While it may seem premature to be thinking about Black Friday 2018 months in advance, getting started now will help you make the most of this year’s event. Jake Trask is an FX Research Director at OFX, where he helps online sellers to manage their international payments and today shares his top tips on preparing for Black Friday 2018.
Black Friday has rocketed in popularity in the last few years, and now rivals traditional Boxing Day sales as the major shopping event of the year. Last year, UK consumers spent more than £1.4bn online during the Black Friday sales, up 11.7% on 2016. Retail analysts have speculated that the spend could have been even higher if Black Friday 2017 had occurred after payday.
5 Top tips to prepare for Black Friday 2018
As the figures show, Black Friday is more important than ever for online sellers. These tips will help you prepare early for your best sales yet:
Organise your supply chain
Inventory planning is key to a successful Black Friday, and an essential way to avoid disappointing customers on the day.
Look back at last year’s sales data to assess what sold well, and what didn’t. Were there any surprises? Build on this information to stock up ahead of this year’s Black Friday 2018 sales, being sure to consider other indicators as you go – everything from current trends, to economic factors and even weather forecasts. Engaging with your customers through social media can also help you work out what they might be looking for in this year’s sales.
Speak to your suppliers now to make sure you have the right stock in place before Black Friday, as well as a clear contingency plan if you need to order more items at short notice. This will help make sure you can honour orders, keep your customers happy, and make them more likely to buy from you in the future.
Avoid technical troubles by testing your website
Even the biggest companies experience technical troubles – just look at Amazon, which bounced from high-profile outages during Prime Day to a serious crash of its search function in September. Website crashes caused by increased web traffic can happen to any business large or small, but there are ways to protect your website ahead of a major shopping event.
Conducting performance tests in advance of Black Friday 2018 sales will help you prepare your website. Look at traffic from previous years to determine your expected user load – from there, you can run several performance tests including stress tests (to understand capacity limits), and soak tests (to determine the ability of your website to handle continuous load). If you are planning to make any changes to your website after your tests, do so well in advance of sale periods and test these modifications rigorously to make sure your new website will be able to handle the increased traffic that Black Friday will bring. When the sale begins, automatically rerouting web traffic to a backup server hosted by Amazon Web Services or Google Cloud during busy periods is a great way to prevent customers from being put off by a poorly functioning website.
Creating a user-friendly digital experience for your customers is vital. Make sure your site can operate quickly across different platforms. If you want to capture impatient bargain hunters, you’ll want your pages to load in less than two seconds.
Invest in targeted, consistent marketing
Planning a targeted marketing strategy ahead of Black Friday can help to increase the visibility of your brand and is something you should start well ahead of time. According to new research, consumers who are messaged consistently by a brand in the months leading up to Black Friday are three times more likely to make a purchase, and four times more likely to visit your website during the sales. If you are a fashion brand, early targeted marketing could lead to a sixfold increase in your sales conversion rates.
Intelligent, personalised outreach is a great way to raise the perception of your brand and encourage regular and meaningful interactions in the run-up to Black Friday, putting your business at the front of customers’ minds when the sales hit. You could also make smart use of social media to offer promotional codes and highlight your best bargains, encouraging consumers to visit your website on the day and convert interest to action.
Email open rates increase by an average of 60% on Black Friday, so do make the most of them before and during the event. Globally, the average cart abandonment rate on Black Friday 2017 was 72.5%, but sending customers abandoned cart emails can be a very effective way to tackle the problem and get those sales over the line.
Prepare for overseas sales
If you’re selling overseas, your business is exposed to currency fluctuations which can erode your Black Friday profits. If you aren’t prepared, you can lose out to transfer fees and poor exchange rates every time you convert foreign revenues back to sterling.
Luckily, there is something you can do about it. Many marketplaces offer an international payments solution, but the best approach is to partner with an FX expert – this will give you access to better rates and greater choice when managing your money, and unlock specialist support and currency insight whenever you need it.
Your payments partner can help you to set up a virtual currency account, a useful way to manage multiple currencies in one place. It will simplify your cash flow when selling overseas, saving you time and helping you to bring more money home from the Black Friday sales. A virtual currency account can also make it easier to pay foreign suppliers and manufacturers directly, without having to transfer to and from sterling.
Manipulate the marketplace
If you also sell your products through marketplaces like Amazon and eBay, you’ll want to make sure your Black Friday offers stand out from the crowd.
Your listings are an obvious place to start. Make sure you use high-quality images, include all the details your customers might need, and incorporate key search terms into your product descriptions. If it’s a Black Friday deal, say so! Using clear, punchy language should make it easier for shoppers to find your products when searching for a bargain.
Sponsored listings will also increase the visibility of your products, pushing them to the top of the search results page and making it as easy as possible for customers to click through to your deals. On Amazon and other platforms, the Black Friday build-up begins early, with bargains promoted throughout the month of November. Do the same with your Amazon ads to make the most of the spending bonanza.
Offering free shipping for a limited amount of time is another way to boost marketplace sales for Black Friday 2018. If you do this for a limited time only, you’ll encourage customers to complete their orders before the offer disappears.