Black Friday Is Over – Here’s What SMEs Have Learned from the Aftermath
If there’s one part of the year that puts your business to the test, it has to be Black Friday.
Every year, UK retailers and Ecommerce stores see some of their highest sales on record. And with all of those sales pouring in over just a few short days in November, it’s a time when businesses really start to see the limits of what their systems and processes can handle.
But this year, things have been even worse than usual:
The national lockdown has forced more customers online, putting extra pressure on both sellers and couriers to meet the huge new demand for home deliveries.
And for most product-based businesses, it’s been a rough ride.
So what have we learned from this year’s Black Friday? And how can businesses start to put these lessons to use in the year ahead?
Here are three of the biggest takeaways from the Black Friday cluster bomb we’ve all just been through:
1. Automation is the only way forward
If you spent this year’s Black Friday trying to manually process every order, we’ve got some bad news for you:
You’ve been wasting time that could easily have been saved.
When seasonal discounts bring in a huge wave of sales, businesses with manual processes start to struggle. Their teams are frantically trying to keep up with a surge in demand, and they soon hit their capacity.
They’re receiving orders, checking their stock, recording the sale, and updating their inventory – all of it multiplied by the hundreds of customers who are taking advantage of the Black Friday discounts.
It’s a tough situation that’s not much fun for your teams. But the real problem lies in the places that start getting neglected:
When your staff are overwhelmed with manual orders, they don’t have time to check every order properly. They don’t have time to give your customer queries their full attention, and they don’t have time to double-check every double-entry point of data on each different system.
And the result?
As your orders get multiplied by the hundreds, so do your errors and your bad customer experiences.
But with a fully automated ordering process – like an Ecommerce platform that’s integrated with your sales, inventory, and logistics apps – you can take all of the legwork away from your teams.
Every one of those manual orders can be fully automated without the risk of human error – from the moment your customers click to the moment they get their products.
And that means your teams can put their time and skills to better use: giving your customers the service they deserve, solving and preventing any issues as early as possible, and taking a step back to analyse the data of the automated sales that are chugging along by themselves.
2. Real-time data is the only true knowledge
For most retailers, Black Friday was a chaotic time. And with Christmas around the corner, it’s not over yet.
If your business has just calmed down after a flurry of Black Friday activity, you might be confidently relaxing, safe in the knowledge that you’ve shipped out every product and fulfilled every order.
But when some of those Black Friday products start getting returned, you’ll need to be ready for a whole second wave of chaos – and you’ll only have a short window to get everything processed in time for Christmas.
According to figures from ReBOUND Returns, online retailers in the UK lost £606 million to returned goods from Black Friday in 2019.
Between the natural delays of your customers and your couriers (compounded by the early Christmas deadlines for Royal Mail deliveries) you could be left with a huge amount of stock that’s stuck in what ReBOUND calls the ‘Crimbo Limbo’ – products left in warehouses and shipping nodes that simply can’t be processed and resold in time for Christmas.
And if your business is still tracking data on a weekly basis, it can be impossible to keep up.
By the time you’ve collected and understood your data, you’re already stuck with a backlog – whether that’s a backlog of new orders, or a backlog of unprocessed products.
But with a modern stack of apps all integrated with each other, you can get the real-time, up-to-date data you need to see exactly where your business is – and what it needs to do next.
3. Logistics aren’t separate – they’re a part of your business
With so many modern logistics solutions helping to take the strain off smaller businesses – like DHL or Amazon’s FBA – it can be tempting to think of your logistics as something that only the third-party logistics (3PL) companies need to worry about.
But when you hit peak periods like Black Friday and Christmas, your 3PL companies are suffering just as much as you are – and your unhappy customers will only see you as the source of their frustration.
So when times get tough, you need to keep your logistics teams as close as your sales teams – with a direct means of sharing data and keeping each other as up to date as possible.
In most cases, that means choosing the right software that can link up automatically with your 3PL companies – giving you a direct integration with the software they use for their services.
But in some cases, you won’t always have a ready-made integration available – and you’ll need the help of a dedicated team of software developers to give you the custom apps and integrations to connect your business to the external teams you rely on every day.
Black Friday is just a weekend – but the lessons last all year
It takes a hectic week in November for most businesses to learn what they’re missing.
So when you’re exploring a new inventory system, you should be looking for:
But with the right tools and software on your side, you can relieve the pressure all year long – no matter what kind of challenges 2021 might throw at you.
If your business was struggling to make it through Black Friday this year, we’re here to help:
We’ve been getting product-based companies prepared for the best and worst scenarios for years, with fully integrated cloud apps covering inventory, accounting, sales, and logistics.
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