Let’s get straight to the point; for many ecommerce retailers Black Friday and Cyber Monday are two of the most important trading days of the year. So, it’s important to get it right. In this guide, Velstar provides our top tips to help you smash your revenue goals…
Create a master plan and 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 past BFCM (Black Friday, Cyber Monday) 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 season and defining 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.
- 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 help 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.
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 re-targeting 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 2022, but also in 2023 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 specifically tailored to their interests.
Leveraging reviews and UGC
Integrate content-rich reviews
93% of shoppers read reviews before committing to a purchase. They want to imagine how a product would fit 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 customers’ 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.
Preparing your BFCM inventory, shipping and returns
Get ready for an influx 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, and 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.
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 cognizant 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.
Backup your store for security
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 “p@$$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 fill 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?
Fine-tune your marketing tactics and 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 traffic earlier (before costs skyrocket) and keep your brand top of mind.
For a previous 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 in 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.
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.
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, previous 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.
Driving customer loyalty and 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 first 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.
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.
What to do after Black Friday/Cyber Monday
Once you’ve made it through Black Friday and Cyber Monday, the work still doesn’t stop!
Chances are, you picked up a lot of first customers over BFCM (especially if you had some really enticing, price-competitive offers). And, you’ll want to turn those first timers into repeat purchasers.
Why? Because research from LoyaltyLion has shown that 46% of customers would return to a brand they’ve already bought from, versus only 14% who wouldn’t.
In other words, the post-BFCM period represents a massive opportunity to build up recurring customers (and revenue)!
To help you capitalise on this opportunity, we’ve outlined the key actions you should take in the aftermath of Black Friday/Cyber Monday.
Ask your customers for reviews
We all know the importance of reviews during Black Friday Cyber Monday. But did you know they play an even more meaningful role after BFCM?
Reviews are a great way to build long-lasting relationships with your customers because they show you genuinely care about what your consumers think. Sending your new customer a review request in their welcome email shows that your brand values its customers.
Think about the huge numbers of shoppers who have flocked to your store over BFCM. This gives you the perfect opportunity to collect a huge number of reviews. Since 75% of consumers refer to reviews to influence their purchasing decisions, rolling into 2023 with hundreds of reviews about your service and products will set you up for a strong start to the new year.
Leverage email marketing to build loyalty and drive sales
Another way you can encourage holiday shoppers back to your store is by utilising the power of email marketing effectively. By sending segmented, personalised emails, you’ll be winning your new customer’s loyalty in no time!
Personalisation significantly improves open rates, clicks, engagement and sales. When you send content that’s tailored to specific audience segments, your emails will resonate with the receiver, which ultimately generates better results.
For example, you could automate email flows that encourage customers to sign up for your newsletter, join your loyalty program, or send limited-time discounts and offers. Also, why not go one step further and automate your emails based on user behaviour? This could include ‘viewed product’ segments. Perhaps your customer didn’t end up buying a particular product they were looking at. You can target this type of customer again.
All in all, personalised emails play a prominent role in engaging consumers throughout the customer journey. They deliver value, boost retention, increase upsell and deliver a richer, more relevant shopping experience.
Implement a loyalty program
What better way to reward your new customer than with a loyalty program? Offering customers rewards for purchases, referring friends, and leaving reviews to give them a reason to remain loyal to your brand.
Also, loyal customers buy more, it’s a fact. For example, recently our client Personalised Co generated 25% of revenue from its loyal customers and saw a 34% increase in customer spending compared to non-redeeming customers.
However, simply rewarding customer behaviour is just the beginning. You need to ensure your loyalty program is data-driven. This can be done through segmentation based on consumer activity. For example, segments could include loyal customers, those at risk of losing, and customers you need to win back. Third-party Shopify Plus integrations, such as LoyaltyLion, offer merchants the functionality to keep track of these segments and take action.
Entice with a post-BFCM campaign
The BFCM buzz doesn’t have to end in November, so why not prolong it? Encourage your customers to create and share User-Generated-Content (UGC) including pictures of products they brought from you during BFCM.
This is a really simple, yet effective way to drive new shoppers to your store. Execution is easy. All you need to do is promote your request via email and on your social media channels with a short and snappy hashtag.
UGC is an extremely powerful marketing tactic to build trust among new customers and drive conversions for your business. In fact, consumers are 2.4 times more likely to view user-generated content as authentic compared to content created by brands.
And with 54% of customers using social media to research a product, a post-BFCM campaign utilising UGC is a surefire to drive your sales back to the top.
Get ready for Black Friday and Cyber Monday with Velstar
If you want to make your next BFCM your best one yet, be sure to tap into Velstar’s growth marketing expertise today.
Our team spans the most effective marketing channels, including SEO, Content, Email, Paid Social, Affiliate Marketing and Paid Search.