To say that 2021 is an unpredictable time for retailers would be an understatement. From the Covid-19 vaccine rollout to the rise of the Delta variant and the outbreak of new cases, this year has been a tumultuous one.
There’s a lot of uncertainty in the air, and as we approach major shopping events like Black Friday Cyber Monday (BFCM), you may be wondering: what can I do to prepare?
To help you answer that, we’ve put together data and expert-backed insights on BFCM 2021. If you’re unsure of what to expect in the coming months, the following trends and forecasts will point you in the right direction.
While we can expect an increase in shopping behavior, how much people spend this Black Friday and Cyber Monday remains to be seen as there are opposing forces that are driving it. Financial assistance from the government, along with pent-up demand, could drive more shopper spending.
As Nick White, CMO at The BlindBroker, LLC and a retail store owner for the past two decades, points out, “I think we will see a big improvement in Black Friday sales compared to 2020, as well as a record-breaking Cyber Monday. Consumers seem to be flush with cash due to recent stimulus and child tax credit checks being sent out early, and I predict that the 4th quarter of 2021 will break multiple records for both retail and online sales.”
Industry data from June supports this. The National Retail Federation (NRF) forecasts retail sales to increase between 10.5% to 13.5% this year, with that growth driven by improvements in the economy and consumer spending.
“The combination of vaccine distribution, fiscal stimulus, and private-sector ingenuity has put millions of Americans back to work. While there are downside risks related to worker shortages, an overheating economy, tax increases, and over-regulation, overall households are healthier, and consumers are demonstrating their ability and willingness to spend,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay in an official statement.
However, the figures from July and August paint a different picture. The New York Times reports that retail sales decreased 1.1% in July and consumer confidence is down over 13% in August from the previous month. The rise of the Delta variant coupled with inflation are driving the pullback from shoppers.
The bottom line? There are many factors that influence shopper behavior. Keep a close eye on these factors and be prepared to meet your customers’ needs.
We can still anticipate consumers to shop during BFCM 2021, particularly online. Last year, for example, both Amazon and Shopify saw record-breaking sales—and that’s despite being in throes of the pandemic.
So, it’s important to make sure your business is ready for the upcoming BFCM rush by taking the following steps.
Stock up on the right merchandise. If you carry your own inventory, look at your product performance to decide which items to stock for Black Friday Cyber Monday. Put in those orders sooner rather than later to ensure they arrive before the BFCM crowds head to your store.
Ensure your systems can handle the extra load. Nothing ruins the shopping experience more than a slow or buggy website. See to it that your ecommerce store can take on additional traffic by securing enough resources from your hosting company. And don’t forget to update your website plugins and apps, as they need to work without a hitch in order for customers to have a smooth experience.
Hire more people if necessary. You won’t be able to serve shoppers and fulfill orders quickly if you don’t have enough people on board. Now is the time to iron out your staffing plan for BFCM. If you need to hire seasonal workers, do so.
Pro tip: Consider using print-on-demand services like Printful to save time and manpower resources. Printful enables you to sell branded products that are printed and shipped on demand. We’ll take care of production and fulfillment, so you can focus on marketing and selling your products.
Printful can also handle your warehousing needs. Send us your products, sync the items you’ve sent with your store, and we’ll take care of packing and shipping. We’ll even monitor your stock levels and notify you when you’re running low on certain items.
Black Friday Cyber Monday will kick off early and will likely last a week after Thanksgiving. This trend, of course, isn’t new. In 2020, retailers like Amazon ran early bird Black Friday sales four weeks before Thanksgiving. Meanwhile, retailers like Walmart, Nordstrom, and Lululemon extended their deals well after Cyber Week.
We can expect the same thing to happen in 2021.
“Last year Black Friday got pushed all the way into October, with big brands starting the hype before Halloween even happened. This year, it seems that this is going to be true again,” says Benjamin Smith, founder of men’s skincare brand Disco.
According to Smith, “Brands need to be ready to start offering holiday sales in late October if they want to keep up with what is trending.”
Here are some tips to get ahead during BFCM in 2021.
Map out and schedule your offers. If you haven’t done so yet, start thinking about the discounts and sales you’ll be offering on BFCM. How big of a discount will you offer? When will these discounts start? For instance, if your “early bird” offers differ from your extended BFCM promotions, the terms for those promos must be clarified early on.
Step un your video marketing game. No matter which social media platform you choose, make sure to promote your offers through a video marketing campaign as it’s guaranteed to get higher clicks. Not creative? Don’t stress—video ads are super easy to make. Just customize a pre-made Black Friday video template in a free online video editor like Clipchamp. Make sure to add your brand logo and include a strong call to action to create fear of missing out around your BFCM offers. If your audience is Gen Z, you can also experiment with TikTok’s new lead generation feature in your sales funnel.
Come up with a unique angle for your deals. Virtually all retailers have caught on to the fact that BFCM deals are starting early this year, so you need to stand out. Come up with a compelling angle for your promotions to make them irresistible to your customers.
For example, during last year’s Black Friday sale, Kohl’s allowed customers to stack deals on top of each other, so shoppers could combine offers and maximize their savings. This helped Kohl’s stand out from retailers that were only offering one type of sale or generic promotions.
Brick-and-mortar traffic took a major hit in 2020 because of lockdowns, but things are now looking up for merchants with physical stores. Data from the retail research and advisory firm Coresight Research and location intelligence and foot traffic analytics platform Placer.ai show a 2,000% year-over-year increase in mall visits in April, followed by a 358% increase in May 2021.
