Black Friday is approaching and e-commerce sites must not miss the sales opportunities it offers. However, you need to be prepared. In this article, we provide a series of best practices to optimise your e-commerce and the fulfilment process.
2021 is coming to an end. This means that we will be soon be entering the holiday season and, before that, Black Friday. Estimates predict yet another record year, so e-commerce and online stores need to be ready: the increase in sales volumes might cause some problems and the turnover resulting from Black Friday could actually end up damaging us if we do not optimise our e-commerce and the related processes, such as fulfillment.
In this article, we will see how e-commerce managers can equip themselves to ensure that customers remain satisfied with their shopping experience even in a hectic time like Black Friday. But first, a brief overview to understand how Black Friday came to be and what customers expect.
The term “Black Friday” indicates the day after Thanksgiving (the fourth Thursday of November). Unlike Thanksgiving, Black Friday is not an officially recognised holiday, however it is a very popular day in the United States of America, so much so that many schools and businesses remain closed and American citizens take the opportunity to start Christmas shopping.
However, there is no single explanation for the association of this day with the term "Black Friday". Some theories suggest that the term is used to identify the traffic jam caused by the countless people who travel by their own means to reach physical stores and take advantage of the sensational offers. Other theories connect it to the accounting books and cash registers, which on that specific day record a black "+" sign in front of the receipts (as opposed to the red that indicated losses).
Its birth dates back to the mid-1920s with an initiative proposed by Macy's department stores: in order to attract new customers and encourage the purchase of Christmas gifts, the company offered unprecedented discounts. Subsequently, other businesses also begun to offer such promotions, but we have to wait until the early 1960s for Black Friday to start gaining pace. From the 1980s onwards, Black Friday took on the role of a national US event.
This tradition has gradually spread around the world, and Black Friday has become the day when stores (both physical and online) offer huge discounts and promotions on their products and services.
Black Friday falls on the Friday after the fourth Thursday of November. This means that Black Friday this year is Friday, 26th November 2021.
However, many e-commerce and offline stores also offer discounts during the previous week (Black Week), as well as for the whole weekend. Furthermore, the Monday following Black Friday (in this case, November 19th) is known as Cyber Monday.
Cyber Monday is the day of discounts introduced in 2005 from an idea of the National Retailer Federation (the association of US retailers), originally conceived as an exclusive for e-commerce and online stores. Later, it expanded to physical stores specializing in electronics, until it was adopted by everyone.
So, while Black Friday is the ultimate shopping day, the whole week witnesses a huge number of sales, mostly online. The countdown has now begun and the clock is ticking louder and louder, but there is still time to optimise your e-commerce and prepare for Black Friday! Here’s how.
Perhaps the main question that e-commerce and store owners ask themselves about Black Friday is: “How much discount should I offer?” Unfortunately, it is not possible to provide a unique answer, as there are too many variables. However, you shouldn’t be afraid of devaluing your products. According to Chase Fischer, the founder of the famous eyewear brand Blenders Eyewear, applying less than a 15% discount will not bring any benefit: consumers expect an average discount between 26% and 50% on the original selling price.
Obviously, the return margin on discounted products/services must be carefully calculated, but in order to make the most out of Black Friday it is necessary to drastically lower prices, which will in any case be offset by the increase in sales volume. From this point of view, a really useful practice for gaining greater visibility (and, hopefully, more conversions) is to create shareable discount links to promote the circulation of products and facilitate consumers in the use of discount codes. In addition, Black Friday focuses a lot on creating a feeling of urgency, so it is better to leverage this, perhaps with a countdown under the products on sale.
Customer support plays a role of fundamental importance for all businesses, both for e-commerce and traditional physical stores. During Black Friday, it will be necessary to resolve any problem and doubt customers might have as soon as possible. So, if it is not already featured on your platforms, it could be useful to set up a live-chat to respond in real time to all customer requests and increase conversions.
Assisting customers also means to offer a smooth shopping experience. Therefore, make sure that your website is able to withstand the large traffic volume it will be subjected to, that it is mobile-friendly and that it allows payments with as many options as possible, including e-wallets. Remember that the best way to help customers is to avoid them needing help!
Besides these aspects, there are all the best practices surrounding the quality of the e-commerce platform, such as the loading speed and the usability of its content. In this regard, read our article on how to create a successful e-commerce.
A very important factor in order to successfully leverage Black Friday is the warehouse management. Given the probable high number of purchases, stocks must be abundant and all fulfillment operations must be carried out with absolute precision. Inventory needs to be able to respond to increased demand. Relying on an external fulfillment service allows you to have a scalable warehouse space and professionals able to manage all the processes, as well as to solve any problem that may occur (as we will see later).
Keep in mind, however, that you shouldn’t exclusively focus on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Running out of stock in this period means that you will be vulnerable during the holiday season. As a matter of fact, Black Friday is considered the beginning of the holiday shopping time. You should carefully monitor your e-commerce sales flow and stock levels in the warehouse, by also relying on programs that track orders, so you can have a solid foundation and access sales forecasts. In addition, it can be useful to search for data on sales and seasonal trends specific to your niche, in order to have a general idea of the number of orders you will have to manage.
Knowing in advance your best-seller products, implementing a marketing strategy to push certain products and comparing these data with statistics on the best-selling products within your sector will be extremely helpful to successfully fulfil orders and meet consumer expectations.
Things can’t always go as planned. It is quite common that purchases made during the Black Friday week are actually generated by impulsive decisions rather than by real needs. This impulsiveness is certainly welcomed by e-commerce owners (because, after all, it is one of the founding elements of Black Friday), but offering the possibility of returning the product and obtaining a refund could allow us to build customer loyalty.
According to Return Magic, 58% of shoppers said problems with product return practices represent a bad shopping experience and nearly three-quarters of consumers say that they would be more likely to purchase more in case of a simple refund process.
A return policy that does not live up to expectations could therefore cause serious damage to your e-commerce. On the contrary, optimal management of returns ensures that the customer (even if temporarily lost for this purchase) remains satisfied with the experience and might considers buying again from you in the future.
So, how to do that? The main solution is to offer a free return policy (as expected by about 80% of consumers) but before adopting it, it is necessary to identify the operating costs, quantify the return rate for each type of product and the reasons, in order to plan the refund/replacement activities in advance.
We have already talked extensively about fulfillment processes, but it is important to reiterate that relying on a professional fulfillment service can be the best choice to ensure that orders received on Black Friday are managed and delivered successfully.
Inventory management and control, the preparation of shipping documents, the management of all bureaucratic aspects and, above all, the optimisation of the returns flow are elements that require particular attention, time and skills. This is even more true on Black Friday, when sales volumes can potentially triple. On top of this, we also need to deliver the orders as fast as possible, even though postal services and couriers are also overworked.
IFS Italy makes its twenty years of experience available to offer an excellent fulfillment service, thanks also to its partnerships with the main postal and delivery services. For more information on the fulfillment services offered by IFS Italy, you can download the brochure or visit the fulfillment & c-commerce section.