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What can we expect from Black Friday?


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Black Friday 2020 is finally here, and we’re eager to see exactly how Covid-19 and two lockdowns will impact the shopping day of all shopping days. It’s no secret that this year has been unlike any other: retailers are fighting to stay afloat whereas shoppers are carefully considering their purchasing options.

The biggest changes we will see this year are a shift to online rather than in-store shopping. With an increase in demand and delivery expectations, businesses are either prolonging Black Friday or omitting it altogether. Finally, we are also seeing a shift from big brand name purchases to independent instead.

Let’s dive into how this year will be different and what businesses can do to make the most of Lockdown Black Friday 2020.


Black November 2020

We tend to think of Black Friday as that one day a year where tents are pitched in front of shops at 4am as shoppers brace themselves for the ultimate sales marathon. Half price electronics and £5 flannel shirts are the beating heart of this “holiday”, however, this time around the rules are quite different.

As our Head of Marketing, Joshua Hobson, points out Black Friday is now not just a weekend event, but a week and sometimes even a month. It’s already started! and this statement rings true especially in 2020. Retailers are squabbling to sell their stock and make up for the financial loss they have experienced due to lockdowns and restrictions put on non-essential businesses since March.

Whilst businesses are trying to catch up on losses by extending sales and putting as much stock on sale as possible, others are stepping away from Black Friday 2020. Large retail shops like Next have confirmed that, due to the financial strain this year has put on their business, they will not be offering any Black Friday savings this year.


Disruptions, Delays, and Customer Dismay in Stock and Delivery

We may not be able to shop physically due to restrictions and safety regulations, but shoppers are pitching their metaphorical tents in online queues and Amazon shopping carts. Lockdown has forced our hands as shoppers, turning Black Friday 2020 into a pre-Cyber Monday – meaning we are shopping online more than ever before. Shops are struggling to fulfil demand and delivery deadlines as they try accommodating changes in shopping habits.

Delivery companies and Royal Mail drivers are spread thinly across all the orders that are being placed. In order for Black Friday 2020 to work, businesses need to build trust with their customers, ensure that stock will be fulfilled and that there is a contingency plan in place for how deliveries will be made in time for Christmas.

“Customers need to be reassured more than ever. They need to be reassured when and how their products will be delivered. This can have a huge impact on conversion rates if they have any doubts at all during their shopping experience,” explains Joshua Hobson.


How Can Independent Shop Owners Make the Most of Black Friday 2020?

Trying to fight the wave of sales and making up for losses due to Covid-19, local businesses should take into consideration a number of things to maximise their conversion rates.

The pressure put on independent shop owners this year is immense. Customers are looking to support local rather than taking advantage of big retailer sales. The majority of these smaller businesses simply cannot afford to match the offers large shops are willing to offer. To combat this, our Head of Marketing has offered a few simple steps local businesses can follow to add value and undertake big names but not lose too much in the process:

  • Complementary gift wrapping – this simple and non-costly solution will give businesses an edge over large, factory-like shops.
  • Free delivery or at the very least delivery reassurance – the biggest stumbling block for most retailers this year has been timely delivery. Finding a reliable and good delivery service might be just what a local business needs to win over a customer.
  • Loyalty schemes and gift vouchers – customers are more likely to convert and return again if they are given an incentive, whether this is a simple loyalty scheme where they can expect perks such as free delivery, discounts, or gift vouchers that they can share with friends and family to collect points. This is a great marketing tool which will help independent shop owners keep up with other shops.


The Era of Black Friday Seasonality Adjustments in 2020

Advertising is hitting its peak at this time of year and, with a surge of additional online shoppers hitting Google, advertisers need to be strategic in how they approach potential customers. Dave Karellen, the Head of PPC here at Dark Horse, has the following advice for businesses to take into consideration as they form their automated bid strategies:

Automated bid strategies like Target ROAS and Maximise Conversions work very well in normal times, as they use historical data to predict future conversions – focussing mostly on most recent data signals. The problem with Black Friday periods is that spend, and conversion rates, increase so much in such a short period of time they then fall straight back down. This means that those recent data signals are not as useful as first thought. In fact, it can actually harm your performance by restricting search volume around Black Friday, before pushing them back up needlessly as the algorithms expect this trend to continue.

While Google struggled to successfully advise during the 2019 Black Friday season, some businesses stayed with automated bid strategies, whilst others reverted to manual budding. In result, a new feature called “Seasonality Adjustments” was rolled out, allowing advertisers to override bid strategies by telling Google to expect much higher conversion rates on certain days. Unfortunately, this feature only worked for Search and at the time it was limited.

Thankfully, this feature has come a long way and we would advise that advertisers give it a go for Black Friday 2020. This feature can be applied to campaigns individually. Shopping Campaigns are also now included within its scope, and it even lets you segment by device – which is huge for Black Friday and advertisers as mobile tends to see the biggest incremental increases. To find it simply go to Tools > Bid Strategies > Advanced Controls. Start by looking at the Black Friday conversion rate increases from last year. Search by campaign group and by device to help determine with Google what bid strategies to expect and set up multiple adjustments for each varying segment.

This should give you the best chance at being able to confidently use automation around the Black Friday periods. But finally, just whatever you do, don’t forget to un-restrict campaign budgets, or it will all be for nothing!


Prepare, Optimise, and Watch It All Unfold

Whether a business will choose to take part in this years’ Black Friday sales or not, we have no doubt that they will see an increase in visitors this week and most likely all the way in the run-up to Christmas.

Make sure your business is as prepared as it can be. Here are a few last-minute questions to ask yourself before the Black Friday floodgates open:

  • Are your product descriptions clear, informative, optimised for correct keywords (don’t overstuff your text!), and long enough to perform well in SERPs?
  • Have your delivery pages been updated with the most recent information and is this information reliable?
  • Did you check if all your links are working correctly and your website is ready to deal with large traffic volumes?
  • Is your advertising strategy set up to maximise on the seasonal surge in searches?

As the countdown to 27th of November begins, we’re starting to see big Black Friday savings and “out of stock” signs showing before our eyes across the internet. This year will certainly be a big test of how well businesses bounce back and whether they can cope with the “new normal” they’ve been dealt.

In the meantime, we will continue to refresh different websites in the hope that PS5 stock will come back somewhere, as the ultimate week of Black Friday 2020 unravels.

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