The world of e-commerce is competitive. This ferocious industry shares a common thread with physical sports like football. Like the NFL, the e-commerce market moves in tides; spring is the relatively slow season where brands work to rebuild their stock and bolster their logistics. Fall is the peak season and resembles the playoffs. Competition is most fierce between mid-October and late November when brands leverage all the tools of their trade to ensure success.
And of course, Black Friday is the industry’s equivalent to the Super Bowl.
With e-commerce, there may be downtime, but just like football, there is no off-season. Those who are driven to win will prepare year-round. And if the 2020 holiday season is any indication, they must prepare. In 2020, shoppers spent a staggering $9 billion dollars on Black Friday alone. Far more than an anomaly, those figures represent a steady upward trend. In 2013, that number was only $1.9 billion.
As November rapidly approaches, e-commerce brands the world over prepare for playoff time. Today, we’re going to look at what holiday crunch time truly means in the world of professional e-commerce.
A Shot at the Title
Black Friday, which invariably falls on the day after Thanksgiving, can be traced back to the 1960s. Although legions of retail workers countrywide would tell you that America’s biggest shopping day gets its name from the frantic and incessant energy of early-bird shoppers, the title actually symbolizes the number of money retailers stand to make every year. When the holiday first began, business owners, marked holiday sales as the key factor putting them “in the black” for the year.
Black Friday is the Super Bowl of the e-commerce channel. Marketers, e-commerce vendors, and logistics professionals all spend a good portion of the year preparing for the holiday season. Given that more than 100 million online shoppers spent a grand total of $14 billion over Thanksgiving weekend, it’s easy to see why e-commerce brands spend so much time and attention on such a narrow time period.
If you are an e-commerce merchant, you undoubtedly know the importance of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. But when should you start preparing your holiday inventory, marketing, and pricing?
Training in the Offseason, Working through the Preseason
Q1 and Q2 are markedly slower sales quarters for both e-commerce and brick-and-mortar retailers. The beginning of the year is like the offseason in the NFL. It’s a time to work on both your business’s large-scale operations and the minutiae. Brands use late winter and spring to test the waters in terms of new marketing efforts, new inventory, and supply chain readiness.
While November 26th is the goal and the prize, just like in football, there’s a long road ahead of e-commerce vendors. The “preseason” essentially begins as early as July. That’s the time of year e-commerce merchants should shoot for in order to ensure they have the stock —and the marketing strategy— necessary to see them through the playoffs and into the Super Bowl.
Welcome to the Playoffs
If July is the preseason, then late October right up until Black Friday is the playoffs. Just like in football, the playoffs are the time for e-commerce merchants to shine. It’s a time when your website’s operations should be finely tuned and firing on all cylinders.
In the lead-up to Black Friday weekend, e-commerce websites need to perform a number of maintenance-driven tasks to ensure that their storefront can withstand customer traffic while simultaneously providing a superior experience to online shoppers. Some key factors to think about include:
- Establishing suitable discounts
- Fine-tuning the site’s content and SEO
- Performing website speed tests
- Finalizing your marketing strategy
- Leveraging social media effectively
In reality, shoppers begin to scout upcoming Black Friday deals as early as October. During crunch time it is essential that you put the finishing touches on both your marketing campaign and your holiday pricing schemata in order to build sufficient customer interest. Housekeeping tasks, like checking the loading speeds on your storefront and ensuring top-notch content writing that adheres to SEO best practices, are crucial in order to maintain a functional and successful site come game time. Don’t forget to take your marketing efforts to social media channels in order to get the hype train rolling as early as possible!
Refining Your Playbook
Success on the football field is a combination of two things: high-quality athletes and a superior playbook. You’re in the e-commerce business because you have a high-quality product that you want to share with the world. You’ve got the first item covered. In the month leading up to Black Friday, one final task remains: refining your playbook.
For an e-commerce merchant, that playbook should include all the tools necessary to succeed over Thanksgiving weekend. E-commerce merchants should pay special attention to the tools they use for:
- Customer management
- User experience
- Customer service
In the month before the final kickoff, vendors should ensure that their email marketing solutions, such as Mail Chimp or Hubspot, are integrated correctly with the rest of their tech stack and ready to begin customer outreach. The same goes for your social media marketing strategy. To that effect, you must be ready to execute your game plan using customer management software such as Salesforce or Zoho. Most importantly, however, is your customer service.
Black Friday and Cyber Monday are hectic, even in a virtual storefront. It’s a fourth and inches situation. How do you plan to field customer questions, up and cross-sell, and prevent cart abandonment with so many users funneling through your website? That’s where Rep’s AI chatbot comes into play.
Our AI chatbot is a tireless customer service representative with 24/7 availability. The more it interacts with customers, the more it learns to adapt on the fly. Popping up at the most crucial moments, the chatbot is a game-changer. It can answer customer questions, resolve customer concerns, and suggest additional items to shoppers. Our AI chatbot is more than just a single customer success manager; it is an entire sales team, available to multiple online shoppers simultaneously.
Winter is fast approaching. The big game is right around the corner. Do you have your storefront’s game plan set up? For help optimizing your e-commerce site, or for more information on the full line of Rep’s products and services, please contact us today.