Guest Column | September 7, 2018

How Retailers Can Prepare For 2018 BFCM & 4 Relevant Trends

By Victoria Greene, Victoria Ecommerce

Black Friday/Cyber Monday Tell Us About 2016

The retail period of Black Friday and Cyber Monday (sometimes mashed together to form BFCM) is both a massive revenue-driver and a source of great stress for retailers everywhere. Folding Thanksgiving into the mix, the frantic five-day passage reaped a colossal 19.62 billion dollars in online sales from the American public in 2017 — and we’re only two months away from the next edition, time that will go by in the blink of an eye.

As tempting as it may be for any overworked store owner not think the chaotic mess of BFCM, it’s a financial non-starter. There’s just too much money on the table not to make it a real priority and commit to meaningful preparation. To that end, this piece is about how retailers can get ready for the 2018 instalment of BFCM — along the way, we’ll look at four notable trends worth keeping in mind.

Ensure You Can Meet Demand

Regardless of whether you run a digital operation, a brick-and-mortar store, or a combined operation, there are limits to how much retail activity you can handle. There are limits to how hard you can work, how much time you can spend, and how many orders you can process.

As such, the first thing you should do to prepare for BFCM is take a close look at your setup to figure out how much demand you can realistically deal with. If you have a physical store, then your staffing situation will be very important — there’s no sense in trying to implement a so-called doorbuster sale if you’ll only have three employees on hand to greet the horde.

If you have an online store, you’ll need to assure it can keep up with the increased activity. If your hosting setup slows to a crawl when more than 20 people visit your site at the same time, you’re much better served discovering it now (while you can still do something about it) than realizing it when it loses you a large amount of revenue during BFCM.

Trend #1: Going Mobile

On the topic of online store resilience, it’s vital any e-commerce store looking to benefit from BFCM is slick and mobile-responsive as the share of e-commerce sales made on mobile devices continues to increase at a rapid pace. Any retail site that doesn’t provide a slick mobile experience will drive away plenty of previously-interested visitors.

Plan your stock carefully. If you stock up too heavily ahead of time, you’ll end up struggling to offload unwanted items after the busy period has concluded. At best, you’ll be able to sell them all by the Christmas period and, if you fail to recoup your expenses, that mistake will eat into your profits.

If you stock up insufficiently, however, you’ll lose out on sales and very possibly end up frustrating your customers. During a time of plenty, they might come to see your business as unreliable, leading them to shy away from you in general.

It’s essentially the Goldilocks problem — you have to get your stock levels just right. And this issue is made more complicated by our next trend.

Trend #2: The Ever-Growing Weekend

The Thanksgiving weekend birthed Black Friday, and then Cyber Monday came along to join the party, and it never seemed particularly likely things would stop there. The following Tuesday is known as Giving Tuesday and ostensibly a charitable occasion, but that doesn’t stop many people from hunting for post-Cyber Monday deals. When planning your stock for BFCM, bear in mind the temporal boundaries are somewhat fuzzy and be ready to hustle for sales even after the events are supposed to have concluded.

Prepare creative materials. There’s no shortage of sales around during BFCM, so unless you’re willing to compete in a sheer race-to-the-bottom price war you’ll need some creative marketing to get your sales some attention. Since creative work takes time to draft, revise, and distribute, you should start thinking about it immediately.

What products do you want to push? Where are your best profit margins? What can you offer that other stores in your area can’t? You don’t have the time or resources to advertise absolutely everything, so just pick out the highlights — when people visit your store, they’ll look at other items anyway.

Trend #3: Showrooming And Webrooming

Instead of being at loggerheads, online and offline retail are perfectly capable of mutual support — we’re seeing a lot more often as time goes by with showrooming and webrooming. Showrooming is the practice of looking at products in physical stores before buying them online, while webrooming is the reverse — viewing product information online before heading to a physical store to buy.

When preparing your online or offline marketing materials, think not only about how you want people to view your products but also how they might prefer to. For instance, having an online banner telling people they can test your products in your physical store could be helpful.

Line up your trust indicators. There are a lot of questionable retailers out there, particularly in the e-commerce world, and people prefer to buy from businesses they trust. No one wants to go for a deal that seems too good to be true only to later discover that it really wasn’t true and they must pursue legal action.

The notion is even more daunting when you consider how easy it is for an online seller to vanish (a brick-and-mortar store takes time to offload, but a seller can have their e-commerce business on a list of websites for sale within minutes). Make sure you invest time and money into building a sense of customer trust, no matter how ephemeral your store, domain, or popup. There is no excuse for a sloppy customer experience, especially when we’re talking about seasonal sales. People are looking for the best that money can buy.

And while younger people are more likely to prefer to buy through e-commerce, they’re also more likely to be cautious in their retail decisions in general, which leads us into our last trend.

Trend #4: Increasingly-Savvy Buyers

With each year that passes, the average shopper becomes more familiar with the perils of online retail and more aware of what they should be looking for to avoid danger. Younger people in particular look for clarity above frivolous branding because they’ve grown up learning how to conduct in-depth online research.

Having a range of fantastic offers is great, but if you can’t get prospective buyers to trust that your products are what you say they are and that their financial information is safe with you, they’ll stick with the biggest retailers and you’ll lose out.

To combat this, include as many trust indicators as you can (things like money-back guarantees, security program memberships, high-profile partners, awards, reviews, etc.) to reassure people that you’re the real deal.

Ramp Up The Hype

The buying activity may not start until the Thanksgiving period, but that doesn’t mean you can’t talk about it now. By drip-feeding sale-related teases through social media channels, you can whet your audience’s retail appetites, getting them excited about pending deals. If you execute this well and build up a lot of anticipation, you can end up getting excellent sales figures on a relatively-modest deal because it will feel bigger to the customers.

BFCM is a huge sales event, make no mistake, and any retailer that likes making money (so, every retailer) would be remiss to forgo adequate preparation. Get ready to meet the raised demand, stock up accordingly, prepare your advertising, and make sure your store looks trustworthy — the fevered retail spirit will do the rest.

About The Author

Victoria Greene is a branding consultant and freelance writer who loves to write about the growth of e-commerce and today’s world of digital convenience. Through providing actionable advice, she seeks to help ambitious brands improve their reach and delight their customers.