It's that time of the year.
Enticing brand messaging, momentary desire, slashed prices, the fear of missing out. One day — the Friday after Thanksgiving in the United States — has now stretched into over a week of sales. From Single's Day on Nov. 11 to Black Week to Cyber Monday in the tracks of the Black Friday sales.
That's a great deal of discounts, and it's not only the consumers who have a part to play and resist the craze for the sake of ethical consumption and sustainability.
Here's the harsh truth — we believe that e-comm retailers should no longer encourage and depend on Black Friday order volumes and we'll show you why.
Reducing the environmental impact, meeting customer expectations, driving conscious consumerism, achieving sustainable growth — online retailers have the opportunity to do it all. It’s now up to them to shape the future of sustainable e-commerce and support consumers in making informed purchase decisions.
Wanting more, better off with less
It is estimated that more than 100 billion garments are produced each year, only to be thrown away or burnt the same year.
Let that sink in for a moment.
Someone needs to take a stand, and it cannot be exclusively up to the consumers. So long as retail practices like Black Friday exist, we'll have a long way to go.
"When we buy into Black Friday deals, we are sending a message to brands that we are happy for them to continue to mindlessly produce more and more clothing."
Carry Somers, Co-Founder and Global Operations Director at Fashion Revolution
Black Week sales are dropping
As it happens, e-commerce retail relies on external investments that expect high order volumes. Conventionally, business practices like Black Friday help e-comm stores improve the company's bottom line before the year's end and boost profit margins as they scale.
— Even when we speak to well-intentioned brands they confess they’re stuck in the system that keeps them beholden to fighting for growth and use of retail tricks like discounting, August Bard-Bringéus, Co-Founder of ASKET, says.
Every year, the fashion industry needs to go through the excess inventory, and — if it doesn't end up in a landfill — it's the festive season that conventionally solves the problem.
The thing is: All that was doable when we believed that the COVID-19 surge of e-commerce would be the industry's 'new normal'.
Today, with inflation at an all-time high, e-comm brands are facing many issues caused by overly optimistic growth estimates, while shoppers are becoming more price- and environmentally conscious.
In such a tough economic climate, Black Friday sales are not a given anymore.
Black Friday discounting boycott
The times are changing. Forward-thinking e-comm brands got the chance to make environmental sustainability the industry standard — beyond ethical production, packaging, and transportation emissions — by rewiring the e-comm ecosystem into business models that create sustainable growth and meaningful shopping experience.
— Despite the science and a general awakening to the ecological crisis we’re in, businesses and consumers together continue to perpetuate the overproduction-and-overconsumption society that is the very cause of this crisis, August Bard-Bringéus continues.
While most e-commerce companies are beginning their Black Friday campaigns earlier than ever before to ramp up the end-of-the-year demand, others make the headlines by boycotting the craze and shutting down stores.
Let's look at some of the successful anti-Black Friday campaigns that got many of us talking.
Fashion brands that are not doing Black Friday
Patagonia's been championing anti-Black Friday campaigns even before it was cool, way back in 2011. It all started with The New York Times ad for the brand's jacket with a short message — don't buy it.
"Businesses need to make fewer things but of higher quality. Customers need to think twice before they buy."
Black Friday statement by Patagonia, 2011
— We really believe that Black Friday, as a concept, is really unhealthy [...]. Consuming for the sake of consuming is completely opposite of where we need to go as a society, Jenna Johnson, head of Patagonia, told InStyle.
The Black Friday message, used as an opportunity to draw attention to the environmental impact of the fashion industry and encourage conscious consumption, was the first but not the last to go viral. It had also caused a fair share of criticism over greenwashing and shaming of the fashion industry Patagonia's been part of.
Whether we like it or not, you can't argue that Patagonia jackets last as long as three average fashion products, which does give the campaign credibility.
When there were all signs we'd forgotten what timeless clothing essentials actually mean, ASKET was born to introduce a permanent, timeless collection of mindfully produced pieces.
In the name of the brand's philosophy — the pursuit of less — ASKET will be shutting down its online store during Black Friday for the sixth year in a row. Last year, in 2021, they went as far as closing the doors to their physical storefront in central Stockholm.
"Businesses and consumers together continue to perpetuate the overproduction-and-overconsumption society [...] Someone needs to take a stand."
August Bard-Bringéus, Co-Founder of ASKET
Some among ASKET's dedicated consumer base, overwhelmed by the aggressive Black Friday messaging all around, felt a breath of fresh air as they watched their favorite brand press pause amid the craze. Others seemed frustrated over being unable to fulfill their wish lists and take advantage of discounted prices.
The truth is, in order to start shifting heedless business practices and consumption habits, the most powerful thing would be to sell nothing at all. That's conscious consumption in practice, and Black Friday presents a perfect opportunity to lead by example.
In 2019, Monki said goodbye to Black Fridays. The Swedish brand — known for creative street style, bold colors, cute-but-chic patterns, and community empowerment — continues to operate business as usual, both online and in stores, without offering any Black Week deals. They call it Black Fri-Nay, an impressive move that sent ripples through the world of Scandinavian fashion and Monki's loyal community.
