This year has had more than its fair share of unprecedented challenges from the individual, to the enterprise, and the society at large. Without doubt, Black Friday 2020 will be radically different as well under the prevailing circumstances. For many, the uncertain future presents obstacles to be overcome but for the insightful and unafraid, the future holds an opportunity to be owned.
Where is the line drawn? What makes the victorious ecommerce enterprise come out with stronger Black Friday online sales over its competitors? Will offering the best Black Friday deals be enough to stay profitable?
What is the Black Friday Controversy?
‘Black Friday’ is a term that has taken on a very different connotation before evolving into that retail goldmine as we know it today.
Based on a popular account, the phrase was first coined by Philadelphia police in the 1950s. The story goes, it was in reference to the huge crowds that flocked the city on the day following Thanksgiving. This was in time for the Army-Navy football match and visitors also took the opportunity to go shopping.
This caused streets to become congested and the Philadelphia Police, reportedly, weren’t allowed to take a leave on this day. Every year, the police expected this mass gathering that, eventually, they started calling the day, “Black Friday”.
Black Friday Becomes a Key Date for Retail
Nobody saw this event’s significant retail potential until the 1980s. Retailers started to take advantage of Thanksgiving weekend when families, relatives, and friends gathered around and were in a festive mood. Black Friday marked the start of the holiday season when people spent more for themselves and for gifting.
The hype around this weekend expanded over the years to include online retail almost as soon as ecommerce came around in the 1990s. Then, seeing the huge success of Black Friday, Cyber Monday was also founded as a campaign for online retailers to take advantage of this peak in consumer spending. Both events were adopted in other overseas markets that also brought huge profits for retailers.
Do Consumers Still Embrace Black Friday?
Retailers raked in huge profits on Black Friday until 2015 when the curve started descending. By 2019, only 36% of consumers participated in the sale event. For one, the sale events became severely dispersed as more and more retailers presented their discount offers much earlier over the years. Consequently, consumers were done with holiday shopping before Thanksgiving.
A report by SurveyMonkey offers more details explaining this declining interest for Black Friday;
- 81% of shoppers stopped participating due to overcrowding in stores
- The same percentage do not consider it as a tradition
- Most of the shoppers surveyed think Black Friday “sucks,” and is “chaotic,” “stressful,” and “ridiculous”
These reasons point out only superficial reasons for the declining consumer interest over Black Friday online sales. The true reason could be rooted in the very core of ecommerce itself, one that has been questioned since its inception -- ethics (or the lack thereof).
The Ethical Consumer
It took a while for ecommerce to become popularized, despite the convenience it offered consumers. The underlying reasons had much to do with trust. To this date, online store owners must recognize that they need to earn a reputation for being trustworthy. While client testimonials used to be enough, today’s smarter, always-wired consumer demands more.
Changing Consumer Behaviors
The combination of the Internet of Things, disruption, ecommerce, and realization of the human vulnerability presented by the COVID-19 pandemic has radically changed what consumers want and value. They no longer want to just own the best buy on Black Friday at the lowest price. Today’s ethical consumer is more complex than ever.
Here’s a snapshot of what changed:
- EY found that 50% of consumers anticipate a changed future, majority of whom will become more price-sensitive and health-conscious.
- PwC found that more consumers are shopping online, 45% using their mobile phones, while 41% using a computer. Other findings:
- 86% of those who shop for their groceries online plan to keep doing so after the pandemic
- 43% of consumers expect business to integrate sustainability in its operations to care for the environment
- McKinsey reports that consumers who value sustainability have become double-stranded -- more developed economies place more value on this concept while less developed economies have downgraded their sustainability standards.
- Accenture reveals 61% of consumers are more mindful of their buying choices. More are shopping local and make “sustainable or ethical purchases”.
- KPMG anticipates consumers will value brand purpose more and that 64% will boycott brands that do not share their social or political views, in matters such as diversity and sustainability. This is further demonstrated in the steadily growing shift to buy local and willingness to pay more if it costs more than a well-known brand.
The findings and recommendations of think tanks all point to the growing importance of doing good. But, it goes deeper, the emerging consumer is demanding more ethical business practices that care about their personal welfare, and that of other people and the environment as well.
Checklist of Ethical Practices Every Online Store Must Follow
What the current consumer is demanding may sound like a tall order. However, ethics in business is not a new concept. Just because your online store is operating on an ecommerce platform, that does not change how your web-based business should be played.
So, given the changing psyche of the consumer, you better go beyond merely coming up with the best Black Friday deals to give them what they need the most to earn their valuable trust and their business.
Here are the key things you need to do to integrate ethics at the core of your online store:
Sell with Security
You have to give your prospective customers confidence to shop on your store. You must know that getting your online store to run on “https” is just the beginning. Although, making sure your customers can shop on your store securely does not have to be complicated.
