Making the most of Black Friday 2019

Black Friday weekend, followed by Cyber Monday, is one of the most profitable times for online retailers globally. With online sales increasing annually, even small e-commerce stores stand to make a considerable profit the weekend after Thanksgiving, all over the world.

Black Friday wouldn’t be the spectacle that it is without frenzied customers spilling into the streets outside brick and mortar stores, as well as online buyers flooding websites to the point of crashing just to get that coveted 50% off. How does an e-commerce store create that sense of urgency and frenzy among its customers when competitors are reducing their prices drastically, too? Competition is incredibly high around Black Friday weekend, so retailers need to be thoroughly prepared for November 29th this year.

Promotion and awareness

You can guarantee that your competitors will be planning for Black Friday. If everyone’s got a shiny new deal to offer, how do you get yours to stand out and drum up awareness?

Out of the multitude of stores to choose from, your store needs to be top of mind when your customers begin the big shop. Of course, you don’t want to spam any inboxes, but customers are going to expect a lot of advertisements and emails around this time from a number of stores. Many retailers will scale up their ads drastically up to a month before November 29th, so you’ll need to have your digital marketing plan set well in advance.

Create a little excitement and mystique by advertising “Exclusive Black Friday Deals” long before November 29th to select customers and follow-up with regular reminders. This will entice shoppers and create anticipation.

Retailers often use Black Friday as an excuse to attract new customers, but don’t forget that your most profitable shoppers can be the ones who already have experience with you. Your existing customer base trusts you, thinks you’re credible and has experience with your products, making them an easier sell especially at a time when shoppers are spoiled for choice. Now is a good time to reward customer loyalty and offer a targeted customer group exclusive Black Friday information.  Pre-sale emails notifications will make your customers feel they’re being treated exclusively. If they feel they’re getting the scoop on deals the rest of the public are not privy to, they’re likely to shop with you over your competitors.  Offer them a free gift with purchase or notify them of individual products going on sale based on their buying history.  Personalized recommendations combined with a feeling of special treatment is sure to make you money on Black Friday weekend and long after.

Remember, customers will be overloaded with Black Friday promotions, so every social media post, paid ad or email needs to get exposure to the right people at the right time. Think about posting on social media 2-3 times daily and timing your emails for the beginning of the work day, lunch time, and the end of the work day. Of course, your timing will be audience-specific and based on a thorough understanding of your target group’s behaviour.

Keep your deals and offerings interesting to help you stand out among the mass of  other Black Friday promos. You don’t want to offer a blanket 50% off your products store-wide. With most ecommerce stores offering discount prices all through the weekend and the following Monday, you have the opportunity to give people an exciting new offer every, single day. There are a number of ways to do this:

    • Buy 1, get 1 free
    • Buy 2, get 30% off
    • Spend $50 or more and get a free gift
    • Free shipping on purchases of $100 or more

Do your research and learn what deals your customers respond to the best and how much they plan on spending. If you want to keep shoppers coming back to your online store, offer a Deal of the Hour. This will create a sense of urgency and curiosity that will earn you repeat business all weekend.

Tip: If your products are on other marketplaces, you’ll need to review your feeds well in advance and ensure your product listings are eye-catching, up-to-date and targeting phrases that are common in searches around this season.

Black Friday is also an excellent opportunity to get rid of old stock and clear out your warehouse for new products!

Getting your website ready for action 

There is nothing more frustrating to a customer than adding amazing products at a discount to a shopping cart that disappears at checkout- an annoyingly common occurrence on big sales days. Your website needs to have a simple user interface and mobile functionality to compete with other online stores. Credit card payments often fail on Black Friday due to high traffic, so ensure your store accepts other payment methods such as direct transfers. A second’s delay in page loading speed could mean a user abandoning your page and not returning, so ensure your site is speedy and simple to navigate once Black Friday rolls around. Test your checkout process on multiple devices and ensure you validate your mobile APIs.

Your product categories are also important. It’s incredibly frustrating for shoppers when they have to shop around to find the best deals. Create a collection or a category of promo items where all your deals are stored to make it simple for users to find what they’re looking for. Add product recommendations to each product page and equip your landing page with attractive banners and offer pages to attract clicks. Add a countdown timer on your landing page to create urgency and let shoppers know the deals you’re offering are time-sensitive.

