29th October 2021 -

What Will The 2021 BFCM & Peak Shopping Season Bring?

Black Friday & Cyber Monday (BFCM) is one of, if not THE key shopping event of the year, ostensibly opening up the peak spending season and a huge opportunity to drive sales and gain new customers. 

The truism is that last year everyone saw a big shift in the way that consumers shopped – both online and offline – over the holiday season due to global restrictions and lockdowns. Predictions have been made that last year’s trends, such as; predominantly shopping online, will remain and this year’s sales figures are going to be record breaking.   

  • Total BFCM sales 2020: $14.13 billion USD globally (£10.24 billion) 
  • Predicted BFCM sales 2021: $17 billion USD globally (£12.37 billion)

Recent studies have also shown a predicted high increase in footfall for bricks and mortar stores, as consumers hope to salvage some of the festive cheer they missed out on last year. 48% of UK consumers have said they will only be shopping online, whilst 46% said they will do both online and offline shopping. 

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But let’s be honest, who really knows what is going to happen. Who’s got the crystal ball?

The uncertainties over the last 18 months have yet again left marketers questioning what will happen during peak shopping season. Could the aftermath of COVID-19 and the current economic crisis mean that this year’s BFCM is in rocky waters? 

We have looked at the five concerns that both consumers and businesses are telling us need to be considered. But let’s rewind a few years and take a look at some historical Black Friday Cyber Monday events. 

Historical Black Friday and Cyber Monday spending in the UK 

Until recently Black Friday and Cyber Monday have been the busiest sales of the year – globally – for many businesses. Fashion generally dominated the Black Friday side of things, whereas electronic goods flew off of the shelves during the Cyber Monday half of the event. 

Over the past few years the event has quickly gone from a flash sale,to a  two day,  then weekend, and then to a week-long event, and some businesses have begun their Black Friday pre-sales a month before. However, these are not the only things that have changed; online spending has grown more popular, and the amount of money that we spend as a nation has increased.

According to Statista, over the last five years spending expectations in the UK for the Black Friday event has steadily accelerated. Until, of course, 2020 where we saw a 1 billion GBP decline in sales, which was attributed to the closure of many physical stores, hence the drop in sales offline and the large increase in sales online. 

Image source: Statista

5 considerations for BFCM 

Although in our last BFCM blog we spoke about the record breaking predictions for 2021, there’s still so many uncertainties and contributing factors that could negatively impact consumers and businesses. So what potential operational issues and other factors do we need to consider this year: 

  1. Shortage of staff 

So, we’ve all heard the numerous stories about the shortage of HGV drivers, food processing staff, and retail and hospitality workers. This is down to a multitude of factors, a big one being the aftermath of COVID-19 and isolation requirements, and people having moved away from certain sectors into other areas where there may be more desirable working conditions.  Add to this the other health issues which are currently circulating the UK at the moment – the ‘super cold’ being a big one – and germs are big news.

Brexit has also played a key part in the lack of workers in the UK with the apparent lack of visas and work permits available. The Economic Statistics Centre of Excellence released a report in early 2021 declaring that the number of non-UK workers living in the UK had fallen by over a million in 2020. In order to address the shortage of labour,  industry leaders have called on the government to provide temporary visas for immigrants to work in the UK. The response has been that businesses should prioritise UK citizens that have been furloughed or are unemployed. Either way, however, it’s undeniable that there is a shortage of staff across so many sectors and recruiting more is far from the ‘take your pick’ scenarios of recent years.

So what does this actually mean? Communication here is key – with browsers, shoppers and staff.We need to value what we’ve got; someone on our site isn’t looking elsewhere at this precise minute, and someone on our payroll is currently working with us, as an asset.

That may be in the store itself, or in the warehouse; it may, however, also be the ecommerce manager who is looking at on-site messaging, keeping it positive, keeping browsers on the site rather than the competitors’ or – big breath –  on amazon.  Or how about the customer service team dealing with yet another query about forecasted stock availability, delivery lead-times, ‘missed you’ delivery notifications.  

  1. Delays in delivery 

A shortage of staff results in delays in delivery. Many businesses warned of a potential lack of HGV drivers due to Britain leaving the European Union, not least as Thousands of European drivers promptly left the UKapparently leaving the UK  with a 60,000 driver shortfall, and which is now estimated to be at 100,000 due to the global pandemic. 

Freight containers are now sitting in the wrong ports, or waiting to be unloaded, or they’ve been unloaded and need to get through customs…  Businesses are combining their shipping with others, which may lead to delays, or they’re bringing in fewer goods, or bringing them in from different markets. The staff shortages aren’t unique to ecommerce businesses,nor to our domestic audience; all parts of the supply chain are affected, including delivery drivers.  All of which leads to delays and shortages.

