At the start of the U.K lockdown, original ecommerce growth forecasts were pulled forward, as businesses quickly increased their investment in online channels. Nearly six months later and that upward trend isn’t going anywhere; in fact 66% of consumers say they will continue current levels of spending online post-lockdown, while 26% said they will increase their digital spend after restrictions are lifted. And while the overall economic outlook is uncertain, we expect Black Friday trading to be strong. At the end of such a challenging year, punctuated by lost holidays and cancelled get-togethers, consumers (who can) might go “big” when it comes to creating the idyllic family Christmas.
At the same time, COVID restrictions will funnel rambunctious Black Friday shoppers into socially-distanced queues, into store environments running at 70% capacity, regulated by one-way systems, hand sanitisers and face masks. The Black Friday stalwarts among us will not be deterred, they will simply move online. What’s more, for retailers who are sitting on fashion, apparel and electrical inventory, Black Friday could represent a huge opportunity to clear the stock that COVID made non-essential.
We know that the retailers who usually do well during peak are the ones that prepare in the summer, but with uncertainty permeating the sector, you would be forgiven for a slow start. We thought we would take some time now to share some tips to make sure you have the best possible peak post-lockdown.
- A strong technology stack will be essential to ensuring your website can handle online demand and scale fast enough to manage the surge. As part of this, make sure your host can utilise available server resources to ensure your website can cope with the spike in traffic.
- Black Friday shoppers move fast to snag the best deals and if your website is slow, or even worse, down, the chances are, they’ll Google “Christmas jumper” and move on to your competitor. With more customers shopping via mobile, it’s wise to optimise and compress your images and remove videos and plug-ins to make sure you don’t lose valuable mobile revenue.
- Keep the user experience simple: use clear product photography; easy to find delivery and returns info; transparent pricing; and easy-to-understand promotions.
- Site search is a good opportunity to drive improvements when entering peak trading periods. Applying boosting rules is a good example, to ensure that the right products are being promoted, whether this is based on margin, general popularity or a seasonal surge.
- Have a code freeze in October to ensure stability before the peak and communicate the freeze to all partners, internally and externally.
- You will need to boost your SEO so that customers can find products and Black Friday deals. Pay particular attention to niche event keywords as these may be different from other times of the year.
- It’s crucial to test your website to uncover any bugs ahead of the BFCM season. This includes new updates (your new Black Friday banners, BFCM pages and seasonal colour schemes, Black Friday promo codes and discounts) your shopping cart and multi-device testing.
- Optimising your checkout can greatly impact sales during peak, for example, postal code look-up can significantly reduce the steps to checkout and increase conversion. Start by testing your cart and checkout funnel to gain insights.
- Integrating your ecommerce platform with your back office is crucial. As consumers increased their online spending during the lockdown, the logistics network felt the strain. Ahead of November, make sure that your logistics are optimised to ensure quick, accurate and cost-effective delivery (and returns) to keep your Black Friday customers happy.
- Design shopping processes that increase peak season profitability: promote cross-sells on loss leaders; schedule discounts across the weekend (and Cyber week of course) and encourage repeat visitors.
The ability to scale is critical every day, not just on Black Friday. Given the high volume of orders retailers are currently receiving online, scaling up for peak season might be more difficult than in previous years. Retailers must invest in scalable technologies to accommodate the ongoing upward trend in ecommerce and to maximise the opportunities that predictable (and not so predictable) spikes in traffic bring.
Do you want to know how Ampersand can help transform your business? Get in touch.
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