Black Friday is big business. An eCommerce shopping holiday co-opted from our American cousins, the event has taken the UK by storm over the past decade, provoking bumper promotions, buying frenzies and sold-out product ranges along the way.
For many retailers, after the horror show of 2020, this year’s Black Friday event is something of an unknown quantity. Consumer spending has been impacted heavily by the Covid-19 pandemic and its aftershocks, and while confidence is gaining, it’s a long road ahead. Indeed, while retailers are still expecting to enjoy an upswing in sales, the hard truth is that competition is fiercer than ever.
For smaller retailers especially, achieving Black Friday success requires good planning and smart relationships with trusted partners.
Planning makes perfect
While operating during the pandemic has been punishing for retailers, there have been notable successes where independent outfits have harnessed the power of the web and quickly built lucrative online retail brands.
To alleviate these problems, and to guarantee a lucrative Black Friday, planning is crucial – and contingency measures must be applied to all aspects of strategic operations. Whether that’s identifying multiple sources of stock, different delivery options, or even spreading sales across a variety of channels, it’s crucial that retailers put comprehensive plans in place to help them to deal with times of peak demand.
Steady and consistent wins the race
Order fulfilment is going to be vital this Black Friday. The most compelling offer or bargain price points will be wasted if customers can’t get what they’ve purchased in a timely, reliable manner.
Indeed, when it comes to delivery, many retailers make the mistake of believing that speed is the most important factor, when it’s consistency and quality that really wins the day. Our own research shows that just 14 per cent of shoppers expect the products they order online to arrive within 48 hours – in fact, the majority of people are perfectly content with delivery times of up to three working days, as long as they don’t have to pay the costs of delivery.
For smaller retailers, the focus needs to be on reliability and quality instead of speed. Products need to show up in pristine condition and at the scheduled time a buyer is expecting them. This is particularly true of subscription orders, where customers reserve essential products for regular delivery. A failure to provide consistency for a repeat order is something that will almost certainly result in a lost customer.
Customer service doesn’t stop at point of purchase
The savviest retailers know that good customer experience is a journey. It lasts all the way from when a potential customer first hears about your business to when they receive their order, beautifully packed (and on time) to their doorstep.
And key to providing a good customer experience once they hit that ‘buy’ button is ensuring a clear and transparent view of where a product is, and when it’s expected to arrive. We’re finding that visibility matters more and more to customers. The ability to track an item throughout the fulfilment process provides reassurance that it’s coming and allows customers to make sure they’re at home when it arrives.
Outsource your fulfilment
So, by now it’s clear that consistent and transparent high quality order fulfilment is crucial to success for Black Friday and beyond. But we also know that it’s not always something that retailers can take care of themselves. And, while the word ‘outsourcing’ doesn’t always carry positive connotations in eCommerce, it’s the best option to keep businesses focused on the bigger picture and avoid getting bogged down in fulfilment complexity.
Third-party logistics providers can store, manage and distribute your stock as you sell it by working with a network of local couriers to ensure orders get dispatched correctly at the best possible price. Not only that, but third-party logistics providers are generally able to command better courier rates than you’ll receive by yourself. Vitally, an international provider can help you to deliver goods all over the world – letting you do business globally, quickly and easily.
So, if you don’t have a third-party provider lined up, time is short and action is needed now if you’re to capitalise on all the benefits Black Friday has to offer. However, you must be sure to check your provider has the capacity and appetite to take on your work. You need a partner who will prioritise your customers as much as you will, and sadly, some always give priority to their biggest customers.
A solid foundation on which to build
It’s unlikely to be a stress-free Black Friday for retailers, Everyone is under pressure to deliver better goods and service than the competition in a cash strapped market. But investing in getting it right won’t just provide a boost to 2021 profits. In fact, prioritising great service and reliable fulfilment now will likely generate a following of loyal customers who will stick with your brand as spending settles and builds again in a post-Covid recovery.
Martin Bysh is CEO of Huboo, a UK-based multi-channel fulfilment service for eCommerce businesses
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