It may be the biggest, but Black Friday is now just one of many peak sales periods across the year for retailers. Conor McGrath, Head of UK Clients at parcelLab explains how retailers can get the most from these periods by making them about more than just big sales. 

It’s so close you can practically smell it, see it, even touch it – and you’re already getting the pre anxiety attacks! Yes, Black Friday is a biggie, now stretching from a day, to Cyber Monday and beyond for an entire week of frenzied selling and buying. In fact, the Black Friday line pretty much blurs into Christmas, doesn’t it? 

Well, for many retailers, the festive push starts in mid November, so Black Friday is simply a short sharp peak within a longer festive one. But depending on what you’re selling and who you’re selling it to, the peaks don’t stop at Christmas. There are the usual seasonal peaks, but also those relating to your market: A Blue Monday peak if you sell wellbeing products; a Valentine’s Day peak for anything remotely gift and love related; an early spring peak if you’re pushing garden products or plants; a May bank holiday peak for DIY goods, holidays, even possibly barbecues depending on the weather forecast. Get the picture?

In short, there are lots of retail peaks. Yes, some are more ‘peaky’ than others. And the more peaky they are, the more business they generate and the more hassle they are for retailers. So it’s vital to ensure each peak is as successful as it can be to derive maximum justification for the upheaval they cause. OK, that’s enough peaky talk. 

However, success during these times shouldn’t be just about selling as much stock as possible. Managed correctly, these spikes in business can help to sustain sales through the non-peak periods and make the next peak even peakier! The key is to do all you can to ensure that you retain, re-convert and upsell as many of the new customers you attract, which can easily be five time more than you service outside the peaks. The problem is that retailers are so focused on maximising sales and fire fighting the delivery nightmare that ensues, that anything else understandably drops off the radar. Also, where and when do you start to engage with a shedload of new customers?

Well, it may sound bizarre, but a great time to start is as soon as they’ve clicked ‘buy’, which is frequently the part of the customer journey when retailers say ‘bye’ to shoppers. However, this should actually be just the start of a beautiful and hopefully long-term friendship. 

Once shoppers have made their purchase during a peak period, they are already focused on tracking down their next bargain. So why the hell would they want to engage with a retailer they are no longer buying from? Well, how about because you’re giving them vital information… about the progress of their recently acquired bargain from the warehouse into their arms. Yes, we’re talking the shipping process.

Engaging with customers during this phase of the buying journey works on several levels. First, you have their details and permission to contact them about their parcel, so no issues over GDPR. Second, emails you send during this period have high opening rates of around 60%*, far better than traditional email campaigns. Third, you know what they’ve just bought, so it’s easier to personalise the messages. 

Yes, you want to use these emails to keep customers up to date on the progress of their purchase, but you can add value and potentially drive repeat business by also offering discounts on relevant items and suggesting complementary purchases to the one they’ve just bought. And when you consider that the standard email marketing click rate of 2% rises to over 40% during shipping*, it’s clear the engagement levels that can be achieved.

What’s more, you can build loyalty by including valuable information, such has how to get the most from their new purchase and how to look after it. Depending on its value, you could also offer a great insurance deal. The possibilities really are endless. But the best thing is that you are instantly striking up a relationship with a brand new customer that will encourage them to repurchase and stick with you.

So why aren’t more retailers doing this? Because they are not in control of post-purchase communications, which they leave to their delivery company. If you let your delivery company focus on what they do best – delivering – and take the communications element in house, you can provide a more personalised and engaging tracking service that’s also in your brand’s style and tone of voice, plus do all the repurchase, retention and loyalty tactics mentioned above. 

This is a great strategy for online retailers to follow in general, but during peak periods it can be the catalyst that turns all the hard work you put in from being just a big sales push into a major customer relationship management drive that continually builds your customer base along with repurchasing, retention and loyalty. Not bad for a phase of the shopping journey most retailers still view as an afterthought.

Originally posted Direct Commerce