2021 BFCM Checklist Shopify Plus - Velstar - Velstar

2021 BFCM Checklist

Shopify Plus, Technology

16/11/2021

How to Prepare Your Store for a Successful Black Friday & Cyber Monday 2021

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Introduction

For ecommerce businesses, Black Friday Cyber Monday (BFCM) is the biggest and busiest sales event in the calendar. There’s no denying that last year’s BFCM was like no other, but 2021 will also present a unique set of challenges for brands of all sizes as lockdown lifts and the world reopens again.

COVID-19 has changed the ecommerce industry forever, particularly when it comes to consumer behaviour, and BFCM is no exception. Looking back at last year’s shopping trends, predictions for 2021’s holiday season include:

• BFCM will start earlier and last longer
• Frictionless omnichannel experiences will be of great importance
• Mobile will be in the retail spotlight
• Brand loyalty will influence purchasing, as customers place greater importance on shopping with
brands that align with their personal values
• Personalisation will be critical

So, what does this mean for your online store, this BFCM? Well, if you want to make the most of this year’s biggest weekend, you’ll need to embrace the changes that the pandemic has brought with it, adapt your strategy and start planning as early as possible.

Knowing where to start can be confusing, even for the most experienced merchant. We get it. That’s why we’ve teamed up with some of the best ecommerce apps on the planet to compile a checklist of everything you need to consider when getting your store ready for BFCM and making 2021 your most successful year yet.

Create a Master Plan & Optimise Your Site for Conversions

Set business goals and objectives

From the get-go, you need to set goals and key business objectives. This will mean deep diving into your 2020 BFCM data, as well as your day-to-day business numbers, so you can set goals around what you have already achieved. From there, you can plan out what you need to do next.

Create a sales strategy

Next, it’s time to put together a sales strategy, outlining how you want to achieve your BFCM goals. You’ll need to review your inventory and plan your deals and discounts way ahead of time to avoid the last-minute rush. This involves choosing the products you want to promote during the holiday sale and define their start dates and sale prices.

In the months and weeks leading up to BFCM, be sure to build suspense and a buzz around your product sales. This can be the difference between a good campaign and a brilliant campaign. Entice your customers with sneak previews of upcoming sales, pique their curiosity, and get them excited. The sooner, the better!

Have a backup plan

When planning for the holiday season, you should always consider the possibility of something going wrong. Ask yourself:

Is everything backed up if my site goes down?
What happens if I run out of inventory?
How quickly can I adjust my sales strategy?

Your business can’t afford to have any loopholes when it comes to BFCM, so don’t let there be any. Make sure you plan for every scenario and have a contingency plan in place. So if disaster does strike, you’re prepared!

Check-in on your competitors

It’s always a good idea to pay close attention to what your competitors are doing. But remember, competitor research isn’t about copying, it’s about finding inspiration, innovating and improving.

Test your site to ensure it can handle demand

During BFCM, your site will experience a surge in traffic, which can lead to slow loading speeds and, in more severe cases, your site to crash. So it’s imperative that you constantly check whether your site can handle huge spikes in sessions.

There are lots of handy tools out there that can help you test your site’s capabilities, including k6, but if you need further assistance get in touch with our team of ecommerce experts and we can conduct a thorough site audit to identify exactly what areas need improvement, as well as a detailed comparison on how your store is performing compared to your competitors.

Think mobile-first

Now more than ever, consumers are using their mobile phones to shop online, especially when it comes to the holiday season. In fact, 90% of consumers say they research their holiday purchases on a mobile device, and 89% use that same device to complete their purchase. So if you want to make the most of BFCM, you need to ensure that your site is optimised for mobile experiences.

Simplify the checkout process

Make your checkout process fast, flexible and seamless by reducing the number of barriers and distractions along the customer journey. BFCM is prime time for impulse purchasing decisions, so capitalise on this by introducing ‘one-click’ buying buttons on product pages to speed up the purchasing process. Also, with 44% of shoppers admitting that they’ll abandon their cart if their preferred payment method isn’t available, it’s critical that you offer multiple payment options. And the payment gateway you choose should accept a wide range of global debit and credit cards. This includes Mastercard, American Express, Visa, etc.

