Black Friday and Cyber Monday (BFCM) is one of the most popular holiday sale events in the global commerce calendar, offering shoppers major savings in the lead-up to Christmas. Last year’s BFCM was, however, a little different as COVID-19 gripped the world.
Many merchants were forced to go online due to lockdown restrictions, resulting in eCommerce driving BFCM sales. In fact, Shopify store owners collectively made $5.1 billion in sales, a 76% increase from the year before. There were also multiple challenges stores faced such as fulfillment options, a surge in demand for online shopping options, and adaptations to the digital customer experience.
With new COVID variants rearing their head around the world, we can assume that there may be a similar BFCM situation this holiday season. So, in this article, we reflect on lessons learned from 2020’s BFCM to give you the ultimate guide to perfecting your campaign for this year in the new normal.
What Challenges Could eMerchants Face?
First, let’s dive into some of the challenges of last year’s BFCM to predict the hardships that may arise in 2021.
Rise in demand causing delivery delays
One of the major issues e-merchants came to head with was shipping delays due to a sharp surge in eCommerce demand. In the US alone, online spending from November through to Cyber Monday increased by almost 30%. This of course placed undue pressure on shipping services like UPS and FedEx who predicted that 7 million packages a day would face delays.
In response to this, curbside pickup and one-day shipping orders saw strong growth as consumers looked for ways to receive their packages in time for the holidays. 2020’s Cyber Monday saw a YOY increase in these types of orders by 37% and 45% respectively. Black Friday saw an even greater surge in demand for in-store and curbside pickup, a whopping 52% YOY increase.
E-commerce use is not expected to slow down anytime soon, especially over the holidays. A recent survey found that 64% of consumers plan to spend their holiday budgets online this year. Moreover, the largest quarterly jump in eCommerce sales occurred between Q1 and Q2 of this year, going from 11.8% to 16.1%. Together, these statistics suggest that BFCM 2021 could be the biggest one to date, placing greater pressure on shipping companies, and a rise in demand for in-store and curbside pickup in addition to one-day delivery.
Consumers start shopping earlier
The rise in demand for products online did not only impact delivery, but it also depleted inventories quicker, making it difficult for shoppers to get their hands on the products yearned for. Additionally, the pandemic caused supply chain issues furthering stock shortages.
To negate this, during the holiday season in 2020, people began shopping earlier and BFCM deals appeared sooner than in pre-pandemic years. Last year we saw total daily sales increasing 19 days before Cyber Monday, whilst retailers followed suit by introducing deals long before the sale weekend.
A survey of US residents by Facebook found that 64% of respondents note planning ahead for the holiday season as critical, so we can expect BFCM spending to start earlier and last longer.
Saturated eCommerce market
As retailers grappled to capture customers in the wake of the pandemic, we saw record numbers of new eCommerce stores popping up. Shopify attributed its 53% YOY growth of monthly recurring revenue to the continued high number of new merchants joining the platform.
Shopify had a very successful BFCM in 2020 with record-breaking numbers. This could be attributed to the higher number of Shopify merchants, a need by consumers for online goods, and greater support of independent businesses from shoppers. (Source: Shopify)
This has meant that the eCommerce market is more crowded than ever. E-merchants face vast amounts of competition not only from eCommerce giants like Amazon but also from established brick-and-mortar stores. Hence, competition could be tougher as multiple merchants compete for a slice of the eCommerce market.
We can see that the new normal presents an array of challenges when it comes to cashing in on holiday sales. So to help you get a piece of that BFCM pie, we’ve compiled guidelines to help you build a successful campaign for 2021.
Guidelines for Building a Successful BFCM Campaign for 2021
New tricks to increase sales and attract customers
All eCommerce merchants look forward to BFCM being a highlight of the shopping calendar. However, with fierce competition all around, you may be wondering exactly how you can have customers itching to buy your discounted goods. An excellent way to do this is by making use of new technologies that make your products more appealing.
Did you know, 61% of consumers would prefer to make purchases on sites that offer AR technology?
AR proved itself to work particularly well over the holiday period last year, NexTech AR - an AR solutions company with clients such as Amazon and New Balance - reported a 315% increase in 2020 Black Friday sales.
Let’s take a look at how a cosmetics brand brought the in-store experience online to attract customers and increase holiday sales in the wake of the pandemic.
