The Ultimate Black Friday Survival Guide
Welcome to our ultimate guide to surviving Black Friday, you’ve found us just in time. This post will take you through how to plan your sale, market it successfully to your target audience and how to compete for sales with some of the big Black Friday players.
What Is Black Friday?
Black Friday falls the day after Thanksgiving in America. In 2018 Black Friday falls on November 23rd. It started out as an in-store shopping event that offered huge savings for one day only, but it has turned into a four day mega-sale extending over the weekend to include ‘Small Business Saturday’ and ‘Cyber Monday’, both in-store and online. Thanks in large part to global powerhouses such as Amazon, this American tradition has crossed the pond in recent years.
Why You Should Definitely Hold A Black Friday Sale
Don’t be put off by the violence in the video, luckily for us holding a Black Friday Sale is much safer online!
A few years ago, the scale of Black Friday hit me in the face like a bulldozer. I just couldn’t believe the mayhem – frantic hoards of people scrambling into House of Fraser, manic shoppers starting fights in Tescos. If I didn’t realise Black Friday had become a ‘thing’ in the UK. I was the only one.
And it wasn’t just in the shops, Internet Retail Experts IMRG estimate £1.39b was spent by UK shoppers online during Black Friday 2017. Data suggests that Black Friday 2017 saw an increase in spend of 8% vs 2016, with the vast majority of winners being online.
Avoiding The Pitfalls & Learning From Previous Years
If you are planning on hosting a Black Friday sale, it is extremely important you understand and learn from what happened in the last few years. The unprecedented success of Black Friday often triggers a lot of unforeseen problems for businesses holding sales:
A lot of businesses manically slashed prices to compete with the likes of Amazon and it left most with very little profit. GAME even issued a profits warning post-Black Friday as its heavy discounting on games and consoles actually had a negative effect on its bottom line, despite the mega spike in sales.
The massive increase in demand over such a small space of time created a ‘delivery tsunami’ as many sites could not handle traffic volumes on the day, stock assurance days after and fulfilment throughout December. Leaving lots of customers frustrated, disappointed and without their purchases. Click and Collect could be a good alternative to help ease delivery pressures, research shows that customers opt for Click & Collect in order to avoid delivery charges.
There was a lot of debate around whether Black Friday actually increased sales over the holiday period. According to the popular online appliance store AO.com, in 2014 Black Friday did not actually produce incremental sales for the business, but condensed them into a shorter time period. In other words, Black Friday didn’t really simulate new demand for the company. It just brought it forward into a 24hr shopping frenzy.
Nevertheless, this year customers in the UK are primed to shop by all the hype generated by the mania that has occurred over recent years. And they have serious buying intent. So despite the potential pitfalls, this predictable spending behaviour is something businesses need to tap into, as Black Friday and Cyber Monday are only going to become more deeply ingrained in our collective psyche as two of the main shopping days of the year.
Planning, starting earlier rather than later and a solid promotion strategy are the keys to a successful Black Friday and Cyber Monday sale. This checklist should cover most of what you need to know to prepare and market your online Black Friday sale to generate real ROI this year.
Plan and organise your sales
Look at all of your products and plan your sales ahead of time instead of putting on a last minute sale. Choose the products you want to run a holiday sale on and schedule their start dates and sale prices. This will stop you falling into the trap of slashing prices to try and compete with more established sites.
It’s important to keep your sale SIMPLE. Unless you’re a well-known department store with decades of experience, don’t try to organise multiple layers of sales for Black Friday. It’s much simpler for you and clearer for your target audience if you have one main focus and do it well.
Double check your stock
Make sure you have double-checked the stock count on all of your products and organize them to make the sales and shipping process easier.
Double check your site
Nothing will affect your sales more than a non-functioning, unresponsive site on the most competitive shopping day of the year. Make sure everything is working smoothly – navigate your site, go through the checkout process and ensure your host can handle a spike in traffic. Argos saw 2million people visit its site in the 4 hours after launching its Black Friday sale on Thursday evening.
Mobile should be at the forefront of your digital strategy – 2017 saw sales via mobile devices overtake desktop sales on Black Friday.
Contact your developers in good time if you’re concerned about your site’s performance affecting your Black Friday sales.
Create a contingency plan
What happens if you experience down time? Or the shipping company you work with becomes too busy? In the past, many businesses big and small experienced these kinds of problems on Black Friday, make sure you have proper backups in place in case something goes wrong.
Plan Your Start Date
In 2017 a huge number of stores kicked off sales early, hoping to snap up shoppers looking for bargains. Ensure your deals are ready to go early in case you make the decision to start your sale early.
Black Friday shoppers are far more savvy than your average customer. They are planners. So start marketing your Black Friday sales to them weeks ahead of time.
