Guest post by Ross Webber
It’s looking like high streets this year will be considerably busier than 2020’s challenging holiday season. That said, consumer shopping habits picked up in Lockdown do seem to have largely stuck: e-commerce sales are expected to make up 20 per cent of seasonal sales this year, – a rise of up by 2.5 per cent on last year.
This means a sizable number of shoppers will browse and shop online in the run-up to Black Friday for the best deals, particularly through marketplace leaders such as Amazon.
But SMEs shouldn’t just consider the returning audience. Amazon data shows that ‘new to category’ buyers increase across the board between December and February, which makes Black Friday a critical point for businesses to reach new customers.
But the first strategy for small businesses wanting to capture new buyers should be to to reach beyond the Amazon ecosystem.
Social channels, Google advertising and a sharper focus on SEO can all benefit a company’s search ranking on Amazon. This makes key products easier to find through top-funnel, category-led searches.
Brands must prepare for this well in advance if they’re to reap the full benefits of Black Friday. SEO, for example, should be a case of trial and error, testing the key words of bigger competitors to monitor what language drives the most visits, and then integrating what’s most effective into product descriptions.
Holiday selling, like holiday buying, is also a larger investment. Advertising becomes more costly as competition from both category giants and smaller players becomes crowded. And with supply chain issues now threatening Christmas stock levels and delayed deliveries, customers look likely to start buying their gifts earlier. So the pressure is on for businesses to prepare their Golden Quarter strategy.
Part of this plan must be to instantly impress first-time buyers, particularly as the weight of deals during the singular experience of Black Friday means they’re likely to spend less time browsing a product’s profile.
Creating an Amazon storefront that’s educational, consistent with a brand story and aesthetically rich with high-quality images and video will help authenticate the seller and give shoppers the basic knowledge to learn about the product.
New buyers are going to be wary of parting with cash without a sales advisor to hand, particularly for big-ticket items. This means it’s up to businesses to invest in pages that confer confidence by presenting themselves as being the best of their category.
This should also be supported by tools like sponsored display ads, which can sit on competitor pages so that shoppers not previously aware of the differing price-points and benefits can explore alternatives. And sponsored video content that appears on product listings is always popular and helps to stand-out with visual, in-depth overviews while shoppers browse.
Reviews are still the golden ticket to first-time buyers
Customer feedback through marketplaces has come under scrutiny in recent months, with Amazon most recently having to shut down 600 Chinese e-sellers for misleading shoppers.
But the controversy hasn’t stopped reviews from being a key purchase lever, particularly for those new-to-category shoppers likely to compare average star ratings.
Emerging and challenger brands should look to build a healthy number of reviews ahead of Black Friday. Of course, it’s not easy and it can be risky: customers are three times more likely to review after a negative experience than a positive one. But shoppers will ultimately look to other experiences to form a decision, so businesses must have a strategy in place.
Using tools like Amazon’s Vine Review Programme, which allows sellers to proactively send out products in the promise of authentic reviews, or third-party platforms like FeedbackWhizz to send automated emails requesting product feedback, are shortcuts that will build a stream of reviews to show the brand is well established.
Otherwise, personal packaging touches such as handwritten notes, thanking customers for purchases and asking for a review, will humanise a sale and increase the chance of a positive review. If the experience was a negative one, they’d be more likely to review directly rather than through a public forum. It could also be the start of a longer customer relationship.
Reviews don’t just help customers to vet a business either. They’re a significant factor in where a brand sits on search listings, and are therefore a key discovery asset. A headstart on reviews could be invaluable for businesses this Black Friday.
Using Black Friday to keep new customers loyal
Brands that want to capitalise on Black Friday should also use it as a starting point to engage new customers to drive loyalty, both in the shorter term during the holiday season and (far) beyond.
Black Friday deals could be the catalyst for long-term relationships with shoppers who previously haven’t bought from the category. But in such a competitive field, there’s the risk that many SMEs will wait too long to establish themselves as a cut above competitors on Amazon.
However, first and foremost everyone loves a discount – hence the popularity of Black Friday. But in this feeding frenzy, even a small gesture can make a big difference. Using Amazon’s ‘subscribe and save’ tool allows sellers to offer bespoke 0 – 10% discounts on repeat purchases to shoppers is one option as new customers also tend to be the most price-sensitive.
Making the first sale is the most difficult as shoppers are increasingly wary of counterfeit sellers and misleading product descriptions first and foremost on marketplaces. Therefore, it’s imperative to take steps to demonstrate why a consumer should trust your offer over those of competitors.
With the right ingredients in place – a solid number of reviews, sponsored advertising and smart key words both in and outside of Amazon sweetened with suitable discounts – you give yourself the best possible chance to make Black Friday the start of beautiful new customer relationships.
Ross Webber is PPC manager at Amazon specialist agency Melody
How to make a fortune on Black Friday