Business development 10 August 2018

How online retailers can prepare early for Black Friday 2018 success

Black Friday
£1.4bn was spent on Black Friday in the UK in 2017

 With the summer still in full swing, it might seem premature to start thinking about Black Friday – but getting it right can take months of planning.

While Black Friday is traditionally a US event, it has been imported to the UK and is fast becoming commonplace. Black Friday is no longer just a single day event, but a four-day spending extravaganza that culminates on Cyber Monday. Last year in the UK alone, more than £1.4bn was spent online on Black Friday sales, up 11.7% on the previous year.

With that in mind, it is more important than ever for businesses to get ahead of the competition by preparing in advance. Make sure this Black Friday is one to remember by following these tips:

  1. Reacquaint yourself with your customers

A targeted marketing strategy is a sure way to encourage Black Friday success – and it’s something you can start well ahead of the day itself.

Intelligent, personalised outreach is an excellent way to raise the perception of your brand, stand out from the crowd, and spark regular and meaningful interactions in the run-up to Black Friday.

For instance, giving loyal customers an early heads up on relevant discounts will encourage them to visit your website and take advantage of your bargains on the day. It should also work to support sales throughout the year – not just when your products are discounted.

Using social media is another great way to get in touch with your customers, bring them closer to your brand, and encourage them to visit your site. Releasing discount codes via your social media channels is a smart way to make the most of your loyal following and convert interest to action.

  1. Keep on top of supply chains and pricing

A successful Black Friday can rely on solid logistical planning. Get on top of what you have in stock and work out how much you can afford to discount your products to avoid mispricing items and protect your bottom line.

It’s important to have a handle on what inventory sells, and how much you need to stock overall. Looking at sales data from previous years is a good place to start, but to really find out what your customers want, you should also consider current trends, economic factors and even weather forecasts.

This will help predict which products you should stock up on and which might not be so popular. Engaging with your customers for feedback is also a useful indicator, while monitoring social media can help you work out which products are trending this year.

Making sure you have the right stock before a big retail event like Black Friday is important, not least because disappointed customers are less likely to revisit your site in the future. Get on the front foot by liaising now with your manufacturers and suppliers to ensure there are no surprises.

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  1. Manage the flow of web traffic

The technical troubles that Amazon experienced last month on Prime Day are a perfect reminder that preparing for large sales events is essential, no matter the size of your business. Website crashes caused by increased web traffic can happen to any business large or small – but there are ways to protect your website.

Using a designated backup server to automatically reroute web traffic in busy periods is a great way to prevent customers being put off by a poorly functioning website.

Also, if you are planning to make any changes to your website, do so well in advance of sale periods and test rigorously to make sure your new website will be able to handle the increased traffic that Black Friday will bring.

It’s not just website crashes that can affect your sales – overall website performance is also vital. Make sure your site can operate quickly, and works well across platforms. Ideally, you want your pages to load in less than two seconds, or impatient bargain hunters will give up and look elsewhere.

  1. Plan for international sales

Selling overseas can bring the added risk of currency fluctuations, which can erode your margins if you are unprepared. There are ways to protect yourself against this before the Black Friday customers flood in, so it’s important to get started now.

Using a virtual currency account when trading internationally is a great way to simplify your cash flow and protect your profits. Your FX provider should offer you an easy-to-use virtual currency account to let you manage multiple currencies in one place, and give you the best rates on currency conversions. This will help you save time and allow you to bring more of your revenue home.

As some currencies are more volatile than others, it often makes sense to convert sales into a more stable currency as soon as possible. A virtual currency account can also make it easier to pay foreign suppliers and manufacturers directly, without losing out to poor exchange rates and high fees.

  1. Email open rates

On Black Friday itself, email open rates increase by an average of 60%. Exploiting this is an easy way to boost sales by pushing your business and deals to your customers. Sending around additional promotional codes for savings or highlighting some of your best-selling bargains are sure ways to encourage more click-throughs to your website.

Abandoned cart emails reminding customers of products they added to their shopping carts but haven’t yet purchased is another way to optimize sales.

Making your website mobile and tablet-friendly is also essential to make it easy for people to move from checking their emails to purchasing your products. If your website isn’t built for mobile, you risk missing out on a large chunk of sales, as customers expect an uninterrupted experience no matter what device they use for shopping.

While Black Friday and Cyber Monday may still seem like a long way off, there are things you can be doing now to prepare your business for these events. Use these tips to help you get ahead of the competition and get your festive period off to a flying start.

Jake Trask is an FX research director at international payments company OFX, where he works with a range of online sellers to manage their international payments. 

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