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GUEST COMMENT Black Friday: mishaps and opportunities

This year it’s expected that Black Friday sales will go well over £1 billion

Black Friday can be a chaotic period for retailers. Considered to be one of the busiest shopping days of the year, it’s hugely profitable for many brands. Despite the event originally being an American phenomenon, Black Friday has now established itself on the radar of every UK retailer. According to a recent survey, it was estimated that British shoppers spent £810 million in 2017.

As a result, online retailers flourished. However, omnichannel merchants were the overall winners, with the likes of Game, Argos and JD Sports experiencing success with a significant uprise in sales. However, it wasn’t plain sailing for all brands as some retailers were left reeling as the burden of Black Friday took its toll due to the sudden increase in customer interest and demand. According to Catchpoint data, H&M’s website experienced a full outage for a whole hour, due to the heavy demands of Black Friday. This left customers unable to purchase an item and therefore unhappy with their experience of the company.

This year it’s expected that Black Friday sales will go well over £1 billion, due to retailers continuing to utilise digital advertising, social media and influencer strategies to draw in more and more loyal customers. Whilst Black Friday can present retailers with a variety of opportunities, such as increased customer engagement, chances to drive sales at an exponential rate and create seasonal jobs for store associates, there are also some mishaps that retailers can face.

Frustrated customers due to out-of-stock items

Nothing frustrates customers more than when a product they want is out of stock; particularly when seasonal peaks, such as Black Friday, are driving more would-be shoppers to a retailers store, app or website. In today’s retail industry, presenting an item that is out-of-stock with no reasonable, alternative fulfilment option available is unacceptable. In order to minimise this, retailers need to address their inventory management.

Retailers that have a real-time view of inventory across all stores, no matter the location, can ensure they are able to deliver products to their customers when they want them. Not only will retailers be able to give the reassurance to customers that products are available but will provide greater insight on where they are available; giving customers more choices on how they obtain those items.

With products constantly leaving the store and shelves needing to be replenished, having a real-time view of inventory ensures retailers can optimise the way they access and use inventory, giving customers a smooth buying experience at the time of demand whilst reducing resources and markdown costs.

Enhance the customer experience

A poor customer experience can result in a loss of sales or can deter brand loyalty. The entire customer journey should be at the forefront of retailers’ minds and many should look to adopt various strategies that will enable them to enhance and improve the customer experience by increasing customer support, personalisation and creating customer loyalty programmes, offering exclusive discounts and deals. This shows retailers care about their customers and want to build long-standing relationships with them.

In addition, retailers can implement convenient fulfilment options for their customers, such as the freedom to return a product to any store, irrespective of the original purchase channel. This allows the customer to make a decision that is easy and personal to them. As the in-store experience differs from online, the customer has a clear idea of what they require, with full control over their purchasing decisions which can make it easier for retailers to assist a customer.

Utilising real-time dashboards that deliver insights into retailers omnichannel operations, allows them to manage and monitor their strategies. As a result of this, retailers can help to enhance and improve the customer experience as they can see what is and isn’t working for their customers. Ultimately, helping to maximise profitability and provide customers with a seamless retail experience.

Using omnichannel to cope with increased consumer demand

With the increasing use of smartphones to order products, there is an added pressure on the demand for products. This is particularly true during seasonal peaks, with a significant percentage of Black Friday shopping taking place from smartphones – jumping to 40% compared to the rest of the year – this reflects the trend that mobile shopping is still growing in popularity. Retailers should ensure they are prepared for consumers to use their phones in-store. Through this, customers can make real-time price comparisons, looking for discounts and read up on product reviews before purchasing.

Today, retailers have the opportunity to now look for innovative ways to enhance their omnichannel strategy, that gives customers the choice of purchasing products in various ways. Having an order management system, that brings together the components essential for a unified commerce enables retailers to offer customers a seamless and convenient experience. This will minimise the possibilities of them shopping with an alternative brand.

Today, retailers can’t afford to approach their online and offline operations acting as separate functions. Customers mostly care about convenience. The majority also consider next day or same day delivery as a factor that influences their purchasing decisions with – 56% of online customers, aged between 18-34 expect to have same day delivery. If an organisation doesn’t recognise the differences in customer needs, it could be the difference between those that win and lose this Black Friday.

Black Friday can be a blessing for retailers to ensure they are taking advantage of seasonal peaks and generating profits. However, if a retailer isn’t prepared, they can experience many mishaps along the way and the increased customer demand can leave retailers struggling to keep up with the competition.

However, with the availability of a cloud-based order management platform for omnichannel retailers, out-of-stocks and delayed delivery should be a thing of the past.

Author: Rob Shaw, managing director EMEA at Fluent Commerce

Image credit: Fotolia 

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