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9 Black Friday Sale Strategies That Work

2 years ago
Ernesto Comodo
By: Ernesto Comodo

Many things in 2020 have been canceled but Black Friday is definitely not one of these. No doubt that there’s been, a few dramatic headlines about the biggest shopping day of the year being “dead” or “canceled.” And it’s true that the (in)famous in-store Black Friday events that have people crowding stores and lining up in the dark may not happen this year.

But that doesn’t mean Black Friday is cancelled. Black Friday or Cyber Monday have been an online event for years. And the sales data reflects that. Just, last year, with no pandemic, more Americans shopped online during Thanksgiving weekend than in physical stores, according to the National Retail Federation. And the online Black Friday sales numbers have been trending upward since 2016. 

For the past few years, Walmart, Target, Kohl’s and other retailers have been making their Black Friday deals available online days before Thanksgiving, as early as October. And the top Black Friday doorbusters have consistently sold out online before they are even available in stores on Thanksgiving or Black Friday. For example, several AirPods deals and Nintendo Switch bundles sold out online the day before Thanksgiving last year.

The countdown might have started it already, but as a small businesses owner there’s still time to make 2020 Black Friday the best one ever.

We have put together 9 tips that will help you strategize and prepare your business for a successful Black Friday, Cyber Monday and an overall holiday shopping season.

  1. Focus on the Offer
  2. Use Social Media
  3. Retarget Past/Current Customers
  4. Segment Your Emails
  5. Optimize for Mobile First Buying
  6. Improve Your Website Functionality
  7. Work With Your Suppliers
  8. Update Your Support Process
  9. Track Everything and Analyze Results

1.     Focus on the offer

You can’t go into Black Friday and put 15% off, 20% off and expect to do well. Everything comes down to your offer—it’s the one time out of the year you can lower your prices without feeling like you’re losing brand integrity. Make sure your offer is compelling!

According to Numerator, discounts were even deeper for all retailers in 2019—across all product categories—versus 2018. Since your competitors will also be going deep, be sure to factor that into your 2020 your strategy.

But no need to feel obligated in discounting the entire store. You can do offerings to category-specific sales.Using category-specific sales accomplishes several things: 

  • Generates incremental sales with higher margins 
  • Engages email subscribers and visitors for longer
  • Helps you better manage your inventory, ordering, and future promotions 

Go all-in on VIP customers

Don’t be afraid to go even bigger with discounts and offers to your best customers. The email below, offering 70% off a hair densifying collection, was one of several offers sent to the VIP customer segment of MONAT beauty brand’s 2018 Black Friday sales event.

According to a benchmark report by Klaviyo, highly segmented VIP emails often only make up just 3–5% of your overall list but spend three times more per recipient than other customers in your database.

Your discount strategy should also be part of an overall master plan leading up to Black Friday.

Your plan should include similar tactics as the strategy above:

  • A Black Friday buzz-building campaign that includes a countdown, deals, and specials using ads, email, and social leading up to the event.
  • Sneak peeks on door crashers and other amazing sales that will go live during the weeks leading up to and on Black Friday
  • A coordinated promotional strategy across all online channels—websites, emails, and social—to maximize sales on the day of your sales
  • An influencer and micro-influencer engagement strategy to boost word of mouth about special offers
  • Post-Cyber Monday deals (e.g., extended sale offers) for last-minute shoppers emphasizing shipping dates and gift wrapping throughout December

Check out some more email promotion ideas that work.

2. Use social media to build anticipation

Leading up to Black Friday and Cyber Monday, you can make an emotional connection with customers using inspiring imagery and highlighting positive testimonials on social platforms.

Hello, hashtags! Provide specific discounts through Facebook ads that upsell customers or a certain product that isn’t selling as much. Offering a free gift specifically to social media users or a countdown on the online sale also provides a sense of urgency, leading to more sales. 

Ten days away from Black Friday, share an Instagram giveaway. Two days before the giveaway, built hype around “the biggest Black Friday Sale. EVER.” using #blackfriday.

Pitch content to blogs and gift guides

It can take weeks of back-and-forth communication with a website before you finalize a sponsorship or partnership agreement. It’s always better to start that process earlier rather than later.

Find websites talking about Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals or running gift guides that apply to your niche. Get in touch with them to feature your products and planned sales.

3.  Retarget past website visitors and customers

Always retarget customers that have previously purchased from your business. Existing customers are easier and more affordable to reach and market to than brand new ones because they’ve already bought something from you. They’re more likely to recognize and trust your brand and are more receptive to your specific sales.

4.  Segment your emails before and during Black Friday

Email is still a staple of Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales. “The more segmented and targeted your emails, the higher revenue per recipient you’ll generate. You’ll also see higher open rates, and higher click through rates—helping you build and maintain a strong sender reputation.

