Forget Christmas: Black Friday and Cyber Monday Are Coming!
This article is part of the REI StudioForty9 Ecommerce Dashboard Series
As you’re probably more than aware Black Friday and Cyber Monday are coming – falling on Friday November 27th and Monday November 30th this year.
Following on from Richard Moyles excellent report last month, and because it’s very much on my mind at this time of the year, I’ve decided to dedicate the November update to this reasonably new phenomenon.
Traditionally, in the U.S. at least, Black Friday is seen as the first day of the Christmas Shopping season and is commonly associated with deep-discounting.
Cyber Monday is the online attempt to get in on the act and has been around since 2005. Nowadays, some marketeers are trying to extend things even further by creating “Cyber Week” and while Black Friday is strongly associated with in-store promotions consumers are looking for deals on retail websites too.
Black Friday and Cyber Monday were largely unknown in Ireland until last year when they arrived with a bang and caught many retailers by surprise. For the retailers who participated, Black Friday was an unqualified success, with some retailers seeing sales over a four day period equal to several months of sales in the period leading up to Black Friday.
The general feeling is that this year will be a little less manic (let’s see) but retailers are still gearing up to expect heavy sales.
What do consumers expect
Consumers are largely expecting strong offers and discounts. Many consumers have a particular product in mind to purchase over Black Friday – this is especially true for high value items – but everyone loves a bargain and retailers saw heavy sales across an extremely wide range of sectors last year.
Anecdotally, the general feeling is that a 10% discount is nearly mandatory and a 20% discount is better.
If you find this a bit much, retailers last year saw good uptake with a small and well-promoted loss-leader supported by reasonable discounts across a variety of products.
Some Tips and Thoughts
As if you won’t be stressed enough!
If you can do so, it would be well worth stress-testing your server. You will need to do this in association with your development team, as issues identified may need to be tackled on both the server and code side.
Unless your site would expect very high traffic, you should aim to at least stress test it for between 250 and 500 concurrent users.
It’s extremely difficult to estimate how many concurrent users you should test for. However, to give you an idea, say you expect to have 5000 users in an hour at the peak of Black Friday and each user spends an average of 4 minutes on the site – you would need to test for 333 concurrent users.
Here’s a pretty useful calculator: http://www.webperformance.com/library/tutorials/CalculateNumberOfLoadtestUsers/
Naturally you should consider what discounts you’re going to offer. It’s simple to offer 10% discounts across the board – however, it may be the case that customers would be happy with any discount, especially on best-sellers so you should have a think to decide what offer you feel customers would appreciate that won’t break the bank.
If you decide not to go with a straight percentage, ensure that your discounts are clearly messaged on your category and product pages using Is / Was pricing messages so customers can see the deals.
It would be well worth deciding whether your discounts should be available in conjunction with any other promotions you are running and if not to ensure that your promotions are set up to prevent that.
You don’t want to offer a margin ripping 20% discount and then have a customer get an additional 5% for the “Sign up to our Newsletter” offer.
Graphics and Banners
You must advertise that you are participating in Black Friday / Cyber Monday and this needs to be stated across the site in obvious places.
The simplest approach is an eye-catching site-wide, wide and narrow banner just below your navigation.
Some customers won’t do anything more than check your site quickly to see if you are participating and leave if they don’t see obvious evidence. Sometimes not even checking product pages for discounts. They’ll expect you to let them know your promoting before they spend time checking.
Be sure to have banners on your site in advance of, and during the promotions.
It is also well worthwhile having “urgency” or “patience” banners at hand for the weekend. The “urgency” banners are to say – Our deals are so hot stock is selling out fast – get yours immediately. The “patience” banners are to let customers know if you are (genuinely or otherwise!) experiencing heavy traffic and to have patience but to get their deals as soon as they can.
You should prepare banners now and test that you can add them easily.
This is a tricky one. You probably don’t want to advertise too heavily to loyal customers who might make purchases anyway in the run up to Christmas, so you might want to rule out your mailing lists.
However, you should consider whether you can segment your mailing list into active and inactive customers. A simple approach would be to check for any customers who haven’t opened or acted on an email in say six months (or longer depending on your customers and product). If you separate those dormant customers into a separate list and target that with a strong Black Friday / Cyber Monday email it might re-activate them without damaging your marketing for the run up to Christmas.
It’s hard to build a lot of anticipation in other ways for what is effectively a flash sale. But one obvious suggestion would be to add your anticipation banners to your site on Wednesday to let customers know the weekend is coming (don’t expect many sales on Wednesday and Thursday if you do).
In addition to this you should also consider remarketing and targeted marketing campaigns from Wednesday on Facebook, Google and Twitter.
As part of building anticipation it may be a good idea to promote a short stock loss leader which is only available from 6am on the morning of Black Friday.
This will give your customers an urgent reason to check back on the site and will give you a strong call to action in any marketing you push for the short space of time involved.
You should think about whether it would be a good idea to schedule discounts. Put product set A up on sale at 9am, put product set B up on sale at 11am and so on during the day. This would allow you to spread your good offers throughout the day and keep customers interested all day long. Hinting at this in advance will encourage visitors to return to the site and keep an eye on it during the day and should encourage impulse shopping.
Depending on your approach to Black Friday, and especially if you’re not going for blanket discounting, you may want to consider setting up a special category to collect promotional products together. I’m not sure whether the approach is recommended – but customers will probably not spend a long time searching for offers so unless you really want customers to discover and browse – this could be a good approach.
As an alternative to the approach above, it would be a good idea to see if you can add your promotions to the homepage, and float them to the top of your category pages, or include them in the upsell / cross-sell space of your product pages.
You’ll need all staff available to handle customer service queries during the days of the sales. The best case scenario is that everything goes fine and it will be an extremely busy day on your site. In worse cases you’ll need your staff to handle complaints about slow site issues or in some cases to handle web-to-phone sales.
Make sure everybody is on the same page regarding the message to the customer and prepared for a good, long day of sales.
Please also note, that your customer service will still need to be on the ball for the week following Cyber Monday as customers contact you to know the status of deliveries and orders.
It would be worth preparing a Customer Service banner for the days after Cyber Monday to let customers know that you are moving through orders as quickly as possible and advising that there is a short delay – this may alleviate calls a little.
Pick, Pack, Delivery
If you have a good Black Friday, it’s almost certain that you’ll experience delays with pick, pack and delivery and it would be well worth preparing an order email template that lets customers know you will have delays. Most customers will understand that you may have a delay around Black Friday but if your email includes a standard “2-day” delivery message your customers will still believe it, so you’ll want to consider changing that message or checking that you are able to if needs be.
Equally, you should consider the messaging around your checkout – you may need to let customers know about potential delays (but not in a way that puts them off a purchase – for example, on Cyber Monday, you could say: Own the best deal on the internet and still have it before next weekend!). If you feel you may have trouble fulfilling on the promise of any express delivery options now is a good time to check that you can disable them if required.