Forget Black Friday – watch out for Black November

This November will be the biggest ever month for smartphone shopping, with £10 billion spent through mobiles.

That’s the prediction of global e-commerce consultancy Salmon.

With Black Friday around the corner (November 24), £20bn of online sales will span the whole of November, overtaking traditional December sales. This will pave the way of a new kind of sales month – ‘Black November’.

Salmon said 2017 would also be the first year that voice ordering will be a significant channel for consumers.

Research showed that 45 per of consumers already used – or planned soon to use – digital assistants. Twenty per cent of all searches were now made through voice, said Salmon.

It urged retailers to consider voice ordering as part of their peak operations strategy to cope with the increase in voice demand over the Christmas shopping period, as children look set to turn to their Google Home or Amazon Echo for their Christmas lists.

James Webster

Said James Webster, head of managed services at Salmon: “Black Friday is no longer about one single day, or week – it looks set to take over the whole month.

“Retailers have realised the opportunity it holds to create an ongoing experience that can help grow their customer base and loyalty, and so it is now an expectation.

“Even those retailers who do not want to participate in the peak trading phenomenon need to be prepared for it, as shopping fever takes over and consumers scour online retailers, even if they aren’t offering discounts.”

He added: “The retailers who manage their peak trading operations well will be the ones who have made plans across all departments, and ensured that their systems are able to function across all channels, making it a success for both customers and retailers alike.”

With the period of peak trading being so important for retailers, Mr Webster has a checklist for retailers to consider during the time of heightened activity:

• Plan for more than just the day: Black Friday is no longer a day-long phenomenon. In fact, we expect the whole of November to be taken over with retailers creating sales events throughout the month;

• Think about your international customers: In 2016, we saw a significant increase in international sales, which was seemingly due to Brexit and the depreciated value of sterling against international currencies, as it’s now more economical for overseas shoppers to buy from UK retailers;

• Think about the channels your customers will be using: With consumers now using so many channels to research and shop for products, retailers will need to factor this into their peak operations. From desktop, to mobile to voice, all areas will need to be catered for so as to keep the customer journey fluid for shoppers;

• Test, test, and test some more: For any online retailer during peak times, stress-testing is of utmost importance if they are to deal with the wave of traffic coming in. By making sure stress tests are taken well in advance, retailers can shore up performance during the peak;

• Get your systems in position: The consumer desire for same and next-day delivery has put enormous stresses on companies’ fulfilment and operations systems, as inventory now has to be ready to be dispatched almost immediately after purchase. All elements need to work collectively and equally quickly for retailers to survive heavy loads during peak periods, as if one slows, it could decelerate the whole process;

• Team alignment: Communication is key. Departments across the business, from marketing, to the technical teams, need to be fully briefed and aware of any peak trading plans. This includes making sure that the teams’ pricing and promotions strategies are consistent across online and off-line channels, as conflicting information across channels is likely to confuse and lose customers.