You can either choose your own hosting provider or set up your online store with Shopify. Shopify offers you with every possible functionality that makes it easy for buyers to shop while also making it easy for you to manage your online store. More importantly, Shopify offers secure web hosting necessary to establish secure, web-based transactions.
You should also post a Privacy and Security Statement on your website that details how you will be using all the personal information you will be collecting from your buyers. Make sure to provide them with the option to opt-in or opt-out of your email list, site cookies, and other marketing communications campaigns you are planning to pursue.
Follow Laws Pertaining to Online Selling
Never take business laws and regulations lightly. Practice due diligence in your online business operations and make sure you are compliant. Some of the most basic laws you should closely follow include laws pertaining to:
- Business licensing and permits
- Truth in advertising
- Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act
- Sale of alcohol to minors
- Anti-fencing laws
- Laws on counterfeits
- Trademarks, patents, and Intellectual Property Rights
Now that consumers are shopping more from sellers who value the same principles as they do, you need to increase transparency on how you do your business. Make sure you are being 100% genuine and truthful when presenting information about your brand, products, and team.
Your buyers want to know what their money is paying for. It pays to build a brand around values that resonate with your prospective clients. But, do not invent it. Make sure you are authentic down to your supply chain.
Create an Appropriate Representation of Your Store
Trust earns your customer’s business and loyalty. Loyalty, in turn, is the cornerstone of a sustainable business.
Do not try to impress your customers by showing them you have a strong investor backing when you’re really a sole entrepreneur managing a personal brand. Show them real photos of your work space. The first step to manage your customer’s expectations is by introducing your brand, product, company or yourself just the way it is.
Manage Customer Expectations
This also entails detailing your shopping and return policies. Make sure to present this information every time your customer checks out.
Be intricately knowledgeable about current events in your area that may affect your supply chain and delivery schedule, such as shipping delays experienced during Black Friday Online Sales.
As much as you try to anticipate unfavorable circumstances and have mitigating measures ready, however, sometimes things just go wrong. Make sure to inform and involve your customers in deciding what to do next as much as possible. You can ask if your customer is willing to wait, and you may give them an option to cancel if they’re not.
Build Shared Value
Run a business with a purpose. Consumers will be placing more value on business purposes.
If you are running a vegan food delivery store, for instance, your vegan clientele will expect you to be a staunch advocate for animal rights. Go the extra mile to find out what your customers care about.
Meet your customers expectations, honor your commitments at every step of your business but make sure that you stay genuine and authentic because people will always know the truth. You don’t want to be caught red-handed.
Setup Effective Communications Channels
Knowing the best touchpoints to reach your customers is key to make sure that you keep doing business with them and, most importantly, that they don’t forget you.
It’s not enough that you have social accounts across every social media platform, for instance. What matters more is that you are present in communities where your customers are engaged.
The only way to be intimate with your customers and get to know them better is by having a clear Customer Relationship Management strategy. With a powerful CRM tool like Gorgias, you can track how well you are performing across KPIs that affect your relationship with your customers and that have implications on your bottom line, such as:
- Number of complaints closed in a single ticket
- Resolution Time
- Retention Rate
- Number of sign-ups
- Value of sales generated
Pay Your Taxes in Full
Here’s why: you have to walk the talk! You can’t be marketing a brand that promotes the welfare of society’s most vulnerable, for example, and not pay your taxes. Taxes fund social programs and you want to be a staunch advocate of that.
Why Choose to be an Ethical Online Seller?
Ethical business practices were never meant to be confined to mature enterprises. With the growing role of ecommerce and the increasing importance of online sellers, regardless of size, in fuelling the economy, consumers demand more. Online sellers that place a premium on survival as its goal can care less about ethics but those who are aiming for sustainability cannot afford to neglect it.
At a time when people have less to spend and fewer shoppers are expected to hold on to their hard-earned dollar come Black Friday 2020, the prospects of selling at all could be quite daunting. One thing that can set your online store apart is by being ethical.
People will be looking for sellers they can trust. If you can set up your store and your entire operations around the basic ethical business practices detailed in this post then you’ll be one step ahead of the competition.
Here are just some of the benefits you can reap when you choose to run an ethical ecommerce business:
- You become genuine
- Your brand earns authenticity
- You operate with integrity
- You take accountability for your business actions
- Your business serves a purpose
- You strike a value that resonates with your target clients
- You earn the respect of the public and communities relevant to your business
- Your marketing and communications campaigns are value-driven and bring your message closer to home that your customers can relate to
- Your business is protected from ethical and legal liabilities
- You build on the foundation for sustainability
The most important benefit, of course, is that you stay profitable and help ensure your business stays strong and resilient. That means, with ethics, your online store will likely rake in more Black Friday Online Sales. If your customers do not immediately grow significantly, subscribing to ethical business practices will promote better customer retention that eventually sustains your business in the long run.