How Will Black Friday Be Different for CPGs during the Pandemic?

Hearing the phrase ‘Black Friday’ instantly conjures images of shoppers lining up outside in the cold, charging into department stores, and squabbling over discounted plasma TVs. But soon, these snapshots of the day after Thanksgiving will be a thing of the past. 

Things are changing –– and as a CPG company, going into Black Friday, you need to be flexible and able to adapt to the current landscape.

More and more, shoppers seeking Black Friday deals are choosing to do all the hard work online. Why would you go out and join throngs of people when you can get the same bargains from the comfort of your couch with a single click?

A digital render of a white shopping bag with the words 'Thank you for shopping with us (online)' written in red

Even before 2020, the rate of digital sales was steadily increasing. Then the COVID pandemic really ramped things up.

Consumers spent a massive $791.70 billion online with U.S. merchants, according to U.S. Department of Commerce figures. That’s up an incredible 32.4% year over year –– more than double the 15.1% jump in 2019.

And it doesn’t look like the trend is going anywhere – in July 2021, global ecommerce sales were 24% higher than pre-pandemic levels.

That means that now more than ever, brands need to be focusing on ensuring they have a strong and stable online presence. We’re heading into the biggest shopping period of the year –– Black Friday, Cyber Monday, holiday shopping and January sales –– so let’s take a look at what you can do to ensure your CPG business is booming now when it counts.

How CPGs can prepare for Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales online

From revamping your website, focusing on your social presence, and boosting your ecommerce capabilities, here’s a checklist of things to get started on.

Website maintenance 101 for CPGs this Black Friday

Whether you’re a direct-to-consumer player or just using your website as a source of info on your product, websites still play a crucial role for CPGs.

Streamline your web experience

The quality of your website is key for making a good first impression, and can lead to higher customer retention and up-selling. If your pages are clunky and look like they’re straight out of early ‘00s internet, chances are users will navigate away pretty quickly. But a site with an intuitive layout and clear links is an instant crowd-pleaser.

Remember that your website is an extension of your brand! Lean into using your brand voice across the site, weaving in your logo and signature colors.

Test, test, and test again!

Put yourself in your customers’ shoes and try to complete a ‘journey’ online — be it purchasing your CPG or just finding an ingredients list. Can you identify any issues, like hard-to-find information, grainy images, broken links, or slow loading times? 

Do everything you can to make the experience of online shopping with your CPG as smooth and enjoyable as possible.

The coding symbol </> in red against a pink and purple background

Check out your checkout

If you do sell via your website, what’s the checkout situation like on your website? Every online retailer’s worst nightmare is an abandoned cart, but that’s easily avoided if you make the checkout process as simplified as possible. 

Fair shipping costs are also a fast way to improve your cart abandonment rate. Also, make sure that all your Black Friday/Cyber Monday discount codes and sales prices are working!

Boost ecommerce capabilities

This one is major. You can’t advertise a sale to thousands of people, only for your website to crash once more than 20 users try to buy something at the same time. Ensuring your website will maintain peak performance is essential if you want customers to complete their sales journey. 

Getting a 404 Error when trying to input card details or fill a shopping cart is frustrating, and likely to make your customers turn to a competitor instead. Before Black Friday and the peak holiday shopping period hits, you must be sure that you’re able to offer your customers the most secure and reliable experience –– on both mobile and desktop.

Don’t worry, you don’t need to recruit 100 friends to run a test on your site’s capacities. There are a lot of tools out there to help you test page speed and metrics monitoring.

Work on your socials

There’s a massive correlation between social media and shopping decisions. More than half of shoppers say they’re influenced by social media ads and a whopping 90% of people buy from brands they follow on social media.

Most of the time, shoppers — especially Gen Z and Millennials — will check a brand’s social media page before completing a sale. It’s a quick and easy way to suss out a brand, see what it’s all about, see what the products look like, and gauge its popularity. 

Take time now to clean up your social pages. Post images that are visually appealing, add captions that tell customers who you are and what your brand is about, and integrate Instagram shopping into your account if it’s relevant.

Check out our guides to promoting your CPG on Instagram and Facebook if you need some ideas!

A close up of a cell phone showing the 'Social' menu and logos, with a purple screen background

Be as visible as possible

In the online world of targeted ads and algorithmic content, customers expect to be presented with products they want and need, rather than having to go searching for it. 

Through social media ads, sponsored influencer content, and online marketplaces, you have an opportunity to get your product in front of a huge amount of potential customers. 

Offer discounts to existing customers

A recent survey found that half of consumers will feel excited if they receive an exclusive offer or service. You already have the email addresses of everyone who’s shopped with you, so reward them for their loyalty: this could be free shipping, a 10% discount on top of sales, or early access to deals.

Many shoppers plan out their Black Friday sales purchases ahead of time. Notifying people of the discount ahead of time will bring your brand back to the top of their minds, adding you as a viable option to their shopping list.

Refine your SEO strategy

Did you know that search engines are responsible for 39% of product discovery? That’s more than targeted ads, in-store presence, and brand apps or websites. Search engines are powerful!

And now that we’re heading into the holiday season, people are constantly searching for the perfect gift for everyone in their lives. And that means more Googling than ever! It’s the perfect time to work on your SEO strategy.

Creating articles and blog posts for your website — even just a handful — can bring huge amounts of traffic to your page. It’s all about using the right keywords and answering the questions that people are already asking. 

Read your reviews and address any issues

More than half of online shoppers read at least four product reviews prior to buying a product. There’s a good chance that a lot of potential customers will make their final purchasing decision based on reviews from other users. 

So, how is your review game looking? You don’t want people looking up your products and seeing a bunch of one-star reviews. Clean up what you can if needed, and be sure to respond to and rectify any issues that come up in your reviews.

Poll your customers to identify any pain points

It’s a good idea to tap into your existing customer base to find out their sentiments about your brand. Hearing about any issues with your ecommerce process and customer service is always better straight from the horse’s mouth. 

Listening to customers’ feedback and conducting small surveys can be very fruitful when it comes to predicting what will happen this holiday season. Iron out any kinks and celebrate your strengths before things get hectic!

A magnifying glass against a plain blue background

Check out your competition

Be aware of what everyone else in your market niche is doing, and has done in the past, for Black Friday sales. How did your competition do last year? Where did they go right and where do you think they went wrong? And more importantly, what can you do to be better? Is there a gap in the market that you can jump on to stand out from the crowd?

Analyze your data

As a brand, customer care is your most valuable asset. Without customers, there are no sales: it’s that simple. Use trends from previous years or research market predictions from analysts to help inform your sales strategy. 

Through shopping data, customer shopping habits tracking, social media interactions, and other indicators, retailers can identify patterns and learn how to best suit those patterns during sales events.

Maybe the majority of your sales go through in the morning –– offer customers an early bird discount if they shop before 9am. Or if you get the most social media engagement on Sundays, save your posts announcing sales or new products until then. 

Sometimes though, you can’t do it all yourself...

That’s where we come in. Buffalo Market is a leading distributor of purpose-driven food and beverage brands, and we help small CPG companies get off the ground by getting their product in front of consumers. 

We can give you the boost you need to get up and running; getting picked for distribution in big retail stores and online. We’ll even help you merchandise effectively too!

Check us out today for more info.

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