For many online sellers, getting through the Black Friday shopping weekend can feel a little like gambling. These high-volume ecommerce days offer unique opportunities to boost revenue and acquire new customers – but risks are everywhere.
For example, depending upon unreliable software to support your Black Friday operations can lead to opaque and confusing deals, troubles with online inventory management and delayed deliveries. You might end up in the red when Black Friday's over.
That's too bad, since Black Friday is not only one of the busiest shopping days, it's also increasingly dominated by online sales. The National Retail Federation (NRF) estimated that in 2016, over 108 million Americans participated in some Black Friday shopping online, compared to 99.1 million who went to brick-and-mortar locations.
These numbers only tell half the story, though. If you're not prepared, there's a lot to lose, from your margins to your loyal customers. How can you get the most from each Black Friday? Here are four tips to get started:
Tip No. 1: Tame potentially volatile inventory levels
Black Friday shopping puts significant pressure on inventory. Stories abound about seemingly great deals that became busts once an item quickly went out-of-stock. But understocking is https://www.jazva.com/blog/costs-of-poor-inventory-management during the holiday shopping season:
- A 2015 IHL report estimated that overstocking cost all retailers $471.9 billion in yearly lost revenue. Between 2014 and 2015, overstocks also contributed to a 21 percent decline in sales of full-price merchandise around Black Friday, according to DynamicAction. Overstocks eat into your margins while tying up your valuable warehouse space.
- Understocking damages the overall customer experience. GT Nexus revealed that 63 percent of adults have encountered unavailable products online. A majority of them then decided to either shop elsewhere or just buy nothing.
- Black Friday shopping amplifies both of these problems. Adobe reported that than 1 in 10 of the Black Friday items it surveyed in 2016 had out-of-stock messages. It also noted widely varying stock levels depending on an item's price and notoriety.
Online inventory management software is your ticket to easier navigation of these Black Friday inventory issues and a better stock control system. It provides automated, real-time updates across all channels, along with predictive analytics for accurate forecasting and replenishment.
Tip No. 2: Think about returns policies early and often
With so many of its purchases motivated by price alone, Black Friday unsurprisingly generates tons of returns. UPS once reported 1 million+ daily returns in early January – a clear returns policy is a practical necessity here.
Even for customers who don't ultimately return anything, purchases often hinge on how this particular policy is set up. The NRF has discovered that 22 percent of online shoppers have backed out of buying something because they thought it would be too inconvenient to return it. Plus, three-fourths checked the returns policy before deciding on any purchase.
Don't go into Black Friday without a well-structured returns policy backed up by a multichannel platform. Powerful software such as Jazva empowers you to directly process returns, refunds and exchanges from within its intuitive interface.
Tip No. 3: Be transparent about deals and fulfillment
Black Friday is unfortunately a natural home for too-good-to-be-true deals. More than one-third of 2016 Black Friday shoppers bought only on-sale merchandise, according to the NRF. However, many of these purchases didn't end up saving buyers much time or money on their holiday shopping. They weren’t all that beneficial to sellers, either, who lost customers after problems with fulfillment and pricing:
- Almost half (47 percent) of respondents to a Dotcom Distribution survey said they had declined to buy from a seller again due to a lack of transparency during fulfillment and delivery.
- On that note, during the 2011-2012 holiday season, a major retailer waited a month to inform some of its Black Friday shoppers that they wouldn't be receiving their online orders in time for Christmas.
- This opacity also extends to many Black Friday promotions themselves. A Which? survey noted that half of 2015 Black Friday deals had been cheaper at other points in the year, with some of them even sporting "was" comparison prices that hadn't been in effect for months or years.
- Wrong prices are also rampant, with poorly integrated and unreliable third-party repricing software often to blame. During the 2014 holiday season, a glitch in RepricerExpress resulted in many items being listed for nearly free on Amazon for an hour. Some seller claimed deal-related losses in excess of $130,000 – and Amazon did not reimburse them.
The safer bet is to support your Black Friday ecommerce operations with a more fully integrated set of tools. The biggest difference-makers in a multichannel platform include built-in automated repricing, seamless syncing across channels, bulk listing and editing and automatic backorder management. These benefits ensure you keep up with the hectic pace of Black Friday activities and offer fair deals with transparent fulfillment.
Tip No. 4: Map out a complete shipping strategy
The logistics of Black Friday are inherently complex. Rising sales volumes and new carrier rules, such as the Black Friday surcharges UPS plans to apply starting in 2017, only add to the overall challenge.
Accordingly, it's a good idea to chart out your shipping process from start to finish, and look for any tasks and costs that could be streamlined along the way. Simplifying the work of warehouse teams is often a prime candidate in this respect.
More specifically, make sure ahead of time that the process for printing labels is as efficient as possible (e.g., through wireless printing options) and that pick lists and packing slips are easy to read. This due diligence helps avoid bottlenecks, such as left-shifted labels and other clerical mistakes that add up, and prevent delays that drive away customers.
Beyond the warehouse, take advantage of carrier rate shopping to automatically find the best box and mail class for each shipment. This feature, provided alongside online inventory management and other functions in Jazva, frees up more time to strategize about free and flat shipping rate thresholds. While many customers will tolerate longer shipping times if there's no cost, others are willing to pay more for quicker fulfillment. There are also the unique time constraints presented by the winter holidays to consider.
Bonus tip: Manage your Black Friday sales from one multi-channel platform
For many sellers, Black Friday is a true challenge, showing how well you can cope with an unending stream of orders. For many retailers, Black Friday can account for 30-40% of annual sales, which is insane. Naturally, many online stores cannot cope with such demand and quickly run out of steam.
However, if you play your cards right, Black Friday can be a great opportunity for your business to boost sales and take advantage of crumbling competition. Our friends at BigCommerce have prepared a Survival Guide for Black Friday 2018, where they break down all the major pitfalls and opportunities for ecommerce sellers.
Caught in the hustle and bustle of Black Friday, you don't want to be juggling multiple disparate systems that create extra manual work and raise the risk of error. Don't gamble with your Black Friday fortunes: Schedule a demo of Jazva today to experience a comprehensive multichannel platform, capable of managing everything from listings to finance in one convenient place.