Whether you love it or hate it, Black Friday is now very much a red letter day in the British retail calendar. This shopping export from across the Atlantic captured the imagination of shoppers in 2014 both in store and online, and whilst there may have been one high-profile retailer avoiding the event this time around, expect the tills to be ringing once again.
But there were more than a few areas where, digitally at least, retailers got things horribly wrong in 2014, and those lessons will have to be learnt this time around. We’ve looked at five key Black Friday fails that brands will need to avoid this weekend.
Make sure your website can take the strain
Last year the websites of some of the UK’s biggest retailers collapsed under the strain of Britain’s bargain hunters.
Tesco, Game, Argos, Boots, John Lewis, Amazon UK, Top Shop, Miss Selfridge, Pets at Home, Shop Direct Group and Currys PC World all struggled almost from the moment that the clock ticked midnight, with the latter having queues of up to an hour on its website for much of the day.
The levels of traffic involved on Black Friday 2014 were largely unprecedented in the retail sector, and it is rare for retailers to have to serve such a quantity of traffic in such a concentrated time period, so website failures at peak periods would have been somewhat expected. However, it was the length of the disruptions that caused the most customer outrage.
#BlackFriday - Due to the overwhelming response to our amazing Black Friday offers, we're experiencing a technical difficulty on our website
— GAME.co.uk (@GAMEdigital) November 28, 2014
We know some of you are experiencing problems getting on to our site this #BlackFriday. Please bear with us, we hope to be with you soon.
— Argos (@Argos_Online) November 28, 2014
.@daniel_colson Hi Daniel, our web team are having stern words with the website as we speak.
— Cotswold Outdoor (@CotswoldOutdoor) November 28, 2014
Some retailers appear to have taken steps to avert a repeat of the problems by staggering their Black Friday deals through the week, but we won’t know until Friday whether the retailers that suffered outages twelve months ago have beefed up their server capacity in time for this year’s onslaught.
Get your ads in early…
If you are running Black Friday biddable campaigns, get them in early. Advertisers reported some issues with Google Adwords last year as retailers hurried to get their ads live in time for midnight.
Google has added an additional ad extension for both Black Friday and Cyber Monday, so advertisers can quickly label their Black Friday offers. The Black Friday structured snippets will show from November 20 to 27 (with the Cyber Monday showing until three days later).
But to avoid disappointment, get your ads in early.
…But don’t keep paying for traffic you can’t serve
But as websites creaked under the pressure, it meant that many retailers were paying for traffic that they physically couldn’t convert. Throughout the early hours, these brands were paying for clicks that then led customers to an unresponsive page or an error message. It resulted in huge sums of wasted ad spend.
Retailers need to consider how they rota their biddable media teams in advance of Black Friday. Dedicated bargain hunters will be up into the early hours to bag a deal and, if your website cannot serve them, you need to have resource available to respond to that challenge and minimise the cost.
Have a plan for your customer collections
Black Friday isn’t just a one-day event and, in 2014, the after-effects of Britain’s spending-binge were being felt several days later. Such a huge quantity of orders in such a short space of time presents a huge logistical challenge for retailers.
Last year, Both M&S and Tesco were forced to withdraw their next-day click and collect services. Tesco cited “unprecedented demand” for the service, whilst M&S had to delay product deliveries by around two weeks.
The logistical aspect of Black Friday cannot be underestimated.
Don’t promote offers that aren’t really offers
— theneener (@theneener) July 15, 2015
Sales periods are often used by retailers to shift discontinued stock, poor selling items and overstocked products, and whilst that isn’t a situation that is unique to Black Friday, you need to manage your customer’s expectations.
Don’t promise a massive electrical blow-out sale if you’re only knocking 10% off batteries and obsolete TV cables.
Amazon’s much-mocked #Primeday sale provides a good example of this. Whilst many consumers stayed up for offers on TV’s and gadgets, what they actually got was offers on dishwasher tablets, PlayStation 2 memory cards and a 24 inch shoehorn.
— Brett Phipps (@InverteBrett) July 15, 2015
If you’re using Black Friday to clear stock that you can’t shift, that’s fine, but don’t hype your sale up as something that it’s not.