While the 24th of November seems like it’s ages away, it’s always a bad idea to leave things until the last minute. Trust me - I’m a writer who has many a time regretted not starting an important post until a few days before its deadline.
Black Friday and Cyber Monday can be just as stressful for e-commerce merchants. But with lots of planning and preparation, and you can turn one of the biggest annual sales events into a huge success for your business.
In this guide I'll teach you how to do just that...
1) Pre-Black Friday Hype and Preparation
Black Friday shoppers are starting to choose to shop online, rather than lining up in front of bricks and mortar stores. I definitely get it. I wouldn’t want to get up early, brave the cold, or deal with big queues and vicious doorbusters in the hope of picking up a few bargains either.
This is where you come in as an e-commerce merchant - Black Friday shoppers can sit in the comfort of their own homes and take advantage of your online sales. But to make this event as smooth as possible (both for you and your store's customers), there are some housekeeping things you need to take care of well in advance.
Tip 1: Prepare for a huge spike in sales
Black Friday is one of the biggest e-commerce events of the year, and it’s important that your e-commerce store is able to handle a massive increase in traffic and sales.
Firstly, this involves making sure your site is stable enough to handle a massive amount of traffic. Start testing now! This is especially important for Cyber Monday (more on that later). The last thing you want is for your website to crash during one of your busiest trading periods of the year.
You’re obviously going to miss out on a lot of potential sales, but you might also get a lot of angry emails, messages and Tweets from shoppers (remember: Black Friday makes people a little crazy), damaging your brand and customer lifetime value.
You should also make 100% sure that you have enough stock. It might even be a good idea to overstock; it’s better to be safe than sorry. You also need to worry about whether you have enough people on hand to handle customer enquiries, whether you are able to handle shipping, and so on. All of these things need to be looked after months in advance.
Tip 2: Start hyping your offers with email and social media marketing
Before you start sending out a bunch of emails, tweets and Facebook posts, you need to plan out what you’re actually going to advertise. In other words: what will you be offering your customers on Black Friday?
Some options include offer codes, sales on specific products, free gifts and free shipping. It’s also important to clearly state the conditions of your special offers: When will the offer expire? Do customers need to spend a certain amount of money? Are there any conditions to get a free gift?
Once you have planned this out, you can start creating a content calendar, and schedule your social media posts and emails. This is something you can start doing now.
Your email and social media marketing should start 2 months before Black Friday.
You can starting sending out emails and posts about once a week to pique people’s interest. Start asking them to sign up to your email list, or to follow your social media accounts so that they can stay up to date with (and stay interested in) your sales.
What I like about this email: The call to action is really clear throughout - I need to follow their social media accounts to stay up to date with their sales. This is also reflected in their use of colour, which draws attention to the backlinks and social media icons.
What could be improved: For consistency, they could have also included a backlink to their Pinterest account in the body of their email. I would've also emphasized the timeline of their sale, as well as their free shipping offer - Mabel's Labels could've included these details in the eye-catching graphic.
For more tips on how to grow your email list in preparation for Black Friday, read here: 5 Steps to Supercharge Your Store's Email List Growth.
As people begin to subscribe to your email list, it’s also a good idea to avoid spamming those that aren’t actively engaging with your emails. Simply segment your active and inactive subscribers, based on those who have engaged with your previous email campaigns. Send 2-3 emails per week to active customers, but inactive customers should only continue to receive a maximum of 1 per week.
By not overloading your inactive subscribers' inboxes with emails, you won’t be ruining your store’s email deliverability as you send out a large volume of emails over this period. This has a number of disadvantages for your e-commerce store.
Firstly, there is a negative impact on your email open rate, which will drop as customers become less likely to read your newsletters. As these unopened emails build up, you risk having ISPs sending your emails straight to your subscribers spam folders, or having them blocked altogether. Alternately, subscribers could start marking your emails as spam by themselves if they are receiving too many irrelevant emails. Your emails will therefore be unread, meaning that click-through and conversion rates will drop as well.
