The days are becoming shorter and the temperatures colder - this heralds not only the arrival of winter, but also the so-called “peak season”. For merchants, this goes hand in hand with the start of the Christmas shopping season, the most lucrative time of the year. Consumers shop like crazy and as a merchant it is a case of pulling out all the stops here to stand out against the competition and to capture as large a chunk of the sales as possible. In this blog article, not only will you find out all about the most important days of the peak season but also how you can best prepare for them.
1) The most important days of the peak season
1) The most important days of the peak season in ecommerce
So that you can be fully prepared, we’ll introduce the most important days of the 2021 peak season for you in chronological order.
Halloween on 31 October 2021
Halloween takes place on 31 October every year. It originated in Ireland and also has a long tradition in the USA. According to a survey by the National Retail Foundation, Americans spent a whopping 9.1 billion dollars on Halloween in 2017, which was a record year . In Germany, on the other hand, only one tenth of people think Halloween is important . And of course, the coronavirus pandemic has presumably dampened down the hype a little. However, it might be worthwhile for certain segments to use a little of their marketing budget here. Sweets, decorations and costumes are promising products, which are typically popular at Halloween with younger people or families with children.
Singles Day on 11 November 2021
Singles Day is not as well known here as in China, its country of origin. In a survey among online marketplace merchants in 2018, only 27.7% of the respondents said they knew about Singles Day . However, that might quickly change in view of the sales which ecommerce giants such as Alibaba make with campaigns for Singles Day. Specifically, in the last year, Alibaba realised a huge GMV of 74.1 billion US dollars. This was almost double the previous year when the GMV was 38.4 billion US dollars .
So what actually is Singles Day? Singles Day takes place on 11 November each year. The reason: the number 1 is said to symbolise the unattached, which is why many single parties take place on this day in China. However, at the same time, 11/11 is also a date on which many weddings are held. Irrespective of whether this causes heartache to singles or leads to satisfied singledom: both can best be countered or celebrated with bargain-hunting. It was therefore a clever move by Alibaba in 2009 to create Singles Day as a promotional day with many discounts. There have already been a few campaigns in Europe as well. Will you be joining them?
BFCM: Black Friday and Cyber Monday on 26 and 29 November
Black Friday originated in America and always occurs on the Friday after Thanksgiving. This day thus falls on the fourth Friday in November each time, so this year it is on 26 November. Black Friday is therefore always a bridging day in the USA too and is typically used to encourage the first wave of Christmas shopping. Merchants have reinforced this behaviour by offering temptation with greatly reduced offers.
There are different theories on where the name Black Friday came from. For example, perhaps because the record sales on the day after Thanksgiving ensure that the merchants’ hands are black from counting money. But also Black Friday, which is perhaps the best day of the year for sales, offers merchants the chance to move out of the red and to finally go into the black after all their investments. The term was also around in the 1960s – and in fact was used by the police. It is assumed that they used the term because on the days after Thanksgiving there were typically large groups of people bustling about in and around the shops, on the pavements and in the streets and they looked like a black mass from the distance.
But it is not only the Friday after Thanksgiving which has been given a name. The Monday following the Black Friday weekend has been known as Cyber Monday for several years now. Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined are also increasingly being abbreviated as BFCM.
Originally, Black Friday was established as an event for bricks and mortar trade, which is why Cyber Monday was considered to be the digital equivalent with the focus on online trade. It goes without saying that these boundaries are becoming blurred with the growing popularity of online shopping. So it is no wonder that many merchants have decided to offer discount promotions over a longer period. For example, one or two have Black Week(s) or even a Black Month, which extends throughout the whole of November.
In comparison with Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday, Black Friday is still the most popular promotional day, however. This is also demonstrated by a survey in the USA on the topic.And overall the survey indicates the upward trend of the sales figures on the promotional days in comparison with previous years. In Germany, too, bargain-hunting during the Black Friday period is becoming increasingly popular and more promising for merchants. In 2020, according to a study by Black Friday GmbH, the majority of respondents indicated they would spend over EUR 100 or much more. It is therefore worthwhile preparing attractive offers to potential customers.