When evaluating a campaign performance of a smaller, more targeted group of contacts (between 1-25% of the master list), the open rates were around 18.29%. Another campaign, sent to the other 75% of the master list, achieved a lower open rate, around 12.93%. The more targeted segment also saw revenue per recipient at $0.17 versus $0.11 for the less targeted send.

To have an idea of segmenting emails we have created 10 email segments you can use to increase sales over Black Friday and Cyber Monday:

  1. Seasonal Shoppers
  2. Recent Openers
  3. VIP Customers
  4. Product Browsers
  5. Category Buyers
  6. Hasn’t Purchased (but is engaged)
  7. Email Ignorers
  8. Almost Purchasers
  9. Geographic Targets
  10. Gift Givers

For the Recent Openers, Browsers, Ignorers, Hasn’t Purchased or Almost Purchased segments, it’s vital to tailor offers to push them to the checkout—or at least to open your email. 

For the Almost Purchasers segment, you can send an email out to only those customers who had received the previous email but had not opened it or placed an order that day. 

For Email Ignorers, try enticing them with free shipping or a complimentary gift with purchase. Sending a “free shipping plus a free gift” offer at 7 p.m. the day after Black Friday to convert subscribers who didn’t open an email on the day of the sale.

5. Optimize for mobile-first buying

U.S. consumers now spend more time on their mobile phones than watching TV. If your mobile site experience isn’t up to par with your competitors, they’ll be spending that time elsewhere.

While most customers still check out on their desktop and use mobile to browse, last year during Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Shopify merchants saw mobile transactions account for 66% of all sales, compared to 39% for the rest of the U.S. industry.

You can boost your likelihood for mobile shopping success by improving your site navigation, website speed, and offering one-click purchases to mobile-first customers.

Keep in mind, “responsive design is not mobile optimization.” Shanelle Mullin explained in ConversionXL. “Though responsive design is much better than having to ‘pinch-and-zoom,’ it isn’t an optimized experience for mobile visitors,” says Talia Wolf, who was quoted in Shanelle’s post. “At its core, responsive design makes the desktop experience look good on mobile, but it doesn’t address the specific needs of mobile visitors.”

Inflow’s Best-In-Class Ecommerce Mobile Report offers best practices, including a downloadable matrix of how top ecommerce brands measure up across mobile design and optimization criteria.

With your mobile site optimized, consider ways to improve your mobile sales promotions.

Personalize promotions based on a user’s device

Average conversion rates on a mobile phone (0.55%)are still significantly lower than those on a desktop (2.06%) today. And while many merchants are increasing those rates by optimizing their mobile site experience, you can also boost sales with personalized offers. 

Epsilon Marketing found that “80% of consumers are more likely to do business with a company that offers personalized experiences.”

Tailoring offers to a customer’s mobile device is a good strategy. By detecting their device type, your offer can dynamically adapt to reflect the value of items in their cart—relative to your site’s free-shipping threshold.

For example, your first message could display: “FREE SHIPPING to TORONTO with a $50 purchase.” then, when a user adds a $25 product to their cart, it’ll change to “YOU’RE $25 AWAY FROM FREE SHIPPING” to encourage users to buy more.

Dynamic Yield reported that iOS users for a large outdoor retailer’s site spent about $110 on average on Black Friday. Meanwhile, Android shoppers had an average order value of around $85.

For device targeting, Dynamic Yield suggests using a page curl notification to display a 20% off coupon for orders larger than $100 for Android users. That same 20% off promotion could be applied to more expensive items for iOS users.

6. Improve your Website’s Functionality

Improving your on-site search functionality will help customers to navigate your site quickly to find holiday gifts. Likewise, 80% of visitors will abandon a site because of a poor on-site search experience.

Before the holiday rush, find a predictive search tool that offers:

  • Real-time analytics: To help you understand trends and performance with unlimited real-time analysis.
  • Instant, accurate search results: To retain customers who are almost twice as likely to convert when using site search.
  • Storefront customization flexibility: To use search as an extension of your brand by controlling overall search styling.

International Military Antiques (IMA)’s catalog of 7,500 products has unique attributes such as type, time period, and nationality. Some products need to be listed under multiple names and descriptions. That’s why on-site search used to be a significant challenge for the merchant.

After installing InstantSearch+, IMA created detailed rules that fit its shoppers’ behavior and requirements, so customers could more easily find what they wanted to buy.

Simplify the checkout experience

CNBC reports that consumers spend $5,400 a year on impulse purchases. While food was identified as their biggest splurge, 53% claim to spend it on clothing, 33% also bought household items, and 28% bought shoes.

