A couple of weeks ago, one might have been under the impression that the Black Friday ship had sailed for UK shoppers with the announcement that Asda, the ‘poster child’ for the now annual shopping event, would not be participating this year.
Despite the naysayers, Black Friday isn’t showing signs of bowing out any time soon, writes Jason Tavaria, head of direct at Shutl. In fact, momentum may even build as many retailers choose to extend the discounted shopping window across several days, with some, such as Amazon, announcing new bargains every day.
Extending the peak in this way may help alleviate the pressure on e-commerce systems and processes but the ‘chaotic’ front page news headlines about website outages and delivery delays from last year will ensure that Black Friday retailers are still up for scrutiny this time around.
There is no excuse for retailers to be unprepared for the onslaught that’s about to hit their businesses. Detailed reviews of previous peaks alongside current trends will have been carried out and forecasters will have been busy capacity planning so that customer expectations are managed. Predictions can only go so far though. There’s no accounting for the way in which shoppers adapt their spending habits for retail events like Black Friday so it’s vital that retailers have every box ticked.
Retailers have made huge strides when it comes to managing customer expectations, all too painfully aware of the consequences of disappointing a customer. Frustrated shoppers not only result in a lost sale but could potentially spark a social media furore which generate news headlines as they vent their anger publicly online.
As well as investing in resources and technology, this year we’re applauding the retailers who have taken a pre-emptive approach to setting expectations. As reported earlier this month by eDelivery, Tesco for example, proactively uploaded a message onto its homepage warning online shoppers to expect delays to next-day click-and-collect services in the run up to the Black Friday and Christmas peak. It’s a move that other retailers of all sizes may still want to consider. Even the biggest multichannel retailers and pure plays need to set expectations – especially as the landscape is evolving all the time in response to changing shopper needs and habits.
Being realistic and transparent about potential issues from the outset is a smart move and one which gives the retailer some much needed breathing space.
Of course, it’s not just the website that’s under pressure during shopping peaks. Delivery is the final piece of the jigsaw which could, for some retailers, make or break the business.
A recent Shutl survey found that 75% of the 2,000 shoppers questioned said that delivery options are a factor when considering their choice of online retailer. Getting delivery right is therefore essential. Putting the customer in charge of how, when and where they receive their purchases will improve the customer experience and potentially give a retailer competitive edge.
Regardless of the bargain to be had however, a bad delivery experience will be remembered long after the Christmas decorations have been packed away. Communication is key across the board – from the retailer, to its delivery partners and to customers. This year, take the opportunity to attract new customers on Black Friday, but above all make sure you keep them long term by making their experience a wholly positive one – for the right reasons.
Main image: Black Friday 2010, Westlake Seattle. Copyright John Henderson. View original here.