The eCommerce Black Friday Ebook: 25 Strategies to Prepare for Holiday Shopping (+ 95 point checklist)

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Every year, Black Friday is a massive event for both online and brick-and-mortar stores all over the world, but this year most shoppers will flock to eCommerce stores. The Covid-19 pandemic has caused an increase in eCommerce sales and eCommerce is projected to grow by nearly 20% in 2020.
This means that online stores can expect an even bigger surge of customers on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. As an eCommerce store owner, you’re probably excited at the prospect of making so much profit on a single day. This is a double-edged sword, however, since you need to be sure you’re prepared for this holiday.
There are a lot of things you need to take into consideration, so the best thing to do is go through these Black Friday eCommerce strategies we’ve prepared for you.

Prepare for a longer season this year

If you’re an experienced store owner, you already know that you won’t be able to achieve your goals on Black Friday without meticulous preparations. However, Black Friday won’t be the only busy day for online merchants this year.
Since a lot of people are avoiding brick-and-mortar shops this year, a big surge is expected around Thanksgiving, not just the day after. This is why you will probably see a large number of shoppers days before and after Black Friday.

1. Plan a sales strategy early on

The first step is to plan your inventory by analyzing sales and inventory velocity reports, looking at data from previous years, and exploring all the current trends in your industry.
Once you’re sure you have sufficient stock, you can start planning your sales strategy and find creative ways to appeal to customers. You can mix different methods such as giving discounts storewide, per category, or per order threshold. You can also offer double reward points and sell on marketplaces.

2. Make a contingency plan

Planning has to involve multiple case scenarios and you have to keep in mind that some things can go wrong. Even though it’s not pleasant to think about, it’s good to make a list of everything that might go wrong on or before Black Friday.
Think about all the worst-case scenarios that could occur and find ways to deal with those issues. Even though a lot of those things probably won’t happen, it’s good to have a contingency plan that will help you deal with them if and when they arise.

3. Test your website to ensure it can handle high volumes of traffic

A surge in traffic can cause even the best websites to crash, and this is the last thing you need on Black Friday. Your eCommerce store needs to be stable enough to handle a large number of visitors.
To make sure everything is running smoothly, test your website’s speed and server load capacity. Speed is especially important because even a one-second delay can cause your bounce rates to increase.

4. Know what your competitors are doing

Coming up with great ideas for Black Friday and Cyber Monday is impossible to do unless you know what you’re up against. Even if you think you have great campaigns and amazing discounts, that won’t be enough if your competitors have more to offer.
To get inspiration for your campaigns, keep an eye on your competitors to see how they’re preparing for Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
One of the easiest ways you can do this is to subscribe to their email lists and see what kind of campaigns they’re sending to subscribers. However, don’t just copy their campaigns. Instead, see what works well and find a way to put your own spin on it.
Another thing you can do to see how big of a threat your competitors are is to set up Google Alerts and monitor which websites are mentioning them and in what context.

 

5. Be active on multiple sales channels

A lot of eCommerce businesses practice multichannel selling, as it can bring in a lot more business than just sticking to your website. If you haven’t already explored this option, you can learn how to sell on Amazon and check out other successful online sales channels.
If you already sell your products on multiple channels, you should check your analytics to see which ones are the most successful. Once you see which channels make the most money year-round, you can double-down on them in preparation for Black Friday.

Prepare to see a surge in product demand

As we already established, Black Friday and Cyber Monday will probably be busier than ever this year, so this means you should expect to sell many more products. That’s why you need to make sure your inventory is stocked so you can keep up with the number of orders.

6. Make sure your order and fulfilment workflows are optimised

Keeping up with customer orders can be hectic even on a regular day if you aren’t organised enough. This is an issue almost all retailers face on Black Friday, as a high volume of sales in a short period of time can cause a lot of issues in fulfilling orders and sending them to customers on time.
This is why it’s important to organise your fulfilment area on time. Some things you can do is place your most popular items in a place where they’re easily accessible and hire additional fulfilment staff to help you keep up with the influx of orders.
One thing you shouldn’t forget is the importance of over-communication and strategic planning. Talk to your fulfilment staff about all of your requirements and thoroughly explain everything you need. One of the things you need to make clear is how you want to organise and prioritise your orders.
You can do it by:

  • Product type. If you sell a lot of different types of products that require different types of picking and packaging, you should consider grouping your orders by product type. This way, items that require more time or effort to be packed will be prioritised.
  • Customer priority. In case you want to show your loyal and VIP customers your appreciation on Black Friday, you can offer priority shipping to them. If you promote this type of shipping, you could get a high number of new VIP customers before Black Friday, which will be quite beneficial in the long run.
  • Shipping requirements. If you decide to offer expedited shipping, customers that paid for it will have priority shipping.

