In this opinion piece, Shopify Plus APAC Director Shaun Broughton (pictured below) outlines the key consumer changes driven by the pandemic that marketers need to be aware of in their preparation for the upcoming online shopping season…
Black Friday Cyber Monday (BFCM) usually marks a clearly planned, budgeted and resourced day in marketers’ calendars. While many marketers may have previously started their planning process months in advance, 2020 has thrown those plans out the window, forcing marketers to re-assess where their customers are and what they want in the current climate.
Australian retailers are now gearing up for a bigger-than-ever BFCM shopping period, in response to the 73% year on year increase in e-commerce sales seen across the industry. But it’s not just the rise in online shopping that retailers need to be ready for. There are three major pandemic-driven shifts retailers will need to navigate this year.
- Hello early birds, goodbye last-minute shoppers
There’s nothing more disappointing for an eager online shopper than delivery delays, which unfortunately many Australians have experienced this year as Australia Post is regularly challenged with delivering over two million parcels a day.
Most Australians won’t want to take this risk leading up to Christmas. Retailers will see shoppers take even more conservative approaches to the timing of their Christmas and holiday shopping than usual, wanting to ensure they make the most of sales but not at the risk of late deliveries. The result will be a boom in early shoppers, with many already starting their holiday shopping now, and a dwindling of consumers who will hold out for last-minute deals.
For retailers, this presents an opportunity to be more flexible with the timing of their BFCM campaigns. Rather than strictly sticking to the set days, retailers will likely be welcomed for extending their campaign so customers can have more flexibility and time to find the best products. Meanwhile, merchants’ operations teams can also get some breathing space to manage the increased workload.
Among Shopify Plus’ own customers, according to our recent survey of 165 merchants globally, two-thirds (66%) are planning to participate in BFCM a week before Black Friday or earlier, and almost a third (32%) are planning to participate the week after Cyber Monday or later. With Singles’ Day also growing in popularity every year, we expect many Australian retailers to be extending their sales season to as early as late October.
- Shipping matters
While many consumers will be shopping earlier than usual to avoid potential shipping and delivery disasters, this won’t necessarily make them any more lenient if they do experience delays.
Free shipping is often a strong drawcard for customers, but this is now becoming the standard rather than a unique offering. More than half (55%) of our surveyed merchants said they will be offering free shipping for BFCM, and many have already revised their shipping and returns policies to ensure the entire delivery experience is more seamless for customers while also based on the reality that supply chain disruptions are possible due to the pandemic.
As well as shipping costs and processes, the retailers that enable the fastest and most reliable shipping will be the true winners this BFCM. Consequently, transparency around timing and setting realistic expectations with customers will be critical to maintaining loyalty and customer advocacy throughout this uniquely elongated sales season.
- The rise of the value-based purchase
Google searches for “best affordable” have grown 60% year over year as consumers shift their priorities from price to value. As retail and marketing leaders build and implement their BFCM campaigns, it will be paramount to incorporate this subtle but important difference.
This year, consumers will be less likely to be lured by the biggest discounts or lowest price tags, and will instead be looking for purchases that present the biggest bang for their buck overall. The economic downturn and financial uncertainty instigated by the pandemic, combined with the greater flexibility consumers will have with making discounted purchases earlier, will allow shoppers to take a more holistic approach to their buying habits, rather than assessing each purchase individually.
Black Friday will undoubtedly be bigger than ever and present more varied opportunities for retailers, particularly those that are already established online and prepared for turning peaks in website traffic into efficiently delivered products. Retailers will need to stay focused on “what’s in it for the customer” and empathise with their cautious shopping behaviours during this time of uncertainty.
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