What is Black Friday?
Black Friday is the first day after Thanksgiving (the last Thursday in November). Considered the first day of the holiday shopping season, the term Black Friday was used by Philadelphia police officers in the 1960s to describe the heavy traffic during the annual Army-Navy football game. Now it signals the busiest shopping day of the year.
In this guide, we’ll discuss the best practices to follow when preparing your store for the upcoming Black Friday sales event.
How Shippers Can Prepare for Black Friday
Here are some of the best ways businesses and shippers can gain a competitive advantage this holiday season.
1. Set Clear Deadlines for the Last Day To Ship for Christmas Delivery
Every year, shippers plan for the holiday season to ensure packages are delivered to their customers on time. Black Friday and Thanksgiving Day deals don’t hold the same delivery expectations as Christmas shopping. Customers can wait a few extra days to receive their package. However, if Christmas gifts arrive any later than December 24th, it’s heartbreak on Christmas morning.
Check the FedEx and UPS holiday shipping schedules for holiday deadlines and other holiday-related information. And clearly communicate these shipping deadlines to your customers.
If you’re an online retailer or shipper, you can get your customers to order early by posting a cut-off date banner or countdown timer on your website. A helpful tip is to factor in your own lead times for processing and fulfilling orders within the shipping deadlines to be safe.
2. Iron Out Any Supply Chain Wrinkles in Advance
Your supply chain could be running on track until invoice errors and missed communication wreak havoc. Whether you run your fulfillment operations in-house or outsource to a third-party logistics provider (3PL), a surge in customer orders can make anyone play catch-up trying to get the right product to the right customer.
Use these strategies to alleviate the impact of supply chain disruptions and position your business for a strong holiday season:
- Diversify your vendors and suppliers: Even if you optimize your supply chain for the holiday season, there can be disruptions in your supplier’s supply chain. Raw material shortages, price increases, and force majeure can burden your suppliers. By adding more sourcing options, you can significantly reduce issues that can slow down your supply chain capabilities.
- Leverage technology: Logistics tools such as real-time data analytics and tracking tools can help you minimize supply chain disruptions. For example, predictive analytics[a] allows you to forecast customer demand for a specific product by analyzing last year’s data. Similarly, parcel tracking software lets you track packages from the warehouse to the customer’s doorstep and automatically sends order status notifications to your customer.
- Stock up on holiday inventory: Make sure your inventory has sufficient stock of your bestsellers throughout the holidays. Communicate with your vendors and suppliers to ensure that you get smooth delivery of goods during the busiest shopping event of the year.
3. Prepare for a Longer Sales Period
According to a recent survey from the NRF and Prosper Insights & Analytics, 44% of holiday shoppers plan to shop earlier this year because they are concerned about increasing prices as Thanksgiving weekend gets closer. Similarly, 31% of customers are shopping early because they believe they can get better deals by shopping earlier.
With this factor in mind, many retailers, such as Amazon, Walmart, Apple, and Best Buy, hold early Black Friday sales with deep discounts and price match guarantees on popular products. Instead of making Black Friday a one-day event, starting early allows companies to register strong sales numbers and positively impact the stock market and investor sentiment.
In addition, getting customers in the door in advance of the Black Friday shopping rush can help you minimize the pressure that will be exacerbated by the peak sales closer to the holiday season.
Here are some ways you can prepare your business for a more extended sales period:
- Promote your best Black Friday deals: Running sales promotions is one of the most effective ways to take advantage of seasonal opportunities and boost your sales. Use social media and email marketing to engage your potential and existing customers with in-store events, online sales offers, and personalized deals and doorbusters.
- Start early and finish last: In the holiday shopping frenzy, most retailers emerge at the same time to capture the customers’ attention, whereas, at the end of the shopping event, most of your competitors relax. Use this window to give a last push to sales. Reach out to existing and new customers with your extended sales offers until your stock is finished.