You can prepare for site errors in your email strategy to account for any unforeseen technical issues. Notify customers that you’re aware of the technical problems they’re experiencing and are working on getting the site up and running again. In the event that your customer loses items in thier cart, it may be useful to have a reserve of limited stock items to ensure customers don’t leave your site dissatisfied.

Tip: BigCommerce has a detailed guide on improving your site speed here.

Shipping and returns

If you kill it with sales this year, you’re going to need to fulfill every single online order to be packaged and shipped to your buyers. You need to ensure that you have the resources in place to ensure an excellent customer experience right up to product use. We can’t forget the basics of sales just because it’s Black Friday weekend. Your product still has to look like it did on your glittering product page and it has to arrive on time and in perfect condition. If you sold more than ever, prepare your team to receive more returns than ever. This is an unavoidable part of doing business online, so make sure your distribution center and customer support team are prepared. Some retailers will decide to implement a no-returns policy on sale items, but this may scare people away from your site on the big day. You need to consider your clientele and the long-term effect that kind of decision will have on your brand image. Remember, business doesn’t halt after Cyber Monday, and the real winners during this time are retailers who do well over Black Friday weekend and continue to sell to the same customers long after the frenzy has come and gone. If you’re prepared to handle an increased number of returns, then allow certain sale items to be returned under reasonable conditions. At the end of the day, you want to make your customers happy and for them to know they made the right choice  shopping with you.

Protect your margins!

If there’s one thing customers love, it’s free stuff. If some of the Black Friday deals you’ve opted for include a free gift or free shipping on purchases over a set amount, great! That’ll get your customers coming back all weekend, but the last thing you want to do is lose money during a time with such high profit potential. With every sale you put in place, every deal, every offer, keep one thing in mind: Protect. Your. Margins.

It’s crucial that you factor in the cost of anything ‘free’ in your sale price to ensure you’re not bleeding money.

Know your products 

There are certain products customers are more inclined to search for and purchase every  last quarter with many customers doing their holiday shopping early. BlackFriday.com conducted a survey of 5000 U.S adults which found that the percentage of respondents shopping in each category will be as follows:

41% Clothing

38% Home goods / appliances

32% Laptops / televisions / tablets

30% Smart home gadgets & tech

25% Toys

12% Travel

You can check out other insights from the survey but remember to conduct your own thorough research as well. Of your existing products, find out which show interest peaks on Google trends and think about adding new potentially top sellers to your store just for the weekend.  

Tech products historically do well over Black Friday because shoppers can take advantage of huge discounts, but retailers still benefit from high margins. You can explore Oberlo’s product database to find products with a peak in sales over the last month that may be trending, and cross-check their popularity on Google Trends as well.

Think like a shopper. If you wanted to save money, how would you go about it? Let’s take Apple products as an example. They’re expensive and they become obsolete regularly. It would be foolish to discount a newly released iPhone model, but you can capitalize on the release by selling the previous model at a reduced price over Black Friday weekend and recommend related products that are still going at full-price. Shoppers will jump at the opportunity to purchase an expensive item for a fraction of the cost, and may opt to add related products like Airpods to their carts to meet the Free Delivery threshold.

Of course, different niche products perform well every year and retailers need to keep their ears to the ground to stay in the loop regarding trending products. Shapewear such as Spanx has shown a significant upwards trend of late, as well as the Amazon Echo Dot 2nd generation. Shopify has a list of 10 Trending Products to Sell in 2019 which you can check out here. Remember that Google Trends indicates search volume and not necessarily intent to buy, so make sure you research product sales as well. 

Product strategy aside, think about how much your customers plan to spend. What will they spend the most on? What are their deciding factors when choosing between similar products? When do they plan on doing their shopping and from what devices? The more insight you have on shopping behaviour from previous Black Fridays the better. 

Your product data feeds need to be optimized to maximize conversions. It’s a good idea to check your stock and update the availability attribute on your feeds multiple times a day. This will hep you avoid wasting ad spend on products that are out of stock and disappointing customers. Leverage custom labels in your shopping campaigns to focus marketing efforts on products with high margins, or simply to help you manage your campaigns better by grouping products based on sales performance or seasonality.

This can be a daunting time, especially for new retailers, but with the tips above and a focused approach to research and strategy, Black Friday may be your best sales weekend yet!

