Black Friday and Cyber Monday are blockbuster shopping days. If you’re an ecommerce store owner, you’ll want a piece of action.
Last year we spent nearly $7bn across the two days as stores and retailers slashed prices. Cyber Monday 2016 was the biggest day in the history of US ecommerce.
You’re probably thinking all you need to do is sit back, let the money roll in and start looking at hotels in the Bahamas.
If you don’t prepare for Black Friday and Cyber Monday, you’ll be missing out on a huge selling opportunity.
America’s Biggest Bargain Hunters – Black Friday 2016
The people who didn’t miss out on Black Friday bargains in 2016 were residents in Utah.
Utah was crowned our biggest bargain-hunting state, following our research into America’s interest in Black Friday deals.
We took ten of the most popular Black Friday search terms and input them into Google Trends to see in which state they were most popular. The higher a state scored, the more popular that search term was. We then compiled all of the scores to find an overall winner.
Let’s take a look at the full rankings:
A guide for ecommerce owners this Black Friday
This guide will be your ecommerce personal trainer. By the end you will:
- Know what Black Friday and Cyber Monday are.
- Understand why they’re so important to your ecommerce site.
- Have 9 key steps to take to make sure your store is ready and maximized for sales.
Do nothing and you could be ignored on the two biggest shopping dates of the year.
“It would be like shouting for attention at a football match – you’re just another voice in the crowd and it’s very difficult to make yourself heard.”
Click on the following links to read the specific sections:
Not built your online store yet? Don’t worry, it’s not too late!
You might not even have built your online store, and are wondering ‘is it too late to get ready and start selling in time for Black Friday and Cyber Monday’?
Thanks to drag and drop website builder tools like Shopify, creating a unique ecommerce store can take hours.
You’ve still got plenty of time to get your store off the ground and grab a slice of Black Friday and Cyber Monday revenue. Here are the two guides you need to get up and running:
How to Build an Online Store 2017 | Top 5 Tools To Get You Started – everything you need to get out of the blocks.
Online Store Builders Comparison Chart – our comparison chart will help you find the perfect online store builder for you.
When is Black Friday and Cyber Monday 2017?
Black Friday is on the 24th November, the last Friday of the month, and always falls the day after Thanksgiving. The tradition kicks off the start of the Christmas shopping period and since starting in America has spread worldwide.
Invented by clever marketers to get people to shop more online, Cyber Monday 2017 falls on the 27th November.
What’s all the fuss about? Do I really need to take part?
Put simply, Black Friday and Cyber Monday are too big for you to ignore.
Traffic to shopping sites rocketed 220% on Black Friday in 2016 when compared to a normal November day.
Amazon, Walmart and Target all launch special Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals.
But just because you’re not a global giant with bottomless pockets doesn’t mean you can’t get a piece of the action. In fact, Black Friday and Cyber Monday are the perfect time for a small store to stand out. Play to your strengths by creating a highly personal and unique shopping experience.
Online stores that use Shopify for their ecommerce generated over $500 thousand dollars in sales in one minute during the busiest time of the year!
Here are four reasons you don’t want to miss out this year:
Is your store ready?
As the big day approaches, you’ll find yourself asking ‘is my ecommerce store ready?’ ‘Am I giving myself the best chance of making money on Black Friday and Cyber Monday?
Here are 12 questions to ask yourself to find out:
- Have you carefully planned which products you’re going to be discounting?
- Do you have a marketing strategy in place to get eyeballs on your website? Running a sale without customers would be like shouting down a tunnel. It doesn’t matter how loudly you shout, no one is paying any attention.
- Are you sure your website can handle increased demand?
- Have you built enough hype among your existing customers with an email campaign?
- Is your checkout process working as smoothly as possible?
- Can customers clearly find discounted products on your website?
- Have you made sure your site works as well on mobile as on desktop?
- Does your store encourage urgency? For example, have you added a countdown timer until sales end?
- Have you thought about customer service? Black Friday and Cyber Monday shoppers are demanding and providing top-drawer customer service can really help your store stand out from the crowd.
