Black Friday is not just the busiest day of the year for many retailers. With customers spending billions due to reductions, the sales set the trend for the entire holiday shopping season. For some businesses, the period between Black Friday and the New Year Sales can deliver as much as 30-40% of annual revenue.

Many people will be wondering how to prepare for Black Friday and Cyber Monday 2020 to get the biggest benefits. In a year of massive uncertainty and accelerated change for the eCommerce industry due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the holiday season will be more unpredictable than ever before.  This means understanding existing best practice, and adapting it to accommodate changing consumer trends.

With Black Friday 2020 occurring on November 27th, 2020, and Cyber Monday on the 30th November, there’s not long to finalise your plans. By looking at the existing best practice based on previous results and what is likely to change due to the impact of coronavirus, you’ll have a clearer understanding of how to maximise returns from Black Friday and Cyber Monday 2020.

Existing Retailer Best Practice for Black Friday 2020

The best way to cope with change and uncertainty is to build a solid foundation for your eCommerce business. This will allow you to adapt as necessary, even at short notice. Implementing existing advice for Black Friday retailer best practice stops you from losing sales due to basic mistakes, and means you can move more focus on adapting to the changes brought by Covid-19 in 2020.

Research

It’s important to analyse previous advertising campaigns, particularly during the last holiday season to understand what has driven customer interest and sales in the past.  You may be able to re-use or update existing creatives and assets for campaigns in 2020, or identify missed opportunities from previous years.

But you should also be performing competitor analysis throughout the holiday season. Did other businesses in your industry sector challenge your ability to attract new sales, or retain existing customers? If so, can you learn from their tactics for 2020?

Beyond looking at businesses around you, it’s worth examining campaigns in other retail sectors for inspiration and new ideas which may work for your customers. Could a successful fashion campaign be adapted for home furnishings, electronics or automotive parts?

Your research should also include monitoring trends in both search engine queries and Shopping Ads on Google data. It’s important to understand not only which products are growing or falling in popularity, but also the queries and concerns shared by consumers when they are using Google and other search tools to find out more about potential purchases.

Update your campaign structure and assets:

If you currently run Shopping Ads on Google campaigns, you should already understand how important it is to monitor your product data feed for errors and look for opportunities to optimise the details and assets it contains.

This includes ensuring that images, product information, and particularly prices are kept updated and accurate. You can see our detailed guide on what makes a great product feed for Shopping Ads on Google for more information on each aspect of driving more sales with your data. But a key element for Black Friday is to create and upload separate data feeds for sales periods to ensure prices and promotions stay accurate both when discounted, and at the point you return to normal pricing.

You should also evaluate your promotional budget to ensure you have the headroom to manage additional volume. The Black Friday weekend will also have an effect on how your ad spend should be reduced, with more sales potential for evenings and weekends, in addition to customers shopping while they would typically be working during weekdays. 

Evaluate your website, scalability and fulfilment

It’s easy to become caught up in the excitement of preparing new campaigns, and overlook the underlying functionality of your website and customer fulfilment.

Many retailer eCommerce sites have already struggled to cope with a surge in visitors during the Covid-19 national lockdowns. With expectations of even higher demand for online shopping than in previous years, Black Friday will once again test the scalability of many retail websites, meaning that you can benefit from investing in ensuring reliability for a much larger number of customers. 

The return on this investment not only applies during the sales period, but also has important results on consumer loyalty and return purchases in the future, as a seamless buying process is key for ever-more impatient online customers.

The impending holiday season is also a good reason to revisit existing website functionality, and to test the experience for your visitors. This includes relatively basic tools such as site search, ensuring that no sales are being lost by empty results pages, and checking for any navigational errors, such as 404 Not Found messages for missing pages or broken internal links.

It’s also a good time to check the full customer journey to ensure data capture, sales and abandonment emails, and any remarketing or retargeting efforts are all correctly implemented to make sure you can capitalise on the largest shopping days of the year.

Fulfilment will also be key in capturing new customers for the future. Consumers are 46% more likely to recommend brands that provide a smooth delivery service. This means ensuring you have sufficient inventory and processes in place to cope with sudden surges in demand for potentially unexpected items, and to ensure your advertising and marketing spend isn’t undermined by a failure to deliver on your promises.

Adding new offers and sales tools for Black Friday 2020

The surge in visitors and sales prompted by Black Friday and the start of the holiday season is a good time to try new product bundles and offers. Potential and existing customers will have a different mindset, particularly if they’re spending for Christmas gifts, which means you might find new combinations of your products that will sell more effectively.

Customers shopping in-store are more likely to make extra impulse purchases, and bundling allows you to benefit from the same habit online, particularly when it’s time-limited or contains exclusive items or offers. Adding additional value or personalisation for the Black Friday and Cyber Monday period can encourage hesitant buyers.

Additional sales and remarketing tools can give your Black Friday sales an additional boost. Introducing finance and credit options, or offering reduced costs along with free shipping can convert reluctant purchasers. 

It’s also a useful time to add features such as live inventory or product viewing data onto your site to increase urgency for shoppers. This will help to replicate the excitement of in-store sales, supported by conversation tools such as exit intent popups and retargeting. 

How Black Friday and Cyber Monday Will Change in 2020

The Covid-19 pandemic continues to have an enormous impact on retail and shopping. Google reports more than a third of UK shoppers who would normally shop in-store on Black Friday say they’ll switch to online this year, and 61% say the pandemic will affect how they’ll shop for the holidays.