 

 

 

ShareASale affiliate marketing channel

ShareASale, an affiliate marketing network launched in 2000, is one of the many channels supported by ShoppingFeeder. Let’s talk about their business model and why over 3000 merchants use their platform.

How it works

ShareASale provides a platform through which merchants and affiliates can communicate, where merchants can sign up, import their products and approach bloggers or influencers to drive traffic or conversions on their behalf.

When affiliates join the ShareASale network, they’re able to choose the product packages they feel their audiences will respond well to and market those products using the method of their choosing. Affiliates can post on their websites, blogs or social media, as well as create their own PPC, SEO, RSS, email or Google AdWords campaigns! ShareASale also offers detailed reporting on clicks, traffic, conversions and earnings in real time so that merchants and affiliates can effectively implement, track, and manage their programs all from one platform.

Advantages for merchants

    • Flexible, performance-based payment structure

Merchants decide the commission rates for affiliates, which can differ for each product or program. Affiliates can earn based on clicks, leads, traffic or conversions, meaning merchants only pay for results.

    • Exposure

Affiliates like bloggers and social media influencers often appeal to niche markets merchants may not have considered, and with the financial incentives in place, affiliates will do their utmost to drive as much traffic for merchants as possible. This means new business, new audiences and greater exposure. Successful bloggers are usually skilled at ranking organically in search engines, which means improved searchability for merchants’ websites.

    • Detailed reporting and real-time tracking

Merchants are notified the moment a banner is clicked, a sale is made or a commission is generated.  Clickstream attribution reporting also allows you to see clicks made leading up to a purchase. Reports are program specific and include earnings per click, reversal rates, average sale amount and average commission.

    • Segmentation of pre-approved affiliates

All affiliates are screened for approval. ShareASale also segments affiliates by performance and promotion methods so merchants can easily source the right affiliates for their business needs.

    • Payments processed through ShareASale

All payments to affiliates are done by ShareASale. They process the payments monthly on behalf of merchants.

    • Training and best practice resources

ShareASale provides monthly merchant training webinars as well as a series of best practices guides to help merchants make the best returns with their affiliates.

    • Affiliate recruitment tool

The recruitment tool is immensely helpful for getting affiliates on board. The tool allows merchants to search for affiliates by categories they actively operate in i.e. Fitness; Beauty; Niche Content and so on. You can also search for affiliates by URL if there is a specific publisher you wish to recruit.

 

You’ll need to upload your data feed once you’ve signed up as a merchant. Luckily, you can push your feed to ShareASale from your ShoppingFeeder dashboard!

 

 

Ecommerce in Africa needs a shake-up: Here’s why

In light of the recent World Economic Forum on Africa, we thought we’d take a look at the Africa E-Commerce Agenda. ShoppingFeeder began in sunny South Africa and we love to hear about the exciting transformation of the ecommerce game that’s looking to create jobs and make a sustainable impact on the continent. We’ve read the WEF and ITC’s agenda (so you don’t have to) and touch on a few key players who embody the same vision. 

CALLS TO ACTION 

The agenda report is extensive, covering ecommerce’s potential in Africa, as well as aspirations and challenges in eight different areas which we’ve outlined below.  You can read the complete report here

1. Refresh policies

Policies shape the business environment, that much is inarguable. Without conversations between stakeholders, policies necessary for industry growth will be impossible. Associations of these stakeholders need to be put in place to spearhead policy creation and standardize industry practices. Without regulation, there’s far too much uncertainty on issues such as payments, privacy and consumer protection for ecommerce to thrive.

2. Expand connectivity

Despite Africa being the second largest population of internet users after China, internet penetration is significantly lower in African regions than in the rest of the world. There is a need for widely available, affordable internet access to create an inclusive digital economy. The agenda points out that markets aimed at the unconnected, in particular, should be encouraged.

“Only a quarter of Africa’s population regularly uses the internet. Costs are high. On average, 1GB of data is 9% of monthly income” 

3. Upgrade logistics

Logistics and delivery services are crucial if we are to access the global market, and both are especially important for cross-border selling within Africa. Creating sustainable logistics models will help e-retailers’ effort to manage returns, handle payments and reduce trace-ability problems. 

4. Enable e-payments

The agenda calls for a dialogue among policy-makers to identify challenges and solutions in the payment ecosystem in order to increase security, reduce risk and support global access and transactions in international currencies. 

