goes without saying, your mailing can stand out amongst all the other post, here are four different focus areas that can help improve your activity.
Sell to your sales-orientated and seasonal groups: You might target your Black Friday and discount-only buyers with strong offers. Identify and promote to those Christmas buyers who only purchase from you this time of year and offer incentives to maintain or reactivate lapsing or lapsed customers.
Be clear: Consider highlighting timed promotions and maximum discounts. Show what the monetary savings are in your price panels. Offer tiered discounts to improve order values and draw attention to limited stocks. Above all, you can make it easy for your customer to notice your key promotional messages.
Think beyond the sale: For example, add a Christmas card with the products you send out promoting a New Year offer to encourage future purchases. And during this growth period, you might highlight refer-a-friend opportunities in your welcome emails to further build your customer base.
Monitor operations: Strong sales? Then be ready to message your customers about any delivery delays to set expectations and allow your teams to catch up before the Christmas rush. But if they’re coping, consider extending your last order dates and gain extra trading days.
Whatever your approach, with a fast-changing economic climate, you can ensure your strategy is flexible so you can take advantage of opportunities or react to situations as they arise.