Check your tracking pixels are set up

If you’re running paid ads on social media or PPC as part of your marketing strategy, make sure you have tracking pixels set up and that they’re firing correctly.

Also, you should have retargeting pixels on your site so you can re-market to your visitors during and after BFCM.
Data capture is of utmost importance, not just for your success in 2021, but also 2022 and years after.

Personalising Your Onsite Experience

Prepare with pop-ups

There are always going to be shoppers who won’t be wooed as easily and will possibly want to leave your site empty-handed. Exit intent technology allows you the chance to win back their affections before they go, with the use of pop-ups.

There are two predominant challenges you face during Black Friday and Cyber Monday:

• First of all, shoppers are often in a rush.
• Secondly, shoppers are often overwhelmed.

But, luckily for merchants, pop-ups can be used to help with both issues. Keep shoppers on their way to the checkout by using pop-ups triggered when someone goes to leave your site, to offer them sweet Black Friday deals, offers and even a free gift that will seal the deal.

Display your Black Friday deals and discounts

Let’s face it: during the sale period (and in the current ecommerce climate in general), customers expect a great deal on your inventory without having to actively search out the discounts.

It goes without saying that every part of your website should have discounted items and that these should be pushed to the forefront – but what’s the best way to display them?

One way to beef up your Black Friday marketing campaign is to drive the discount home: amend your styling to include the crossed-out full price or even show the exact percentage that would be saved. It sounds simple, but really emphasising the potential discount will motivate shoppers that are unsure.

Use urgent messaging and social proof to increase conversion

Social proof and urgency messaging (known as ‘FOMO’ messaging to some) is commonplace in ecommerce nowadays – and like it or not, it’s here to stay.

Why? For starters, consumers trust the buying decisions of other shoppers more than their own. Also, nothing motivates a hesitant shopper more than an urgent nudge that may cause them to miss out on a potentially awesome purchase (as the old saying goes – you don’t know what you have until it’s gone).

There are a few easy, yet effective, ways to leverage social proof and urgency messaging in your Black Friday marketing strategy to steer your customers to checkout.

Welcome returning customers with related recommendations

Assuming you’ve done at least something right, some of the Black Friday visitors will become return customers either during Christmas shopping or perhaps during the New Year.

This is an amazing opportunity to delight these guests by welcoming them back with product suggestions specifcally tailored to their interests.

About Nosto

Nosto is a market-leading, complete Commerce Experience Platform that makes it easy to quickly deploy a fully personalised, integrated commerce experience with fine-tuned control of merchandising rules.

Leveraging Reviews & UGC

Integrate content-rich reviews

93% of shoppers read reviews before committing to a purchase. They want to imagine how a product would ft into their lives: what its quality is like, how it feels, how it fits, how long it lasts, and more. You can promote your products all day long, but consumers won’t take you at your word unless they see that past customers agree with you.

Sign up for a reviews provider that enables you to capture data-rich testimonials and display them on product pages and a dedicated reviews page. Reviews are great, but UGC is even better. Incentivise customers to share photos and videos of themselves using their purchases by offering rewards for different kinds of content.

Syndicate reviews to Google Shopping

Don’t confine your customer reviews to your website — syndicate them to Google Shopping! This feature is available with review providers who are official Google partners. Whenever a consumer searches for a product on Google, they likely go to the Shopping tab first to compare products and prices between different retailers. You’ll stand out from the competition if your star aggregate rating is
immediately visible.

Utilise social media onsite

You don’t have to display your follower count, but you should have links to your social media profiles easily accessible. You can also source UGC from Instagram: with tools like Foursixty, it’s possible to track hashtags, request usage rights, and display customer’s posts directly on your website without taking them to Instagram itself. Consumers post more consistently on social media, so it provides an excellent opportunity to showcase what your customers are saying about your brand.

Syndicate reviews to Google Shopping

Don’t confine your customer reviews to your website syndicate them to Google Shopping! This feature is available with review providers who are official Google partners. Whenever a consumer searches for a product on Google, they likely go to the Shopping tab first to compare products and prices between different retailers. You’ll stand out from the competition if your star aggregate rating is
immediately visible.