- Is your ecommerce store designed to cross-sell and upsell? Remember, more than any other time of the year shoppers are looking to buy. You’re not being intrusive if you gently nudge customers towards other products they might want.
- Have you thought about shipping charges? Are you going to charge shoppers for delivery or drop them altogether?
- Are your images optimized? Big pictures can affect your site’s load speed and in the gold rush of Black Friday and Cyber Monday even a slight delay can translate to fa sale lost.
We know that looks like a lot to take in, but there’s no need to rush to panic stations.
We’ll show you how with a bit of legwork you can really get your store ready for Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
9 steps to get your store ready
Filling the holes in your Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales strategy may seem like a daunting task, but you can achieve a lot in a short space of time, especially if you take advantage of the help on offer from specialist ecommerce website builders like Shopify and BigCommerce.
With a website builder, it can feel like having a full-time business partner. They want you to succeed because the better you do, the better they do.
Don’t worry if you don’t think you have the time, just follow these 9 steps to give your site the best chance of increasing sales this holiday season.
- Optimize your products for sales
- Apply the right discounts, to the right products
- Improve the shopping experience
- Make your checkout process as good as it can be
- Use social media marketing to drive traffic
- Send top-quality email marketing campaigns
- Sort out your site’s images
- Decide what to do about shipping costs
- Provide standout customer service
1.Optimize your products
7 in 10 shoppers are uncertain what they’re going to buy, so it’s crucial you give your products every chance of standing out.
“Shoving products on your site and waiting for a sale would be like going fishing without any bait!”
If you took part in Black Friday and Cyber Monday last year, the first step is to analyze your sales data to see what went well. Use the information to make alterations to existing product layouts and product descriptions.
Plan ahead by creating a product schedule that determines when a product goes on sale and its price. Rather than playing catch up, you can get ahead of the game and then make slight tweaks rather than making it up off the cuff. Website builders like Shopify have apps that can help you auto post products. We like BigCommerce’s Discount Manager (more on this later).
Your product descriptions should instill urgency. Remind people they only have a certain window to bag the bargains on offer by adding phrases like:
- Limited time only
- Only one left
- In high demand
- Sold out soon
Add special mentions to Black Friday and Cyber Monday in the product descriptions to signpost their relevancy to the shopper.
If you’re stocking products from any well-known brands, make sure the brand names appear in a prominent position – this doesn’t just improve your organic rankings (which equals more traffic and so more sales), it also adds credibility to your store and makes customers more likely to become repeat shoppers.
You might also think about running a keyword search on Google and using Google Trends to find some Black-Friday-related keywords for your products. Including these in your descriptions may give your site an SEO (search engine optimization) boost – by climbing Google’s rankings for relevant terms, you’ll get more traffic on the day and, hopefully, more sales.
It’s also worth running a quick audit of your categories and product listings to make sure they’re up to date. There’s nothing worse than advertising a product you’re not able to deliver.
The products you display don’t have to be set in stone. Dropshipping means you can branch into new markets at the drop of a hat, so it’s always worth being flexible in case you spot an opportunity.
The Easy Way to Start a Dropshipping Business has everything you need to know.
2.Apply the right discounts, to the right products
Black Friday and Cyber Monday shoppers are bargain hunters.
Be prepared: you’re going to have to slash at least 20 per cent off your items to compete. You might want to consider offering a free gift with your products as a little sweetener; web builders like Shopify allow you to add gift cards to your store for free.
When it comes to discounts, the more creative the better.
Plenty of retailers will be offering 20% off, but how many will be offering ‘50% off for first-time buyers’, or ‘30% off if you buy more than 5 pairs of shoes’? Let your imagination off the leash!
How to Design a Customer-Winning Product Page for Your eCommerce Store: Part 1 has everything you need on designing a product page for your ecommerce site.