Create a buzz
It’s important you think of your Black Friday as an event rather than just another sale, and the first rule of event marketing is to create a ‘buzz’ of excitement around it.
Include a countdown on your landing page or in your marketing banners. Countdowns help to create a sense anticipation and suspense. As well as putting your customers in a buying state of mind.
Another simple way to create buzz around Black Friday is to tease your customers with information about what’s to come and sneak peeks of products featured in the run up to the sale. You can do this through a number of online marketing channels that we’ll talk about in more detail below…
Create a new landing page and banners
And with good reason.
According to the NFR, 40% of your customers have already begun researching and doing their Christmas shopping. So the quicker you can get your Black Friday marketing plan set in stone, the quicker you can start letting both them and the search engines know about it.
If shoppers are unable to easily find your Black Friday sale, they’ll leave. Make sure you capture their attention with clear and well-implemented marketing designs.
We strongly recommend creating a new landing page especially for Black Friday. Amazon, Tescos and John Lewis all have their Black Friday pages up now. Search engines have already indexed these pages, meaning they already have a better chance of being picked up in SERPS when people search for ‘Black Friday sales’.
Do it like the big boys and release your Black Friday landing page in three stages:
FIRST: A basic Black Friday landing page that includes:
- Black Friday or Cyber Monday in the title and H1 tags
- A small preview of items you might feature
- Newsletter signup and a call-to-action to register for Black Friday sales alerts
SECOND: A Preview Black Friday landing page that includes:
- More previews of products to be featured in your Black Friday sales
- Earlybird deals
- Links to blog posts on ‘Gift Guides’ and other useful information
THIRD: Display your full Black Friday landing page with all products in the sale listed.
Whether or not you have the budget to create a new page for Black Friday, you’re best deals should be clearly highlighted on your home page or above the fold with eye catching banners.
With details of upcoming discounts and stats around product sales from previous years, Argos’ Black Friday countdown page aims to entice users to return.
Get your optimised product pages ready
Once you have selected the items you’ll be featuring in your Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales make sure your product pages are up to date, optimised and as helpful as possible. You may want to consider adding seasonal keywords such as ‘black friday sale’ and ‘Christmas gifts’ to the descriptions too. Also ensure these products are included in your Google Products feed.
Having your product pages ready well in advance has two main advantages:
- It gives search engines plenty of time to index each product page. Last year, searches for ‘black friday’ started to ramp up around 10 days before Black Friday
- Establish the regular retail price for your customers so that when you put the item on sale there is a clear discount.
Email is a hugely important channel for reaching consumers.
Four basic emails you should send during the Black Friday sales include:
- Teaser emails with sneak peeks
- Black Friday sale announcement (one on Monday night and one sent late afternoon/early evening the Thursday before)
- Exclusive offers for email subscribers
- Last reminder before the sale ends
Target your emails for when your audience is most likely to be free to read them. We also strongly recommend having your Black Friday sale live when you send out your announcement email the Thursday before.
***REMEMBER*** Everyone will be sending out Black Friday themed emails over this period so it’s extra important to be creative with subject lines so you stand out against the competition!
This email from online clothing store Nasty Gal bold, simple and creative. Carrying the black theme through their creative, messaging and sale creates a coherent and compelling sales proposition.
The abandoned cart strategy
Collect all of the abandoned cart data from the week before and leading up to Black Friday and use this data to try and get them back.
Send them a ‘Your shop has been reduced for Black Friday’ email with information about the sale.
Or remarket to them using Google Ads & Facebook making them aware of your sale.
Content Creation and Blogging
Content creation and blogging should play an important part in your Black Friday promotions, as it may help you attract a significant amount of organic traffic to your site before and during the sales. In fact, according to the 45-Day rule, publishing your content a week before a major event will help your potential search engine traffic by 50%.
Here are some content ideas that can help support your Black Friday and holiday sales throughout Christmas:
- Product demonstration/review videos
- Holiday gift guides (focusing on specific family members, saving money and so on)
- How-to guides
Social media is another great platform for helping to create that sense of suspense and anticipation around your Black Friday sale. Remember to focus your biggest efforts on sites that your target audience are most likely to use.
Use Social Media to:
- Promote your seasonal blog posts
- Tease customers with snippets of information about upcoming sales
- Create a countdown
- Give followers exclusive offers
- Advertise to new and existing audiences
- Boost engagement
- Raise awareness using hashtags
You could also take advantage of this increased engagement by hosting a special Black Friday competition. Get your customers to screenshot gifts they want to buy and tag you to enter a prize draw.
Another good use of social media during Black Friday is to make it easy for your customers to share the products they’ve just bought on their social media accounts by adding social share buttons to the check-out process. #salefies (we’re pretty proud of that one too)
As mentioned earlier, plan your ads, giveaways and creative ahead of time.
