Why so many retailers will fail this Black Friday

Guest Writer's picture
by Guest Writer
Adam Hindle, Fluid Commerce

Black Friday - to some, retailers’ biggest day of the year - isn’t far off.

But it’s worse to do Black Friday badly than not at all, says Adam Hindle, Managing Director at ecommerce specialist Fluid Commerce, and sellers need to think carefully about it.


No doubt by now you’ve seen countless emails and social media posts from brands, agencies and tech solutions shouting about how to succeed at Black Friday. That you must download their ebook, click on their link, scroll through their Instagram carousel - if you don’t, you’ll miss out on making this year’s Black Friday the best yet.

In many instances, they will be right. After all, Fluid Commerce has its own ebook (The Ecommerce Retailer’s Guide to Black Friday) to help ecommerce brands excel this year.

However, it is worse to do Black Friday badly than not to do it at all.

Every year, there’s an enormous amount of pressure on retailers to slash prices, cover their website in big, bold ‘sale’ stickers, and fill their social media platforms with Black Friday Sale countdowns. But without the right preparation, merchants will risk:

  • Irritating, then losing, your existing customers
  • Failing to retain any new customers you attract
  • Wasting what time, budget and resources you’ve put into marketing and merchandising.

There are dozens of things retailers need to do in order to prepare properly for Black Friday and Cyber Monday. However, there are just three critical areas: your online store, your customers, and delivery.

These are the absolute prerequisites that ecommerce brands must get right if you want to succeed this November. If you don’t have the time or the resources to spend on these areas, simply skip Black Friday altogether and jump ahead to developing your strategy for 2022.

Invest in customer retention

It’s endlessly frustrating to me when I see ecommerce brands squandering opportunities to grow their customer base, and thus their revenue, particularly at this time of year.

Much of the traffic hitting your site on November 26th will be new to your brand - they’ll be looking for bargains or Christmas presents. Short-sighted retailers see Black Friday as a means to flog old stock to these new shoppers, and fill up the coffers ahead of Christmas.

But the ones who get it right are the brands with long-term vision - these retailers will capitalise on the influx of traffic by delivering a sophisticated range of customer retention techniques. Their goal for Black Friday is not merely to sell lots of stock, but to convert these new shoppers into long-term, repeat buyers.

Some customer retention strategies for you to consider:

  • Pop-ups and overlays asking visitors to sign up to your newsletter
  • Incentivising people to subscribe with offers or discounts
  • Including a ‘sign up to our newsletter’ option at checkout
  • Setting up a ‘Welcome’ programme in your email marketing strategy to keep these new subscribers interested in your brand
  • Encouraging people to sign up to your newsletter in your abandoned cart series
  • Adding a loyalty programme
  • Asking people to follow you on social media in your newsletters and on-site.
"If you mess up delivery, you’ve only got yourself to blame."

Prepare your delivery

Customer service is a large area of ecommerce so I’m going to keep it short and sweet, and focus on delivery.

Since March 2020, delivery has become a huge challenge for retailers. Supply chains have been impacted left, right and centre by the pandemic, Brexit, the Suez Canal incident, and the well-reported lack of HGV drivers. And all of this has occurred while demand for online goods has shot through the roof.

If you want to keep customers happy, and keep them coming back again and again, your delivery service is the number one thing you need to work smoothly. A quick look at the reviews on Trustpilot will show that delivery issues are the number one thing customers get angry about.

So make sure you’re not that company. Offer a range of delivery options that suit different budgets and needs. Make these delivery options visible across your site - in your global header/footer, on the product page, at the checkout (but don’t wait till the checkout unless you want your abandoned basket rate to go up).

And be honest - if you think delivery will be slower due to Black Friday, make sure customers know it. It is better for a parcel to arrive early than late.

If you mess up delivery of Black Friday goods, you’ve only got yourself to blame. Because your customers certainly will.

Optimise your website

Every successful campaign needs a strong foundation. And in ecommerce, your website is your foundation, your walls, and your roof. It needs looking after from top to bottom in order to ensure it is able to withstand any onslaught from the outside elements which, in this case, is the surge in Black Friday traffic.

The absolute last thing any customer - or retailer - wants to deal with is a website that slows to a snail's pace or crashes completely due to an influx of visitors. A slow website can be almost as deadly as a broken one in driving customers away.

Now’s the time to get on the phone with your developers and hosting provider to perform stress testing.

You need to optimise your site content, making sure all images and videos are web-optimised. It’s also wise to identify any bottlenecks or slow-loading processes in your CSS, Javascript, and so on, and sort these out ASAP.

Other questions to ask your hosting provider:

  • Are your security products configured so they don’t mistake a genuine influx of traffic as a potential threat and deny potential customers?
  • Do you need a content delivery network to make sure customers worldwide can access your site as quickly as possible?
  • Is caching optimised to deliver content to your users as quickly as possible?
  • Can your infrastructure scale with the demands at peak?
  • Is there monitoring set up to flag if any problems crop up?

Skip Black Friday this year

Your website, delivery service and customer retention strategy will make or break your brand this Black Friday. While you may have fantastic sales, this will be down to the fact that more of us will be shopping online than ever before - good sales are pretty much guaranteed.

But if you want to have a record-breaking Black Friday and a record-breaking Christmas, followed by a record-breaking new year, you must ask yourself, “What comes next - what strategies have I put in place to make sure the bumper sales I achieve over Black Friday continue into the new year and long after?”

Only by answering these questions will you truly make the most of the Black Friday and Cyber Monday weekend.

And if you’d prefer not to do anything to address the ecommerce practices I've flagged, then good luck.

You’ll need it.

Enjoyed this? Get our latest updates in your inbox every day

Subscribe to Prolific North’s morning newsletter to keep up with all the most important things going on in your sector.