A “doorbuster sale” – an eye-watering discount on one product of, say, 80 per cent – can be a great way to draw a high volume of shoppers to your store. Once they’re on your site, you hope they browse around and buy other products. If you’ve got a product you’ve been struggling to shift, this could be a good candidate for a doorbuster.
3.Improve the shopping experience
Everything about your store’s design on Black Friday and Cyber Monday should be geared towards making a sale and turning browsers into buyers.
Are there ample opportunities for cross-selling and upselling? For example, if you’ve got a great discount on a pair of shoes, cross-sell that customer some cut-price socks by displaying them on the same product page. Or, to upsell, advertise a better version of the shoes. Doing this is easy if you build categories of products that naturally fit together (like socks and shoes).
A customer should arrive on your store’s homepage and be in no doubt where to go.
Consider building distinct Black Friday and Cyber Monday pages to clearly signpost where your customers need to go to get the deals. Ultimately, you want your customers to get to your discounted products in as few clicks as possible.
“Imagine if you were driving to a amusement park and there were no signs telling you how to get there. You’d get lost and probably very annoyed, right?”
That’s what it would be like arriving on an ecommerce store and not knowing where the deals are.
Just like your product descriptions, your whole site should convey a sense of urgency. Here are two DIY steps to create a sense of urgency in the same time it takes to eat your dinner:
- Display discounts clearly on the homepage – this may sound obvious but it’s easy to get so caught up in your product pages that you forget to sort out the shop window.
- Add a countdown banner – a timer that ticks down to Black Friday and Cyber Monday can really help build excitement. Tools like Powr (fully integrated with BigCommerce) can help you do this for free in a matter of minutes.
Here’s an example of a countdown banner we added through Shopify:
Top Tip: If you already have a ‘sale’ section of your website, a quick and easy fix is to alter the text to make it a special Black Friday and Cyber Monday navigation bar. Ask your friends to road test your site before the sales weekend – they’re likely to be brutally honest about any shortcomings!
4.Make your checkout process as good as it can be
You might think, ‘my checkout is working fine, if it isn’t broken, why try and fix it?’.
That would be a mistake.
Black Friday and Cyber Monday shoppers are fickle – they’ve got thousands of stores to visit and a limited amount of time, and so won’t think twice about leaving you hanging at the checkout.
“Your checkout is like the final hurdle in a race: it doesn’t matter if you’ve cleared all the others, if you fall down at the final hurdle you’re not winning the gold.”
Taking some time to improve your checkout process could pay off on the day.
Can you add extra payment options such as PayPal or Bitcoin? The more strings to your ecommerce bow the better because you’re giving your customers more opportunities to give you their money.
With 3 in 10 US purchasing journeys online involving more than one device, tying shopping carts with accounts means your customers don’t lose their orders if they switch device, and you don’t risk losing out on almost a third of your revenue.
It’s a win-win!
A customer that’s made it all the way to your checkout page is a red-hot prospect – they’re ripe to be upsold faster delivery. It’s worth seeing if they bite by adding cross-selling opportunities right to the end.
5.Use social media to drive traffic
Running campaigns on social media sites like Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram can be a great way to get eyeballs on your ecommerce site; but it’s not enough to just push ads out there, you have to push those adds to the right people.
“Sending an advert for your vintage soccer shirts to a person who loves ice hockey would be like trying to ram a square peg in a round hole.”
Watch out for Black Friday and Cyber Monday hashtags you can piggyback on. Using the social media plug-ins available from ecommerce website builders will let you integrate your store with Facebook or Twitter.
In our experience testing ecommerce stores, Facebook is the most effective channel to drive traffic to your site and generate sales. This is reflected in the stats: purchase rates increased 42% for ecommerce companies on facebook on Black Friday 2016.
To give your social media campaigns the best chance of success, choose a quality product image and add your logo and some text advertising your deals. Make sure you start circulating the advert at least a few days in advance to build excitement. Leave it to the last minute and customers may only see your ad once, which means they’re unlikely to click through, given how many retailers will be demanding their attention.
Want to learn more about social media?