This means that it’s extremely important to send personalized content. Since you know what offers you're going to have or what products you’re going to have on sale, segment your email list based on their purchase history - for example, those who have purchased cameras or camera equipment from your store.
To read more about email segmentation on SmartrMail, read here: 6 Ways You Can Segment Your Email List with SmartrMail.
In late October, about a month away from the big day, start sending members of this segment emails showcasing your sales offers on tripods, lenses, and other related items they might be interested in buying on Black Friday or Cyber Monday.
What I like about this email: The objective of of this email is really straightforward, with a clear call to action.
What could be improved: For a company known for their product recommendations, they could have found a way to include a few to personalize this email.
What I like about this email: Zagg does a great job at creating hype for their Black Friday sale. By including a timer counting down to the big day, this helps to generate anticipation for their sales event. They also attempt to combat the pre-Black Friday sales slump by throwing an early sale two weeks out from the actual date.
What could be improved: This email splits focus between their current pre-Black Friday sale, and their actual Black Friday sale. It might have been better had they focused solely on one, and created a separate email that markets the other sale.
A week before Black Friday, you can increase your email and post frequency yet again. Send 3-4 emails this week to engaged subscribers, but again keep unengaged subscribers frequency capped at once per week.
What I like about this email: Again, the inclusion of a countdown works to get subscribers excited in anticipation of the sale.
What could be improved: Vistaprint could have included a few extra things in this email. Firstly, there aren't any specific details on what their offers are. It might have helped to generate more excitement had they included what discounts Black Friday shoppers can expect. The email simply asks subscribers to visit their site at the start of the sale; Vistaprint could have made their call to action to visit their site now, so that customers can browse their products beforehand.
2) The Day of Black Friday
Tip 1: Allow top customers in on a special pre-sale
Sending out an exclusive email to your high-value customers, giving them early access to your special offers, can do wonders for customer lifetime value. To do so, send out an email to the aforementioned segment of those who actively engage with your emails a day or so before your official sale has been scheduled.
What I like about this email: The text in the body of the email reads as genuine - Victoire seems to really appreciate their high-value customers.
What could be improved: This email is really unclear about what their specific deals are. They also don't include a button to easily click through to their website. As such, I don't really feel inclined to take advantage of their Black Friday sales (whatever they may be). And as much as I love Oprah, the inclusion of a Christmas-themed picture seems a little irrelevant to this email, and their brand in general.
What I like about this email: The deals and conditions are crystal clear in this email from Urban Outfitters. The call to action is also really clear, and the inclusion of a button at the bottom of the bottom makes it easy for shoppers to click through and start buying.
What could be improved: It would have been nice if they had shown more appreciation for their high-value customers; a quick message to thank Urban On Members somewhere in the email would have done the trick.
Tip 2: Send frequently to engaged customers
Send out your big email at the very start of your sale - the one that lets everyone know that your sale is live. Make sure again to clearly state the conditions of your sale (when the offer ends, minimum purchase, etc.) and the offer code, if you have opted for that.
What I like about this email: The discounts, conditions, offer code and call to action are all really clear. And not to be shallow, but I really like the design of the email as well.
What could be improved: Although they include the time frame of their offer in the fine print, Bonobos could have included some sort of time-sensitive element in the body of the email. This would have increased the sense of urgency.
What I like about this email: I like how CanvasPop really emphasizes their huge 40% off discount throughout the email - not only by repeating it several times, but making use of font size and colour to draw attention to their offer.
What could be improved: Again, they have included several subtle time-sensitive elements ("Last chance" in the body of the email, and the offer expiration time and date in fine print). However, a stronger emphasis on the limited time frame of their offer would have increased a sense of urgency.
Don’t hesitate to schedule a few emails and posts on social media during the course of Black Friday. As mentioned before, just make sure you’re emailing your most engaged subscribers. For unengaged subscribers, it might be worthwhile sending out a quick reminder of your sales anyway (they might have been busy with Thanksgiving or actually attended Black Friday sales in person).
It could be a good idea to include some time-sensitivity to your emails and social media posts, increasing a sense of urgency. This can be either letting customers know how long is left to go on your sale, or letting customers know that some of your items are running out of stock.
