As Black Friday 2022 is upon us, we are gearing up for another busy peak trading period with our eCommerce partners. Over the next four weeks, we will bring you our top tips and tricks to navigate the period. 

Black Friday Top Tips #1 - Plan for today not the past ... 

Whilst many retailers would like to borrow Doc and Marty's Deloreon, in the absence of this, we have developed our top planning tips for navigating the next month or so ... 
Hopefully you’ve already got your skeleton plans for peak in place. If you’ve left it until now to start to develop your plan, don't worry you’ve come to the right place, as we look at to what extent you should use historical external and internal data to inform your forecasting, sales and budget planning. 
At Customer First Digital, we are avid data fans and would always recommend a data driven approach to aid decision making. The challenge with using too much historical data is that no one day or week is the same in the world of retail at the minute, making using current performance trends difficult to use, let alone previous activity. 
We have taken a data led approach to illustrate this point, we have used Google Trends to show the key differences in consumer behaviour, over each of the last three years. This year, we can see people started searching ‘Black Friday’ one week earlier than in 2021, maybe a sign of an increase in bargain hunters, due to the current economic climate. Interest in Black Friday was also different in 2020, with consumers researching even earlier due to Covid-19 and Lockdown restrictions. 
The IMRG monitor retailer promotional launches each year, showing how more retailers have moved their Black Friday promotions earlier each year. With competition predicted to be higher than ever before, we expect that more than ever retailers will bring their big event forward and most likely extend for the full month, which will influence buying behaviour. 
There are plenty of other factors which will affect demand by day over the coming weeks including Royal Mail strikes and The World Cup (especially the England game on the evening of Black Friday) to name just two, which will make consumer behaviour harder to predict than ever. 
The only thing that is certain is that the Black Friday week will be the busiest period for retailers. What isn’t clear is whether the peak will be as significant as previous years. Based on the current economic climate and all the other factors, we expect a higher contribution of sales in the weeks leading up to the Black Friday week. 
Taking all of the above into account, our top tips for planning peak includes … 
Make a nod to previous years, but don’t spend too much time over analysing historical trends which will fail to materialise 
Don’t fall behind your competitors – be prepared to launch your Black Friday campaign earlier than in previous years, as retailers look to gain lost sales and survive into 2023 
Look outside of your own trading calendar - build in key external events into your promotional and marketing plan 
Create a skeleton plan which has flexibility to change – your competitors will most likely have a plan B and C (and even more scenarios), if sales don’t go to plan 

Black Friday Top Tips #2 - It's time to warm up your customers ... 

You may not have your Black Friday offers live just yet and it may have got a little cold outside, but now is not the time to freeze on your marketing activity, from both an acquisition and retention perspective. There is plenty of ground work to be carried out as we enter the early part of November. 
So what questions should we be asking ourselves and what should we be doing about it? 
Firstly, lets focus on your existing customer base. Do you understand how many of your customers haven't engaged with your brand or purchased in the last 3 months? How many of your database have not recieved an email from you recently? There is no better time to re-engage with customers and attempt to reactivate. Using retail first solutions such as Ometria and Klaviyo can really help you build these segments up at pace. Be aware not to send too many emails out at one time, as this could damage your email domain reputation, resulting in more emails hitting the junk box. 
Secondly, don't forget about acquisition either, even if it's more about driving qualified traffic. If you haven't already done so, now is the time to target new audiences with your brand story and the key reasons to browse your site prior to the big event. Whilst this may not generate a high volume of immediate sales, it will enable you to retarget these customers closer to the big day, driving a strong ROI during the event. 
Finally, we are seeing great results across many of our partners through Metas Lead Generation ad format. To increase your database size, it is highly advisable to start using these formats, starting with a co-branded competition and leading to early access campaigns at least a week before the launch of your event. 
Taking all of the above into account, our top tips for planning peak includes … 
Make sure you have a clear contact plan for all of your customers - not just your VIP's and highly engaged 
Start increasing your marketing investment, to ensure new customers are seeing the benefits of shopping with your brand prior to the big event 
Don't just rely on your existing database - start to build up your leads who you can add to your welcome series 

Black Friday Top Tips #3 - Get share of wallet early, but don't blow your budget ... 