As customers pivoted online for a safer shopping experience, e.l.f cosmetics wanted to find a way to help customers get that in-store experience. Already having success with their Virtual Try-On via their desktop site, considering that 66% of time spent with e-retail is done on a mobile device, to put them in prime position for the holidays they brought this feature to their mobile app.
Shoppers can use a picture, a model, or a live camera to try a product on through the e.l.f app. Every time a new product is introduced, it is included in their virtual try-on experience, so it is an ingrained part of the digital shopping experience. Not only did they experience an impressive 200% higher conversion rate when compared to shoppers not making use of this feature, but they also found that people were sharing their AR videos on TikTok, heightening their visibility.
e.l.f allow their customers to try before they buy with this augmented reality feature on their mobile app. (Source: App Age)
To increase sales and attract more customers, it will also be important to plan and implement your BFCM campaign early. Last year, many brands began promoting their BFCM deals weeks earlier than usual, with some even providing discounts earlier.
To ensure they were making big sales for the BFCM, jewelry brand Missoma enticed visitors by publishing a sign-up form for early access to their Black Friday deals. They combined this with an influencer strategy that put their products in front of shoppers a few days in advance. They also partnered with the nonprofit, TreeSisters, to plant one tree for every order received, positioning themselves as a purpose-driven brand for the holidays.
Missoma chose to provide early access to their coveted jewelry collections to subscribers. (Source: Missoma)
Another hurdle e-merchants are sure to face is establishing ways to attract shoppers in a saturated market. You could consider positioning your brand as one that is purpose driven. Why would this work to attract new customers? Well, with over 90% of Millennials ready to eschew brand loyalty for a company that aligns with their personal values, this move could be an excellent way to attract these lucrative shoppers.
Themes such as care, unity and support for others resonate with consumers in these trying times. SMBs can really capitalize on this by being champions of their community. For example, if you’re in the clothing sector, the holiday season could be a time to donate clothes to local charities. You could also donate a percentage of sales over the holiday period to local initiatives.
BFCM is sometimes seen as promoting overconsumption, so showing that your company also wants to give back to the community can alleviate this concern. This was the reasoning behind Missoma’s partnership with TreeSisters, with Marisa Horder, founder and creative director of Missoma stating, “Giving back by partnering with TreeSisters during the busiest shopping time of the year is important to us and our vision of making positive steps towards sustainability and reducing our carbon footprint.”
Enhancing the digital customer experience
The digital shopper is maturing. It is vital that you provide an online shopping experience that lives up to their expectations so they move all the way from discovery to purchase. Gone are the days where consumers used a single method to complete their shopping journey, 86% of them regularly channel-hop across a minimum of two channels. Moreover, they want a consistent and personalized experience across all the channels they are using. This is where omnichannel retail comes in.
To be omnichannel means that the customer is able to move through channels seamlessly, the entire journey should feel continuous. For the luxury watch brand IWC Schaffhausen, this was paramount for their holiday campaign.
When commenting on the impact of COVID-19 in relation to their holiday campaign Caroline Spoerry, Project Manager of Brand Communication said “Different countries are following different restrictions, people are shopping from home more than ever. We really aimed to have an omnichannel approach that provides a great experience no matter where the customer interacts with the brand”. So, how was this put into practice? The campaign was broken down into several interconnected journeys including in-store, online, social media and paid media.
In store, they had localized illustrations alongside QR codes. When these QR codes were scanned, shoppers were presented with a landing page using similar illustrations.
For their social shoppers, the brand posted two images daily, encouraging people to spot IWC celebrity personalities. This was further supported with complementary Instagram filters and Stories from boutiques around the world. On Facebook, they had a paid ad campaign where the company’s founder and watchmaker, Kurt Klaus, ran through multiple carousels. It encouraged users to swipe in order to see where the watchmaker was going, essentially acting like a gallery showcasing their different watch styles.
Social media will be king when it comes to holiday shopping, especially if you want consumers to discover your awesome deals. In fact, 66% of social media users discover new brands or products through Facebook or Instagram, so this is territory you definitely want to be in.
We can look at the fashion brand, Pretty Little Thing for some BFCM social commerce inspiration.
