Black Friday 2020: A "Golden Quarter" awaits but retailers must handle it with care to reap the rewards of customer loyalty
Black Friday remains a firm highlight in the retail calendar, with consumers looking to snap up the best deals possible and prepare for Christmas, and retailers seeking to maximise sales ahead of the New Year. 2020 is no exception, with the UK’s Black Friday spending spree estimated to increase by 8% - from £7.8bn up to some £8.4bn.
But this year, it also falls at an enormously challenging time. We’re still in the UK’s second lockdown of the year, meaning delivery and distribution networks are already very busy keeping essential supplies moving and supporting the greater demand for to-home delivery.
Retailers face a Golden Quarter and the additional volume from promotions like Black Friday at a time then delivery capacity is already near maximum. It could push delivery networks to their limits. And unless changes are made there is the very real chance that retailers may go under simply because there is not enough capacity to meet demand.
So what can be done?
Smart retailers will have already eased the pressure on themselves this year, and widened the window of promotions; either starting them earlier or continuing them longer after Black Friday itself. But an important part of the answer also lies in helping to educate consumers on the choices they have when it comes to parcel delivery and collection. In short - we need to give consumers access to more sustainable delivery solutions to avoid delivery bottlenecks and blackouts.
It’s reassuring that despite the long-term economic uncertainty, retail spending remains strong. But there is also no doubt that the current high levels of to-home delivery are simply not sustainable or good for the environment in the long-term. Even outside of these focused sales periods, we need to encourage consumers towards other options as part of the delivery mix.
Alongside a reduced reliance on ultra-fast delivery options, consolidating deliveries into lockers and other out-of-store click and collect locations has the potential to add much needed capacity and offer exactly the of sort contact-free and low-risk delivery option which many consumers will be amenable to in the current climate. They can add badly needed capacity into periods of intense pressure like Black Friday, and take the heat off retail operations.
The other major concern with online deliveries is of course, the user experience for the end consumer.
As part of the Black Friday user journey, retailers must still consider the importance of the delivery experience. It shouldn’t be a case of "pile them high, sell them cheap" – the bottom line is that a product purchase (be it during retail peak or outside) is an opportunity to expand a customer base and build brand loyalty, alongside driving sales.
Retailers cannot risk a poor delivery experience, just because it’s busy. This season more than ever, shoppers will still be looking for choice, control and convenience. Steering them towards a variety of options beyond same- and next-day delivery at the point of sale deliver this, while still reducing the pressure on operations. People need their deliveries in good time before the 25th; but they may not need them tomorrow.
There is no denying that it’s been an incredibly difficult year for retailers, and many will understandably look to maximise the peak period to help get things back on track. But a poor delivery experience has far reaching repercussions for their brand and customer loyalty – which are arguably more important than ever in the current climate.
Retailers must handle Black Friday and this peak period with care, controlling delivery bottlenecks and avoiding blackouts wherever possible, while delivering an end to end positive user experience.
Jason Tavaria is CEO of InPost.