Black Friday has appeared in a blaze of glory in the UK, but after just a couple of years in the spotlight, businesses are starting to question its value. For high street stores, the logistics of planning for one chaotic day just aren’t worth it in order to sell items cheaply that people would have bought in their Christmas shopping anyway. And in the online sphere, a lack of preparation stops ecommerce businesses from really taking advantage of it.
There are two parts to Black Friday: the day itself and the aftermath. Problems arise when businesses focus too much on the first part, and not the second. Focusing only on the day leads to businesses putting on sales they can’t afford, struggling to deal with the customer service and PR ramifications, and limiting the success of the event to a one time sales spike.
If businesses were to pay just as much attention to the aftermath as they do to the day itself, they may be able to avoid some of the problems that have plagued the event in the UK. Considering Black Friday in the longer term context may even mean that some businesses decide it’s not for them, and if that’s the best decision for them, so be it.
It's particularly hard for smaller, independent retailers to see a real benefit from Black Friday. For many of them, it's disruptive to their retail pattern and forces them to sell things for lower prices than they can afford if they want to sell anything at all.
However, there are other businesses that can benefit from a well-planned campaign. Ecommerce and online service businesses have the tools at their disposal to turn new Black Friday visitors into longer term customers, allowing their business to grow in a meaningful way.
Andy Norton, director of SNAP Nutrition, has taken the right approach: “As a young business which sells entirely online, we're using it as an extra opportunity to introduce customers to our brand for the first time. Our plan this year will include special introductory prices as well as secret extra incentives for people to visit our website on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, which we're going to reveal through social media over the next couple of weeks."
Andy is seeing Black Friday not just as a time to make a lot of sales, but as a time to engage with human customers. This shift in thinking from numbers to humans is essential if businesses are going to effectively plan for the aftermath of Black Friday. It encourages you to pay attention to the experience your customers are having throughout.
For online businesses, this means having a website that does what customers want it to do, even under the strains of Black Friday traffic. It also means making sure that customers’ orders get delivered on time, and you don’t make promises that you can’t keep. If customers have a bad experience with a Black Friday purchase, they may not come back.
These businesses can also make use of the extra data they can gather from a Black Friday campaign, perhaps even accumulating a list of emails from new customers who've taken advantage of the special deals.
The opportunity for data gathering is one of the main things that makes Black Friday more attractive to online businesses than to High Street shops. Even before Black Friday starts, you can be planning how you're going to use that data in ad campaigns and the like going forward. If customers have a good one-off experience on Black Friday and then see an email from you a couple of weeks before Christmas advertising another great gift idea, you may well be able to turn that one-off customer into a regular who'll hopefully keep coming back.
Taking part in Black Friday is by no means a magic formula for sales - the amount of businesses that are becoming disillusioned with the whole thing proves that. However, it can turn into a success if you take a broader view of how it fits into your plan for attracting and retaining new customers over the long term. There’s still time to think through how you can turn that one day into a marketing strategy that lasts for weeks and months to come, but you'll have to be quick!
Written by Ben Garry at Impression.