Black Friday is light years away, right? Wrong, at least not for retailers who want to plan for the sales.
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While it might seem too early to be thinking about Black Friday, planning in advance will help you get ahead of the competition and make this year’s online bonanza as successful as possible for your business.
Traditionally, retailers have viewed Christmas as the major shopping event of the year. However, Black Friday and Cyber Monday that follows, two retail events imported from the US, are now hugely popular in the UK.
Last year in Britain, more than £1.4bn was spent online during the four-day spending spree, an 11% increase on 2016, and a testament to the opportunity these retail events present for savvy UK retailers.
With that in mind, it’s more important than ever to start preparing now to make sure this Black Friday is your best yet. Here’s how:
Manage your supply chain
Getting organised is key for a successful Black Friday. Knowing what you have in stock and working out how much you can afford to discount your items will help to avoid any surprises when the orders flood in.
Work out which products are likely to be popular, and avoid disappointment by stocking up early. Looking at sales data from previous years is a good place to start, but be sure to also consider current trends and economic factors.
Using social media can be a great way to engage with your customers and give an idea of what they might be looking for in this year’s Black Friday sales.
Once you’ve worked out which products are likely to sell, speak to your suppliers early to ensure you’re always able to honour orders, keep your customers happy and make them more likely to revisit your site in the future.
Test your website to avoid technical troubles
When it comes to Black Friday sales, the last thing you want is for your website to crash under the strain of increased web traffic. The technical troubles that Amazon experienced on Prime Day in July are a fitting reminder that no matter how big your business, preparation for large retail events is essential.
There are things you can do to protect your website from crashes, so getting started now will give you plenty of time to get your website in top condition before the sales.
Automatically rerouting users to a backup server when web traffic is high will reduce the pressure on your primary server and prevent slow downs and crashes.
This is particularly important during Black Friday sales – you don’t want to push bargain hunters away with a poorly functioning website that doesn’t let them complete orders smoothly and quickly.
Creating an attractive digital experience for your customers is vital to maximising Black Friday sales. You need to make sure your website operates well across platforms – ideally, you want pages to load in less than two seconds to capture impatient Black Friday shoppers.
Prepare for overseas payments
When selling overseas, the added risk of currency fluctuations can erode your margins if you are not prepared. But if you get started now, there are ways to protect your business before the big sales begin.
A specialist FX provider can offer you a virtual currency account to help you easily manage multiple currencies in one place, saving you time and money and protecting your bottom line.
Using a virtual currency account makes it easy to convert overseas sales into a more stable currency, which can make a real difference to your profit margins when making large quantities of overseas sales during Black Friday, letting you bring more money home.
Optimise your emails
Email open rates increase by an average of 60% on Black Friday - taking advantage of this is a great way to increase your sales.
Sending personalised offers and promotional codes to loyal customers can entice them to your site on Black Friday and will have the added benefit of helping your business stand out from the crowd, boosting year-round sales.
Planning a targeted marketing strategy ahead of Black Friday can increase visibility of your brand putting your business at the front of customer’s minds when the sales hit.
Using social media channels to interact with your loyal following, and sharing promotional codes that highlight your best bargains will help to engage your customers and entice them to your sales.
Sending abandoned cart emails is another good way to boost sales, reminding customers of products they added to their shopping carts but haven’t yet purchased.
Creating a seamless user experience is also key to making the most of customer interactions on Black Friday, making it as easy as possible for people to move from checking their emails to purchasing your products.
Consider your SEO strategy
Finally, in the run up to Black Friday, and the festive period that follows, it is worth checking in on your SEO strategy to help enhance the visibility of your products and your brand overall.
Black Friday is one of the busiest online retail days in the year, so making it easy for customers to find your site whilst they are searching online, is the first step to success.
Review your SEO to make sure it includes the most relevant search terms, such as those that incorporate Black Friday or the products you offer.
It is also worth remembering that when selling to overseas markets, search terms may be different, so think like your customers. Spend some time working out the best strategy in your different markets to drive traffic to your website.
Gone are the days when it was all about Christmas. Smart UK e-retailers are adapting and taking advantage of global retail events such as Black Friday, Cyber Monday and even Singles Day in Asia to drive their seasonal strategies.
So, although Black Friday might still seem a long way away, starting preparations now can give you a real edge on the competition to make sure this year’s Black Friday weekend is one to remember for your business.
Jake Trask is an FX Research Director at international payments company OFX, where he works with a range of online sellers to manage their currency strategy.