We can expect this trend to continue, barring any unexpected lockdowns. Retail foot traffic will likely improve from last year and physical retailers will see more Black Friday shoppers this year compared to 2020.
“BFCM this year is potentially going to end up being record-breaking revenue days for brick-and-mortar retailers,” comments Polly Kay, senior marketing manager at English Blinds. “Now that restrictions are easing or have eased, they [consumers] are beginning to venture out more.”
Online merchants that want to capitalize on brick-and-mortar’s comeback can take a number of steps to do so.
Host pop-up events. If it makes sense for your business, consider hosting offline events or pop-up shops specifically for Black Friday or Cyber Monday. Try offering exclusive deals for in-store visitors and use it as an opportunity to provide immersive brand experiences and encourage customers to check out the rest of your products online.
Amazon did just that in 2017 when it set up a brick-and-mortar popup called “Home of Black Friday.” The store, which ran for four days, showcased a range of homeware, toys, and tech gear—and all items were included in Amazon’s Black Friday deals, so shoppers could also purchase them online.
Partner with physical retailers. Don’t have the time or budget to set up a fully-fledged pop-up store? See if you can set up shop inside an existing retail location. Team up with a brick-and-mortar retailer that complements your offerings and can showcase your products in their location.
Communication is a critical part of any successful BFCM strategy. To drive traffic and sales, you need to connect with customers using the right channel, at the right time. This is why it’s important to have a good mix of communication methods when touching base with your shoppers.
According to Bernard Meyer, an ecommerce marketing specialist at Omnisend, retailers should be exploring the following communication channels this BFCM.
Email. It may not be as hip as newer digital tools like instant messaging or TikTok, but email continues to be the most effective communication channel for brands.
“Email is still one of the most reliable performers, with transactional and automated emails leading to high 38% conversion rates,” he says.
SMS. Meyer adds that the performance of text messages increased tremendously this year. Retailers sent 4 times more SMS in 2021 compared to 2020, with a strong conversion rate of 2.5%.
Push notifications. In addition, Meyer states that retailers using web push notifications in the first half of 2021 saw a 35% conversion rate. We can expect this trend to continue for the rest of the year.
“All this means one thing,” he says. “For BFCM 2021, continue using email marketing, but make sure you’re also throwing in other channels like SMS and web push notifications in the mix.”
Iron out a solid BFCM communication strategy by taking the following steps.
Set up your email campaigns ASAP. Email is still leading the pack when it comes to conversion rates, so prioritize this channel in your BFCM comms. Now is the time to tidy up your email list to maximize the deliverability of your messages.
Also, consider ramping up your efforts to grow your subscriber list. Set up pop-ups on your ecommerce site and remind your social media followers to subscribe. The more people you have on your list by BFCM, the better.
Explore communication methods in addition to email. Already have email covered? Try adding other channels into the mix. Enable push notifications on your website so you can notify customers about your BFCM deals. Ditto for SMS. If you have your customers’ mobile numbers, start sending them BFCM text messages (with their permission, of course). Keep your texts short and focused on the holiday offer, and you can even choose from these SMS marketing templates for campaign inspiration.
Last year, the lingerie brand ThirdLove utilized multiple channels to promote its BFCM initiatives. In the examples below, you’ll see that ThirdLove used both email and SMS to spread the word about its “CeleBRAte” event with the biggest markdowns on bras and other pieces.
“Amazon has dominated the Cyber Monday market and will do so again during 2021,” says Chelsea Cohen, co-founder of SoStocked. “It’s a great time for small businesses to sell their products through Amazon.”
Data from Amazon itself supports this notion. In 2020, independent businesses on the marketplace surpassed $4.8 billion in sales globally from Black Friday through Cyber Monday. What’s more, these sellers witnessed a 60% year-over-year growth in BFCM sales.
Amazon could serve as a viable sales channel for your business this BFCM. Here are a few tips for success.
Choose the right plan for your business. Amazon has two main types of seller plans: Individual, which costs $0.99 per month per item sold; and Professional, which costs $39.99 per month. The former is ideal for low-volume sellers that don’t need advanced tools, while the latter is good for merchants that sell more than 40 units per month and plan to utilize Amazon’s advertising platform, APIs, and reports.
Calculate your margins. See to it that your Amazon ventures are profitable by calculating your margins (Amazon has a handy calculator here). The costs to sell on Amazon will vary, depending on your item’s category and fulfillment method, so if you’re selling different types of products, run the numbers on each of them. The info you gain at this step will help you figure out what products to sell and how much to charge.
Decide on the best fulfillment method. You can choose to fulfill orders using Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) or choose to fulfill orders yourself. FBA charges a per-unit fee, and this includes services like picking and packing your orders, shipping, handling, returns, etc. Fees are based on the weight and dimensions of your items. If you fulfill orders yourself, Amazon will charge shipping rates based on the product category and shipping service selected by the customer.
Black Friday Cyber Monday 2021 is coming fast, so be sure to get all your BFCM ducks in a row. For starters, ensure that your store is prepared for the holiday rush. Stock the right products, optimize your website, and bring in additional team members if necessary. You should also map out your promotional and communication strategy by figuring what messages to send and through which channels. It may also help to consider online marketplaces as they’ve proven to be effective in attracting shoppers.
Good luck and we hope you have a profitable BFCM season ahead!
Madara is a content marketer for the Printful Blog. Her background in linguistics and belief in the power of SEO come in handy when she’s creating content that inspires ecommerce store owners and helps them grow their business.