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Etailers count down to Black Friday and Cyber Monday

With six months to go until the next Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping bonanzas, on November 27 and 30 respectively, leading ecommerce operators tell us what preparations retailers should be making to ensure they meet demand.

Helen Colclough River Island

Helen Colclough, River Island

Helen Colclough, ecommerce development manager, River Island

Should fashion retailers be participating in these mass discounting events this year?

I’m not sure it’s a choice. Black Friday has arrived and it’s going to happen whether you participate promotionally or not.

In some sectors customers will get trained to expect these types of promotions, thus delaying spend and directing it towards where they can get the best value for money. I don’t feel this is such an issue in fashion since it’s much more about inspiration than direct comparison. Any decision on promotional activity based on fear isn’t a good one; you have to look at your own business and protect your margins.

What should retailers be doing to prepare?

Work has to be on keeping sites up and performant, from the actual infrastructure to the weight of content on pages. It’s no good having a great customer offer or must-have product if your customers can’t get on your site or their interaction is slow and buggy. [This includes] page speed, performance and load testing, improving the quality of code and making sure everyone is clear what can and can’t be done on the site during high traffic (keeping lots of heavy interactions to a minimum). Now is the time to do it, before you start planning creative campaigns.

Stock depths and availability has to be a priority, as well as realistic cut-off times for deliveries. Black Friday is the first real hit for peak trade so delivery doesn’t always have to be fast – there is plenty of time for items to arrive in time for their party the following weekend or for Christmas gifts – is it better to make it free? Or offer another incentive? Be creative but realistic. Focus on what you can do, not trying to guess what everyone else will do.

Ralph Tucker, product director at N Brown

Ralph Tucker, N Brown

Ralph Tucker, product director, N Brown

Should fashion retailers be participating in these mass discounting events this year?

Yes, absolutely – it’s a retailer’s role to respond to what consumers want. Black Friday in 2014 saw record sales for our business with accepted demand of over £4.7m. This was then surpassed on Cyber Monday with accepted demand of £5.1m – our strongest performing day to date. 

What should retailers be doing to prepare?

Given the high level of competition around Black Friday, retailers will need to work out how to differentiate themselves from competitors.

How can retailers compete with rivals but also ensure they can fulfil demand?

The key is to be more selective and targeted with promotions, and move away from some of the blanket discounts we saw last year. This is around getting more personal with offers but it is a little wider than that in terms of really engaging with consumers at a personal level and delivering an offer that’s right for them. In theory, this may help protect margins but it’s really just recognising that loyalty and trust are essential for online success.

Are there any technologies or processes that retailers should be investing in now to prepare?

Bandwidth is key – retailers need to ensure they are ready and able to respond to demand. This isn’t about dropping anything but having a joined-up planned approach for the peaks, and ensuring the technological capability matches the consumer demand. You can have the best promotions and product in the world but if the shop doors aren’t open you can’t trade.

Will this year’s events be even bigger for fashion than last year?

It’s become a staple of a consumers’ Christmas shopping calendar, and as online continues to increase in importance for shoppers, I can only see it getting bigger.

Richard Hatfield, managing director,

Should fashion retailers be participating in these mass discounting events this year?

Yes, in a way that is relevant for their business. Black Friday doesn’t change how much money customers spend at Christmas. It changes when they spend their money.

What should retailers be doing to prepare?  How can retailers compete with rivals but also ensure they can fulfil demand?

Last year was the first time I had seen Black Friday being used significantly to promote price reductions, so being competitive will be important but this is short-term tactics. Retailers should still be looking at the bottom line for December or quarter four as a whole. Coping with demand can only be achieved by smart forecasting and focusing on inventory with depths and hopefully margins.

Are there any technologies or processes that retailers should be investing in now to prepare?

Segment your customer data so you get the right message to the right audience. Which customers are inspired by which messages? Are conversions from your customers led by trend, product, brand or price messages? Not all your customers react to the same message.

Nupur Manchanda Practicology

Nupur Manchanda, Practicology

Nupur Manchanda, chief operating officer, ecommerce consultancy Practicology

Should fashion retailers be participating in these mass discounting events this year?

Last year’s media coverage fuelled awareness of Black Friday on a national level, which means it has now become an event that consumers will expect and will plan their purchases around. Not participating means fashion retailers risk losing customer spend for big-ticket gifts to competitors. However, that places a lot of pressure on margin, and risks bringing demand forward into a few short days. Destination retailers, and particularly luxury brands, will be better placed to hold full price for those must-have items that sell no matter what.

What should retailers be doing to prepare?

Buy specially for it. Customers love exclusives, newness and bargains – Black Friday caters for all three. Smart retailers will be placing orders of exclusive, on-trend lines with the intention to sell at discount over the four days from Black Friday to Cyber Monday.

Which technologies or processes should retailers invest in?

Load test your site for massive spikes in traffic and transactions. And make sure your escalation procedures are in place and well communicated beforehand, because even the most robustly tested sites have been known to fail in a live environment.

How could the events differ from last year?

Cyber Monday as the big event that kickstarts Christmas will be replaced by Black Friday, and a number of retailers will be looking to run promotions over the whole four days to encourage the spending frenzy. Black Friday, which took seed in the UK as an online event, will be truly multichannel. We’ll also see some counter-Black Friday marketing of the ‘reassuringly expensive’ kind, particularly for luxury and premium brands.


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