Christmas business in December
Whilst Black Friday serves as a kick-start to Christmas trading, it does not mean, however, that less shopping goes on afterwards. According to a survey by FOM from 2020, the majority of consumers shop for Christmas gifts in the period from 1 to 15 December . It is therefore worth having offers to tempt consumers during this period too and important to use campaigns to draw attention to them. Christmas Eve and Christmas Day round off the peak season. This year, Christmas Eve falls on a Friday. Therefore, we assume that the final presents will be ordered the weekend before. Online merchants can go all out one last time with last-minute gift promotions.
Now you have an overview of the most important dates, let us get down to business. For even if you have already started with your peak season planning, there is bound to be something or other that you have not thought of. We have put together important preparation tips for you here. You can also download a compact last-minute checklist here, which summarises the most important points for you to tick off.
2) The best tips for preparing for the peak season in ecommerce
Tip 1: Start early with the planning
There are still a few weeks to go. If you have not yet started planning, it is high time now. And you can set an early reminder in your calendar for next year, to adhere to all tips for which there was no time left this year.
Tip 2: Plan products and discounts in a clever way
Whether it is Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Halloween, Singles Day or St. Nicholas Day: consider carefully which products and discounts are particularly attractive for which promotional days. Would you like to offer individual products, certain categories or your whole range at a reduced price? There is also the opportunity to create your own shop category for the promotional period, in which all offers are clearly presented to customers.
What do you want your discount campaigns to actually look like? Here are a few examples of exciting promotions:
- Fixed or percentage discounts on the entire purchase
- Giving away a free item if the purchase is above a minimum value
- Your customer receives a discount when purchasing a second item
- Your customer buys three items for the price of two
Of course, you can offer discounts of different amounts on your products. Are there products which will soon no longer be current or which have to be sold for other reasons? Then you should offer particularly generous discounts on them to increase sales. It may also prove to be particularly sensible to set an offer to lure customers in, that is, a product which is particularly appealing due to the discount. Promoting this offer will bring a large number of customers to your online shop. They will then discover other products alongside this which will ideally land in their shopping basket.
Tip 3: Advertising pays off
After you have established which products you wish to offer in the peak season sale, you should think about suitable advertising. Which marketing channels would you like to use? It is vital to plan a budget for paid advertising to win new customers. In the following, we list suitable marketing channels which should be considered for advertising your peak season promotion, for example for a Black Week:
Use your reach on social media channels and draw your followers’ attention to your Black Weekend sale, for example.
It can be worth using organic search a few weeks in advance to make people aware of your campaign. For example, create a specific Black Friday landing page in good time and add the relevant images, texts and keywords so that you will be found in search results. If you have integrated a blog or magazine into your shop you can use it to publish relevant articles.
Push your campaign with paid advertising! It can be worth allocating a small budget in order to generate more traffic. For example, you could use adverts on Google or paid advertising on Facebook, Instagram and the like. But watch out: adverts can be more expensive for certain keywords and target audiences during promotional periods.
Use email marketing to keep your existing customers informed of your peak season promotions. Prepare relevant promotional newsletters in good time and provide your customers with a number of teasers for your sale. For example, you could draw attention to your promotion four weeks before it starts and then refer to it again at weekly intervals, giving more insights and arousing curiosity when doing so.
Retargeting is a measure that you should take into account when planning your campaigns for the various channels. In this way, it is not only those who have abandoned their purchase who can be won back. You can also encourage one-off purchasers to take a look at your online shop again. It is best to plan a budget for valuable retargeting from the outset.
Tip 4: Generating visibility via other portals and sales channels
It is best to make the most of channels which have achieved the greatest success with your target group up to now. However, it may also be worth trying out something new? With the peak season just ahead, it might be worthwhile offering your products on other channels and portals too, thereby ensuring more conversions – whether it is on on new sales channels (such as eBay, Amazon, etc.), via social shopping (for example, for Instagram) or on comparison portals (such as idealo). Here you can find out how to link new sales channels with Shopware.
Besides price comparison sites etc., it also offers placements on gift idea sites particularly in the period before Christmas. It may be worthwhile researching a little, contacting website operators and placing your products here which are particularly suitable as gifts. Where appropriate, influencer marketing may also be a sensible measure for you to draw attention to your most original products?