Make creative and unforgettable marketing campaigns

With so many eCommerce stores battling for attention before Black Friday, you need to find a way to be noticeable and stand out from the crowd. Your marketing campaign will determine whether your store will get the surge in visitors you’re hoping to see on Black Friday.

7. Set up a retargeting campaign

Placing a tracking pixel on your high-converting pages allows you to create retargeting campaigns. These campaigns work by showing ads to people who have already visited your website and shown some interest in your products but either haven’t purchased anything or haven’t visited the website in a long time.
With retargeting campaigns, you can advertise to people who probably wouldn’t visit your store on Black Friday. This way, you can remind them that you have great products they were once interested in and that they now have the opportunity to purchase those products at a much cheaper price.

8. Give your customers an offer they can’t refuse

Black Friday strategies are usually similar in most stores, as merchants have learned what customers want to see. The most common strategy used during this holiday is offering a ‘loss leader’, which is a term used to describe a popular product that is significantly discounted on Black Friday.
You can market your loss leader to customers who will come to your website for that offer but pick up more discounted goods while they’re shopping.
If you don’t think this type of offer would be profitable for your store, you can try some alternatives such as offering product bundles or creating special daily deals.

9. Set up discounts and coupons

With everyone looking for great deals during Black Friday, you need to offer something that will make you stand out from your competitors. Instead of offering regular discounts like everyone else, find a way to be creative.
For instance, you can use Neto’s discounts and coupons feature to create discounts and coupons that consist of several parts.
You can set up your coupons to work based on different specifications:

  • Offer free shipping or a discount for customers who spend a certain amount of money.
  • Give exclusive discounts on high margin items.
  • Create a Black Friday category and set up a discount that will only work on items in that category.

10. Start your email marketing campaign as early as possible

Email marketing is a great way to attract customers to your eCommerce store, and the sooner you start your campaign, the better. If you plan your email marketing campaign well enough, you can ensure your customers will wait for Black Friday with anticipation.
There are a few things you can do to make your email marketing campaign unforgettable:

  • Collect a large number of emails. Place sign-up popups and email collection fields in multiple places on your website to make sure you collect as many emails as possible before Black Friday. Don’t forget to make it clear to people who sign up that they will be receiving promotional material.
  • Build suspense with hints and teasers. No matter what promotional tactic you decide to use, you can tease your customers weeks before Black Friday with hints and clues about what you have in store for them. That way, they will know they need to keep an eye out for a special announcement.
  • Start sending abandoned cart emails right away. If you haven’t set up abandoned cart emails yet, now is the perfect time to do so. You can use Neto’s free Abandoned Cart Saver add-on that will send an automated email with the customer’s cart content as well as a CTA link that allows them to complete their purchase.
  • Send thank you emails a few days after your sale ends. After Black Friday, your customers’ inboxes will be filled with order-related emails. After giving them a few days to read those emails, it would be good to send one more email where you thank them for buying from you.

11. Create eye-catching promotional visuals

Customers need to be aware that you’re running a Black Friday sale as soon as they enter your website. You can use graphics and visuals to make that happen/ Create amazing banner ads and place a hero/header image on your homepage that will intrigue your visitors.
One of the best ways you can include visuals in your marketing campaign is by creating a dedicated landing page that will build hype. This landing page will be able to add continuity to your customers’ experience.
In it, you can include:

  • CTAs for registration and newsletter signup
  • Timer that counts down the time left until your Black Friday sale begins
  • Sneak peeks of the products, brands, or categories you’re going to sell on Black Friday
  • Featured product galleries
  • Ads that emphasise how beneficial your Black Friday offers are
  • Important information such as your returns policy and shipping information
  • Frequently asked questions

Whatever graphics you decide to use, they have to be well-made and aesthetically pleasing, otherwise, you will come off as unprofessional. If you don’t have the right skills to create great visuals, you can hire a graphics designer or use a pre-made template.

