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How I would be preparing for a bizarre Black Friday

Written by: Peter Messana - CEO

CEO Blog // September 30, 2020

This year is like nothing before. Not a very profound statement but all too true, especially when it comes to ecommerce sales. We have seen a roller coaster ride since March and what is about to come will be nothing short of bizarre. The holiday shopping season is going to start to look like Costco putting Christmas products out wayyyy too early every year, except it will be all retailers messing with our minds.

Originally Black Friday kicked off the physical shopping bonanza and then Cyber Monday was the online heyday. Over the past 15 years that I have been in ecommerce things have been shifting with online moving into Black Friday and in the last few years pulling even earlier into November. All of that can be tossed out in 2020. Since I don’t run a retail company anymore I am going to speculate a bit and pretend I am still running one, this is what I would be doing right now, knowing that it will likely shift as we enter October.

The first thing I am preparing for is that Amazon Prime Day is 10/13, mark this as point A. Then there is this new weird completely made up by non-retail people 10/10 day, which is supposed to be like 11/11 day. I am going to completely ignore 10/10 day. Since I know that Amazon will be pushing 10/13 I know I can’t compete with them but I also know that a lot of people will be online and shopping that day, so I am going to set up marketing campaigns around it, both email and digital campaigns. My emails are going early in the morning with a follow up for those that don’t open and another for those that open but don’t click. It will be a good time for some loss leaders or at least attention grabbers and aggressive promotions to lure people in, but my loss leaders will have add-on products to drive AOV. The perfect products are ones that can’t be used alone and someone needs both products. Imagine you sell kayaks, a great deal on paddles if you don’t own a kayak is worthless, but a good deal on a kayak and a great cross sell of paddle, life vest and car rack is golden. There is a keystone product, and it is the nucleus.

Since I am kicking off promotions 10/13 I have roughly eight weeks until the dreaded “last free shipping day”. I don’t want to go all in for eight weeks, traditionally I only had to do this for 4 weeks so I would pick and choose just some limited promotions before Black Friday, however, I am standing by ready to unleash an all out promotional calendar if others break really hard. I am a little concerned that my direct competitors are going to go deep and early, dragging down already depressed holiday margins. I am going to run 20 days of Holiday Picks instead of 10 days to have more days covered and release content around gift buying earlier, but not necessarily more content. The plan is to run the ‘normal’ holiday calendar from BF through last shipping day, but add content and promotions prior. If the competitors do go early we can just pull the plan forward and we will have a few promotions on standby to fill the void. But we don’t want to over promote and discount.

All in all I expect that whatever my growth YoY has been it will be the same over the 8 week period, the difference is that it will be more earlier on and less later. Which means I am simply flattening the normal holiday spike into a flatter curve. Which aligns nicely with “2020: Flatten the curve.”

This has all sorts of positives about it, in the past the warehouse struggled to keep up with orders and the spikes from BFCM so now they will be busier the whole time and my promotions can actually help them by spreading it out. However, since this is unchartered waters it is quite possible the consumer just isn’t really ready to shop that early and the normal four week period holds up to some extent.

Since I don’t actually run an ecommerce company it is fun to sit back, pretend and predict but not have to worry about building the content and calendars. Nor do I need to worry if I am right or wrong. I don’t envy merchandisers this year but I am sure glad to support them and their sites with the best merchandising platform out there. We are scaling up earlier than normal as I do generally believe in my prediction and we will be prepared for less spikes but more general volume over the eight weeks.

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