About Okendo

Okendo enables fast-growing consumer brands like Knix, SKIMS, and Zitsticka to leverage their most powerful asset; their customers. Okendo has all the tools brands need to capture and showcase customer-generated content, including product ratings & reviews, photos and videos, and Q&A.

Preparing Your BFCM Inventory, Shipping & Returns

Get ready for an infux of returns

Return rates can be as much as 30% during BFCM, so it’s important to think about returns policies and ensure that your process for returning goods is not a bottleneck in your operations.

It’s been found that 67% of consumers check the return policy on a merchant’s site before making a purchase and that if a merchant offers a favourable and simple returns policy, 72% of consumers are likely to spend more with that merchant.

As a way of managing this increase, you could offer things like longer return windows, different options for shipping items back, and free returns to provide the best shopping experience.

Plan your inventory early, and make sure stock information updates in real-time

Without a real-time inventory control system, merchants will find themselves double-selling inventory, then having to reach out to customers to explain that they’ve oversold, processing refunds, and dealing with unhappy customers (who may be so frustrated that they leave negative reviews or never purchase from you again).

You’ll want to plan for busy seasons like BFCM based on seasonality and using a demand planning tool can help you forecast what inventory is needed to meet demand. This is essential for you to avoid selling stock you don’t have.

Using automation to further enhance demand planning could reduce the time spent on operational tasks. In fact, automating the back office can save you 20% on average, meaning you can spend more time acquiring new customers.

Assess your systems – are you set up for scale?

You’ll have ensured that the customer experience on your website is seamless and frictionless for the end consumer. Ensuring that you have the operational infrastructure to scale with your BFCM demand is key to a successful BFCM period. This will remove human error, mistakes and reduce the time to get products out of the door and into your customers’ hands.

For example, one of Brightpearl’s customers, REP fitness, finished implementing Brightpearl one week before Black Friday, but knew it was needed in order to manage an influx of orders for the holiday period. This allowed REP Fitness to process orders 30% faster.
Having stock updates in real-time, having the operational infrastructure to deal with an influx of orders, and meeting the promises made on the website are key. If you are promising next day delivery, for example, BFCM can’t be used as an excuse not to deliver on it.

Discount intelligently

Next up is discounting intelligently. Promotions are a huge part of Black Friday / Cyber Monday – and are especially vital for differentiation and acquiring new customers during the peak season. But when considering discount strategies, you have to be cognisant of profitability, especially by product. Otherwise, you’ll be straining all of your resources, but not making any money. This is the perfect time to make sure you have smart reporting tools that can help you determine which products make the most financial sense to
provide discounts on vs. which to avoid.

Opportunities for discounting and promotions go beyond the actual products as well. For example, maybe this is an excellent opportunity to offer free or discounted shipping or returns, or get a customer loyalty program going with “sneak peeks” and special promos for returning customers or those who sign up for communications. Just remember to make sure you have the technology and systems in place which communicate together in order to offer a frictionless experience.

About Brightpearl

Brightpearl is the number one digital operations platform (DOP) for the retail and wholesale sector. Built to manage the complexity of a modern business, the scalable platform offers flexibility to respond to rapid changes in demand and smooth integration with other core operational systems within the organisation.

Backup Your Store for Security

Embrace MFA

You might have heard of 2FA, or two-factor authentication, before. Now, meet its more secure cousin: multi-factor authentication (MFA). With MFA enabled on your store, the only way to break into your account is to crack your password, find you, steal your phone, break into your phone, and then get the code from your app. Not even hackers have the time for that.

Strengthen your passwords

We all know that “[email protected]$$w0rd”, “pass1234”, and “fluffyismyfavouritecat” aren’t secure passwords (sorry Fluffy). You also know that you shouldn’t reuse passwords: your host’s password shouldn’t be used anywhere else. But coming up with and remembering strong, secure,
randomised passwords is nearly impossible for non-robots. So why not just get a robot to do it? Enter the password manager, a simple app that generates and stores secure passwords for you. All you need to remember is a strong master password, and the app will automatically generate, store, and fll in passwords for websites that you’ve previously authorised.

