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Black Friday 2020: Get top tips from our experts [VIDEO]

Black Friday 2020: Get top tips from our experts [VIDEO]

Juno Retail LimitedCopywriter

Black Friday weekend is a fraught, busy time for any business – and this year’s event brings its own unique set of challenges. After worldwide lockdowns effectively closed the high street, Black Friday will give retailers a chance to claw back some of the sales they lost during the pandemic. But with floundering brick-and-mortar stores and heaps of unsold stock in their warehouses, brands will have to take a more strategic, considered approach to their sales this year. 

So, what can businesses do to maximise their sales in 2020? We sat down with experts from Patchworks and SEKO Logistics to find out what makes a successful Black Friday event. 

Preparing for Black Friday

Your brand’s image

First things first – does Black Friday actually fit with your brand’s image? With peak sales periods like Black Friday weekend, brands often feel pressure to take part. But for luxury, minimalist or certain independent brands, slashing prices can actually juxtapose harshly with your brand’s image. If you attract your customers through selling points such as exclusivity, luxury or designer names, deep discounts might not be the way to go. 

“Make sure that Black Friday is something that fits you as a brand. It’s not a fit for every retailer, so think seriously about what you’re going to be getting out of it – how your customers will benefit, and whether it’s something you need to take part in.”

Andy Richley, Head of Sales at Patchworks

Behind the scenes

If you’re going ahead with a Black Friday campaign, it’s likely that you’re already way ahead with the planning. If not, you’ve got some work to do. Aside from your marketing and sales efforts, it’s important to make sure your infrastructure is set up to handle a huge surge in sales.

“The most important things would be to focus on process and delivery. How you’re going to control what you sell online and manage not to oversell. Delivery is obviously a key issue for retailers at the moment, especially when establishing what’s physically possible. Make sure your key suppliers are tied in and on the same page as you are.”

Andy Richley, Head of Sales at Patchworks

Keep it simple

With so many potential sales hanging in the air, it can be tempting to experiment around Black Friday weekend – to push the boat out and see how far your brand can go. But it’s much better to focus your energy on delivering the best experience possible for your customers. So, keep things as simple as possible. 

“I wouldn’t recommend trying to launch new stores, new ranges, or new products. If it’s something you haven’t done before as a business, rushing into it ahead of BFCM right now may not be the ideal solution in terms of ensuring a stress-free and successful event.

The best retailers we’re working with are laser-focused on their goal, they don’t let themselves be distracted by kind of noise and flimflam around that. They focus on execution, they focus on collaboration and they get it right.”

Andy Richley, Head of Sales at Patchworks

The logistics

Smoothing the peak

The peaks in sales that Black Friday brings can be a logistical nightmare to manage. Aside from the extra resources and power it takes to process that many sales, relying on a peak is extremely risky, as it counts on huge numbers of your audience taking advantage of your offers – at a time when all your competitors have offers, too. To manage a successful Black Friday campaign from start to finish, it’s important to smooth the peak, increasing order volumes on either side of Black Friday to create a more level, consistent rise in sales. 

“Historically, you’d have a dip in sales while the consumer waits for the promotions to come, and then a huge spike in sales, which gradually comes back down again. So, over recent years, retailers have been working to smooth that peak by bringing the promotions a little bit further forward and extending the promotion activity.”

Claire Muir, Fulfilment & Contract Logistics at SEKO

Pick, pack & dispatch

Seasoned brands will already know that a successful Black Friday doesn’t just come down to marketing – your warehouse needs to be ready, too. This requires a few elements. Firstly, your staff need to be trained to handle the forecasted number of orders, with additional resources in place if necessary. You also need to make sure you’ve got enough carriage space to transport all those extra orders to your customers, so you’ll need to loop your logistics partner in on your plans. 

“You need to be forecasting and planning with the carriers, to make sure you’ve got enough space in the vehicles for your next-day, standard and international deliveries to all get to the consumers on time. It’s worth communicating with your consumers that a standard delivery might go from 3-5 days to 7-8 days, just to manage expectations and keep that customer service noise down.”

