Are you ready for the black Friday boom? The fact of the matter is that not many businesses are truly ready, or understand the scale that we are seeing in recent years in regards to traffic numbers and purchase totals in the days following the Thanksgiving holiday. The growth rate of Black Friday purchases has been astounding, far exceeding expectations year in and year out. As internet shopping has become more commonplace, particularly for holiday purchases, many businesses have been left unprepared for the rush in traffic that they receive. Dealing with the black Friday boom will be different for each and every business – and it is important that you are able to identify potential problems well in advance of the Black Friday date.
The Growth of Black Friday as a shopping holiday has been well documented. In 2009, according to a recent study by Joyent, Black Friday sales totaled $157 Billion, which made up more than 4.5% of the total US retail sales. That number climbed to more than $231 Billion by 2012, accounting for more than 6% of the total US retail sales. In 2013, Forrester’s prediction for Black Friday Sales is expected to hit $262 Billion, and account for more than 6% of the total US retail sales. This growth rate closely mirrors total e-Commerce growth numbers over the same timespan. With no slow-down in sight, the growth is expected to continue for years to come, and it is of vital importance that your business is in a position to take full advantage of the sharp rise in interest for online Black Friday deals.
Black Friday has experienced rapid growth, but Cyber Monday is the real online shopping holiday. Falling on the first Monday after Black Friday, the day has become an entirely separate event, even though most large online retailers also take part in Black Friday. Cyber Monday has grown from a total of $887 Million spent online in 2009, to $1.02 Billion in 2010, $1.25 Billion in 2011, and finally $1.46 Billion in 2012. These numbers actually account for substantially more online spending than Black Friday, but both holidays’ present excellent opportunities for online businesses. It is estimated that the highest online spending day falls on Cyber Monday, with more than 39% of visitors actually making a purchase when they visit a website. According to Forrester, there are 124 sales per second on Shopify on Cyber Monday, with more than 17 million total transactions taking place in 2012.
With Black Friday traffic expected to reach levels that have never before been seen in history in 2013, it is important that you make the right accommodations if you are expecting a rapid rise in traffic. With the rise in traffic come fears of experiencing downtime for most businesses. In 2012, according to Forrester, 57 million Americans went online to visit online retail websites for a wide range of different devices. This was an 18% increase over the year prior – an astounding rise.
A total of 86% of companies experienced one of more instances of downtime during the 2012 Black Friday holiday. That downtime equated to $5,600 lost per minute, according to Forrester. Of those customers that did experience downtime on Black Friday, 58% of those customers chose not to purchase products from the company that had the downtime again. Downtime has become increasingly aggravating to online shoppers, who expect a straight forward, seamless experience when shopping online.
Ensure that you are able to plan early and fix any bandwidth, hosting or server issues before they become even larger problems. Also realize that Black Friday traffic tends to all come at once – in peaks and bursts. This will help you to ensure that you can handle the load when the traffic comes, and work with your server or hosting provider to prepare for any issues well in advance. They can help you to remove bottlenecks and improve the users experience overall. Speed and responsiveness also need to be taken into account. Remember, just because your website is not down does not mean that the server is not under a lot of stress or that your website is running seamlessly. The goal should be not just to keep the site up, but to keep it up and running optimally to provide a better overall user experience.
It is important to remember that most of the users that are looking to make a purchase on Cyber Monday are there for the deals. Black Friday has been known for its extreme deals. When you think of Black Friday, images of advertisements for big screen TVs at Best Buy, with markdowns of more than 50% likely come to mind. While it may be impossible for smaller retailers to compete with those kinds of prices, you have to identify what kinds of deals are going to get visitors through your doors to begin with. For many businesses, the Cyber Monday advertising begins weeks in advance of the actual holiday. They want to let the consumer know what they are selling for cheap, and let the consumer plan weeks in advance. Determining which deals will be the most interesting to your existing customer base and providing low prices on those items help to get people through your doors – but it’s the upsells that can turn Cyber Monday or Black Friday into a real boost for your business.
If you are going to be offering an item at an extremely reduced price, it is important that you are clear about your available inventory. Letting customers know that you are only offering a certain number of an item helps to curb disappointment and sets the expectations at a manageable level. If you are not planning on offering limitations on the items that you are offering extreme deals on, you need the fulfillment and inventory to deal with a large number of orders during these holidays.
Take your time, evaluate all of the options that you have available, and make sure that you do everything within your power to secure success for your business on Black Friday and Cyber Monday – the two biggest internet shopping days of the year.