Helpful Tips for Merchants During Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Singles Day

November promises to be a frenetic month for online stores with three landmark shopping events over the four-week period.

Singles Day, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday fall on the 11th, 27th, and 30th November respectively. 

In 2019, one million Shopify merchants sold $2.9 billion in inventory during the Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping extravaganza. Shopify-powered entrepreneurs enabled 25.5 million customers, resulting in a 63% increase in sales volume compared to 2018. At its peak, the global Black Friday sale raked in $1.5 million a minute.

Such giddying sales figures will undoubtedly excite merchants who haven’t had a great time of it lately. COVID-19 has forced many consumers to tighten their belts as the uncertain global economic condition results in a decrease in discretionary shopping. What’s more, global logistics and supply chains are suffering from a sharp reduction in commercial flights resulting in an increase in costs.

Overview of Shopping Holidays in Southeast Asia

Here’s a summary of major shopping events in Southeast Asia between the September to January period.

September 9 (9/9)

The 9/9 shopping extravaganza kicked off in 2016 and covers Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, and Taiwan. While this shopping event isn’t as prestigious as the ones later down the list, some estimates suggest that the number of transactions triple as compared to regular days.

November 11th (11/11)

Also known as Singles Day, 11/11 is now the biggest online shopping event in Southeast Asia. It initially started in 2009 as a way to promote Alibaba-backed marketplace Taobao and in 2015, the event generated $14 billion in online sales breaking the world record for the highest online revenue generated by a single company in one day. 

December 12th (12/12)

December 12 is a more recent shopping holiday, having started in 2012 but is also rapidly gaining traction. It’s promoted by Alipay with an eye towards small and medium-sized businesses and aims to cater to those companies that missed out on the 11/11 gold rush. Big brands tend to have the most outsized deals on Singles Day, so 12/12 provides a level playing field for everyone. 

Black Friday

Black Friday, the popular North American shopping holiday is now also recognized in Southeast Asia both as a way for cross-border commerce as well as local shopping deals. It traditionally heralds the arrival of the holiday shopping season, culminating with Christmas and Boxing Day. Held on the first Friday after U.S. thanksgiving, Black Friday will fall on the 27th of November this year.

Cyber Monday

Cyber Monday is an extension of the Black Friday weekend, and falls on the Monday right after Thanksgiving. Cyber Monday 2020 will be observed on the 30th of November and represents a final opportunity for shoppers to lock in the best deals. 

With a plethora of shopping events in November, there is considerable opportunity for Shopify merchants to cash in. With a few tweaks to your website, a better user experience, and efficient messaging, you will be well on your way to a flourishing November. 

Here are some strategies you can use to maximize your returns:

Use the holidays to clear under-performing stock

An overall decline in demand for retail products following the pandemic means many stores are holding more inventory than they would like to. This results in ongoing costs for warehousing and lower liquidity.

Ideally, a store owner would prefer to sell incoming inventory as fast as possible, giving their business cash flow and better returns. If you feel that some of your stock has been lying unsold for longer than you would like, then it’s a smart decision to earmark those products for deep discounts and flash sales.

Tying this promotion to a Black Friday / Cyber Monday / Singles Day sale won’t raise many eyebrows either. Customers are looking for high discounts, so it’s not untoward for merchants to offer items at up to 70-80% off. What’s more, these promotions are a great way to attract traffic to your site. Once you have more visitors on your store, you can use product suggestion tools and other subtle hints to encourage people to browse the site and buy more.

And while they’re there, make sure you capture some information such as an email address in order to upsell later. This can be done by offering a one-time discount code or free shipping in exchange for identifying details. 

If you’re looking for an app to help you identify your slowest-moving products, we recommend Stocky

Encourage larger basket sizes to offset higher acquisition and shipping costs

November is a fantastic opportunity to lock in new customers and higher sales, but it does require some advertising dollars. Your competition is aware of the fact that shoppers are hunting for the best deals, so it, too, will spend more money to make its products stand out. What’s more, because of COVID-19, retailers might have cut back on marketing budgets in the summer and therefore have more money to spend for the shopping and holiday season campaigns.