By contract, however, today’s customer expects speed of delivery, and this shortage puts immense pressure on businesses to deliver and meet the needs of the consumer. Over 50% of the UK have declared that they value a fast delivery service above all. Uh oh…

So what does this mean in real life, in our daily situation?   I guess, it’s don’t over promise; customers value honesty, although we may want to reward their patience. Again, though, communication is key; tell people at all stages what they can expect, be open – and may offer alternatives, especially if timing is crucial.  Understand the browser, convert them to a shopper by offering a relevant and timely alternative; help staff by demonstrating (actions speak louder than words) that we know how pressured they feel and look at what we’re doing to help, such as additional on-site automation, designed to enhance existing service, minimise query and maintain reputation.  Proper customer database records, out of hours messaging to minimise the queries when customer services come back online, only showing in-stock products, clear alternative suggestions.  

  1. Haulage and freight costs 

Freight costs have massively increased over the last 18 months, so naturally, the price of goods has risen too, and the talk is that this is only the beginning. There has been a sharp rise in the cost of shipping containers, with one that previously cost £3,000 to ship before the pandemic now costing £20,000. The question is; can businesses afford shipping costs, and how will this ultimately impact stock shortages globally?  (Ok, that’s two questions for the price of one…)

Businesses, including amazon, are now advising consumers to begin their festive shopping early. The Independent have stated that supply chain disruption will linger until at least spring 2022.  On my calendar, that’s way beyond BF and CM, even with the extended periods they seemed to cover last year.  

How is this going to affect the previously ‘busy but in a good way’ period, particularly in revenue and profit?  How long is it sustainable?  We all heard the stories in the summer about the hospitality businesses who normally spend between 3 and 5 months working flat out, to earn around 75% – 80% of their annual turnover.  Is this going to be the same for our world of ecommerce…?

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  1. Price hikes

Following on from the stock shortages and freight price hikes, many retail businesses have plans to increase prices on their goods by the end of the year, with 1 in 10 already having done so, according to the industry’s trade body chief; Helen Dickinson, head of the British Retail Consortium, said a recent poll of chief executives found 3 in 5 plans to increase prices due to stock shortages and growing supply chain costs.

“We surveyed CEOs and three-fifths said they were going to have to increase prices by the end of the year. It is sadly a reality when businesses are seeing every single cost, energy, wages, and other things, all rising at the same time.”

It is inevitable that consumers – and businesses –  will be frustrated with price hikes, so a salve for this pain should be to supplement price increases  with quality service, from the very moment that visitors land on our site, to when they receive the product, and beyond.  If we’ve got a customer now, even with reduced money in their pockets, and possibly paying more and waiting longer for what they wanted, then surely they’re a keeper?

So what does that mean for BF and CM?  Will there be the price discounts that we’ve been used to expecting?  Will there be ANY price discounts?  Or will the BF CM prices be akin to ‘normal’ levels before retailers increase prices purely to cover their increased costs?

Whichever route it is, building loyalty and trust will be an increasingly difficult key during this economic crisis, which leads me nicely onto our next point – customer experience. 

  1. The customer experience

In order to succeed this Black Friday Cyber Monday and the holiday season, regardless of prices, stock supplies and all the pain we’ve indicated (ouch), we must put our customers at the heart of all our planning and marketing. Yes, there are some challenges that businesses will face that are out of their control; , your customers, however, will remain loyal to our brand if we nurture them. There’s a whole science and industry on customer loyalty but it’s a mutual value exchange; we play our part, customers play theirs.

Our own latest market research revealed that customers value being treated as an individual rather than a number – they want personalisation, authenticity, and to feel a real connection to a brand. 

The challenge here is ensuring that we are remembered for our service, rather than a customer becoming frustrated with our store over a stock issue or delay in delivery. 

A simple way to achieve this is through implementing ecommerce personalisation. It is a solution that allows online businesses to build stronger connections with their customers, nurture them, and keep them coming back to buy more. Personalisation can take the form of a personalised ecommerce live chat feature, personalised product recommenders, dynamic content, or email campaigns. It’s back to that value exchange – we value the customer, they value us.

How can we help? 

PureClarity is an award-winning ecommerce personalisation solution that enables businesses to create unique experiences for each of their visitors. 

We know that this time of the year is stressful, regardless of the economic challenges businesses are facing currently as well, that’s why our software and service is designed to maximise revenue, whilst taking care of your customers’ journeys. Giving you more time to focus on your efforts on other tasks. 

If you would like to find out how we can help your business succeed all year round, get in touch. Book a personalised discovery call or try our 30 day free trial.

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