3 Easy Ways to Set Up a Facebook Store to Start Selling in 2017 is the guide you need to get your Facebook marketing campaign off the ground.
6.Send top-quality email marketing campaigns
For many of us, Black Friday and Cyber Monday can feel overwhelming. Email gives you the chance to cut through the noise and provide a really personal offering to your customers.
Make sure you start your email campaign at last a week advance to whet your customers’ appetite for the sales you’re going to offer them on across the weekend.
A simple but effective email campaign would include:
- One weekly email from four weeks until Black Friday.
- An email both the night before Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
- An email on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
You may even consider offering your long standing customers a special VIP offer over email. For example, you could give them a sneak preview of your Black Friday and Cyber Monday discounts and offer them an early chance to buy them. This can be a great way to build up brand trust; because repeat customers are more valuable to you, it also makes commercial sense.
Even if you do all of the above, you’re not done.
Make sure you follow up after Black Friday and Cyber Monday to ask for feedback and invite them to revisit your store.
Adding an automated abandoned cart recovery email is a great way of stopping customers slipping through the net. If a customer gets all the way to the checkout but then fails to purchase, they’ll get a follow-up email allowing them to go straight back to their cart (Shopify actually includes abandoned cart recovery as standard).
This is a useful tool for your customers and potentially profitable one for you!
Shopify and BigCommerce both come with MailChimp integration; all you need to do is visit the app store and add it on. Our experience with MailChimp is that it’s an excellent tool to scale your email marketing campaigns and take your communications to the next level. It’s very easy to use and works on the same drag and drop principles as website builders, so you don’t need to be technical at all to use it.
An easy way of staying on top of what your competitors are doing for Black Friday and Cyber Monday is to subscribe to their email list. You can get a clear idea of their marketing strategy and incorporate any ideas into your own plan.
7.Sort out your site’s images
Black Friday and Cyber Monday shoppers are ruthless. With so many retailers competing for their attention, they can afford to be.
If your store is even remotely slow to load, many shoppers will simply vote with their feet and close the tab. Big, colourful product pictures and homepage banner images make your site look good but they can also affect load time and hit your conversion rate (the percentage of visitors who go on to make a purchase) and your rankings in Google.
“OK, but my products need images, so what can I do about it?”
The simple way to solve this issue is to use an image optimizer. These are tools that compress your image into a smaller version, without affecting the dimensions or the quality. Shopify has its own tool to help store owners resize and optimize images, but we’ve used a tool called Kraken.io before, which also works well.
Other helpful pages:
Where to Find Professional Images for Your Website Without Paying Professional Prices – if you’re looking for guidance on how to source top-drawer images for your ecommerce site.
8.Decide what to do about shipping costs
Black Friday and Cyber Monday shoppers are an entitled bunch and many will expect free delivery.
It’s up to you to weigh up the cost of free shipping against the discount you’re offering. For example, many shoppers would rather have free shipping worth $6 than a discount of $10, bizarrely.
64% of shoppers told NRF that they were convinced to make a purchase by free shipping, so you may see it as too good an opportunity to miss.
Adding free shipping discounts is pretty straightforward in most decent store builders. With Shopify, for example, you can either send a free shipping discount code through your store’s discounts section (great for rewarding loyal customers) or set up a free shipping rate in your store’s settings.
9.Provide standout customer service
With Walmart and Amazon dominating Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales, you might feel like a small fish in a big pond.
The trick is to turn this to your advantage.
One way to do this is by providing personal and quality customer service. If you haven’t already, write a detailed FAQs section specific to Black Friday and Cyber Monday, so any questions your customers might have can be dealt with as seamlessly as possible. Make sure you cover key areas such as:
- Your refunds and returns policy.
- How long your sale lasts for.
- Expected delivery time.
If you employ any staff to help you run your store, make sure you give them a brief pep talk on the importance of being polite and helpful.
Anything you can do to improve the on-site level of service can have a big effect. You might, for example, consider investing in an app through your store builder platform that allows you to integrate a live chat service. LiveChat, a premium online chat software you can easily integrate with your BigCommerce store, offers a free 30-day trial, so time it right and you can add a really attractive customer service tool for FREE.