Claire Muir, Fulfilment & Contract Logistics at SEKO

Don’t forget the small stuff

Just like the festive season, Black Friday weekend requires a huge, coordinated effort across your entire business. And there’s a million tiny things to think of. From extra IT support to organising space in the warehouse, it’s all hands on deck. If you can, think about your last peak shopping season. What went well? What didn’t? What can you do better? With the pandemic turning more people to online shopping than ever before, it wouldn’t hurt to over-prepare. 

“I think it’s really important not to forget the small stuff. Things like I.T bandwidth and contingency, helpdesk resources, equipment. Have you got enough paper for the pick notes? Have you got enough scanners and chargers? Do you have space to put all the containers that you need for all the different carriers?”

Claire Muir, Fulfilment & Contract Logistics at SEKO

Black Friday best practises

Firm dates

One thing to establish early on is the dates for your promotions – and to keep those firm in your company’s calendar. Whether you’re holding a week-long event or just a weekend sale, it’s important to have those dates decided as soon as possible, giving you plenty of time to line up your marketing, operations and logistics to support any peak in sales. 

“Our key customers who are taking part in Black Friday have already been talking to us about what they’re planning, dates they’re going to be running their promotions, whether they’re going to be running a week, two, three-week event around BFCM, which some of our customers do. Are they going to be focusing on it as a pure weekend, are they going to be ignoring it completely?”

Andy Richley, Head of Sales at Patchworks

Get your key partners involved 

If you’re a fast-growing enterprise, it’s likely your business extends far beyond your headquarters, encompassing a whole host of partners and suppliers. To run a successful Black Friday event, your planning needs to cover all elements of your business – including your integration partner, your logistics company and your ERP system.

If you’re expecting a huge number of orders, it’s important to reach out to these partners and check what additional support they have in place for this period – how they’re preparing to handle the order volume, and what kind of contingency plans they have in place if issues arise. 

“Organise campfire chats between yourself, your suppliers and your key partners. Get the people responsible for your ecommerce store, fulfilment, logistics, integration and systems. If you’re using an ERP software or WMS, get them together and make sure that everyone’s on the same page, go through what you’re looking to achieve, the overall plan, whether you’re going to have the support in place that you need from your partners.”

Andy Richley, Head of Sales at Patchworks

Some common mistakes 

A lack of planning

Although it’s tempting to take it easy after the festive rush, the beginning of the new year is the perfect time to start planning for that year’s Black Friday. With all the data from the previous year’s peak periods fresh and ready for analysis, you can start forecasting and assessing what you’ll do differently, giving you plenty of time to get ready for the next Black Friday event. 

“Some brands don’t start planning Black Friday in February. We get through the Christmas peak, we process all the returns that come back in January, and then we start in February with our lessons learnt, what we did right, what we did wrong, what we need to do better for next year – so it’s really important to get at least a little bit of forecasting.”

Claire Muir, Fulfilment & Contract Logistics at SEKO

No communication

The disconnect between marketing and operations is a widespread problem that extends way beyond Black Friday. But with such a high peak in such a small amount of time, Black Friday weekend makes that lack of communication especially problematic. For a truly successful Black Friday event, marketing campaigns and promotions need to be planned in advance and agreed with the wider business.  

“Marketing and operations sometimes don’t work closely enough together. Last-minute promotions or switching marketing focus to a different type of product – anything like that can have a serious impact on the supply chain.”

Claire Muir, Fulfilment & Contract Logistics at SEKO

Recent Black Friday trends 

Unprecedented sales

Since its introduction to the UK in 2010, Black Friday has become extraordinarily popular – and it’s getting bigger every year. What started as a one-day promotion now encompasses an entire weekend of sales, with some retailers extending their promotions to last several weeks. 

On an average Black Friday, UK sales soar by up to 1708% compared to an ordinary day of sales – which means brands have had to level up their tech to keep up with the demand. It’s likely every Black Friday customer has come across an outage at some point in their shopping, with major retailers like Amazon, H&M, Walmart, Macy’s and Victoria's Secret all experiencing high-profile outages in previous years. 