Related: Top 7 Social Commerce Trends in 2021
PrettyLittleThing went all out on social media to create a unique Black Friday experience. They tapped into Instagram, TikTok, Twitter and Facebook to create a campaign with great virality. Cash giveaways, vouchers, promotions and a custom Instagram filter, all of which resulted in not just thousands of interactions, but also many of their items being sold out.
PrettyLittleThing created a cross-channel social media campaign for BFCM which also encouraged followers to interact to unlock promotional deals. (Source: Style AI)
They did, however, catch some serious flack for their heavily discounted items as it appeared to promote unsustainable fast-fashion, and for many of their sold-out items remaining visible on their website.
From this retailer’s experience, we can see that whilst social media has immense power, merchants should be mindful of their promotions strategy over the holidays and pay close attention to website upkeep.
E-merchants should also consider incorporating up-and-coming trends as part of their social media strategy. Livestream shopping has taken Asia by storm, with China leading the way with annual sales reaching $60 billion. Interestingly, it seems to have also made its way to the West with the launch of Amazon Live. These live shoppable videos are hosted on a dedicated page and have already gained an impressive amount of hosts and viewers.
Online retailers can make this a reality for themselves on Facebook by using Jumper.ai to make Facebook Live videos shoppable.
Shoppable user-generated content also makes for a great addition to social commerce strategies. Content created by people rather than brands carries much more influence on consumers with 70% of consumers trusting peer recommendations over professionally produced content. Shoppable UGC could act as the valuable social proof consumers are looking for over the holiday period.
Finally, it would be amiss to talk about social shopping and not mention mobile commerce. The vast majority of social media users in the US, Eastern Asia and Northern Europe access social media through a mobile device.
Global mobile social media penetration rate 2019. (Source: Statista)
What's more, mobile devices are indispensable tools for holiday shoppers. 90% of respondents surveyed by Facebook state that they research holiday purchases on their mobile devices, and a further 89% use that same device to complete their purchase. Hence, ensuring your store and other commerce channels are optimized for mobile devices and mobile purchasing will be crucial.
Fulfillment and delivery
A massive pain point of the pandemic-affected BFCMs was the delivery delays. This is something you’ll want to avoid at all costs, so your BFCM preparations should include delivery options that can negate delays. Additionally, looming worries brought forward by COVID variants may cause shoppers to limit their contact with delivery drivers. A recent survey already indicates this with 87% of respondents wanting brands to continue curbside pickup and other processes that limit the need for in-person visits.
Curbside pickup, same-day delivery, and in-store pickup will therefore be crucial this year.
Target responded to the need for different fulfillment options interestingly during last year’s holiday season.
On their product pages, shoppers could filter products based on their preferred method of fulfillment. This ensured that their customers would not feel disappointed should they reach the checkout page and find they can not receive the product in a way they feel most comfortable. This in turn made it more likely for them to secure a sale.
Target includes a fulfillment filter for shoppers to narrow down their options based on delivery methods. (Source: Target)
While it is great to acquire and seek out new customers, you could find better promise and sales if you shift your focus to your loyal customers.
For one, acquiring new customers is 5 times more costly than retaining existing ones. Repeat customers are also more valuable, they spend 67% more when they return for their second and third purchase, and on average spend 31% more on products when compared to new customers. This means that you have a pool of shoppers at your fingertips who are sure to spend bigger bucks over the holiday season, so it would be wise to invest some time into them as part of your BFCM campaign.
Furthermore, as we’ve seen that finances will be a key consideration for shoppers over the holidays, guaranteeing loyal customers better savings could go a long way in assisting this.
Adore Me had loyalty at the heart of their 2020 BFCM efforts. They crafted a well-thought-out plan for both new customers and repeat ones.
For their newer customers, they opted to not offer too many, or too drastic discounts, with the aim of not acquiring shoppers who only spend money when there are sales. For repeat customers, on the other hand, they offered more value with buy-one-get-one-free deals. These efforts led to conversion rates for the Monday and Tuesday prior to Black Friday being 30% higher than the year before. Also, they were able to generate 70% more traffic to their website.
This shows that there is value in focusing on loyalty to drive sales over the BFCM period.
The eCommerce world brought about by the pandemic has altered many things, and given e-merchants new considerations to think about. When we look at 2020, we can see that it brought a positive effect when it comes to sales, however, it also presented new challenges. By learning from the lessons of 2020, we can make BFCM 2021 even bigger, and more successful than ever.