Black Friday: How to gear up your online retail business

Andy Richley explores the measures you must take to have a successful Black Friday as an online retail business.

You own an online retail business and you’ve decided to take part in what’s arguably going to be the most popular shopping day of the year – Black Friday – but are you properly prepared?

Without proper planning it can be a chaotic day for retailers. Some, like ASDA last year, may even decide it’s not worth taking part despite the fact UK shoppers spent £1.1 billion on the day, making it the biggest day ever for the country’s online retailers.

Whether your business is big or small, the day can offer a great opportunity to attract new customers and drive more sales from existing ones. To maximise your chances of having a successful Black Friday, on November 25th, you’ll want to do the following:

Market your offers

Make sure your online retail business is front of mind for shoppers before the big day kicks off. You can do this by emailing your existing customers to let them know you’ll be taking part. Marketing automation software is great for doing this seamlessly and making sure you target your customers properly.

You’ll also want to advertise the day on your website and make sure you optimise a landing page dedicated to it. You can then drive traffic to this page from emails and social media. You can also create a buzz around the day by running a countdown to when your sales will begin, or giving people a snapshot of the great deals you’ll be offering.

Prepare your website

High volumes of traffic can lead to websites crashing on the day; it’s even happened to some big retailers, like John Lewis.

It may be too late to upgrade your website, if it needs it, but you can at least have a plan in place in case it struggles to cope. For example, you can prepare a holding message to apologise to customers if the site’s down and tell them what they can do instead. You also need to work out the best way to communicate to frustrated customers in a timely manner, via social media for instance. Perhaps you’ll also need someone on the phone to help customers who are struggling with placing orders online.

Consider your staffing levels

Think about whether you have the manpower to cope on the day. Perhaps you’ll need some temporary help, or you might need staff to work extra hours. If you’re going to ask for extra work from staff, offering an incentive is a good idea because you’ll need to keep their motivation up on what could be a stressful day!

Ensure you can fulfil orders and offer a great customer service

Of course, you’ll want to make sure you can fulfil your orders, even if they come flooding in.

So, you’ll need to check your inventory to work out if any stocks might run out. You also need to make sure you have a robust delivery network.

Make sure you communicate your lead times clearly to customers to manage their expectations. It’s also worth reviewing your returns policy, in case you need to extend your returns period.

Dig into your data

Data in your online retail business holds the key to helping you make strategic decisions on how to approach the day.

Enterprise resource planning software can be great for doing this and there are some great cloud-based options that can help you analyse your business data and give you a good overview of all aspects of your operations.

You can use your data to work out what popular items are worth discounting and by how much you can afford to do so. You can also try to predict when your peak times are likely to be. Customer Relationship Management software can help you decide how best to target your customers.

On the day

No matter how well you prepare for the day, you may have to be reactive. The key is to stay informed throughout the day. Keep an eye on how your sales are going, if you’re on target, or if you need to offer further discounts to beat your competitors.

Andy Richley is marketing manager of Khaos Cloud.

Further reading on online retail business

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1 Comment

  1. Great post, Andy. Even though it’s less than 10 days until Black Friday, there are still a few things retailers can implement within a short timeframe to make the most of the event.

    I wrote a blog last year that provides a guide to preparing a website for Black Friday that echoes pretty much everything you’ve said, but I’d add that if retailers have enough traffic, they should be running conversion rate optimisation (CRO) or UX testing to ensure that the site is in the best shape possible too. Hope you enjoy it!

    http://www.browsermedia.co.uk/2015/10/28/preparing-your-site-for-black-friday/

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