Retail Communication Strategies For Black Friday and Cyber Monday

Nov 23, 2020 Kate Riley

Black Friday and Cyber Monday aren’t going to feel much different from one another this year. With the vast majority of U.S. states implementing stricter safe distancing mandates, the notion of waiting in lines for in-person doorbuster deals at your favorite big box store seems pretty far-fetched. Though some consumers still plan to shop in-person, retailers are preparing for a much different shopping experience this season. 

According to Adobe, holiday shopping is predicted to be 33 percent higher this year. Retailers should make sure their communications and marketing strategies put their COVID-19-related policies and updates front and center, leveraging email, social media and earned media to proactively reach customers. As consumers evaluate their shopping strategy, here are a few things they will want to hear from brands before considering a purchase:

In-Store Safety Measures

Though many consumers will opt for online shopping this season, 34 percent of respondents in a recent survey from Numerator indicated they will conduct at least some of their holiday shopping in physical stores. It’s important for retailers to communicate what they’re doing to make shopping safe to ensure customers feel comfortable and also protect employees from exposure.

They’ll need to know things like how you will manage crowds, what your shopping hours look like, changing room policies and mask policies. Will you have masks and sanitizer on hand if needed? 

Shipping and Pickup options

With 90 percent of consumers planning on at least some online shopping this year (according to Numerator), shipping volumes are expected to hit record levels. Combined with the challenges COVID-19 is causing in supply chains and shipping times, retailers need to be very up front with customers about shipping times, cut-off dates and alternative options.

For example, will you offer curbside or in-store pickup? Can you provide free shipping incentives for early purchases and slower shipping choices? Do your customers have a very clear sense of cut-off dates (ideally padded in anticipation of unplanned delays) so they receive their gifts in time for the holiday?

Return Policies

Just as important as communicating shipping information is sharing return information. More online shopping means a bigger gamble by consumers in terms of selecting the right sizes and receiving a product that meets their expectations based on the online information. Even with the best ongoing shopping experience and guidance, consumers are likely to buy more than they intend to keep or different versions of the same product in order to personally evaluate the best option. With that, retailers should prepare for a higher volume of returns throughout, and just following, the holiday season.

Retailers are already starting to get creative. Simon Malls is working with Narvar to accept returns on behalf of two dozen brands with one stop. Many retailers are also turning to shipping management tools like AfterShip and Shippo that help streamline the logistics of printing shipping and return labels, as well as identifying the best shipping option by cost and speed. With these tools, retailers can easily offer their customers free return labels and return options (such as easy drop-off at a carrier’s retail location) for managing returns.

Letting customers know ahead of time what they can expect when it comes to returns may make them more comfortable completing a purchase with you. 

Making the Season Feel Special

Most shoppers know that sitting on Santa’s lap or spending a day browsing the mall is not in the cards this year. But they are still looking for ways to make this season special, and brands have an opportunity to help. Whether it’s developing creative email and communications campaigns designed to celebrate the season, offering personal shopping support or creating special deals to make online shopping as enjoyable and fruitful as possible, think about the small (and large ways) you can play a role in the spirit of the season. Building appreciation and loyalty among customers feeling the stress of the pandemic and economy will go a long way in strengthening your brand and developing trust that will last beyond the season.

Communicating around these important topics this holiday season will be more important than ever as the retail sector works to adapt to a shopping season like none we’ve seen before. Encouraging consumers to shop early, plan for safe store visits and adequate shipping times will go a long way in reassuring your customers and easing the challenges of this year.

Kate Riley

Kate is the Pacific Northwest general manager of Inkhouse. She resides in Seattle with her husband and two young children.

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