Have a backup

But don’t platforms like Shopify back up my data? Yes, absolutely the difference is in how your data is stored. For example, Shopify performs platform-wide backups. That means all sites on their platform are backed up all at once to dedicated servers. If a meteor struck their server room, Shopify could restore everyone’s data all at once. But if you wanted to find the data that just relates to your website, it would be like looking for a needle in a field of haystacks. It’s a good idea to store these backups somewhere other than Shopify – after all, you wouldn’t back up your hard drive to your hard drive. A secure backup strategy is the cornerstone of ecommerce data protection. It ensures your store’s data is safely at your fingertips and can be restored at any time. After all, what good is a backup
if you can’t recover the data when needed?

About Rewind

The Rewind Backups app provides automatic backups and on-demand recovery. Rewind puts you in control of your data, allowing you to restore anything from a single image to your entire store.

Fine-Tune Your Marketing Tactics & Craft Killer Campaigns

Create an offer your customers can’t refuse

A lot of brands take the loss leader approach by offering their customers a jaw-dropping discount way below the product cost. This can serve as an effective tactic to drive more customers to a store and increase sales. However, it can also cause problems for retailers, because some customers only visit a store for the best deals and then leave without buying anything else. So the stores take a loss whenever those buyers shop.

But remember, BFCM doesn’t always have to be about killer discounts. Instead, you can carry other promotions to entice your customers, such as:
• Bundle offers
• Limited time deals
• Gamifying your offers (e.g. a spinning wheel to win
discounts and deals)

Then, once you’ve attracted customers to your store, try different approaches to encourage them to checkout. For example, why not offer free shipping on orders over your average order value (AOV).

Plan your marketing calendar

Structure your holiday promotions and product releases (if applicable) creatively to maintain audience engagement and profitability on the build up to BFCM. And make sure you start advertising sooner rather than later. This will allow you to buy traffc earlier (before costs skyrocket) and keep your brand top of mind.

For last year’s BFCM, our client Pyjamas decided to run a 20% offer on all items leading up to their busiest time, Christmas. We focused on the product with the highest profit margin and the one which the client held the most stock of. The campaign consisted of a multi-format ad strategy that targeted customers via interests we knew worked well historically. In two weeks, we managed to scale the campaign all while hitting an average ROAS of 8.47. Not only that, but it also helped us to season their new Facebook pixel with valuable data in the run-up to Christmas.

Use this holiday marketing calendar. Just open it, then copy and paste it to your Google Drive or in an Excel spreadsheet. It will help you plan out your marketing calendar for BFCM and the rest of the holiday season.

Create banners and hero images to advertise BFCM sales

Be sure to promote your holiday sales with high-quality graphics and visuals to catch your customer’s attention. Changing your hero image on your homepage and utilising banner ads, as quick ways to get the word out about your BFCM campaign.

If you lack creative flair, then use tools like Canva or reach out to us at Velstar and we’ll help you design something that your customers won’t ignore.

Audit your creative ad performance and plan ad copy

Look back on your past ad performance and identify what worked well, what didn’t, and what can be improved. Then, plan your ad’s creative and craft highly impactful copy. Getting your creative and copy right is critical. It will determine your ads visibility and ultimately how many customers you reach.

Re-target your past visitors and customers

When it comes to social media ads, you should re-target past store visitors. This is because these people have already shown an interest in your brand, and might just need a gentle reminder to re-engage.

Also, re-target customers that have purchased from your store. Existing customers are easier to reach and market to compared to new customers, not to mention they’re likely to spend more.

What about the iOS 14 update?

The update has resulted in smaller audiences to re-target, which means now more than ever it’s essential that you get your creative, copy and ad spend right.

However, there’s another Apple update on its way that you need to be aware of: iOS 15. Estimated to launch this Autumn, just in time for BFCM, unfortunately. The full impact of this update is still unknown, but suggestions are it could make data tracking even more difficult and further reduce marketers’ ability to understand more about their audiences. If you’re concerned about what this update might mean for your business and your BFCM plans, speak to our paid social media experts today.

Spread the word

Start building blog content around your BFCM promotions and create gift guides, ‘tis the season for gift giving after all. And why not go one step further and reach out to online influencers, online publications and bloggers, and ask them to feature your products and sales promotions.

