What if I told you that you need to pick, pack and ship 40% of your annual revenue in 20 days? Sounds crazy, right? Well, that’s our Black Friday and Christmas reality!
Preparing for Black Friday
Our Black Friday preparation starts in June, when we need to create our production forecast. It’s always a big gamble as we launch a product every week until Peak Season, but the year’s bestsellers can be launched after we deliver the production forecast.
Last year, we made a mistake and placed our bet on the wrong sock design and ended up with two years worth of stock! On top of that, the real bestseller was only launched in November, so we had to produce it non-stop just in time to fulfill our orders, complicating, even more, all operations…
Due to this gigantic seasonality, we manage our own pick and pack operation. It’s based on our sock factory because that allows us to have a lot more flexibility, but we need to manage and train the team for Peak Season.
As we have more than 400 SKUs, we need to do that in advance. That starts in September, to be sure we have the necessary speed and quality.
Black Friday: shipping methods
We also needed to find alternative shipping methods to try to minimize the decrease in service level by all carriers at the end of the year. We ended up with a mixed strategy.
Usually, we send our orders by standard mail, which takes about a week in Europe and works for our customers. But in Peak Season the lead time can easily double, and it becomes more time-sensitive due to Christmas.
After analyzing that with our partners, we were able to find a mixed strategy: shipping our orders in bulk with express shipping to our biggest markets and leaving the last mile for the local mail companies, allowing us not to increase too much our costs and still have a decent service level.
Of course, that still leaves us with some crazy days of customer service in the two weeks before Christmas.
Two years ago, I decided to make a test with Gorgias customer service before we answered our emails by hand as the volume was still manageable. Gorgias integrates with Shopify and allows you to automatically answer your most common questions like “where’s my order” and exchanges. That was our best investment ever.
That year, the Portuguese Mail collapsed, and the delivery lead times became four times longer. Gorgias allowed us to answer more than 200 tickets per day with very little effort. That was a lifesaver for us.
Our bet is always to get our audiences and customers before and then leveraging them on Black Friday with impactful and relevant content.
And now for your most familiar questions, how can you be heard online with so much noise around you?
Our bet is always to get our audiences and customers before and then leveraging them on Black Friday with impactful and relevant content. We plan ahead, so we can be sure we pass the right message and can approve all the ads in advance. In Peak Season, that can take up to four days!
With so much at stake in such a small window of time, is there even time to adjust anything?
Yes, there is. On our first Black Friday, we implemented first a tier promotion to increase our Average Order Value, the results after the first days were not solid, so we quickly changed to a slashed price strategy that we think works a lot better and were able to salvage the season.
Teamwork is crucial
It’s key to have all the team available on those dates, as flexibility is always key. Last but not least, always listen to your customers, on social media or reply to newsletters, that’s the best feedback you can have about the efficiency of your promotions.
How many emails are too many? Does the unsubscribe risk compensate? Yes, it does. In Peak Season, all brands are communicating their offers, so it’s very easy to lose an email, our open rates are lower, so we push the limits. Crime does pay in this season.
We also use SMS, but only to communicate the last hours of the promotion. Our customer base is 35 and older, so we tend to be careful as SMS can be too intrusive for some of our customers.
How to prepare for Black Friday: key learnings
- Plan ahead;
- Get the right team;
- Get the right tools;
- Be creative looking for new solutions;
- Don’t be shy when communicating with your customers;
- Be relevant, don’t try to push old stock just because you can discount it.