“It’s the most wonderful time of the year” – Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Christmas are almost here!

Say hello October and hello to the busiest season in eCommerce!
Although many businesses have long started their preparations for Black Friday and Cyber Monday (BFCM), October marks the month where the pressure mounts and plans are put into action. Last year, due to the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, retailers pushed their sales to start even earlier to create a safer shopping experience and avoid shipping delays. While we know the official date of Black Friday and Cyber Monday to be 26 and 29 November 2021 respectively, we expect to see some sales start up in late October already. The first thing you can do to survive the weekend is to be prepared. That means not waiting until the last minute to plan your strategy:

Get Started on your Marketing

If you haven’t started planning your marketing and advertising, we suggest you get started as soon as possible. Try to have your marketing material, including artwork, promotions, mailers, ads and campaigns ready to go live at the start of November. The power of online is that most of these materials can be automated and scheduled in advance; there are great tools such as Mailchimp, Hootsuite and Facebook Ads Manager that allow you to set things up and have them ready to go long before your sales start. 

This is also the time to communicate and entice customers with coupon codes and special offers. Many customers start looking for deals in early October and most will wait until the BFCM sales start before buying. Consider, and plan for, cross-selling at checkout, discounts for those who sign up for early sales deals, gift guides and other marketing tactics to get customers to your store.

Up your Customer Service

In a busy weekend like the BFCM weekend, there are bound to be a few issues that are out of the control of the business owner, be it items that are suddenly out of stock, a crashed site or payment gateways not working. However, these issues directly affect your customer and how you handle these problems will impact sales, as well as the longevity of returning customers. 

In preparation for the BFCM weekend, up your customer service. If necessary, hire some extra hands to help your team for a few weeks before and after BFCM. Train your staff well, make sure processes are in place and motivate them ahead of the storm. Great, friendly, competent service and going the extra mile are key to growing your business.

Customer Expectations

With the influx of orders over the BFCM weekend, there are always going to be delivery delays. Although the courier companies and courier aggregators, like uAfrica, try to keep up with the demand, delays are still part of this crazy weekend that business owners and customers need to consider. A trend that has emerged is that orders will take about 7 to 9 days to deliver, rather than the usual 3 to 4 days, due to the sheer volume and backlog. At this point, you also need to calculate the time it will take your team to process, pick, pack and ship orders and add this to the overall delivery time.  This point ties into the above; make sure that you have the manpower to handle this additional work.

With all of these variables, it is absolutely vital that you communicate these potential delays to your customers and manage their expectations. If the courier will take 7 days to deliver and your team needs a day to pack and ship the order, add an extra few days to the promise you make to the customer. Under promise and over deliver is our motto.

Work on your Website

How long do users stay on a webpage? Most only stick around between 10 and 20 seconds. That is a very short time to grab someone’s attention and keep them on your website. If you cannot communicate your value proposition within a quarter of a minute, you’ve lost a potential customer. Also, “47% of Users expect a maximum of 2 seconds loading time for an average website” (www.sweor.com). TDMC’s Duncan Colville recommends, “Make sure that your site loads in under six seconds and that your navigation and user experience allows the user to get to a product in under three clicks.” Simply put, make it as easy and fast as possible for your customer to buy from you. 
If you are not using platforms like Shopify, WooCommerce or Magento, prepare for the BFCM weekend by arranging an increase in the amount of resources available to you with your hosting providers so that your site does not crash.

Finally, make sure your checkout process is as good as it can possibly be. Black Friday and Cyber Monday shoppers can be erratic – they have thousands of stores to select from and a limited amount of time. They will leave your store if your checkout isn’t running smoothly.

Manage your Stock

It is important to ensure that you have your BFCM stock ready and replenished in time. The last thing you want over the BFCM weekend is to run out of the products you are selling and have to tell your customers that they have to wait even longer for the items that they have purchased. 

This weekend can also be a great opportunity to offload some unwanted or undersold stock. A great way to do this is to offer specials or discounts on the products that you would like to get rid of, find a way to cross-sell these items or include them in orders as a gift if your margins can cover it.

Finally, ask for advice. If there is an area you feel uncertain about, ask for help on eCommerce or small business forums, chat to an expert or phone a friend. The Black Friday and Cyber Monday weekend can seem extremely daunting, but done right, can be an unbelievable tool for growth in your business. GOOD LUCK!