Tip 5: Individuality and originality are required
As soon as you have decided on your marketing channels, set about preparing the banners and texts you need for these channels. Establish a design for your promotion and consider which banner language and texts will most appeal to your target audience. Try to stand out from your competitors here, for you are far from the only merchant trying to tempt consumers to your online shop with attractive offers in the peak season. You may also want to think about creative or attractive packaging, inserts or add-ons to appeal to your customers in the long term when they receive their order. In this way you not only increase the probability of another order but also the recommendation rate.
Tip 6: Prepare your online shop
It is not only important to draw attention to your peak season promotions. It is just as important to convert your shop visitors to customers. To do this successfully you should consider the following points:
Nowadays there is no getting away from a mobile first strategy! It makes sense, particularly before the peak season, to place your shop in test mode and check how well optimised it is for shopping from a smartphone so that changes can be made if necessary.
If it is about cranking up the conversion in your shop when it comes to Black Friday etc., the focus should primarily be on the user experience. Make sure your shop customers are aware of discounts by using striking banners, strikethrough pricing, promotional campaigns or a countdown. A specially designed shopping experience for the Black Friday sale, which is listed in your main navigation, can help here. You can also read about other general tips in the blog Principles of conversion optimisation.
Using push notifications, you can inform your shop visitors optimally about your best promotional deal for Black Friday etc. Our partner etracker tells you in the relevant blog article how to get the most out of the Black Friday peak via push notifications.
Are you satisfied with your online shop search? If not, it may be worthwhile optimising this before the peak season. You can then count on plenty of customers in the shop for your peak season sale. If they are already there, they should quickly find other products which they need, for example, Christmas gifts. Find out from our partner Findologic, how to optimise your on-site search before the peak season.
Highlight category and experience world
So that your customer can quickly access all offers, it is worth creating your own highlight categories to ensure clarity. At the same time, setting up your own experience world for sales promotions offers visual reinforcement. If necessary, look for support here from your Shopware partner to have modifications carried out. As already mentioned, many use the Black Weekend sale to make Christmas purchases. Accordingly, it is worthwhile to prepare your shop visually for Christmas or to provide inspiration for Christmas gifts in the form of experience worlds.
Optimise the checkout process
Minimal clicks up to online payment, transparency with regard to shipping/additional costs, and flexible payment methods are three aspects which ensure a smooth checkout process and result in fewer abandoned shopping baskets. Our partner Mollie has put together other tips worth reading for checkout optimisation. You should look at these to further prepare for Black Week and Cyber Week.
Offer payment in instalmentsShopping baskets tend to be fuller in the peak season. According to the IFH study “Shopping 2020”, one in ten customers prefer to pay in instalments if the value of their shopping basket exceeds EUR 500. Consider offering payment by instalments if you do not currently do so.
Tip 7: Performance check – can your shop withstand the increase in traffic?
There is barely anything more annoying for your customers than long loading times or a shop website that they can’t even access. Many customers research the various discounts available online well in advance of Black Friday and Cyber Monday in order to obtain the best price. In any case, you should expect an increased number of visitors to your shop on these peak days. Such a high traffic volume can affect loading times, order notifications or updating of the stock.
It is best to seek support from experienced experts. They can explain to you what is important on such days. With the help of analysis you can recognise the strengths and weaknesses of your shop and increase server capacity if required so that everything runs smoothly in the peak season. Speak to your hosting partner in good time so that everything works without hitches from a technical performance perspective. In principle, you will feel more comfortable if a developer or Shopware partner is available to you in an emergency and can quickly help out with technical problems.
Tip 8: Fulfilment and service
Customers are becoming more demanding when it comes to shipping and service. Besides this, they appreciate transparency with regard to return guidelines and shipping costs. Ensure that these are made clear and are communicated in a comprehensible way. We recommend offering different shipping options to meet various customer requirements. Make sure that you can keep to what you promise. Be sure that your shipping providers can adhere to the delivery dates. It is also advisable to take out additional shipping insurance. As there are usually increased customer queries and return processes in the peak season, we recommend hiring more service employees. Live chat or a chatbot can decrease the pressure and provide better service here. Your customers receive assistance quickly and straightforwardly, without having to pick up the phone or wait for an email response.We wish you every success and a lucrative peak season!
3) Get the last-minute checklist for the peak season
So that you can keep an eye on everything that is important, why not download our last-minute checklist free of charge?