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How to prepare your eCommerce business for Black Friday & Cyber Monday

Since the first big adoption in the UK of the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales in 2013, it is safe to say that this American tradition has been taken up with gusto! But to say the performance and outcome of the sales is forecastable is just not true! In the last three years we have seen subdue sales outcomes as a result of Black Friday. Then, conversely, incredible increases in volumes and carrier issues. Then global shut down and rolling Covid outbreaks to boot! Black Friday/Cyber Monday is nothing if NOT predictable!

Sharing strategies from successful eCommerce businesses

However, what we have managed to do, with our multiple years experience in holding the hands of our clients through this potentially very lucrative time of year, is to collate the strategies of the most successful players in the eCommerce space to share with you here. Regardless of consumer demand or pandemic or carrier issues these pointers below will help you maximise your opportunity at this important time of year.

Plan for plan B

These events happen every year. Planning for them is an essential part of your retail strategy. Even if things don’t go to plan e.g. there is global shutdown, your container get stuck in the Suez Canal, there is unseasonal snow (and yes all of these things have happened around Cyber Monday in the last 10 years) then by having a plan at least you have a structure with which yourself and your team can follow.

Your Plan A is if things go to plan. Your Plan B is looking at the risk mitigation if things inevitably don’t go to plan. Utilise a simple checklist (see below) to make sure your business will be in tip top condition going through this Black Friday.

Don’t just have an offer, have an exceptional offer

Consumers are savvy to Black Friday/Cyber Monday deals nowadays. With everything from Martin Lewis’s Money Saving Experts to Vouchercodes to a variety of other great marketeers in this space, people are savvy to what kind of discounts they can get at this period of time. So don’t be stingy.

We would seriously think about running a proper loss leader campaign in order to acquire market share at this time of year. A 5 to 10% discount on one of your major lines isn’t going to do anything to courage encourage people to come on board, quite frankly. If you think about reducing your margin in order to acquire a long term client and offer a proper discount (say 30%) then you may not make as much profit on this initial sale, but you’ve built yourself a client that you can re market with your other goods latterly. And don’t forget you’ve got Christmas coming up and your January sales.

So make sure you’ve got a compelling offer. Don’t get greedy with regards to margin. Offer sufficient discount so it is a ‘bite your hand off’ opportunity. And think of it as an investment in long term client acquisition.

Communications to your existing customers

It may sound ridiculous saying this but we swear to you we have seen customers reduce their prices on their website but don’t tell the customers about it! We know this because our founder, Kate Lester, subscribes to many of our customers’ websites and buys their goods!

If you have a customer database you should be mailing them with your exceptional offer in the run up to Black Friday/Cyber Monday. We would say at the very least that you start emailing them a fortnight beforehand then at 7 days then 5,4,3,2,1 to the actual big day with updates to the big day rather than just the same message each time. Maybe email each piece of news the day before you post the message on social so that, as customers, they are getting the information before the wider public and see that you value them.

Business continuity – spread your risk

Any retailer that is solely fulfilling from their own premises nowadays is potentially exposing themselves to the risk of operational shutdown. Even those that have many warehouses are finding their outsourcing for e-commerce fulfilment is a prudent way of ensuring operational continuity because, quite frankly, in the last couple of years our clients have only ever been a couple of weeks away from operational shutdown. Whereas Diamond fulfilment centres around the UK remained operational throughout the entire Covid pandemic. So that spreading of your physical operational risk was super prudent.

The next place to spread risk is in your utilisation of multiple carriers. In the last ten years we have seen some carriers fall over because of massive volume over Cyber Monday/Black Friday. The best way for you to mitigate this is to ensure you are utilising a multi carrier solution which means should one of the carriers become overwhelmed or you are seeing a drop in service, that you can switch your carrier usage to another provider. Business continuity is a key focus of those who succeed on e-commerce fulfilment.

Manage expectations for peak periods

It’s really important that people understand that carriers do not have infinite capacity. And neither do you and your team! By outsourcing your fulfilment obviously you have been very prudent in terms of the operational issues being your fulfilment houses should rise to this challenge accordingly! We always find that the companies that are better at communicating to their customers end up with a better relationship with their customers. We always say under promise and overdeliver here at Diamond.

It’s not unreasonable to say to your customers that deliveries will be 48 hours rather than 24 hours (even if you’ve booked a 24 hour service) because that risk mitigation means that you’re managing your expectations before they are let down rather than having to deal with their wrath after you failed to meet their expectations. When you’re dealing with consumers sometimes (dare I say it?!) there could be a little bit unreasonable in terms of our expectations format so best to be super, super honest.

Manage your exceptions

If you are one of Diamond’s clients you will know that we manage your exceptions for you. That’s part of our holistic logistics management (try saying that out loud!). But if you do not have a logistics management service provision you need to manage exceptions as a priority. 95% of your deliveries will be completely fine. It’s the 5% that go wrong that, if you don’t proactively manage them will cause you a problem in terms of customer experience and long term customer retention.

With Diamond you get Despatchlab which will show you what deliveries are not going to plan – wrong addresses, carded delivery, failed delivery etc. At Diamond, we manage these exceptions for our clients which makes this process super easy. Without logistics management you’ll only know that something has gone wrong when your customer tells you or if you keep an eye on your carrier tracking site. Look at your deliveries daily and see what ones have been delayed and proactively manage those clients expectations. Focus on the ones that are going wrong not on the ones that are going right at this busy time of year. Or get a great company to do it for you!

There are always lessons to learn

One of the most important things to do after this Black Friday/Cyber Monday is to review your operations. Did your fulfilment company work as well for you as you expected? Could you have marketed better? Do you need to look at the technology supporting your operations?

A post event review will help you improve for the future. Now logistics planning is nothing if not unpredictable, but experience over many years (such as the 30 we’ve had here at Diamond) will show a similarity and theme which, if you learn the lessons from, you can utilise to build a even better Black Friday/Cyber Monday plan for next year

Good luck!

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