Blogger outreach & influencer marketing
If you have good relationships with a few bloggers in your industry the holidays is a great time to reach out to them with products they might be interested in reviewing for their own Christmas gift guides. This is a great way to get your sale products in front of a new but interested audience.
If you are unsure about the best way to collaborate with bloggers, read our blogger outreach guide in time for next year.
Pay Per Click
Pay Per Click (PPC) is a quick way to attract valuable traffic to your website and it’s profitable too!
Avoid expensive and competitive keywords such as ‘gifts’, instead use Google’s keyword planner, data from Search Console & Google Trends and previous in-house sales data to target specific keywords your audience may be searching for at this time. On Black Friday it’s more likely people will be searching specifically for what they want, rather than ideas.
Use Google Trends to try and estimate traffic levels. This will help you to budget. For example searches for ‘macbook’ nearly doubled on Black Friday last year, your budget needs to reflect this increase in demand.
When writing your ads, be sure to entice shoppers by adding a sense of urgency to your offers.
According to Clarity.fm, it’s 50% easier to sell to existing customers than it is to brand new ones. So make sure you use your remarketing lists. If you have not used remarketing before, read this Google article on setting up and using remarketing cookies on your site.
Getting your product feed on Google Shopping is another proven way gain visibility with potential customers. Not only do Google Shopping feeds have a higher conversion rate than other forms of PPC, they also have a lower cost-per-click.
Keep an eye on what the competition are doing
You’ve got to know what your competitors are up to in order to make sure you offering is competitive. There are three easy ways to do this:
- Subscribe to their emailing list
- Use Google Alerts
- Follow their Social Media accounts
Google Analytics is a powerful, free traffic tracking tool that every ecommerce business owner should be using. Ensure you have ecommerce tracking set up as well as key conversion points tracked such as add to basket, sign up for newsletter etc.
Top Tips For Competing With The Big Boys
Just because we can’t all offer 50% off and two for one deals like the big boys, doesn’t mean we can’t still offer our customers exciting offers and cash in on Black Friday.
Here are a few ideas for you to try:
Who says your Black Friday sale has to start on Black Friday? Why not try starting your sale at 7pm on Thursday (more affectionately known as Grey Thursday) to catch people when they are already at home and usually bored. Bored people spend money.
Have at least one jaw-dropping sale
Try running a “jaw-dropping” sale on a popular item to lure customers on to your site, it’s likely they’ll likely pick up a few other items on their way to the checkout.
Reward loyal customers
Black Friday is a great time to build stronger relationships and brand loyalty with previous customers. Give your previous/existing customers the best deals. For instance you could give them the opportunity to access your sales earlier, or give them exclusive sales just for being a subscriber to your newsletter.
This also encourages email signups by offering exclusive deals customers wouldn’t have access to otherwise.
Upsell and cross-sell products
Remember as Black Friday shoppers are more likely to be buying gifts, they may be more inclined to buy a more expensive product. Offer them a few similar options that will fit the same need, as well as products that relate to the item they are viewing.
Exit intent pop up offers
Target those about to leave your site with exit intent offers to drive them back on your site. Many retailers will be offering big discounts, so think about going down a different route, such as offering them a free gift.
Launch a new product
Remember, this is the time of year people are most likely to spurge as well as be searching for the best deals. One way of taking advantage of that buying intent is to launch a new and exciting product.
Spread the deals
Black Friday may now be the busiest shopping day of the year, but we’ve read no rule saying your sales can’t extend beyond it. Try hosting a 12 or 30 day holiday sale to keep people coming back to your site after the madness.
Free delivery and hassle free returns
Can’t make everything half price? Offer free delivery and hassle free returns. Not only will this incite customers to spend more online rather than hitting a physical store, it will help encourage those on-the-fence shoppers to make a purchase. Remember to be transparent about when customers will receive their orders.
Be small and proud
Take advantage of the growing ‘buy local’ movement and communicate that you appreciate their support as a small business. This personal touch can help ensure you bag a sale over the multinationals.
Providing fantastic customer service can help boost sales during Black Friday. Have extra help on hand to ensure quick response times and always be courteous and respectful.
Post-Black Friday and Cyber Monday
Have a marketing plan to turn those seasonal, one-time shoppers into year-round customers. Keep them informed of new deals via email, stay in touch with them on social media and try retargeting to remind them where you are!
At Digirank, we have years of experience combining all of these elements to create highly successful sales campaigns for our clients. If you would like to know more about what we can do for your business, get in touch today. And if this is your first Black Friday and Cyber Monday as a business, remember to treat it as a learning experience and make sure you make notes for next year!
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