Has the Coronavirus stolen Christmas?
Neverending serpentine queues. Camping out in front of stores in the December cold. Fights over flat screen televisions. All the usual sights associated with the traditional Black Friday sales. However, with 2020 being the year the world stood still, and with Boris threatening extra lockdown regulations for possibly 6 months, the Coronavirus may well have stolen Christmas as we know it this year. With the virus showing no signs of slowing down and a vaccine months away, the situation is unlikely to change over the coming weeks. So, how can retailers make sure that they don’t miss out on crucial sales this year?
Will Black Friday be different this year?
Black Friday falls on the 27th November this year. However, before you go about throwing open the doors and preparing your business for the typical seasonal store stampedes - remember that Black Friday isn’t exactly a prime depiction of social distancing. Understandably, large high street retailers like Nike and Topshop don’t want their stores to become epicentres of local virus outbreaks. They also have to ensure that their employees are not exposed to the virus, a horrible situation that could result in lawsuits and bad PR - all things you should also be aware of.
Behind the scenes, the Coronavirus pandemic has also disrupted the supply chain of major brands, which means that most stores in the country don’t have the levels of merchandise they would usually expect to sell on Black Friday. Retailers such as JD Sports that would ordinarily would have thrown their doors open wide to both people and profits are now reconsidering the plausibility of this, particularly in light of recent re-openings where social distancing measures have failed.
Health and safety to one side, retailers are also concerned about cost. The toll of opening behemoth high street stores for longer, coupled with paying extra staff decked out not in Christmas cheer but in PPE, only to sell less to a fraction of the footfall is simply not good for business.
The Cyber Solution
So what’s the solution? Well, for a number of years now there has been a shift in consumer sales behaviour from Black Friday in-person shopping to Cyber Monday eCommerce deals. This fissure is expected to grow dramatically this year, with Cyber Monday offering a safe shopping alternative to the classic Black Friday experience.
Online shopping reached record levels during the pandemic. In the UK, COVID-19 is expected to add £5.3 billion to eCommerce sales, meaning that online shopping is now predicted to grow from 11% to 19% in 2020. With a total predicted £78.9 billion, this is a considerable growth from 2019’s total of £66.3 billion.
From the confines of their homes, our US friends fuelled eCommerce through their smartphones like never before. They spent an additional $93.9 billion online starting in March. By as early as October 5, Americans would have spent more online this year than the whole of 2019 altogether. What will their Cyber Monday sales look like?
For retailers and eCommerce businesses, this means that traditional walk-ins can’t be the main focus for their Black Friday sales. Further, with the potential for eCommerce growth, it would be ill-advised to not thoroughly prepare for Cyber Monday. Retailers will have to make online shopping the primary avenue. Macy’s has made it clear that they will be leaning into digital to be in-sync with the trend.
How can eCommerce businesses prepare?
Focussing on online means more than just having a functional website and payment gateways. It means being ready on multiple fronts with actionable intelligence and data, and an adaptive business structure. eCommerce companies should particularly pay attention to the following points to make the most of this online boom. Remember too that as a smaller, leaner business in comparison with high street giants, you can adapt quickly to change. By moving quickly and assertively, you will be able to out-maneuver the Goliaths.
1. Optimise your website
Your website should be fast, responsive, and capable of handling an unprecedented spike in traffic. Can you imagine if your website crashes and even though your customers are trying to throw their money at you, you simply have no way of collecting it? The interface should be simple, with a clear categorisation and excellent photographs and descriptions of products and services. Sort this out now - website revamps can often take longer than anticipated, so don’t leave it to the last minute!
2. Get your logistics right
Nothing’s more irritating to customers than “Not in stock” or “Delays in delivery.” Work with your logistic partners on scenarios involving unusually high orders and ensure that you live up to what you promise on the website.
3. Have a backup plan
For both sourcing and delivery, it’s good to have a backup plan with a potential manufacturer and courier service. A multi-vendor structure can withstand pressures better in high-demand circumstances.
4. Focus your marketing
Don’t overwhelm online shoppers with your messages. Using relevant data, segment the audience into prospects and existing customers, and then customise your messages.
5. Innovative offers
Other than the usual discounts, eCommerce companies should come up with enticing offers and product-bundles. These should be based on traditional and new behavioural patterns. Work-from-home has made computer peripherals an essential category now, for example.
It’s better to employ the services of experts and invest in the right infrastructure as this online shopping frenzy can exponentially scale a business - particularly during these UNPRECEDENTED times. Luckily for you, Business Score has been helping eCommerce companies to grow, grow, grow by finding them funding from expert lenders.
Get in touch with us to take your eCommerce business to the next level during the seasonal sales, and steal Christmas back from COVID-19.