By John Fleming, marketing director EMEA and Asia Pacific Webtrends.
Black Friday has made a name for itself as one of the busiest shopping days of the year as retailers knock down prices across much of their stock to kick-start the gift-buying season. The sales hysteria continues on Cyber Monday, which falls on 28th November this year, as retailers slash more prices over the same weekend. £1.1bn was spent on Black Friday while £968m was splashed on Monday by UK shoppers in a five-day frenzy a year ago, making the last weekend of November like no other sales event in the year — a “Black Five Day!”
While there has been some disquiet and even whispers of “shopper-fatigue”, nearly all retailers are expected to be part of the action again – maybe we’re all just a little too frightened of letting the “big-spend” pass us by. Many months have been spent on how to best prepare for capitalising on the sales potential of this one-off shopping phenomenon. Robust plans will have been scrutinised as marketing activities, contingencies, operations and logistics, and rigorous stress testing of systems to avoid dam-burst scenarios have been rehearsed, multiple times, to cope under the anticipated deluge of shoppers.
While there remains a fixation with how much is spent over the weekend, the real, sometimes forgotten, work should also focus on what is actually going to happen next. What do you do once the masses have left the stores and the internet and apps? Will everyone have a plan in place to keep their newly-found customers beyond one, albeit monumental, weekend? Many new faces will have been pulled in by the attractive or one-off discounting but how do retailers convert these kinds of shoppers into the greater prize of being a customer for life? The real work begins the morning the day after.
The most difficult and expensive challenge facing retailers has always been the acquisition of new customers and depending upon who you ask and which market they’re from it can cost between 4 and 10 times more to gain a new customer than it does to keep an existing one. Gartner says: “65% of a company’s business comes from existing customers, and it costs five times as much to attract a new customer than to keep an existing one satisfied”. Black Five Day is one of those rare events, where normal sales rules do not apply and the emotion of bargain-basement pricing is the funnel that channels in all of your new customers.
Once hooked in, Black Five Day allows retailers to reach a non-core audience and act as the gateway to their brand. Luring first-time buyers in their thousands with discounts is only the beginning as there will be opportunities to further impress with the quality of your products or outstanding customer service; opening the real chance of securing custom long term. Maximising the use of multichannel marketing will also be key as brands are likely to increase their long-term awareness and sales by positioning themselves in as many relevant places to their target audiences over the Black Five Day period as possible.
Mobile sales are on the rise. It is imperative that retailers not only ensure they are prepared for the online onslaught but also present a strong mobile offering to manage the peaks. Being mobile-ready means verifying sites are optimised for a mobile experience to help shoppers browse and make purchases more easily.
There is also a vast amount of data swirling in the melee that could be put to better use. Understanding the principles of using data to innovate is one thing, but retailers need to put this into practice. Did customers prefer to shop online or in the store during Black Five Day? Did the customer journey involve moving from mobile to desktop to in-store then back to their mobile? How many people were looking for deals a number of days before the event? How many were searching competitor products on your site over the weekend? All that searching and research should be monitored to generate data on how consumers describe and ultimately search for products – utilising the data beyond the sale. Armed with the insight, retailers can explore the products that shoppers view during online sessions to better understand how they should present their inventories or personalise shopping experiences to individual customers. Data is the key to the understanding of customers.
At the end of Black Five Day there will be the inevitable lull but this presents an opportunity to refresh, review, reassess and regroup before it starts all over again at Christmas and the New Year — a calm before another storm.
Just as “A dog is for life, not just for Christmas”, “A customer is for life, not just for Black Five Day” and who knows it could just be the start of a beautiful relationship.
By John Fleming
John Fleming is the EMEA and Asia Pacific marketing director for Webtrends. Webtrends is a private company headquartered in Portland, Oregon, United States. It provides digital analytics, optimization and a number of other software solutions related to digital marketing.