With almost two weeks of the month gone, you will be starting to get a sense of your performance for the month and your competitors promotional strategy.  
As a consumer, we can see that the tips that we provided in week two are already being played out, with a plethora or TV and Online Ad campaigns now live with Black Friday offers. We can certainly see more Black Friday campaigns live especially in the Health and Beauty and the Electronics sector (the latter ensuring they have deals in place in time for the start of the World Cup). Your in-house and/or your agencies should be keeping abreast of when promotions have launched for your key competitors, what their offering is and how this is different to 2021. Putting this into the context of your performance is imperative, to ensure that the correct decisions are made and market share isn't lost. 
The fact that Black Friday has moved earlier than ever before, has thrown a massive question mark around how marketing budgets should be managed. Should you weight your budget more evenly throughout the month than in previous years or should the majority of the budget be weighted towards the end of the month to include the Black Friday, Cyber Weekend and Monday period? Whilst we would love to provide the answer to this, a one size fits all approach is not available, as it depends on the sector you are in, the level of competition, how your promotional strategy stacks up against the competition and current performance. Our general advice is to gauge performance on a daily and weekly basis, ensuring that you have the ability to change your approach at pace. 
Where competitors are moving early, we are encouraging our partners to take advantage of the heightened awareness that the early movers are creating, ensuring that key promotions are moved forward. However from a marketing budget perspective, the shopping demand will always be higher over the Black Friday weekend period, so it's essential to have enough reserves to not lose out on market share across your key marketing channels and to not overspend too early. We are also recommending that some budget is left uncommited for any last minute activity, which could be booked during the Black Friday week, including tenancies for affiliate marketing
Taking all of the above into account, our top tips for week 3 are …  
Keep your competitors in sight - daily monitoring of key promotions and marketing messaging in the context of current performance and last year is essential, to gauge your next move 
Don't be afraid to move promotions forward - whilst having your plan in place is essential, being able to make changes to the trading and comms plan on a daily basis should not be seen as a failure 
Keep some budget in reserve - don't overspend, leaving yourself reliant on milking your existing customer base over the Black Friday weekend 

Black Friday Top Tips #4 - Don't be afraid to fight the good fight - the underdogs can win!!! 

With just over a week to go until the big event, we would followe the launching early trend, with the last of our tips coming a day early! 
In terms of Black Friday offers, for those who haven't already launched theirs, we expect many to take advantage of the increased demand that is seen without fail each year on the Friday before Black Friday. This is a view shared by Martin Lewis, who coined the phrase 'Grey Friday' on this weeks show (or Fake Friday), As well as sharing updates on deals already live, we heard from Martin his advice on how to navigate the 'dud' deaks and predictions on offers from the major players who are not already live yet. 
Martin's focus on Boots, Argos and the like has made us think of the smalleer challenger brands. Those that don't get the limelight and don't have the hundreds of thousands or even millions of pounds of ad spend to reach new customers. Or the scale of existing customers on the database to retarget via email, SMS and paid ads. Taking all this into account, can the small to medium size business' do a Rocky Balboa, fight the good fight and win against all odds this peak? Our experience tels us they can. 
Many larger mainstream brands have a plan which either needs to be stuck to for political reasons, or lack of fluidity operationally. Even if there is a desire to make a change to the plan, the amount of people required to be involved in a decision can mean that opportunites can be missed. This is however less of an issue on inexistnet in smaller organistions. The passion of the team in small to medium sized organsisations and can also make a massive difference. Teams working directly with business owners tend to care more about the end result and tje fact that many are incentivised by perfomance that they can actually influence, shouldn't be underestimated.  
Whilst much of your trading will be managed in-house, the marketing will no doubt be supported in part by a 3rd party agency. External stimulus from what your partners are seeing across their other clients or from media partners can help to inform your decision making. Whilst we're not ones to stereotype, we've seen situations where partners are often sidelined (sometimes inadvertently) during this period and are only an after thought if plans change. 
Moving away from creating the right culture for success, it's essential that eCommerce business' are thinking about the messaging that they are putting out to the market. There is a belief from many consumers as referenced earlier that offers are not credible and real. In previous years we've heard consumers say such things as 'the offers are just the clearance section rebranded' or 'these products are short dated'. With the economic situation that we are in, these perspectives will most likely be compounded this year. We feel that this is were the small to medium size business can win, combining the promotional message with a more emotive message, to create the trust that the offers are real. Educating consumers on your brand values and how this is reflective in the promotions that you are running during the period will support with marginal gains. 
Taking all of the above into account, our top tips for week 4 are … 
Focus on getting the best out of your team - ensure open forums are created to make the decisions and action these at pace 
Clear comms between your agency partners - anyone you are working with should be an extension of your team 
Focus on the positioning of your promotions - think about consumers perception of Black Friday and ensure your marketing message takes this into account 
Whilst this may be the last of our Black Friday tips, our team are still on hand to provide any last minute advice and guidance. If you would like any advice on the best ways to approach Black Friday 2022, get in touch to understand how we can help you. 

Still looking for help and guidance on your Black Friday plan? 

Whilst this may be the last of our Black Friday tips, our team are still on hand to provide any last minute advice and guidance. If you would like any advice on the best ways to approach Black Friday 2022, get in touch to understand how we can help you. 
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