Any apps or tools that can help?
We’ve been highlighting handy tools available through website builders’ app stores throughout, but here’s a highlights reel of the best Black Friday apps we’ve found when testing and building ecommerce websites.
- Discount Manager / Sales Scheduler (BigCommerce): this app allows you to automate the process of updating product prices and schedule sales, saving you a load of time you can then spend running top-draw marketing campaigns. The original price is kept on the product page so customers can clearly see the discount they are getting. When the sale ends, the app automatically restores the original price.
- Back in Stock (Shopify): this super-neat tool lets customers ask to be notified when a product you’ve run out of is back in stock. You can then retarget them with an email when you have the product they want. We like this app because it means as few visitors to your site as possible slip through the cracks.
- Easy Customer Contact (WixeCommerce): a one-stop solution to your customer service headaches, Easy Customer Contact enables you to offer live chat, callback, text messages, email and even Facebook messenger. Your customers will be grateful for the range of communication options (and may even reward you with a purchase).
- PageFly (Shopify): an incredibly smooth drag and drop landing page builder that’s been designed for Shopify. PageFly lets you create landing pages for every marketing campaign and test them. For example, if you’ve got a particular Facebook campaign advertising a product, create a unique landing page for it. Having a tailored landing page will increase the chance of a visitor converting into a sale. Shopify has designed the tool with paid campaigns in mind and landing page templates will fit the best practice from Facebook and Google AdWords.
There are hundreds of useful tools available to help your Black Friday and Cyber Monday be a success. These are just a few of them. Finding the right add-on for your ecommerce problem will require some trial and error, so dive in and start experimenting.
Time to go premium?
Website builders like Shopify and BigCommerce have a host of tools that are only available to users who upgrade to a more advanced package. If you’re serious about taking your store to the next level this Black Friday and Cyber Monday, it might be time to upgrade so you can take advantage of them.
Huge brands like Red Bull and Budweiser have recognized the advantages of Shopify Plus, for example, which gives you unlimited bandwidth and scraps transaction fees, so you can reinvest all profits into your business (for the full list of benefits, head over to our review of Shopify Plus). If it’s good enough for Red Bull, it’s probably good enough to give your store wings too!
How do you know your store can handle the traffic?
The biggest nightmare for any site owner is your website breaking down just as you get a surge in customers looking to buy.
It’s enough to make you wake up in the middle of the night in cold sweats. Downtime on a website is like putting up a sign on your front door inviting your customers to head over to the competition.
Traffic to retailers rockets over Black Friday and Cyber Monday and you might worry that your store isn’t properly equipped to handle it. The important thing is not to panic: crashing a website usually takes A LOT of traffic. Even so, it’s still worth giving your site a stress test before the big weekend.
“Think of it as giving your car an MOT before you compete in a Nascar rally event.
What can you do to make sure your store is fighting fit?
- Test the load capacity (the amount of activity your store can take before it packs it in) using tools such as LoadImpact.com. If your store is self-hosted, you may want to consider upgrading the service or your hosting plan to unlimited bandwidth.
- Test email marketing in advance – if you’re sending any automated emails over the period, test, test and test again that they are delivering properly and that the copy is clear. Sending the wrong email to the wrong customer could affect sales and really damage your brand in the long run by making you look amateur.
- Test your site across different browsers (Google, Firefox, Internet Explorer) and across different devices (mobile, tablet, desktop) to make sure it’s working smoothly on all of them. Your shoppers will use all manner of browsers on a number of devices, so it’s important to spread your net as wide as you can to avoid missing out on sales.
How website builders help:
We’re guessing like us you wouldn’t know where to start if your site crashed under increased traffic? One of the big advantages of using a platform like Shopify is that stores built through their infrastructure are designed to handle sudden spikes in interest, so you can rest easy. Even if you’re not a technical wizard, you’re covered.
