Predictions for Black Friday and Cyber Monday: Challenges and expectations for the shopping weekend

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are arguably the most important sales events of the year. But with everything that’s happened in 2020, this year is looking to be very different, writes Joris Kroese, co-founder and CEO of Hatch.

As a global provider of omnichannel retail solutions, at Hatch, we’re able to view a range of consumer data that’s generated through our clients. We’ve noticed a massive shift in purchase behaviour since the pandemic began in March, which has continued throughout the year.

We’ve seen exponential growth in online sales across all industries. Between March and April, website traffic doubled in the healthcare and pharmaceuticals sector, and the toys sector saw a 20x increase in sales during lockdown, compared to the beginning of the year.

Research from Google reveals that in 2020, 73% of consumer electronics purchases were carried out online compared to 55% in 2019. Online fashion sales are soaring, too, with 86% of purchases being carried out online compared to just 41% in 2019.

Based on our historical data and what we’ve witnessed throughout the year, we believe Black Friday and Cyber Monday 2020 will break all e-commerce records.

But what exactly can we expect? Let’s take a look at some predictions and key challenges set to make Black Friday and Cyber Monday 2020 one for the record books.

Expectations

Here are some of the things we expect to see happening within the world of commerce through Black Friday and Cyber Monday 2020:

●       Adjusted store opening hours

This year, many brick and mortar stores will either be closed through BFCM or have adjusted opening hours. In the past, Black Friday sales have begun on Thanksgiving. However, this year, some of the major retailers (e.g. Walmart and Target) have already announced that their stores will be closed on Thanksgiving and only open for Black Friday – therefore limiting in-store footfall across the event.

●       Online focus

Due to the circumstances, many retailers have already shifted their focus to their online channels. This move is both a practical (most people will be shopping online) and an ethical one. Brands will be looking to protect their employees as well as their image this year.

●       Brands to embrace omni-channel

If ever there was a year to embrace omni-channel retail, it’s 2020. This BF/CM, we can expect brands to leverage their sales channels to offer a true omni-channel buying experience while ensuring sufficient product availability. Expect to see promotions across social media, on brand websites, mobile apps and through retail partners.

●       Logistics and fulfilment delays

We’re set to experience the biggest Black Friday and Cyber Monday ever, so we can expect to see logistics and fulfilment delays from brands who aren’t prepared – and perhaps even from those who are.

●       Challenges

It’s been a year of challenges and learning curves in the retail sector, and BFCM will be no different. Here’s what we expect will put brands’ commerce strategies to the test:

●       Limited in-store shopping

The main challenge with BFCM this year is the presence of COVID-19, which will limit visits to physical stores. Many brands will be missing an entire sales channel this year, making online channels all the more important. Having an online sales channel that’s able to accommodate customers is no longer something that’s ‘nice to have’ but rather a necessity. For brands to succeed this BFCM, their websites must provide buying options as a minimum – whether it be direct or indirect. Failing to offer ways to purchase online means shoppers will buy elsewhere.

●       High volume of online traffic

Without a doubt, brands and retailers can expect to see a high volume of website traffic this BF/CM. This means it’s more crucial than ever to have strong e-commerce capabilities and enough server capacity to deal with a surge in traffic. As a brand, the last thing you’ll want to say to your customers on Black Friday is, “Sorry, our website is down.”

●       User Experience

Brands’ UX will be in the spotlight over Black Friday and Cyber Monday. As a brand, getting buyers to your website is only half the job – once they’re there, you need to get them to convert. Providing a seamless buying journey is crucial. Offering sufficient buying options and a wealth of product information as shoppers navigate your online environment, is what will lead consumers to choose your brand over competitors.

●       Fulfilling orders efficiently

User experience doesn’t end once the transaction goes through. Most buyers will expect to receive their products before the holidays, accompanied by excellent customer service. However, brands often underestimate the amount of effort that goes into customer service and fulfilment. To come out on top this year, brands will need to ensure they are equipped with sufficient capacity to deal with high order volumes. And, for any delays experienced, brands must communicate this with customers.

Something that can help small brands survive busy periods like BF/CM (and Christmas!) is collaborating with their retail partners. Most retailers have logistics and fulfilment strategies in place and can offer a solution to brands that struggle to cope with high order volumes. For smaller brands (or any brand for that matter), integrating their retail partners into their omni-channel buying journey will not only solve fulfilment challenges but also offer a top-notch customer experience.

Throughout this article, we’ve covered some of our predictions for Black Friday and Cyber Monday 2020, but these trends won’t stop there. We believe that the COVID-19-driven shift in buying behaviour and an increase in online shopping will continue beyond BF/CM and outlive 2020. This year has helped pave the way for an omni-channel future which is here to stay, and only the brands and retailers with strong omni-channel and e-commerce capabilities will come out on top.

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