Not only will the growth in online shopping continue in 2020 for Black Friday, but when people do plan to shop in-store, they’ll be researching visits in more detail, and will look for safer ways to buy, including digital and contactless options.

Google reports 63% of UK shoppers will choose retailers which offer contactless shopping, with 39% using options to purchase online via click and collect and in-store collection. 

The changing habits of UK consumers and the opportunities around safer click and collect or in-store experiences were all key topics in our recent Retail Reinvented Webinar, with four industry experts sharing key insights into how businesses can benefit from the challenges presented by the Covid-19 pandemic.

This may even be the last year for Black Friday as a distinct day or event. While some U.S retailers including Walmart, Target, Best Buy and Kohl’s have announced they will close on Thanksgiving for the first time, many are revealing they will start the discount period earlier (such as Macy’s who plan to start their sale after Halloween on 31st October), or extend it much longer (Home Depot plan to extend their offers for two months across November and December).

Changes to the in-store experience will go beyond existing click and collect options, with plans for outdoor markets, car park pop-ups, and the possibility physical retail may involve pre-booking slots for visits. Demonstrating a seamless link between your online and physical process will be important to retain loyal customers, as will showing the importance of Covid-19 protective measures and hygiene for your staff and customers. 

An expected surge in online shopping means retailers will need to prepare for a more competitive landscape. With retailers all attempting to capture their share of the growth in eCommerce, there will be a need to up your efforts creatively, and in utilising all available tools and shopping channels as effectively as possible. 

Shopping Ads on Google plans a huge role in both discovery and purchasing, with big incremental benefits from bringing on Google CSS partners who can complement and enhance any existing in-house activity.

The change in consumer lifestyle and outlook is likely to be reflected in the purchases made on Black Friday and throughout the holiday season. Our UK lockdown eCommerce data revealed trends for summer watersports and digital cameras as everyone looked for ways to explore and enjoy the outdoors. 

With colder Winter months, the end of the UK furlough scheme and the enduring presence of Covid-19 restrictions for the foreseeable future, there are signs of a return to more traditional gifts, and investments in larger, more expensive products which will deliver lasting engagement for children and adults alike.

Remote working is likely to be a key element of Black Friday purchases. At the start of lockdown, this required immediate purchases of technology to enable continued employment, but this is likely to continue evolving into long-term solutions for comfortable and sustainable home or flexible work as UK staff are still reluctant to return to business premises.

The ONS has reported total retail sales continued to grow towards the end of Summer, 2020, with growth in sectors including DIY and homecare, furniture, and household appliances. A further reason for some cautious optimism is that Black Friday and Cyber Monday will fall around pay day for many people, which tends to drive larger spending.

In 2019, Black Friday fell on the 29th of November, and saw Barclaycard report transaction value up 16.5% compared to 2018, with transaction volume increased by 7.2%

Will new technology be key to Black Friday 2020?

The tools embraced by many people to live and work during the Covid-19 pandemic are not new, but the adoption of online video conferencing and collaboration software has rapidly increased due to necessity.

A similar situation may be about to occur for eCommerce and physical retail, as the expectation and demand of consumers for Black Friday coincide with a continued need to adjust to coronavirus restrictions.

Retailers are able to benefit from the rollout of free Shopping Ads on Google listings, and the global launch of Facebook and Instagram Shops which may have a significant impact on eCommerce over the coming months. Particularly the ability to directly link retail products prominently with live video from influencers and creators on both social networks.

But consumers are also being encouraged to embrace new technology. Existing solutions such as QR codes are now becoming more widely recognised, especially as the UK government encourages their use for check-ins to the new NHS Covid-19 app.

Virtual reality recreations of physical retail may not revolutionise Black Friday in 2020, but recreating the experience of interacting with shopping assistants via your laptop or mobile is already helping many businesses to provide a virtual experience which replicates some of the benefits of visiting a shop without needing to physically be there (as our expert guests discussed in the Retail Reinvented webinar).

How to prepare for Black Friday and Cyber Monday 2020

The key takeaway for Black Friday and Cyber Monday 2020 is that it’s never too early to prepare. UK Christmas shopping starts earlier every year, prompted sooner than ever by the Covid-19 disruption.

A report by eBay reveals that searches for terms including ‘Christmas’ and ‘Xmas’ increased by 27% in the period from March to May 2020, compared to the same period in 2019. Around 34% of UK shoppers in the same study have already bought Christmas-related items with 42% of 16-24-year-olds aiming to start their holiday shopping earlier than ever.

It’s important to start with the basics, ensuring your website and eCommerce processes will all deliver on your promotional promises. Accurate, optimised data is vital for successful campaigns via Shopping Ads on Google, with 56% of British shoppers using Google for discovery and recommendations. And the same feeds of product information also power other eCommerce solutions such as the new Facebook and Instagram shops.

In a more competitive digital retail environment for Black Friday 2020, it’s important to do more with your existing, or a potentially reduced budget. Opportunities can be found by automating part of your current workload, or bringing on a Google Premium CSS partner who can identify incremental sales on your behalf (and on a commission basis in the case of RedBrain).

With the right processes and partners in place, you’ll be in the best position to make the most of the growth in digital retail, and the opportunities for Black Friday and Cyber Monday 2020.

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