"Monki wants to be part of the solution, not the problem, and we’d love for you to join us on this journey."
Black Friday statement by Monki, 2019
Monki opted out of the Black Friday sales in three consecutive years since 2019, so we're expecting them to do so again in 2022. Instead, dedicated newsletter subscribers may notice discounts and attractive deals available all year long.
If you want to make a statement, there's another anti-Black Friday campaign strategy you may consider. Shoe brand Allbirds has taken a different route and instead of offering steep discounts, they raised prices across the entire collection, albeit not to the extent you may have imagined.
Back in 2020, every product was one US dollar more expensive on Black Friday and matched with another dollar by the brand, with all the extra money raised going to Greta Thunberg's international climate movement Fridays For Future.
"We believe that business can be a force for good, and balancing purpose with profit is the future of commerce."
Black Friday statement by Allbirds, 2020
What to do instead of Black Friday campaigns
If you're figuring out what to do instead of Black Friday, you need to have a deep understanding of your company’s capabilities in order to know what you can and cannot do.
Whether you choose a viral wake-up call, donate extra funds to charity, stop Friday sales or keep it business as usual, that's a long-term environmental question but a short-term impact within the doors of your e-commerce brand.
The past couple of years have been anything but normal. Based on the international data we're seeing, previously huge end-of-the-year sales seem to be transforming into the tipping point of sustainable e-commerce.
"Pendulums have a tendency to swing back, and what we’re seeing now is that the surge we saw during COVID-19 is actually settling and going back to levels that are more in line with the pre-pandemic times."
Anders Ekman, COO and Co-Founder at Ingrid
Rough times call for forward-thinking measures. Why not approach the Black Week sales with some reservations and consider a long-term strategy?
Here's an idea. It's likely that the way your delivery experience exists today leaves many opportunities untapped.
Steady profit from your delivery experience (including an optimized delivery checkout, data-driven delivery pricing, and reduced shipping costs) can bring the margins needed to run a successful e-commerce business — just the same as a big Black Friday/Cyber Monday campaign.
Focus on your delivery experience
A high, unexpected delivery cost; a lack of shipping carriers or preferred methods of last-mile delivery; poor order tracking or a lengthy delivery promise… They can all lead to cart abandonment or stand in the way of repeat purchases.
Don’t just take our word for it:
"85% of online shoppers say that a poor delivery experience would prevent them from ordering from that online retailer again."
IPSOS, Europe, 2022
For many consumers, delivery options can make or break the whole online shopping experience. Some shoppers will be looking to have items delivered quickly, others as cheaply as possible.
You need to meet all types of customer needs, re-think your delivery offer and continue adding new carrier products all the while.
Keep your customers coming back, should they need something else.
Experiment to set your optimal delivery pricing strategy
If you're not sure where to start, consider your related shipping costs and combine multiple delivery methods to determine which one will work best for you (and your customers).
One common rate structure would be to set free shipping criteria for a certain shopping cart value. You can combine it with a fixed delivery rate across all products if they are fairly similar in dimensions, or groups of products.
Many businesses find it challenging to set up a free shipping threshold, though, especially without any data insights. The good news is: Your delivery offer could be easily A/B tested if you're using a delivery platform like Ingrid. If not, there’s a workaround.
Based on your Average Order Value (AOV), you could charge a flat rate for orders under 50 EUR (for example) to get the delivery costs back, and provide free delivery for orders over 50 EUR. If your typical order size is 30 EUR, this delivery strategy should be beneficial for your e-commerce business.
The idea is to encourage your consumers to add more to their cart in order to reach free delivery — and judging by the results achieved by Ingrid's customers, the strategy works.
Reduce shipping costs
Apart from experimenting with delivery pricing, you should also try negotiating a better price with carrier companies and redirecting your orders to those carriers who make the most sense business-wise.
Well-thought-out carrier & transportation management means optimized resources, time, effort, and costs. In fact, a TMS Market Research Study from Arc Advisory Group showed that the majority of companies using such systems report an increase in freight savings.
Depending on your needs and the software you choose, there are at least a few TMS features you can leverage to reduce shipping costs, including Ingrid's Automated Booking Rules. When booking shipments, you can set automated rules to choose the most suitable carrier product for the job (the least expensive, the most reliable, the fastest, or the most sustainable delivery option, for example).
The trick is to find the right TMS software for your needs.
"When you think about it, tasks like generating labels or uploading EDI files are not very complex. Lower value should mean lower costs — if that’s not exactly the case, ask your TMS software provider for a business case that justifies what you pay for it."
Anders Ekman, COO & Co-Founder at Ingrid
Start making a profit on deliveries
Black Friday sales? Why not transform delivery into a competitive advantage instead — with highly differentiated prices and options to lower the cost pressure of logistics actually make some profit on deliveries, which has not been the case for many years.
If you're looking for the right technology solution to handle and improve your delivery experience, look no further. Book a demo to learn how Ingrid can help your e-comm business start making profits on delivery.