12. Include a Black Friday category in advance

Another way you can build hype and anticipation for Black Friday is by creating a Black Friday category on your website that will include all of the products you will offer on that day. You can set it up weeks in advance to let your website visitors know what they can expect.
This will not only help build excitement but it will also make your job on Black Friday much easier. All you need to do is make that category active and your customers will be able to shop for products they’ve been looking at for weeks.
You can build excitement even further by using a custom category page template that has a countdown timer, dedicated banners, and advertisements, or maybe even a custom colour scheme.

13. Use your best-performing advertising channels

Creating unforgettable advertisements is only one part of your marketing strategy, the second part is ensuring people actually see those ads. To ensure as many people as possible see your amazing offers, you need to leverage your best-performing advertising channels.
The channels you use for advertising depend on your target audience, but the most common way merchants advertise their Black Friday sales is via social media marketing.
Keep in mind that advertisements cost much more during the holidays, so you will probably need to increase your marketing budget. However, this shouldn’t be an issue because a higher advertising budget will pay off afterwards.

14. Use marketplaces

All of the biggest marketplaces such as Amazon and eBay will be competing against each other this Black Friday and will spend a lot of time and effort bringing customers in. These marketplaces are using a lot of their budget towards marketing and savvy merchants can use this to their advantage.
You can use Neto’s native sales channels integrations to sell your products on these marketplaces and reach a large audience that would probably never visit your website otherwise.

Work on building customer loyalty

A company that works on customer retention and treats loyal customers better always has more business than companies that focus all of their attention on marketing. In fact, 65% of a company’s business comes from existing customers.
Black Friday gives you plenty of opportunities to build customer loyalty and get people to return to your website even after your promotional period has passed.

15. Integrate live chat if you haven’t already

Black Friday makes online shoppers even more impatient than usual because they’re rushing to purchase as many items as possible before the sale ends. If they have a question but can’t reach anyone from your store right away, they will become agitated and move on to one of your competitors.
Live chat is another vital part your website needs to have at all times, but especially during Black Friday when customers want answers as soon as they ask a question. The best thing to do is to have your live chat monitored at all times, but if you don’t have enough people for that, you can still use live chat strategically.
To do this, you can enable your live chat:

  • Right after you launch your promotions and send out important emails
  • On product pages for products that you include in your Black Friday deals
  • During key purchase moments, like when a website visitor accesses their shopping cart

16. Offer returns on all products

Some people are hesitant about online shopping because they aren’t sure if they will be able to return the items they bought in case their expectations aren’t met. Most people won’t purchase anything from an eCommerce store if they don’t have a return policy.
Make it clear to your customers that they can return any item they buy on Black Friday with a clear and well-communicated return policy. This policy needs to be prominently placed on multiple parts of your website and clearly state all return requirements.
Explain the following in your return policy:

  • Time frame in which you accept returns
  • Condition the product or packaging has to be in for you to accept the return
  • Whether you offer a full discount or store credit

Good return policy will show your customer that there is no risk in purchasing from your store as well as that you have confidence in your products.

17. Offer special incentives

It’s always good to show your customers that you appreciate them and why they should choose to buy from you instead of from a different website. A smart way to do this is to offer special incentives that will be available only on Black Friday.
One of the most commonly used incentives is free shipping and if you can afford it, you should promote it as a Black Friday special offer. As customers use this day to find as many discounts and attractive deals as possible, an eCommerce store that offers free shipping will be much more appealing to them.
If you don’t think you can afford free shipping on all items, offer it to customers who spend a certain amount of money or purchase more than one product.
Another incentive you can consider is offering rewards for a minimum spend. Create tiers that show what kind of reward a customer will receive after they spend a certain amount of money. The more money they spend, the better the rewards get.

18. Go all-out for VIP customers

Your loyal customers who return to your website often are more likely to purchase more items on Black Friday than anyone else, so it’s good to give those people special treatment. Make your loyal customers feel extra special by offering them member-only offers.
This can include sales that are available only to them, an opportunity to shop for discounted items before the sale officially starts, or upgrading them to the next level of shipping. You can also entice them to spend more money on Black Friday by offering extra reward points on that day.