“Customers are exceeding their estimates for Black Friday, sometimes by up to five hundred per cent. So it’s really important to make sure that the infrastructure is in place that can handle those peaks and to understand that they’re happening in that first hour, when the gates are opened for the sale.”

Dave Wiltshire, Managing Director at Patchworks

Better software

Black Friday’s growth is largely connected to the growth of ecommerce as a whole, which is accounting for more and more retail sales with every passing year. Brands have had to pull more resources into website development, devoting entire departments to their ecommerce stores. Consequently, tech companies themselves had to evolve to better cater for fast-growing brands, leading to the rise of SaaS and integration platforms. 

“A lot of the big players in the ecosystem are significantly improving their APIs with GraphQL and other tools, which enable the software, us and the customers or the merchants to process much higher volumes through peak periods.”

Dave Wiltshire, Managing Director at Patchworks

Old vs new

With the ability to set up an online store in seconds, new businesses are popping up every single day. While the market for these fledgeling brands is incredibly competitive, the combination of a social-media-savvy entrepreneur and easy-to-use tech can see these businesses explode, attracting millions through platforms like Instagram and YouTube. So when it comes to Black Friday, these brands are under extraordinary pressure to match the experiences offered by older, more established businesses. 

“We’re seeing a lot of very large, very young businesses in the direct-to-consumer space. Businesses that have grown very quickly and perhaps don’t have the seasoned operational experience that some of the long-standing brands have, so there’s obviously a lot of requirement for handholding and making sure that they’re ready for those bursts of sales throughout the business.”

Dave Wiltshire, Managing Director at Patchworks

Black Friday in 2020

 

Like almost every industry, retail has been significantly impacted by the 2020 pandemic. As millions of stores across the world were forced to close their doors, huge numbers of stock went unsold. 

And it’s not just brick-and-mortar stores that felt the impact – with holidays and special occasions on hold, many categories saw their online sales fall too. Once stores opened up again, prices were slashed to try and shift old stock, with brands holding weeks of sales. But these long periods of discounts risk softening the impact of Black Friday, meaning businesses will have to think a little differently about this year’s round of promotions. 

 

Fortunately, categories such as homeware, loungewear, lifestyle and wellbeing have sold exceptionally well throughout lockdown. To wow customers this Black Friday, these are the areas that could see the biggest rewards through promotions. 

“A lot of stock in warehouses and in stores for Spring/Summer hasn’t been sold. There’s been a sustained period afterwards of deep discounting, so there’s an argument to say this Black Friday might be a struggle, because consumers that wanted to buy those things will have already had four months of discounts. But a lot of categories are selling well, so there is still an opportunity to have some good promotions.”

Claire Muir, Fulfilment & Contract Logistics at SEKO

The biggest Black Friday yet?

There’s a lot working against Black Friday this year. Although most UK stores have opened up again, a lot of people are still nervous about visiting physical stores, a fact that’s compounded by various local lockdowns. On top of that, customers are starting to see companies struggle, which can impact the confidence they have in those brands. And with thousands losing their jobs to the pandemic, many consumers won’t feel comfortable splurging on this year’s sales. With these factors in mind, it’s unlikely that Black Friday 2020 will surpass 2019’s sales. 

However, there is one area that might see some records broken. With physical stores still out of reach for so many, 2020 has seen a whole new demographic embrace online shopping. So, although brick-and-mortar stores are looking set for a quiet Black Friday, online stores are still likely to smash their 2020 targets. 

“The lockdown really forced a lot of people who didn’t like shopping online to have to shop online, so they’ve learnt how to do it. A new sector of society has become comfortable shopping online. They’re going to drive their activity to more digital ways, so I think that overall Black Friday will probably be smaller in 2020 but the market share that online will take will be so much bigger that it’ll probably have its biggest Black Friday to date.”

Claire Muir, Fulfilment & Contract Logistics at SEKO

You can watch the full Patchworks x SEKO Black Friday video below. 

This year’s Black Friday will take place on Friday 27th November 2020.