Ensure Your Email Marketing Game is on Point

Prep your email list

Getting your email list ready for BFCM involves the work behind building an email list, as well as fostering relationships with the people on your list to make them receptive to your brand come Black Friday.

There are four main segments to consider for your BFCM email sends: engaged in the last 30/60/90/180 days, 2020 BFCM purchasers, VIP (best) customers, and your master list. These segments will be useful in creating more personalised content, like offering your VIP customers an extra incentive that you might not want to extend to your whole audience.

Bonus tip: if you have a large proportion of unengaged contacts, consider setting up a short-but-sweet win back email series to re-engage people after 180 days of not clicking on emails. Just make sure you pause this automation a month before BFCM to avoid
risking deliverability.

Assess and improve your deliverability

High engagement heading into BFCM ensures your holiday emails land in your customers’ inboxes — in other words, deliverability.

To assess your current deliverability, look at your average bounce rate. If it’s below .8% (a deliverability rate of 99.2% or higher), you’re in good shape — just make sure you send one email to your master list the month before BFCM, so a large send doesn’t shock email providers.

If your bounce rate is higher than .8% — especially if it’s higher than 1.5% (a deliverability rate of less than 98.5%) — you’ll need some time to improve your sender reputation in order to actually make it to your customers’ inboxes during BFCM. In the six to eight weeks leading up to Black Friday, only send emails to highly engaged audiences with relevant, enticing campaigns.

Optimise and test your automations

Your Black Friday campaigns are important — but perhaps even more important are the automated emails that are triggered by how your customer interacts with your brand. For example, say your customer gets your Black Friday sale email, goes to your website, but then doesn’t check out. Is all hope lost?

For UK-based coffee company, Grind, it’s not — thanks to their abandoned cart email. This email goes to customers who put something in their basket but didn’t make a purchase. It’s also highly effective — 12% of recipients make a purchase.

Before BFCM, set up key flows like this to automate a personalised customer journey during the busy sale period. Besides an abandoned cart series, other options to consider: welcome, browse abandonment, and post-purchase.

About Klaviyo

Klaviyo is the leading owned marketing platform aimed at helping online businesses – like yours – to accelerate revenue and grow faster via channels you own like email, web, and mobile. By capturing customer data through owned channels, Klaviyo gives you the insight and tools to connect with your customers on a deeper level to build sustainable, meaningful, and engaging relationships.

Driving Customer Loyalty & Retention

Build emotional relationships with your community and show you’re aligned

Build up the trust and loyalty of your existing brand community before BFCM. In 2020, almost half (48%) of customers said they would shop with brands they already knew and trusted during the BFCM sales. Put the care in now to retain customers and they’ll pick you over your competitors once the sales start.

Use your loyalty program to show customers that you share their values. This will boost your retention rates as 68% of customers say they return and repeat purchase from brands that share their values.

Jewellery brand, Astrid & Miyu, has a recycling scheme where shoppers trade in their unwanted jewellery (either by post or in person) and get 1,000 loyalty points in exchange. This shows that the brand is focused on staying environmentally friendly – a message that will
resonate with customers who feel the same.

With 61% of brand insiders saying they’ll return to a brand if they can contribute to causes they care about, this special experience means Astrid & Miyu have locked in the loyalty of valuable customers in preparation for the peak.

Give existing customers loyalty points that they can redeem for rewards during BFCM

Last year, 52% of shoppers said they would prioritise shopping with brands where they have accrued points and
rewards during BFCM. Now’s the perfect time to make sure your customers have a decent points balance built up, that they can redeem for rewards during the sales season.

Give shoppers more opportunities to collect points – in addition to purchases, reward them for other positive behaviours like creating an account or signing up to your newsletter.

Use the time ahead of the peak to launch promotions that help customers collect more points. Augustinus Bader offers its members double loyalty points for one day only. This keeps your brand front of mind ahead of the peak.

You can also set up automated loyalty emails that remind your program members ahead of time that they have points in their accounts. This can be on a monthly basis or when they unlock a reward.

Boost advocacy to get the word out about your brand ahead of the discount peaks

Now is a good time to amplify chatter about your brand so new customers discover you well ahead of BFCM. Boost advocacy by rewarding your existing customers for referring your brand to their friends or family.