You should consider building custom banners, visuals, and landing pages for each specific event. A landing page customized for Black Friday could include all the discounted products for example, giving shoppers a birds-eye view of all the deals on your site. Within this landing page you could experiment with things like bundle deals, limited-time offers, and subtle copywriting that encourages higher basket sizes such as free shipping beyond an order minimum.

Prices for bidding on competitive keywords tend to go up during shopping events, so it’s essential that you do as much as you can to facilitate a transaction at the first visit. Stellar graphics and ad copy can go a long way in achieving this, but don’t worry if you aren’t a Photoshop power user. Tools like Canva are an effective way to get started.

Offer several payment options and curbside pickup, if available

Despite the extremely rapid adoption of online shopping in Southeast Asia, the fact is that over 70% of the region’s consumers don’t have access to a bank account or sophisticated financial products like a credit card. But that doesn’t mean they’re not interested in online shopping; many of them are likely to browse the internet on their phones and make a purchase through a mobile device.

If you rigidly stick to online payment options alone, such as PayPal or credit card, you might be excluding yourself from a large portion of your potential customers. In 2017, cash on delivery (COD) accounted for 47% of payments for online shopping in the Philippines, 42.8% in Vietnam, and 20.6% in Indonesia. Global shipping giants such as DHL have announced support for cross-border COD, which opens up a huge new market for online retailers.

For local shoppers, the availability of curbside pickup is an excellent way to remove friction from the checkout process. While this only applies if you have a retail storefront, it’s a way of ensuring faster delivery and a contactless experience. Customers buy online through your website and schedule a pickup time from a location nearby. This would also assist in removing the shipping fee irritant, which sometimes causes customers to abandon their carts.

What’s more, our research has shown that shoppers prefer to patronize local businesses as a result of the lockdown. 61% of survey respondents said that they plan on buying from local and independent retailers, with 79% saying the decision was due to support communities and protect local jobs. 

Use these changing preferences to your advantage. If your store targets local shoppers, then don’t forget to add your business to local shopping directories. You may also want to start a customer referral program for word of mouth recommendations in the community as well as leverage Facebook ads for nearby shoppers.

Other things you can do is to keep your Google My Business profile up-to-date with contact numbers, addresses, and hours of operation. This helps boost SEO and online map listings, too. 

Build up presale hype and engage existing customers 

When you’re looking at ways to drum up interest for upcoming events, an example of low-hanging fruit is your existing customers. They’ve transacted with you in the past and are familiar with your store. Hopefully you already have a database with their names and email addresses handy. If email campaigns are an important part of your existing marketing strategy, that’s even better.

Start your email campaigns by educating existing customers about the upcoming events. Send them the key dates and the time when the discounts will kick in. Make sure to send one email well in advance of the dates as well as a reminder closer to the time. 

Another way to build up hype is to create discount codes exclusively for email subscribers. This is on top of your existing deals, so helps subscribers feel like they’re part of an invite-only community and assists in building brand affinity. You could also hint at this offer on your social media channels, encouraging more email signups and helping with email nurture tracks in the future. 

Your emails could also include previews of exclusive deals as well as collaborations that you plan on unveiling on the day of the sale itself. For example, if a percentage of all sales goes to charity, then you might want to announce it to your most loyal customers. Other exclusive perks such as free shipping or entry in sweepstakes should also be highlighted. 

Prepare for a surge in website traffic

Given the frenzy of activity on Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Singles Day, you must be prepared for many more visitors than usual. And while you don’t have to worry about things like web hosting since Shopify has your back, you might want some additional hands on deck to cater to things like live chat, customer inquiries through social media, or quick updates to the website to promote specific SKUs.

Building in product scarcity is also a proven method to drive purchases, so adding in a note like “left in stock” alerts or a “countdown timer” for a deal can also go a long way in facilitating a transaction. 

Most importantly, enjoy the process! Even if new visitors to your site don’t transact straight away, try to offer them a one-time discount code in exchange for a newsletter subscription, for example. That’s valuable information which you can use to eventually convert them into a customer down the road. 

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