COVID Changes Everything. Even BFCM.
I'm getting professional pictures taken with my daughters today. They're not wearing the dresses I ordered three weeks ago, because they haven't arrived yet. I'm not complaining (my kids are adorable in anything) but it got me thinking about the shipping mess we're likely to see this holiday season.
Nearly every website has an announcement "we're experiencing shipping delays due to Covid-19."
And those delays are real, and widespread.
To put it bluntly, right across North America the mail is slow right now. Adding on holiday volumes to an already stressed mail and courier system might just make it crack.
What does this mean for BFCM this year?
Let's get real. Anything your customers purchase in the height of BFCM madness is unlikely to arrive in time for the holidays.
Couriers typically hire extra staff to help with holiday volume, but warehouses and distribution centres have to follow physical distancing requirements, too. They can't pack those essential buildings like they used to.
If the prospect of angry emails about gifts that didn't arrive on time doesn't convince you, consider these other very real downsides to following the crowd and betting your store’s profitability on BFCM sales:
- Increased Ad Costs: Cost-per-click and cost-per-impression ads skyrocket on BFCM weekend due to increased demand for ad space. Increases vary depending on your industry and keywords, but ad costs going up by 60% are not unusual.
- Email Overwhelm: Your emails about your BFCM sale are more likely to get lost in the absolute tsunami of emails which flood consumer inboxes in late November.
- Server Overload: Because of the pandemic, more people are shopping online than ever. The infrastructure that powers your store—Shopify's servers and app servers—are already at BFCM-level traffic, in September. Everyone is doing their best to prepare for the surge, but these are unprecedented times. Even quickly resolved outages, if they occur, frustrate customers and impact sales.
- The Experts are Overloaded, Too: As a Shopify Expert, I know that BFCM means overtime hours for me, as I help my clients get their stores ready for go-time. If you need a developer to help or troubleshoot on BFCM weekend (and are lucky enough to find someone with time to help), it’ll cost you a pretty penny.
- Think about the Environment: Cyber Monday is the day with the highest level of spending in the year (9.4 Billion sales in a day) and with COVID preventing and deterring people from stores, it may be set to be even bigger this year with customers who would usually shop in-store opting for online retail. During last year's Black Friday Cyber Monday Sales (BFCM), Shopify merchants gained over $2.9 billion in worldwide sales which is up from over $1.8 billion in 2018. Exploding sales mean exploding environmental impacts -- learn more about what you can do about it in Kollectify's MindfulCommerce Community and resources!
- Your Customers Already Know What They'll Buy: Data suggests that 33% of shoppers decide their purchases prior to BFCM, but are waiting for a sale to make the purchase. If that sale comes earlier, they'll buy earlier too.
Beat The Crowds, and Make Sure Your Packages Arrive: Run Your Big Sale in Early November
Having your sale before the big holiday rush is going to make all the difference this year.
Make it really clear to your customers that you want to make sure that their gifts arrive in time for Christmas. Announce that to make this happen, you'll be offering your big holiday sale on ____ weekend, instead of on BFCM weekend. Stress that you’re offering the same awesome once-a-year discounts, but just earlier this year, because #2020. Make it clear that you won't be doing BFCM this year, because you care about making sure the packages arrive on time.
Imagine. By mid-November, you could have all your packages shipped and—for once—you can enjoy the holidays too!
Have an eggnog for me—I'll be busy, I'm sure, helping store owners through their BFCM hiccups.
But, Will My Sales Take a Hit?
Fair question. Clearly, no one has a crystal ball for 2020. Bucking a trend (like moving BFCM up a few weeks) is a gamble. But this year, I think that waiting until the end of November to ship holiday gifts is the bigger gamble. Who wants to spend January processing returns?
And it's likely that your high-value customers—the ones who know and love your brand—will be thrilled to get their shopping done early while taking advantage of your biggest sales.
Customers who wait until BFCM are typically the real bargain hunters anyways, lower-value customers concerned only with getting the best deal and little else. You can't build a profitable business on those customers. And, don't forget -- you didn't build this business by doing the same things as everyone else, anyway.
Online shopping skyrocketed in March, and it hasn't slowed down. We're approaching a holiday season that's likely to break records. Plan ahead, and you'll be sitting pretty—and enjoying the holidays—come December.