Have you sorted out your shipping?
Touch wood, you’ll be receiving more orders than usual across Black Friday and Cyber Monday. A lot more orders, hopefully.
It’s crucial to make sure your shipping process can cope and you’re not going to fail to deliver orders if they’re coming through thick and fast, or that you won’t sell out too quickly and end up failing to meet demand. Contact your supplier and make sure they know what’s happening.
Test your order fulfilment process, whether you’re using a dropshipper, a manual system or a fulfilment app like ShipStation.
It pays to be have a backup plan. If your shipping company turns around on the day and says they can’t fulfill the orders, what are you going to do? Make sure you build relationships with different suppliers so that when one fails you, you can transfer over and minimize the effect on your store’s productivity.
Why you should pay attention to mobile and desktop
When making sure your store is ready for the busiest shopping days of the year, it’s easy to forget how important it is to make sure all the changes we’ve suggested work as well on mobile as they do on desktop.
We’re reminding you now so you have no excuse.
A staggering $1.2b was spent on mobile on Black Friday 2016 and mobile usage is only getting more popular. Last year mobile purchases made up 36% of Black Friday sales and 29% of Cyber Monday sales.
Don’t forget to look at navigation on a mobile, mobile responsiveness and the buying process.
Website builders like BigCommerce make it easy to toggle from desktop to mobile, letting you see how your site appears on each device. Make sure you use these tools to spot any clunkiness in your mobile version so you can swoop in and fix it before the big day. You may even think of designing a dedicated mobile landing page using the tools we mentioned earlier to maximise traffic from mobile shoppers.
Best Black Friday & Cyber Monday practices for your online store
There are no hard-and-fast rules, just use your common sense.
Many retailers get caught up in the competitiveness of Black Friday and Cyber Monday and risk damaging their brand with unethical practices. Here are a few rules of thumb to bear in mind:
- DON’T spam customers with relentless emails. Just because they’ve bought from you or signed up to your newsletter doesn’t give you right to abuse their inbox.
- DO always have an unsubscribe button on any emails.
- DON’T offer promotions or products in paid advertising that you aren’t offering on the site. Customers must get what they were promised when they click on a paid advert.
- DO offer genuine discounts. Don’t raise the price a week before and then drop it back down to its original price but advertise it as a discount. You’ll be caught out and shoppers will punish you in the long run.
- DON’T be rude to customers requesting refunds or making inquiries. Black Friday and Cyber Monday can be stressful, but you should always remain professional and courteous.
- DO make sure any pop-ups you add to your website are as unobtrusive and relevant as possible. We’d suggest they only appear after a visitor has been on your page for 10 seconds. There is nothing more offputting than arriving on a webpage only to be attacked by a pop-up immediately.
Black Friday and Cyber Monday are the biggest shopping dates in the calendar and so are super competitive. Standing out in the crowd can feel impossible if you’re a small online store with limited resource.
But if you ask yourself the right questions, and take the right steps, you can ride the Black Friday and Cyber Monday wave and get in on the action.
Hopefully this guide has shown you some easy DIY methods to get your ecommerce store ready for Black Friday and Cyber Monday, without needing to hire an expensive developer or a designer, and pointed you in the direction of some really helpful tools available from top ecommerce website builders.
If you haven’t even built your ecommerce store yet, it’s never too late to get up and running.
Our 5 Best eCommerce Software To Help You Sell Online will show you how quickly and easily you can build an online store and start selling, without needing any technical knowledge whatsoever.
If you’re running an ecommerce store already, and want more information on the topics covered in this guide, we suggest you read the guides listed below to really take your site to the next level:
How to Design a Customer-Winning Product Page for Your eCommerce Store: Part 1 – for the 8 pieces of content your ecommerce product page must have if you want to supercharge your online store.
How To Sell Online | 4 Superb eCommerce Solutions To Help You Succeed – your one-stop guide to selling online successfully, covering everything from building a brand to technology that helps you sell.
Let’s hear it for a successful Black Friday and Cyber Monday!
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