Depending on who you ask, you’ll get many different opinions on when exactly is too late for Black Friday prep. Some will say any less than 3 months to go, others will say just a few weeks before. Planning in advance for Black Friday weekend is essential for any ecommerce merchant, and with some of the issues facing this year’s BFCM it’s important for merchants to do what they can to make sure they’re ready.
Today we’re looking at what you can do right now with 2 months to go until BFCM weekend.
How late is too late for BFCM?
The closer we get to Black Friday/Cyber Monday, the more difficult it will be to take actions that will have an impact on your store or strategy. Changes related to your store’s user experience or UI can take weeks if not months to implement, and product development is much the same. However, at this point there is still plenty of time to make smaller changes that will still make a difference.
Some common issues that customers regularly face tend to focus on site performance, inventory issues, and customer support.
- 70% of shoppers would rather shop with a competitor than wait for a back order if an item is sold out
- 73% say that customer experience is an important factor in their purchasing decisions.
- 56% of customers will stop doing business with a brand after one poor customer service experience.
These are all issues that you can still take care of ahead of BFCM. In fact, if you’ve been busy planning the “bigger picture” issues such as supply chain and digital campaign management, then these may be tasks that you may not have considered yet. This makes now the perfect opportunity to look at these tasks and take action.
5 tasks you can do now that will make an impact
1 - Double check your inventory
34% of businesses ship late because they’ve sold a product that’s actually out of stock, and stock-outs cost retailers around $1 Trillion every year. Your inventory won’t remain static in the weeks leading up to Black Friday, as customers discover and purchase your products over time. Moreover, people are starting to shop earlier for the holidays, so if you haven’t accounted for these early shoppers then your inventory may not be as you expected by BFCM.
The easiest way to ensure you’ve got plenty of stock is to use your store data in the coming weeks, and check your inventory levels on a more regular basis than usual. Determine how much inventory you anticipate you’ll need for over Black Friday weekend based on previous years and current rate of sale. If you expect that you may start to run low and want to ensure you’re in a strong stock position for BFCM, then set aside stock in your warehouse inventory that won’t be added to your site’s inventory until that weekend.
This also extends to checking inventory of materials that are necessary for fulfillment such as cardboard boxes, protective packaging, any additional marketing inserts, and basics such as packing tape and shipping labels. These are items which will also be affected by supply chain delays, so you want to ensure that not only do you have sufficient product inventory but also the materials to actually ship them to customers.
Having a really clear idea of your inventory position as we get closer to BFCM weekend will ensure that there are no last minute surprises of bestsellers running low on stock, and that customers won’t be left disappointed.
2 - Collaborate with your supplier and courier partners
Supply chains are under a lot of pressure this year, and this will affect Black Friday/Cyber Monday. Many large retailers started planning months ahead anticipating these issues, so it’s vital that your team keeps close contact with any partners you use who may be affected. This isn’t something that will only be felt by retailers, as customers are acutely aware of issues that affect their ability to make purchases. 31% of US consumers say they plan to start holiday shopping before the end of October, with a further 24% saying they plan to start before Thanksgiving.
To ensure your team is ready, work closely with supplier and courier partners so there is a clear picture of the supply chain from product to warehouse to customer. If there are any delays or issues in the chain, you’ll be able to spot them before they become a problem and take steps to ensure they cause little disruption to your customers. This might be a delay in stock arriving, so you adjust inventory levels to be on the safe side. Another example may be a sudden price increase in shipping rates, so you can then send an email to customers to let them know that there will be a change in pricing over the holidays.
Communication is your key to a successful BFCM, and keeping those channels open with frequent contact will allow you to deliver a much better service to your customers.
3 - Optimize your website
Site performance is the last thing you want to become an issue over BFCM weekend. Slow loading pages, broken links, and confusing navigation can not only impact sales but also your store’s SEO. 70% of consumers say that page speed impacts their purchasing decisions, and 53% say they’d abandon a mobile site if it takes more than 3 seconds to load. Without optimizing for performance, you’ll lose out on both discovery and conversions.
One of the fastest ways to uncover optimizations specific to your store is through a UX/UI audit, which will highlight precisely where on your store you could be losing conversions. Once you know where your site is missing the mark, you can go through and highlight changes you can make easily ahead of BFCM.
Here are some easy optimizations you can implement to improve your store’s performance:
- Test your site speed using tools such as PageSpeed Insights to flag up any obvious performance issues.
- Reduce the file sizes of your images, especially on key landing pages.
- Review the apps you have installed, and remove any that are unused or unnecessary.
- Reduce the number of hero images you use on your homepage slider, or better yet stick to just one.
- Reduce redirects and remove broken links.
- Avoid using too many unnecessary pop-ups.
Making these changes now to your store will improve its performance, which will impact user experience and your store's SEO. The result will be a site that loads fast allowing your customers to snap up deals as quick as possible.
4 - Boost your customer support plans
How you handle customer service over the holidays can have a big impact on customer satisfaction and retention once the festive season is over. Say for example a customer purchases a gift and has a question about how long it will take for their order to be dispatched. They can’t find the information on your site, so they get in touch with your customer service team. However the response took longer than they expected and the answer wasn’t satisfactory. Even if they’re happy with the item, they’re not going to be happy with the customer service and they’ll be likely to share that experience with others.
In order to best serve your customers’ support needs, you should:
- Use support ticket information to identify common issues from the last year’s BFCM and current issues.
- Create some standard response workflows your team can follow for these common issues to improve response times.
- Implement a chatbot or AI support system that can handle more basic customer enquiries through your site.
- Use automated responses on your social media channels to give customers the most up-to-date information.
- Ensure your FAQ is easy to navigate and covers all the issues you highlighted from your support ticket data.
Your team will likely be busier than usual over the holidays, therefore making use of automations and other tools will make it easier for them to respond to customer queries in a faster, more efficient way. This will then have a noticeable impact on the customer experience, as customers won’t be left waiting for answers.
5 - Create content and temporary collections to target BFCM
During the holiday season, you’ll see a variety of different audiences shopping with your brand. From your regular customers looking for a bargain, to newcomers to your brand, to people looking for the perfect gift. Two ways to target these different audiences is through your blog, and your store’s collections.
Gift guide blogs are easy to produce and target those who are new to your brand and looking for something for someone else. 57% of consumers actively look for helpful suggestions and advice when shopping for gifts. If they’re not familiar with your product category, these guides can be a great way for them to discover your store and get some advice on what to purchase. They help your store’s SEO in that discovery phase, as shoppers are using search to aid in their hunt for the ideal gift and using common seasonal long-tail keywords such as “Gifts for ____ lovers” or “The perfect gift for ______” in your content can give your content a boost in reaching your target audience.
If you are looking to instead target people who are familiar with your brand and need less in the way of information and advice, then creating a guide to your BFCM deals is a great way to catch their attention. These should detail what deals will be live and for how long, any codes they’ll need, which products are included, and any extra information they may want to know.
You can then extend these ideas to your catalog, and create temporary collections that match up with your gift and BFCM guides to make it even easier for customers to then find the products written about. This streamlines the purchasing process, and creates a much easier customer experience as they won’t need to go through your catalog to find the products they want.
The opportunity of Black Friday/Cyber Monday weekend is big for ecommerce merchants. To make the most of it, your store needs to be ready for customers. Putting some additional time into these tasks now will set your store up for success, and allow you to take care of any issues as soon as they arise.