How to prepare your website for Black Friday

How to prepare your website for Black Friday

November is here, and with it, one of the year’s biggest shopping events – Black Friday. According to ecommerce experts, British shoppers spent an incredible £810 million online on Black Friday last year. What’s most remarkable about that number, however, is that it was twice as high as any industry expert predicted it would be.

Black Friday obviously presents a tremendous opportunity for businesses to make a lot of money, while also making a lot of customers very happy. But the risks are also quite high: what if you customers don’t like the deals you’re offering? What if you sell out of stock by 9.30am? What if your server crashes? What if your website gets hacked and your customers get scammed?

In 2014, many of these worst case scenarios came true, with even major retailers struggling to acheive the main aim of Black Friday: to sell a lot of something, quickly, while also keeping customers happy. Fortunately, with a year’s hindsight and a few more weeks to get your house in order, there’s a good chance you can make sure this year goes as smoothly as possible. Here are our top tips for preparing your website for 2015’s Black Friday.

Do your research

A lot can happen in a year, and even more can be forgotten. If your online shop participated in Black Friday 2014, take some time to recall what the experience was like – the good and the bad. If possible, speak to team members who were working the event, and ask them what went well and what didn’t. Do you have any unactioned customer feedback from that time? Any niggles you never quite got round to sorting out? Now’s your chance.

Now is also the time (if you haven’t done so already) to check in with this year’s trends – what’s hot, and what are the experts in your industry predicting this year’s most popular categories and items will be? If possible, can you speak to some existing customers about what they’d like to see on offer on your virtual shelves? Or when they’re planning to do their shopping? The more information you can gather at this point, the less likely you are to be caught out on the big day.

Keep it simple

It’s important to remember that, broadly speaking, Black Friday is just a larger than average sale event. With higher stakes however, we recommend playing it safe as much as possible. When it comes to your online store, this means taking a long hard look at your customer journey and conversion analytics.

If all goes according to plan, your site is going to play host to way more users than it’s used to. On this day more than any other, their priorities are value and speed. If you put unnecessary obstacles in their way – such as elaborate registration processes or fancy recommendation pop ups, chances are they’ll go elsewhere. These features – useful during normal trading – might also slow your site way down at that critical purchase point. One of the best things you can do is strip back anything that isn’t about the sale itself.

You might even want to consider stripping back on the range of products you make available on Black Friday – particularly anything that’s not on sale. This will give you greater performance on the day, and should help you fulfil orders more simply.

Be realistic

It will pay to go into Black Friday with realistic expectations – both for your business and for your customers.

For example, order fufilment was one of the biggest problem areas for online retailers after last year’s Black Friday – particularly inexperienced ones. One of the best things you can do to mitigate this risk is communicate clearly with your customers about how long they should expect to wait before their product arrives. In practical terms, this probably means sharing revised delivery times with a customer before any money trades hands, and sending a follow up email to make sure the message was received.

By managing expectations in this way, you’re far more likely to meet or exceed your customers’ expectations, then receive an unwelcome flurry of complaints about slow delivery.

Be safe

Black Friday and Mega Monday are a prime time for cyber attacks – all those personal details and bank account numbers being entered make rich pickings for hackers. It’s really worth taking some smart steps to make sure your website is secure – such as updating your system software, removing any old software and scanning all your web applications for weaknesses. You can also contact your customers to alert them to some of the risks of shopping online over Black Friday, and to share some advice for safe purchasing procedures.

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