The holiday-shopping mega-days are quickly approaching—we mean Black Friday and Cyber Monday, of course—and to be competitive and successful, small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) need to be prepared. But there are mistakes they often make that pushes their potential sales revenue over to the big-box retailers.
One thing we know is that most sales will happen online, and SMBs lack the digital capacity that the big stores have. So how can smaller online retailers best prepare for the unexpected stress on their systems that holiday shopping brings? According to Mikel Lindsaar, CEO of SMB-focused content management and e-commerce system StoreConnect, that is where customer commerce comes into play. “Customer commerce is all about before, during and after the sale,” he said, in a news release. “It’s everything wrapped together.”
Preparation is key to handling the scale of holiday shopping from Thanksgiving into Black Friday and beyond
“Retailers need to be thinking about the reality of [Black Friday and Cyber Monday] before they run into all the problems that can arise,” Lindsaar said. “If small businesses don’t manage the holiday rush of shoppers, they will be leaving money on the table.”
According to Lindsaar, there are seven common mistakes that SMB online retailers make around Black Friday and Cyber Monday that kill Customer Commerce.
1. They don’t approach Black Friday and Cyber Monday from a holistic Customer Commerce viewpoint
Retailers cannot treat online shopping as just another transaction with a faceless customer, because 96 percent of customers will leave a retailer if they receive bad service. SMBs must use their superpower—their ability to deliver individual service to their customers and get to know them, remembering that every interaction with a customer is an opportunity to leave a good or a bad impression. Using Black Friday and Cyber Monday to create a multitude of new relationships is a must, and working out how to convert these into long-lasting, long-term relationships with the customer is key to future success.
2. They assume their systems will “just work”
If a retailer believes Black Friday is going to be big for them, then they must have plans in place with their technical team to help handle any potential IT issue that arises on the day. Whether it is a site outage, technical glitch or just an incorrectly priced item, these issues can rapidly multiply and escalate in cost in terms of revenue, ranking and loyalty during a high traffic period. For instance, some studies have indicated that 9 percent of a site’s visitors never return to a website they find down, with nearly one in 10 current and future sales lost.
3. They rely only on discounts and offer limited shipping options
Online retailers must be ready and willing to adapt and evolve with consumers and the trends. Whether it is strategic pricing to entice early bird shoppers, carefully managing return policies or using intelligent pricing strategies, shoppers expect options, especially with the current economic uncertainty.
4. They don’t plan promotions in a timely manner
Promoting in a planned manner, well in advance, is always the best. Making up promotions “off the cuff” might work, or it might not. Lindsaar advises online retailers to take a survey of sales from previous years, or their clients or other friends in the industry, to find out what works and what doesn’t. Then let clients know early on about any Black Friday and Cyber Monday promotions.
5. They promote too early
On the flip side of mistake No. 4, online retailers don’t want to start promoting too early, as customers who would otherwise come to their site to buy something might decide it would be better to delay their purchase until Black Friday or Cyber Monday to save. A common mistake is to start advertising Black Friday or Cyber Monday plans on their website. Advertisements on the website shouldn’t begin until the special offers are live and available to be used.
One very effective strategy is to let existing customers know about Black Friday or Cyber Monday plans via newsletters, offering them the ability to “get in early” and use those discounts as a thank you for being a loyal customer, which not only makes them feel special, but also flattens the spike of sales over a longer period, making it easier on the company’s team.
6. They don’t track the effectiveness of campaigns
This is the number one mistake Lindsaar says he sees. Online retailers need to make sure they have a way to track where every sale comes from, how many of what promotion was used, and whether existing customers took advantage of the special offers or just waited for the specials. Only by tracking these kinds of details can an online retailer determine how effective a campaign was with their customers.
7. They only offer promotions on Black Friday or Cyber Monday
While online retailers should focus their specials on these days for new prospects, they can show their appreciation to existing customers by offering them extended hours to use any promotions.