We’ve all heard that Black Friday is the biggest and busiest shopping day of the year, but its original brick-and-mortar premise is somewhat diminished in the online world. A kick-off for holiday shopping, Black Friday was named such because it’s often the day that retailers go out of the negative or “red” and into the “black” margin, as far as profit for the year. As Black Friday falls on the day after Thanksgiving in the United States, it is a moveable occasion each year. Thanksgiving always occurs on the fourth Thursday in November, but depending on dates, this can add or reduce the holiday shopping period by a full week and drastically impact sellers. Luckily for retailers everywhere, Thanksgiving (and the beginning of the holiday shopping season) falls relatively early for 2018.
While Black Friday dates back many decades, Cyber Monday is a relatively new addition to the shopping frenzy. First used in 2005, the “Cyber Monday” term is used by marketers to encourage people to shop online the Monday following Thanksgiving. In 2017, Cyber Monday’s online sales hit $6.59 billion, according to Adobe Insights. Because of the flexibility and agility of customers when it comes to shopping online and finding deals, Cyber Monday is becoming a must-do sale for retailers everywhere. Not only that, but the new tradition has jumped outside the US and is becoming a deals week in other countries as well.
What began as two distinctly different shopping days, it seems each year that the shopping mania is extended and blurred. The deals now typically begin early on Thanksgiving Day (November 22, 2018) and extend through the weekend, onto Cyber Monday (November 26) and through that full week.
Preparing for this year’s events
With most businesses planning for Q4 months and (or even a year) in advance, we are down to the wire on preparation for the 2018 holiday shopping season. Amazon Lightning Deals were due in September and many retailer’s plans are well underway. Unless you are already aware or have been invited, you won’t be included in Amazon own main promotions. However, there are still many crucial checklist items that Amazon sellers can perform to ensure Black Friday and Cyber Monday Deals Week are as successful as possible.
This seems like a no-brainer, but do your research by watching competitors and seeing what offers and deals they will be having during the Black Friday and Cyber Monday period. Are your products priced competitively? Have you calculated the appropriate margin for your own discounts?
You also should know what products are selling and what’s worth discounting to be competitive. Conversely, it’s not a great time to invest time in launching new listings or test items. Know what your bestsellers are and prepare and market them accordingly.
Check and monitor inventory
Obviously, you cannot sell product you don’t have. In the final weeks and days leading up to Black Friday, check that your items will be available to fulfill immediately, and that you have forecasted sales to meet demand. Because customers shop the entire month leading up to Christmas and beyond the deals week period, be sure you have enough inventory for the initial rush and then to last until after holiday shipping cut-offs and into January.
Review performance metrics
Buy Box winners are calculated with Amazon’s intricate data. If a seller has a lot of negative reviews on certain products, a high return rate, or low product ratings, it’s important to monitor these issues and react or adjust. Sellers may even want to pull lower-ranked products to ensure they don’t hurt Buy Box eligibility during peak sales periods.
Your chances of winning the Buy Box increase if your product is available, priced well versus competing sellers, you offer a range of shipping options, and you are rated highly as a seller.
Optimize your listings
Make sure your listings are SEO optimized so customers can actually find your products. Use effective keywords by researching what’s trending for your product categories and listings and what will actually bring in traffic.
Consider including search terms specific to the holiday gifting period and your products, like “unique gifts” or “gifts for golfers.”
Check your product detail pages to ensure the images and information in product bullets and descriptions are correct. Also, ensure you have responded to customer questions and reviews. Most customers will read this information before making a purchasing decision, and it can be make-or-break.
Lastly, think about gifting-period specific issues, like return policies, and make sure customers can find this information for you as a seller.
Offer free shipping
When competing against numerous other sellers in the pool, offering free shipping is a great incentive for buyers, especially against Amazon’s Free Super Saver Shipping or Prime options. If customers spot your deal and add your product to their cart, they may be discouraged from purchasing if there are additional shipping costs or long shipping times. Free shipping also helps keep you competitive and more likely to win the Buy Box.
Run Sponsored Ads
Even if you are not running Black Friday or Cyber Monday-specific promotions, these events guarantee a lot of traffic to the Amazon site. Take advantage of this by investing in Sponsored Ads; Sponsored Products and Sponsored Brands. Sponsored Products are target advertising charged on a pay-per-click basis based on the keywords you bid on (which you can also research) and focus on individual products. They can appear at the top of the search results and can greatly increase discoverability and traffic to your listings. Sponsored Brands (formerly Headline Search Ads) are targeted pay-per-click ads that showcase a brand and product portfolio. These feature your brand logo, a custom headline, and up to three of your products, these ads appear also appear in search results.
As a third-party seller, there are several promotions you can run yourself which are setup in Seller Central and scheduled for your custom dates. They must be scheduled at least four hours in advance. These include “Coupons”, “Money Off,” “Free Shipping,” and “Buy One, Get One” type promotions. In creating these promotions, sellers can select ASINs to include, certain conditions, claim codes, tiered discounts, customized messaging and more. Having a promotion going during a crucial deals week can help keep you competitive and take advantage of having detail page messaging that targets holiday shoppers.
If you have a range of items that complement each other, now is the time to bundle. If you can sell products in an attractive combo sale, you can capitalize on your whole range of products and encourage more customer purchases overall.
The countdown to Black Friday and Cyber Monday is here, and it’s important for sellers to take advantage from every angle possible. By implementing these tips, you can make the most of holiday 2018.