19. Ensure all customer support is friendly and respectful

Your customer support team will have a lot of work during the holidays, so now is the perfect time to talk to your employees about proper communication with customers. Replying quickly isn’t the only thing that matters, how you reply is also extremely important.
The best way to prepare your team for providing great customer service is to go over some standard phrases and replies that will lead to better and more consistent customer support.
What you should also do is remind your customer service agents about the best ways to handle upset customers. Since Black Friday is very hectic, a lot of people will call with different issues. Your agents need to know how to handle if a customer’s order is lost, if the product arrives damaged, or simply if they aren’t satisfied with their purchase.

Optimise your website and keep track of analytics

You might think your website is ready to handle the surge of traffic that’s going to happen on Black Friday, but failing to optimise it can lead to a lot of problems.
Even if you handled the holiday last year without any issues, don’t forget that this year will probably be even more hectic, so website optimisation needs to be a priority.

20. Ask someone to test your website

While you should test your website yourself, it would be good to ask someone else to do it as well. Someone who isn’t as familiar with your website as you are can mirror the experience of a potential customer and find some issues you might have missed.

21. Optimise for mobile users

Technological advancements have made it possible for people to access the internet on their mobile phones, so many eCommerce shoppers prefer to access their favourite stores via mobile. In fact, by 2021, 53.9% of all eCommerce sales will be completed via mobile.
While most eCommerce stores are optimised for mobile nowadays, some still either aren’t accessible via mobile or have a poor mobile website. Mobile optimisation means a website that’s fast, reliable, and looks good no matter which device a customer uses to access it.
Ensuring website visitors can find everything quickly and easily needs to be your key area of focus. If you already have a mobile version for your website, test it for usability and add the following features to it:

  • Main navigation bar that has obvious icons for your search tool, menu, and shopping cart
  • Sticky navigation bar that makes it easy for customers to reach a tool they need even when they scroll down
  • Collapsible accordion category menu that’s easy to navigate and scan, it shouldn’t have too many top-level categories

22. Set up Google Analytics

Google Analytics can help you understand your customers and give you a better insight into how they use your website. When you have this type of insight, you can see which parts of your website bring in the most traffic and use that information to optimise the rest of your site.

23. Review and improve your checkout process

A big reason for cart abandonment is an overly-complicated checkout process. All of the hard work you did in preparation for Black Friday doesn’t mean anything if your checkout process is too slow or confusing for customers.
Instead of dealing with a lot of cart abandonment, you need to optimise your checkout process to make it as convenient as possible for both desktop and mobile users.

  • Don’t ask for registration. You can ask users to register in multiple different places on your website, but avoid doing this during checkout. If someone wants to register, they can do it. However, if you make it mandatory before someone can complete their purchase, most customers will just abandon their cart.
  • Remove unnecessary form fields. If your website visitors have to fill out a large number of forms, it will just prolong the checkout process and cause frustration. Instead, just include form fields for information you absolutely need to know.
  • Include multiple payment methods. If you offer only one or two payment methods, you will turn away many people who find other methods more convenient. It’s important to include as many payment methods as you can and make it easy for customers to pay however they want.
  • Get rid of distractions. Your checkout process needs to have only the information that the customer needs to complete the purchase, nothing more. If you have headers, footers, sidebars, or any other distractions during the checkout process, remove them.

What to do after the holiday passes

Black Friday and Cyber Monday will come and go, but your work isn’t done after the sales stop. It’s important to sit down with your team not too long after the promotional period passes and have a talk about what you can do next.

24. Find a way to turn seasonal shoppers into loyal customers

Your website will be visited by a large number of holiday shoppers and people who look for Black Friday discounts. But even if that was the reason they came to your website, it’s not impossible to get those seasonal shoppers to return.
You build relationships with the people who become your customers during Black Friday by sending out post-sale emails. If they haven’t registered on your website, you can put those retargeting pixels to good use and create retargeting ads that have good copy and show off your newest products.

25. Discuss tactics to see what worked well

Not all of your tactics and advertisements will be as successful as you hope, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. You can talk to your team about everything that worked, everything that didn’t, and learn something from your successes and failures.
Take note of all the strategies and tactics you implement as you go, take enough notes to document all the decisions you made and what the outcomes to those decisions were. This will show what you can do for Black Friday next year and what you should avoid.

Final thoughts

Preparations for Black Friday need to be very detailed and can last for weeks or even months for some eCommerce store owners. The trick is to start as soon as possible and follow everything you just read about.
And if this is your first Black Friday, don’t worry about it too much. Even though the time leading up to it can be stressful, you will feel much better when you see how all of your efforts lead to one of the most profitable days of your career.

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