Black Friday marketing | Are retailers set to crash under the pressure?

By in MarTech
On November 14, 2017

Black Friday 2017

With just over a week until Black Friday, retailers in the UK are already starting their Black Friday marketing campaigns – preparing to lower prices and welcome consumers looking for a bargain. What has quickly become as popular as Christmas, Boxing and January day sales, Black Friday is now a key shopping event over here and embedded firmly in diaries.

Black Friday – just as ‘cyber’ as Monday

Black Friday kicks of a weekend that rolls into what’s known as Cyber Monday – tagged as the online version of the popular one-day event. But as the surge in online shopping continues to grow, Black Friday has now become just as ‘cyber’ as Monday, with an increase in online purchases over the years. Customers have slowly started to shun stores for the ease (and less fisticuffs) of shopping from their sofa or on-the-go. Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales hit 5.8 billion in 2016, so this year’s sales are expected to top that and we’re sure to expect that a lot of sales will be completed online.

Retailers have realised the marketing opportunity this day presents – a chance to provide a positive experience and build loyalty with existing customers, while also growing their customer base.  Customers have come to expect an engaging shopping experience full of offers and special promotions and retailers must deliver on these expectations.

Crashing under the pressure?

Choosing to shop online on Black Friday is, or should be, a simple task for the consumer. But it’s trickier for retailers who must create a compelling online shopping experience and mirror what consumers are accustomed to receiving in-store and in other areas of their digital lifestyle. Retailers must also be prepared to handle the influx of customers wanting attention, and not always through traditional channels.

Black Friday marketing tips:

With innovation also playing its part in pushing things forward, the ecommerce landscape is evolving. So with Black Friday 2017 fast approaching, here are a few marketing tips to help you stay ahead of the bubble:

There’s nothing worse than getting all ready to press go on Black Friday marketing and syncing all of your promotional efforts only to find that you’ve made a mistake in your marketing content.. Although online content can be edited and tweaked quickly, hundreds if not thousands of people also see it immediately. Black Friday 2016 saw retailer Argos, make an offer blunder. It accidently listed a MacBook online for £100. It caused a frenzy of activity on social media, as consumers naturally tried to purchase it. Argos soon rectified its mistake, but not after it had apologized profusely and the mistake had hit the media.

Your social media needs to be on point as customers always use social media channels to quickly communicate any problem they encounter; and they won’t hesitate to let it rip! Make sure you have enough people to handle queries and set up a process so your team know who’s been replied to or sorted. Develop general, easy-to-tailor responses to standard queries in advance. And separate teams working on Black Friday-based social campaigns from those working on customer services. This is likely something you already have in place, but it’s worth strengthening how you do it and making sure you do it well. If you haven’t already, it may be helpful to create image-based – rather than just text – social posts that inform customers of a situation. Also tap into widely used hashtags like #blackfriday and #deals. This will expand your content’s reach and make it easier to find and monitor.

Customer communications can make or break a sale and for online it’s no different, with unhappy customers more likely to close that tab and head for another site with a similar offer. Aside from ramping up your social media channels, it’s worth bolstering your website service too. Customers waiting on hold will soon tire of the droning voice that says “you are now number 15…in the queue” or that hold music that eventually does your head in no matter how much you like the song. Think about increasing your ‘live chat’ staff so they’re ready to handle the overspill of phone calls. On the phone, leave a message highlighting your live chat as a useful option.

If you already make use of a full-fledged chatbot, then make sure it’s working effectively to help. The last thing you need is a chatbot that goes haywire on Black Friday, It will only add fuel to the fire. It may be worth considering Hero’s technologyIt adds an ecommerce layer to the physical retail space by allowing sales assistants to message and hold video calls with online customers when not serving customers in-store.

To help communicate effectively, it’s best to create automated emails for those customers partially through the purchase process when a website crashes. That way they know you’re aware of the issue. A really good splash page is also handy in the event of a crash. Just having a page that says nothing except we’re experiencing some technical difficulties or we’re conducting maintenance is not helpful – and customers are savvy. Instead, why not create a cool splash page informs the customer of the real issue.  ‘Black Friday has us temporarily overwhelmed, but we’ll be ready to rock shortly, so stay tuned.’ Give options to get in touch or reward their patience with a voucher code for a 5% or 10% discount for the disruption. It’s a great way to keep visitors engaged while they wait. Many will leave your site and try again, but there’s no harm in catering to those who will literally keep hitting refresh so they don’t miss a bargain.

Some retailers use the ‘abandoned basket’ method – where customers receive an email informing them that their basket is waiting or that items have been left in the trolley. How about a similar process if your website crashes or you face another technical issue? You could email customers at the basket stage in the same way, with a message letting them know when you’re up and running with a direct link to their basket.

The future of shopping

What’s clear is that the ecommerce landscape is evolving and as this happens, retailers need to prepare their platforms to handle the volume of activity they’ll face into next year and in the future. Black Friday 2017 may well be the least of problems facing retailers five years from now. But perhaps that’s a good problem to have.

How do you think retailers should handle Black Friday marketing? Email us at or tweet us @redlorrycomms.

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