To boost impulse purchases on Black Friday, reduce the on-site barriers to buy. ‘One-click’ buying enables customers to purchase items with a single click, with the customer’s payment information stored in a secure mobile wallet. Businesses can enable one-click purchases by offering these options on-site:

  1. Shopify Pay
  2. Apple Pay
  3. Android Pay
  4. PayPal

You can also add dynamic checkout buttons to increase mobile transactions. Once a customer has selected their preferred payment method, Shopify’s backend remembers their choice and automatically presents that payment button on all future visits. 

Likewise, you can speed up the checkout process by displaying those buttons directly on product pages—giving customers the option to buy immediately or add the item to their cart.

Kill the coupons and codes

Coupons and special Black Friday codes will be everywhere this year. However, they can be a hassle for customers who might use the wrong code, or forget the code and abandon their checkout.

Customizing seasonal promotions on your ecommerce site can be easier with the help of Shopify Scripts. Using the Script Editor app, you can create scripts that run each time a customer adds items to their cart. These scripts can have many uses, from discounting products with specific tags to running promotions such as “buy 2, get 1 free,” or a free gift with purchase.

Brooklinen’s Cyber Monday tiered strategy drove on-site conversions and increased average order values through spending thresholds:

Thanks to a custom Script, customers saw an overlay appear over their screen, offering a free gift choice as soon as their cart exceeded the first threshold of $150.

It’s a strategy called “optimizing closest to the money”. Using Shopify Scripts, merchants can customize their checkout experience to (1) reduce shopping-cart abandonment, and (2) increase average order value.

Shopify Plus merchants can also reduce checkout friction using automatic discounts. You can create and automatically apply discounts to a customer’s cart, without a discount code. It offers fast, flexible promotions using fixed, percentage, or buy-X-get-Y discounts to streamline the checkout process.

Using automatic discounts on Black Friday, you can:

  • Boost conversions: Discounts will be automatically shown at cart and checkout.
  • Have more flexibility with promotions: Customize discounts by adding a minimum purchase amount or quantity of items. Set conditions to only apply the discount to specific collections or products.
  • A/B test automatic discounts: Use A/B testing to identify the best automatic discount thresholds to boost sales and conversion rates. Then create a more complex, personalized experience with Shopify Scripts.

As part of the checkout streamlining process, you’ll need a plan to recover abandoned carts.

7. Work With Your Suppliers.

Can your store handle the increased demand? Are you working with a supplier for your inventory or a product manufacturer? Make sure they’re prepared to handle your projected sales for the holiday season.

You don’t want to sell out faster than expected and end up not meeting the demand of your customers. Is there anything worse than your black friday marketing ideas totally flopping?

8. Update Your Support Process.

You need to be easy to reach by customers during Black Friday Cyber Monday. You don’t want to lose a sale because they couldn’t get an answer from you quickly enough.

Set up a live chat

If you aren’t able or ready to commit to having a live chat monitored 24/7 during the holiday season, there are still ways you can use live chat strategically as a small business during the big Black Friday sales weekend.

To get the most out of your live chat, consider enabling it:

  • Right after sending emails or launching promotions. Make sure you’re available when you know there will be people clicking through from their inbox or social media.
  • On product pages featured in your Black Friday Sale deals to address any questions customers might have before they click “purchase.”
  • During key purchasing moments like when someone is viewing their shopping cart, and they might have a last minute question about shipping or the product.

Offer easy and hassle-free returns

The holidays aren’t just stressful for business owners. It’s a frantic time for shoppers too. Be the business that cares and goes above and beyond for their customers. They just might come back or tell their friends and family about how nice you were.

Make sure your return policy is clear, fair, and well-communicated on your website and store (if applicable). It could convince customers who are on the fence to click purchase since you’re showing confidence in your product and removing potential risk.

9. Track Everything And Analyze Results

When Black Friday/Cyber Monday is over, you want to be able to say “This sale was better than last year’s and here’s why,” or, if things didn’t go as planned, you can examine what went wrong and adjust for future sales.

You’re putting a lot of effort into your marketing to make sure this sale is a success. When you track everything you do, you can see what worked and what didn’t.

Set up Google Analytics

If you haven’t already, set up Google Analytics for your store and your email campaigns. It’s a powerful and free traffic tracking tool that every business owner should be using.

Want to dig in a little further? Read about how to track your campaigns in 5 simple steps.

Keep an eye on the competition

Pay attention to your competition’s marketing efforts. It can help you gather ideas for your own Black Friday Sale deals. The easiest way to sleuth on your competitors is to subscribe to their email list.

Study the types of emails they send and how frequently they send them. It probably goes without saying, but you shouldn’t copy them. It’s always a good idea to know what the other guy is doing and see if you can offer something better than they can.

Ernesto Comodo
Creative Director of 907K Marketing , Co-Owner of eBiz Marketing Academy and Marketing Director of LA South Chamber of Commerce.
15+ years of experience working in Marketing, is a Shopify Partner and Google Ads Partner.

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