The Spoiled Mama gives existing shoppers 1,000 points if they refer a friend (a perfect amount to save up to spend over BFCM). Meanwhile, the new customer gets $10 to spend on their frst purchase. You’ve then got a new customer you can reach out to during the peak and an existing customer who’s motivated to return to spend their loyalty points.

About LoyaltyLion

LoyaltyLion helps fast-growth ecommerce merchants turn unengaged customer bases into active communities that power longer-
lasting relationships and sustainable growth. Use loyalty insights and activities to connect your acquisition and retention efforts and drive one meaningful, ROI-driven outcome – a community of highly engaged, highly valuable customers.

Ready Your Customer Support

Automate assurance messages

Late presents feel like after-thoughts, which is why gift givers are keen to know when theirs arrive at the recipient’s door.

Use a help desk like Gorgias to automate responses to frequently asked questions like “where’s my package?” Also, answers are delivered within minutes of sending for added assurance.

You can also include personalised data in your automated responses, such as their tracking number and link. And include helpful hints for your pre-written responses such as a reminder to add your brand to their whitelist so that important order updates aren’t sent to spam. Or go above and beyond by assuring customers how easy it is for the recipient to exchange a gift if it’s the wrong size.

Provide checkout support

Gift giving is a source of anxiety for many people. Is this the right option? Is the BFCM discount automatic, or do I need to apply a promo code?

Checkout is a make-or-break moment for customers who are unsure of their decisions. Win the sale (and long-term loyalty) by coming to their aid. For instance, have a live chat with a gift expert pop-up for people who sit on the checkout page for a set period of time.

Follow-up with automated messages that explain delivery time, and your return and exchange policies for added assurance.

Respond to questions ASAP

In the weeks leading up to and following BFCM, your customer support team will be inundated with customer questions, and most of them will be repetitive.

Pre-written messages make quick work for responding to customers who write in to ask things like what your shipping cost is or how to change an order or if your items run large.

You can also create an email template to send to customers who order an item that is now out of stock that provides them with other options, sending a gift card or a slightly different option instead.

Lean into social selling

Social selling took off during the pandemic, and it’s likely to serve as a powerful driver for BFCM shopping. Leverage an omnichannel help desk to support your social selling initiatives by centralising all questions and comments across social media into one place, and automatically assign questions to the right people to respond.

Tools like Gorgias will help you respond to BFCM shoppers ASAP and instil confidence that they’ll get the right gift on time to deliver a hefty dose of holiday cheer.

About Gorgias

Gorgias is a customer support platform. It allows merchants to handle customer service tasks from one centralised place. From email and live chat to social media and SMS, it makes communicating with your customers as easy as possible.

Planning for the Days that Follow BFCM

Turn one-of seasonal shoppers into lifelong customers

Once BFCM is over, it doesn’t mean you can sit back and relax. There’s a bunch of new customers that have come your way over the weekend and it’s your job to make sure they stick around. To do this, you’ll need a post BFCM marketing strategy that focuses on building relationships with your newly acquired customers.

Keep your customers engaged all year round with post-sales email campaigns, staying active on social media and setting up retargeting ads. This way, you can entice those one-time shoppers back to your store and keep exposing them to your products.

Reflect, learn and improve

Throughout Black Friday Cyber Monday it’s imperative that tracking is set up correctly, including pixels, analytics and heat maps. This will provide insights into what’s working and what isn’t when it comes to your online store and marketing efforts. You can use these insights to improve your current strategy, as well as set a benchmark for next year’s holiday season.

Conclusion

Like it or not, Black Friday Cyber Monday will be here before you know it. This year, competition will be tougher and customer expectations will be even higher. In order to navigate your way through the busy period successfully, you’ll need to start planning and preparing earlier. Following this checklist will help you do exactly that, as well as ensure you maximise the opportunity and end 2021 strong.

But if you still need assistance getting your store ready and strengthening your marketing strategy for BFCM, get in touch with us today. At Velstar, we will work as an extension of your team to help you tick off each item on the checklistand support you throughout the holiday season and beyond.