4. Plan for Website Traffic Surges
Since the pandemic started, customers have been relying heavily on online shopping to get their hands on the products they need. In the 2021 holiday season, eCommerce store traffic grew 57% year-over-year compared to the previous year.
Increased traffic is great for your business, but only if you have the ability to convert that traffic into customers. However, unpredictable traffic spikes can degrade the performance of your website and even take your store offline.
As an online retailer, you need to prepare for the peak traffic from organic search, social media, email marketing, and direct traffic as we head for the biggest shopping day of the year.
Use these simple tips to protect your site from slowing down or crashing this holiday season:
- Test website loading times: A load test checks the performance of your website by simulating peak traffic with a high number of concurrent visitors.
- Upgrade your website before the Thanksgiving holiday: Most new site owners choose shared hosting to build their online store as it is the cheapest option. While shared hosting works fine for low-traffic websites, it restricts bandwidth, data, and memory so all available resources are shared by multiple websites. In contrast, dedicated and cloud hosting options allow you to adjust resources according to your site traffic.
- Create a virtual waiting room: An eCommerce waiting room can help you control your site traffic during periods of unexpected traffic spikes. It redirects a portion of your site visitors into a first-in-first-serve virtual waiting room and updates them with the estimated wait time until it is their turn to access the website..
5. Provide Alternative Shipping Methods
You can gain a competitive advantage by offering complementary shipping options to your customers. For example, you can provide both free (1-5 day delivery) and express shipping (next-day or 2-day delivery). This allows customers to make the purchase decision based on the delivery date and shipping cost.
Similarly, if you have a brick-and-mortar location, you can provide Buy Online, Pick-Up in Store (BOPIS) to your customers. This way, you can drive foot traffic and connect your in-person and online experiences while enabling customers to save on shipping costs.
Many online retailers and shippers rely on a sole carrier service. However, it’s a good practice to find an alternative carrier service for the peak shopping season. This way, if your primary carrier cannot meet expectations, you can easily switch to a more suitable carrier without affecting your customers’ experience.
For instance, if your shipping carrier can’t deliver an order fast enough for a holiday event, you can get your customer to place the order through your Amazon store and utilize Prime’s fast delivery.
6. Understand Peak Season Surcharges
FedEx, UPS, USPS, and Amazon charge higher rates for the holidays to cover the operational costs incurred during the holiday shopping events (Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Small Business Saturday, and Amazon Prime Day).
Check out the FedEx, UPS, USPS, and Amazon peak season surcharge guide for holiday surcharge rates and other holiday-related information.
These surcharges can significantly impact retailers and shippers anticipating record online sales during the holiday season. Shipping carriers will also charge additional fees for residential deliveries and oversized packages.
You can combat seasonal surcharges by adjusting your shipping mode and speed or passing on the cost of rate increases to your customers. Here are a few useful suggestions to keep in mind when shipping packages during the holiday season.
- Compare your shipping options: Start by evaluating the impact of peak surcharges on your shipping budget. Compare your average cost per pound, transit time, package count, and service level charges across multiple carriers. A logistics intelligence tool like Sifted can help you easily determine their impact based on these metrics. As a result, you’ll be better positioned to identify the most cost-effective option that offers the greatest ROI.
- Optimize package size: Avoid paying oversized package surcharges by downsizing your boxes to reduce their dimensional weight (DIM). Sifted’s DIM weight calculator allows you to compare shipping rates for USPS, UPS, and FedEx by entering the size and weight of your package and how far you are shipping it.
Gear Up for Black Friday with Sifted
Black Friday is one of the most anticipated sales events for businesses and shippers. Both online and in-store eCommerce merchants need to prepare for the approaching holiday season by setting clear last day shipping deadlines, resolving bottlenecks in their supply chain, and extending their sales period.
Sifted Logistics Intelligence offers tools that give you a 360-degree view of your shipping spend in one place. You’ll be able to model future scenarios and reduce parcel shipping costs by comparing carriers to identify the right option for your holiday shipments.
See exactly how much rate increases affect your bottom line. Get a demo with Sifted today!