What I like about this email: The inclusion of "Hurry, ends Sunday!" increases the sense of urgency with this email. Tradesy's Black Friday offer is also really clear, with the inclusion of conditions in fine print as well.
What could be improved: Their choice of balloons as the centerpiece of this email is confusing, and irrelevant to their brand. As such, I think the inclusion of personalized product recommendations (or at least a few products from their website) would have improved the relevance of this email.
What I like about this email: The timer counting down to the end of Diamond Store's sale really increases the sense of urgency.
What could be improved: Diamond Store could have clarified what their offers specifically are, rather than just including a general "All items reduced" statement. And while they have included links to specific parts of their website underneath the logo, including another button at the bottom of the email would have strengthened the call the action.
3) Cyber Monday
People often view Cyber Monday as less important than Black Friday. Don’t be one of those people.
Hear me out.
If other e-commerce stores ignore Cyber Monday, there’s less competition for you. Additionally, many Black Friday doorbusters continue the tradition of lining up at bricks and mortar stores (although this trend is decreasing slowly over time), so pay less attention to online sales, whereas Cyber Monday is purely an online event.
Therefore, you have so much to gain from giving as much attention to your Cyber Monday marketing efforts. In fact, online sales figures from 2016 show that shoppers spent $3.45 billion on Cyber Monday, compared to $3.34 billion on Black Friday.
While there isn’t a big difference between the two when marketing your sales for these events, there are some things you can do to make the most of Cyber Monday.
Tip 1: Make use of paid advertisement
Cyber Monday is a good opportunity to make use of paid advertising platforms, like Google AdWords or Facebook Dynamic Product Ads. Because the marketplace is less crowded in comparison to Black Friday, your ads are much more likely to be seen.
However, cost per click (CPC) costs tend to skyrocket during the holiday period, as lots of advertisers make use of these platforms to market their own sales. Bigger companies spend more money, meaning that the CPC is increased for everyone else too.
We don’t recommend that small to medium businesses attempt to outbid massive companies, like Walmart and Amazon, in an attempt to acquire new customers through these channels. However, a much more effective strategy to implement over this busy period is retargeting customers.
To get the most out of Facebook advertising, use Custom Audiences for your ads. Create a Custom Audience to target those who have engaged with your website. By doing this, you are ensuring that you are delivering ads to only those who are interested in your products (since they have viewed these products from your store, or purchased from you already).
This makes using these paid advertising platforms during Black Friday and Cyber much more cost effective, given that repeat customers generate the majority of e-commerce revenue.
Tip 2: Abandoned cart emails
If you don’t use abandoned cart emails, Cyber Monday is probably the best opportunity to start integrating this into your e-commerce marketing.
You can target the many shoppers that abandoned their carts on Black Friday for whatever reason, and convert them by reminding them of the products they were interested in, or offering an incentive.
For more information on abandoned cart emails, read here: How to Get More Sales with Abandoned Cart Emails in 2017.
4) Extension into Cyber Week
If your Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales went successfully, you may decide to extend your sales into Cyber Week.
If you choose to do so, it would be a good idea to reduce your email and social media post frequency. By this stage, if a transaction was to have happened, it would have happened already among all the Black Friday/Cyber Monday hysteria.
Flooding your customers’ inboxes and social media feeds will just annoy them, especially if they have already spent a lot of money over the weekend. Limit your Cyber Week emails and social campaigns to customers who didn’t purchase over the weekend, rather than targeting customers who’ve just forked up hundred (if not thousands) of dollars on sales.
Continue to make use of segmentation (both with email and on Facebook) to ensure that the offers and product newsletters you send to your customers are relevant to them.
As Cyber Week dies down, start analyzing your data - which marketing tactics and channels worked best for you over this period? Which ones weren’t as successful? What improvements can you make to your email and social media marketing for better conversion results? All of this is really important, so that you’re better prepared for future e-commerce events.
The final step: sit back and relax. But not for too long, Christmas and Boxing Day are just around the corner!