5. Manage data

Merchants need information and support in order to comply with privacy regulations overseas. Again, legislation is key with regards to the protection of personal data. 

6. Grow the tech industry

Foreign investment has a huge role to play here. Supporting and financing of start-ups can increase the availability of risk capital and infrastructure gaps can be addressed more efficiently. 

7. Coach small business

If Africa wants to compete globally, its industry players will require skills, coaching and market access using all of the calls to action listed above. With the help of incubators, small businesses can attract foreign investment and drive innovation. 

8. Join forces

To make all of the above possible, dialogue between African countries to develop best practices is essential. Contributions need to come from every direction- researchers, policy-makers, retailers, logistics services, government officials, industry experts and so on. The WEF report calls for cooperation among all stakeholders. 

Here are a few useful infographics on the global digital landscape in 2019:

COMPANIES TO WATCH 

Jumia

The largest ecommerce company in Africa, Jumia operates across 14 different African countries, its largest market being in Nigeria. One of the major challenges Jumia faced with regards to logistics was delivering to areas with incredibly informal addressing systems. This hasn’t put them off, however, as the company is determined to grow the industry sector and make their services widely accessible. Jumia co-founder and CEO Sacha Poignonnec discussed the company’s approach to such challenges in an interview with McKinsey&Company.

 “In Africa, there’s no address system in most of the cities. For someone to find a consumer, you need to have a local partner who knows where the consumer is, based on very subjective information. And, for example, if you say in a city in Africa, ‘I live in the third street by the church with the blue door,’ that’s the address. You and I, we would not find this consumer. But if you partner with the right local player, who has the right local knowledge, then they can find those consumers because they understand that. Now the challenge, of course, is that to have a lot of fragmented logistics players is a risk, unless you have what we created, which is a very good set of standard technology tools and processes that we give to the local players so that they can operate their last-mile, cash-on-delivery, door-to-door-delivery businesses according to international standards.” 

                                                   -Poignonnec, CEO Jumia

Now that’s the kind of long-term thinking the African ecommerce industry needs, and Jumia isn’t just concerned about access. Part of the company’s slogan is “We build a digital Africa” and they certainly seem to be living up to that. JumiaPay is the company’s own payment gateway that provides secure online payments, the first of its kind released in Nigeria in 2016. In March, the company announced a strategic partnership with MasterCard to explore innovations in payment platforms and enhance Africa’s digital infrastructure. 

M-PESA

M-Pesa is a banking service that allows users to transfer money via mobile. The service launched under Safaricom, the country’s biggest network provider, in 2007. In 2018, Safaricom teamed up with PayPal and TransferTo (now thunes.com) creating a service that allows funds to be transferred from M-PESA to Paypal accounts, allowing online shoppers in Kenya to purchase goods and services globally. This gives e-retailers the opportunity to expand their reach and participate in the global marketplace. The collaborative effort by these companies has made it cheaper and faster to transfer funds, focusing on alternative payment methods like mobile wallets for the majority of Africa’s population who remain unbanked. 

Check out this list of South African incubators for start-up. 

WooCommerce Builder for Divi released with 16 new modules

WooCommerce, one of the ten shopping cart platforms ShoppingFeeder supports, is an open-source e-commerce plugin for WordPress. Last Thursday, Elegant Themes rolled out a new WooCommerce builder for Divi with 16 new modules you can use to customize your product pages. Let’s take a look.

Say goodbye to boring standard product templates. The WooCommerce builder gives you creative control over every element of design for individual products. Once you enable the Divi Builder on WooCommerce, you can use any combination of modules to create and customize anything from Add to Cart pages, to image galleries, to Checkout. Available Divi modules have an abundance of design settings; combine that with WooCommerce’s 16 new modules and the possibilities are endless.

Source: elegantthemes.com, The WooCommerce Builder For Divi

Product pages now come with new sidebar options, customized buttons, you can even design your up-sells and cross-sells using the Woo Related Products element. Divi has a range of templates to choose from which you can modify using the Woo modules from either front or back end- yep, you can build without code using the visual editor or add custom CSS if needed. You don’t even have to use the default style settings to build product content, Divi and WooCommerce integration allows you to build your product pages completely from scratch. Now you can control what appears on your product listings and display product infp in entirely new and creative ways.

You can explore the product pages made by the Elegant Themes team using their new features here.