Black Friday and Cyber Monday are just around the corner (November 26th and 30th, respectively), and it looks like they’re going to be bigger than ever before. With over 200,000 new online shoppers entering Australia’s eCommerce market in April alone, you can expect to see a whole lot more customers streaming through your virtual doors to pick up a bargain this year.
On top of this, Amazon’s annual Prime Day sale is taking place on October 13th and 14th, followed by Click Frenzy from November 10th to the 12th. Anyone who isn’t prepared to make a purchase during the first two events will be chomping at the bit by the time Black Friday and Cyber Monday roll around.
The opportunity is massive, but so are the pitfalls if you’re not prepared. It’s not simply a matter of scaling up your previous approach to accommodate more traffic and transactions; your customers have different needs in a post-COVID world. Here are three things to keep in mind to ensure you exceed their expectations this year.
Read the room
Now is the time to prove that your business doesn’t just talk about putting your customers first, you really mean it. Before you send that marketing email urging them to buy a sale item before it’s too late, consider their state of mind. Depending where they’re located, your customers might be craving more meaningful experiences like a meal at their favourite restaurant after many weeks of lockdown, or wishing the borders would open so they can visit friends and family. An overly price-driven message could alienate them. You can prevent this by introducing a human element to the offer, such as donating a portion of your proceeds to a local charity.
Of course, some customers are happy to escape the chaos of the outside world with a little retail therapy. But even if they’re receptive to a more traditional marketing message, you should still consider how their buying habits may have changed during COVID-19. A survey by Shopify found that 38% of merchants are introducing new products this Black Friday and Cyber Monday to capture some of the increased demand for furniture, homewares, board games, self-case and leisure wear. Make sure you tailor your offering to your customers’ current needs.
Don’t skimp on customer support
Online shoppers naturally have questions about the look, fit and feel of various products, when their order will arrive and how to make a return, but unlike in-store shoppers, they can’t simply ask the nearest staff member for help. You can mitigate a lot of these questions with a clear and comprehensive FAQ section on your website, and for any remaining issues, a friendly and responsive customer support team goes a long way to creating a positive online shopping experience. But a sudden spike in traffic during a major sale like Black Friday and Cyber Monday can throw even the best customer support team into disarray, and potentially cause permanent damage to your brand.
Imagine this: a first-time customer places an order with you, but because you are experiencing such high volumes, you aren’t able to pick, pack and dispatch their order within 24 hours, as you promise on your website. They email your support team to check the status of their order, but don’t receive a reply right away, so they email again, placing your support team even further behind. Now imagine it’s not just one customer, but hundreds or even thousands. What are the chances they’ll shop with you again? What are the chances they’ll keep the experience to themselves, or post a negative review online?
In this case, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Make sure you update your website with realistic shipping and customer service timelines. Scale up your support team if you can, and make sure they’re well trained.
Make it speedy
Data show that Black Friday and Cyber Monday have pulled forward Australians’ holiday spending over the past few years. In other words, many of the items people purchase in the mega-sale end up beneath a Christmas tree come December. For these customers, fast shipping with transparent tracking is very likely to be a deal-breaker.
At the same time, however, COVID-19 restrictions and the rise in online shopping have put Australia’s couriers under enormous strain. For the most part, customers have been understanding about the delivery delays, but a recent report from Australia Post suggests their expectations are beginning to rise again, with 52% of people buying less from overseas because delivery is taking far too long.
Where does this leave you? If you’re an omnichannel retailer, you might consider shipping from store if you don’t already. This will speed up delivery to customers located close to your bricks-and-mortar locations. If you’re an online-only retailer, offering an express post option will help ensure you don’t lose customers who care about fast shipping, and utilising multiple carriers is a smart way to reduce the risk of delays.