Ticking all the Black Friday boxes

“Black Friday” - two words strong enough to strike fear into the hearts and minds of e-commerce departments! Consumer knowledge of Black Friday has continued to grow, indeed our recent survey of 2000 UK consumers showed that nearly 20 percent were planning to take time out to this week to search for those Black Friday bargains. Last year shoppers spent an estimated £810 million in a single day, but the increased traffic on retailers' websites caused many issues with site outages, slow speeds and queuing on holding pages that caused huge frustrations amongst shoppers.

So will the reality this year be very different to last year’s debacle in-store and online? With recent IRMG predictions that spending will exceed last year’s Black Friday estimations to over £1 billion, it’s a day that everyone should be well prepared for. Indeed, detailed reviews of previous peaks alongside current trends should have been carried out and forecasters will have been busy capacity planning so that customer expectations are managed well, but there’s no accounting for the way in which shoppers adapt their spending habits for retail events like Black Friday, so it’s still really important that retailers have every box ticked.

Thankfully retailers are maturing, especially when it comes to managing customer expectations. In addition to making huge investments in resources and technology, this year they’re taking a more pre-emptive approach to setting expectations since they’re all too aware of the consequences of disappointing a customer – not only a lost sale, but potentially a social media crisis and a front page headline. And this year the focus has also been taken off the actual day of Black Friday, with promotions structured across the week instead to ease capacity across the infrastructure.

Communication at the core of success
Take Tesco, for example, they’ve taken a proactive approach and have uploaded a message online warning online shoppers to expect delays to next-day Click and Collect services in the run up to the Black Friday and Christmas peak. Asda has made the move not to participate at all, given the issues they had in store last year and widely communicated that prior to the run up. Wise moves? We think so. Even the biggest multi-channel retailers and pureplays need to set expectations – remember that the landscape is evolving all the time in response to changing shopper needs and habits – it’s no small task to keep up! Being realistic and transparent about potential transactions and delivery issues from the outset is a smart move, indeed an informed customer is also happier customer.

We live in a world where good communication is critical so this year during these peak sales times, having a positive relationship with your carrier network – who can share what capacity there is for the busiest times – is going to be absolutely essential, and might even be a make or break situation for some retailers. Shoppers are increasingly making decisions based on delivery, their experiences during peak times will continue to inform future purchase decisions.

Putting the customer first
Our recent survey highlighted that 77 per cent of shoppers said that they shop online to make better use of their time, not receiving an item because of bad capacity planning is an easy way to give competitors a chance to gain a new customer. Can any retail business afford for that to happen to them? Delivery will continue to become the key differentiator, and offering choice to the customer by putting the customer in charge of when, where and how their parcel is delivered will ensure success for retailers that are striving to maintain revenue in today’s tough competitive environment. Getting delivery right, as we approach the busiest time of the retailers calendar is essential. Meeting the demands of a savvy shopper is increasingly challenging for retailers, but those that get it right in peak times like Black Friday will long be remembered by their customers.

Robust capacity planning, reviewing previous trends and analysing results will allow retailers to be perfectly placed to ensure they take a slice of that £1 billion in shopper spending that’s predicted this year.

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