It is fair to say that Black Friday, the retail bargain bonanza that hits late November, has become as infamous as it has famous. Television and news sites typically go wild for scenes of pushy in-store customers snatching gifts from each other’s hands and so it’s no surprise that an increasing proportion of consumers are going online for a more genteel bargain-hunting experience. It’s this growth that makes Black Friday impossible for marketplace sellers to ignore too.
So, whatever your niche, here is our guide to making a success of this crucial pre-Christmas selling window.
How Black Friday stretched into Cyber Monday… and beyond
Black Friday was first used to describe the day between Thanksgiving and the famous Army-Navy football game on Saturday in 1960s Philadelphia when hordes of ‘enthusiastic’ revellers would descend on the town in ‘high spirits’. A couple of decades later, American retailers sought to rebrand it as the day their takings went into the ‘black’ and to promote their pre-Christmas sales. It took much longer for it to be adopted outside the US however; it wasn’t until 2013 that UK supermarket Asda hosted a Black Friday sale that caused mayhem.
Typically, Amazon pioneered Black Friday as an online phenomenon and as a sales event that lasted over a longer period. These days’ sales often start in early November and last until Cyber Monday, four days after Thanksgiving, when shoppers are given one last chance to bag a bargain. In the trade, Black Friday and Cyber Monday are collectively known as BFCM.
Is Black Friday and Cyber Monday a big deal worldwide?
Whilst Black Friday is inextricably linked to Thanksgiving in the US, there are no such ties across the rest of the world and so adoption varies according to local economic and cultural conditions. In short, it tends to make inroads in countries where Christmas itself is a major celebration. According to research from Shopify, Black Friday has particularly taken off in the UK, Australia, Canada, Germany and France in particular.
Whilst Amazon seems determined to get those virtual tills ringing right around the globe, BFCM tends to get overshadowed in countries with strong pre-existing traditions. For instance, the Indian e-commerce retailer Flipkart uses deals to stoke the shopping frenzy around the Hindu festival of Diwali.
Why marketplace sellers should get on board
Even without offering deep discounts, sellers in online marketplaces may still see a sales uplift due to the spike in overall numbers of shoppers. Take a moment, however, to check out some of the astounding numbers.
Data from other countries is harder to come by, but it is clear that Black Friday & Cyber Monday 2017 was gargantuan in the US.
- In the four days from Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday, 174 million Americans went online to shop according to the National Retail Federation
- Cyber Monday was the most lucrative day of online shopping in US history with $6.59 billion in sales
- For the first time, purchases on mobile surpassed $2 billion on Black Friday
And, according to projections, there is little doubt that 2018 will be even bigger.
So ask yourself this: why would you ignore such a rush of online consumers eager to buy?
Which marketplaces participate in Black Friday & Cyber Monday?
Amazon is, of course, the Big Daddy of marketplace selling and it attacks BFCM with a vengeance across its dizzying product range. The other global marketplace titan eBay was slower off the mark but has improved its focus on this sales period in recent years. The third-largest e-commerce company in the world, the Japan-based Rakuten, has also woken up to BFCM. If you sell products in gaming, media, computer hardware or toys, the rapidly growing Game marketplace has started to hit Black Friday hard in the UK.
Across the pond, Jet.com offers a wide range of potential gift products for sale around BFCM. Whilst many new and niche localised marketplaces have entered the game in recent years, the frenzy around Black Friday has not yet spread to every corner of the globe, but it seems safe to predict it will only become more popular.
An action plan for making the most of BFCM
From artisan jewellery to hi-tech, whatever your product range, BFCM is the time to maximise sales with the hottest deals. It is fiercely competitive however, so you have to price and promote well in order to cut through the noise. Presuming you’ve already got the online marketing fundamentals of SEO optimisation, email and pay-per-click advertising in place, here are eight top-tips for standing out from the crowd.
- Choose your sales products with care. For many marketplace sellers, your BFCM profit won’t come from pile-em-high-sell-em-cheap tactics, but from a skilfully curated list of products ripe for seasonal gifting.
- Remember, it’s all about discounts. Of course, you don’t want to drop your margins to unsustainable levels, but ask yourself this: is your deal really a once-in-a-year bargain? Forget the hot air, you need to ensure that this is a truly unmissable offer.
- Simplify your deal structure if you can. Rather than an offputtingly complex array of deals on individual products, try to offer a huge discount on a headline seller or a consistent percentage off all products or across a key category.
- Build buzz across social media. Using the appropriate hashtags, preview your most eye-catching deals on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram as a reward for your followers.
- Create a sense of urgency. Ignite the impetus to buy by including a counter that lets the customer know how many items remain in your inventory.
- Offer free shipping. Sounds quirky but most shoppers would prefer to pay more for an item rather than extra for shipping so don’t let that be your deal-breaker.
- Consider bundling products in special deals. Alternatively, make the bargain seem sweeter by throwing in complimentary lower-cost items (especially useful for getting rid of poor-selling inventory items!).
- Excellent customer service as standard. For many online shoppers, an excellent deal on price around BFCM is a given, so you need to ensure the entire experience is seamless: easily findable product information, prompt customer service for queries, clear shipping timeframes and returns policy, etc.
And finally … getting BFCM right has year-round benefits
For many, BFCM is the peak shopping season of the year – and the evidence suggests that it is only going to get bigger worldwide, so perhaps the earlier you learn to love it the better! Black Friday arrives on 23rd November in 2018 so time is short to mobilise your strategy. But if you can give your customers a second-to-none shopping experience, you then have a much better shot at retaining their business beyond the holiday season.