Black Friday becoming launching pad for UK Christmas shopping

Black Friday may be an American tradition but it has become very popular in the UK. An upcoming Webloyalty report on UK Christmas Trends for 2015 shows that 57% of consumers plan to shop on November 27 and sales are expected to top £1.6 billion making Black Friday one of the most important days of the year for UK retailers.

The report points to a shift in buying patterns with over 30% of consumers indicating the event has become the starting point for their Christmas shopping and 61% of consumers saying they either delay or bring forward purchases to take full advantage of Black Friday promotions.

Cyber Monday, on November 30, is less well known than its cousin, but still attracts attention with 40% of shoppers expected to use ecommerce to get their hands on discounted items.

This means consumer expectations are high with almost 20% of consumers looking for discounts of over 50%. The pressure is on (e)retailers to meet these expectations if they want to take full advantage of this pre-Christmas shopping blitz.

High expectations on the high street

What can retailers do to prepare for what is fast becoming a peak on their annual sales chart? Here are a few tips from industry experts.

Shout from the rooftops

With one in three consumers either delaying or bringing forward purchases to take full advantage of Black Friday promotions, retailers need to advertise their offerings early so shoppers can compare and narrow down their options. Humayan Khan of Shopify even suggests using a countdown to “get people excited.”

Be ready to perform a juggling act

Predicting exact shopping patterns on Black Friday and Cyber Monday is probably impossible. Will particular stores be picked clean of promotional items or will consumers shop online? The key to success is to balance stock based on past experience and a nimble and efficient supply chain to move stock from one store to another quickly if needed. Tommi Ylinen of REFLEX Solutions, also suggests creating “a virtual ring-fence around part of the stock earmarked for online sales,” that way you avoid having to recall goods from the stores to the distribution centre which “is always expensive and best avoided whenever possible.”

Safety first

Customer safety should always be a priority but with a higher than normal flow of shoppers aiming for the same items, stores can get a little chaotic. “Additional security staff and assistants on the shopfloor will assist in the day running more smoothly, with a higher sales conversion likely through the stores staying open,” suggests Guy Chiswick of Webloyalty. Ensuring some distance between sale displays to avoid a mad rush funnelled towards a single point might also be safer.

Why not free delivery?

According to David Bell of the Wharton School of Business, shipping and handling costs can trigger a high level of abandonment of online shopping carts. Retailers should consider offering free shipping or establishing thresholds at which shipping becomes free. Especially since research by Monetate, shows “55% of all online shoppers expect free shipping on every order.” If free delivery is not an option, “be transparent with your customers about delivery times, as shoppers may be happy to wait a little longer for their products if they’re getting value for money,” says Chiswick.

Get down to the bare essentials

Not all consumers want to knock elbows with their fellow shoppers to get their hands on the best deals so retailers must expect a significant increase of traffic vying for their ecommerce offerings on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. While the advice above still applies to ecommerce, here are a few tips tailored to the Internet.

A seamless experience

To capitalise on customer interest, retailers should pare down their websites to make them as efficient as possible by disabling any added features that may slow down processing speed. A special section designed specifically for the holidays can also be created with simplified navigation channelling customers rapidly through the purchase process.

Stay connected

Black Friday and Cyber Monday offer a unique opportunity for retailers to increase future traffic. “One surefire way to do just that is to collect email addresses from your visitors to build both a responsive and profitable ecommerce mailing list,” says Khan of Shopify.

Be social

If you have Facebook and Twitter accounts, “consider offering exclusive deals to your followers,” says Steve Bulger of eFulfillment Service. “After all, this is probably one of the reasons they’re following your brand, and it’s certainly something they’ll appreciate.”

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are expected to be a great starting point to the Christmas season for UK retailers this year. These few tips should help you make the best of what is shaping up to be a better season than last year with Christmas spending expected to grow by 2.5% this year.