Black Friday & Cyber Monday 2020: How to Set Your Store up for Success

To create this guide, we consulted with digital professionals and other small business owners, who have all shared their best insights for cyber week success. Thank you to everyone who shared their thoughts!

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are historically two huge days in the ecommerce calendar, with around 40% of shoppers making an online purchase on Black Friday 2019. 

With the uncertainty and difficulty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s understandable for small businesses to question how much stock (literally) to put into cyber week this year. 

Shopify even held an ecommerce webinar titled ‘Is Black Friday Dead?’. Having attended the webinar, and listened to merchants, and the Head of Ads Research and Insights at Google, it’s safe to say the answer was a resounding no

Far from being dead, they predicted Black Friday to be even bigger this year: 

  • 73% of people are browsing more online 
  • 2/3 merchants are planning to start cyber week earlier this year

We’re going to show you how to prep your online store for what could and should be its biggest day yet.


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 | 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.

Optimize your products for sales

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
“One of our most creative Black Friday strategies was to include a “deal by the hour” campaign which had a different deal every 1-2 hours. Our analytics showed our customers checking our page nearly 5 different times that day! Another strategy that worked well was giving our email campaigns a Black Friday twist a few weeks beforehand. By continuing to provide good value leading up to Black Friday, we gave our customers great anticipation while they continued to shop normally online.”Christopher Bancho, The Vapor Shoppe

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.

Top Tip: 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.

black friday tip optimize products

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.

Ian Sells“If you’re going to run Black Friday deals, you want to be strategic. A huge mistake a lot of retailers make is to give discounts on everything. When you discount everything, you’ll end up unnecessarily losing profit.

Try using a high runner strategy to draw more people into your store and optimize for margin. Amazon uses a high runner strategy itself. To build a high runner strategy, all you need to do is determine the most popular products in your store, then discount those products as a way to drive traffic to your shop. Once a consumer is in your shop, they’re less likely to navigate away, which means you have the opportunity for strategic cross and up-sells of complementary products.” Ian Sells, Rebate Key

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 Product Page has everything you need on designing a product page for your ecommerce site.

Top Tip: A “doorbuster sale” – an eye-watering discount on one product of, say, 80% – 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.
black friday tip apply discounts

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.

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:

Adding a countdown banner like this Shopify example drives excitement for your store's sale
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!
black friday tip improve shopping experience

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.

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!

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!
black friday tip improve checkout process

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.

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.

Tracy Brinkmann Headshot“Start working on your social media presence NOW to gain traction for those all important BIG SALE DAYS and when it comes to social media there is a recipe to this – you cannot just be throwing random content out there and expect people to react. I mean it is social media, after all, so you have to be social, so put up some R&R content (i.e. jokes, funny stuff, throwbacks). Then some enlightening content (i.e. tips, trivia, etc). From there, toss in something to strike up a Conversation (i.e. polls, surveys, ask advice etc), as well as some Invigorating and Inspirational content (i.e. quotes, client success stories). Now hit them with a Promo (eg. show customer reviews, give a discount, invite them to a webinar). Finally, show off your Endeavour (i.e. show behind the scenes, let them see behind the curtain). Your spending time being social before you hit them with a ‘Buy My Stuff’ message.” Tracy Brinkmann, Dark Horse Schooling
black friday tip use social media
Want to learn more about social media?

3 Easy Ways to Set Up a Facebook Store is the guide you need to get your Facebook marketing campaign off the ground.

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.

alexis frankel“In the past, the best campaigns I’ve produced have been for Black Friday/Cyber Monday ($10,000+ in a single day from email campaigns). Leads are in the mind set to buy and will do so if they see what they like. Give them what they want! Use data from their previous purchases, abandoned cart items, and average order value to target specific promotions that they will be interested in. Make sure to tweak and test for the best results.”

Alexis Frankel, USA Wholesale

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.

This is a useful tool for your customers and potentially profitable one for you!

Top tip: 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.
black friday tip send email campaigns

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.

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.

black friday tips sort out images
Other helpful pages:

How to Take Product Photos – Give your products the best chance with our guide to great product photography.

Decide what to do about shipping costs

Many Black Friday and Cyber Monday shoppers 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.

brian deschesare“Use a loss leader product, and offer free shipping on expensive orders. A ‘loss leader’ is a product sold at a loss to bring in more customers. You might be wondering why you would ever sell a product at a loss, but the idea is simple. You want to make it cheap enough to get them shopping. That way, they’ll start taking a look at the rest of your products, and they’ll buy even more.

Without first using a loss leader, your customers might not even start shopping with you. There needs to be that ‘initial push’ that gets them browsing your store. The next step is to introduce free shipping over a certain amount. Now that they have one cheap item in their basket, they’re going to start browsing through the rest of your selection. This is when you advertise that you offer “free shipping on orders over $50″, for example. Your customers are now a lot more likely to find items that they like.”
 Brian Deschesare, M&I

black friday tip decide on shipping costs

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.

black friday tip provide standout customer service

How do you know your site can handle the traffic?

laura fuentes“My number one tip for Cyber Monday is to make sure your site can handle the traffic pouring in. Nothing frustrates a shopper more than slowed screens and glitches. Unless a shopper is intent on purchasing a particular item from your specific business, if glitches happen, they will move on and look for similar deals with your competitors. Use a service like Google to check your site speed and whether or not it is fully mobile compatible. Check these metrics out ahead of time so that you can upgrade your speeds and compatibility well before Cyber Monday is here.”
Laura Fuentes, Infinity Dish

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.

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.

Top Tip: 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.

tory gray“It’s more important to target mobile searches than ever before. Mobile makes up a whopping 61 percent of Google’s organic search traffic. Mobile users are also more likely to convert than desktop users, so it’s crucial that you are mobile-ready in the lead up to Black Friday and Cyber Monday. I recommend testing your site’s mobile compatibility in anticipation of these big-spending days. You should test your site’s responsiveness, loading time, and image sizes to make sure they are mobile-ready. Not only can mobile compatibility make for better user experience, but it can also improve your ranking and visibility on Google.”
Tory Gray, The Gray Dot Company

Black Friday and Cyber Monday best practices

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.

Wrapping it up

There are no hard-and-fast rules, just use your common sense.

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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