Whilst large parts of the world are experiencing heat waves and endless summers, the thought of November’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday (BFCM) may seem a long way off. But for businesses, it’s never too early to start preparing for what is a critical period in the retail and commerce sector.

Indeed, figures from Adobe Digital Insights for 2017 illustrate the enormity of the start of the holiday shopping season. Year on year, online spending was up 16.9% for Black Friday whilst spend was up at an equally high 16.8% for Cyber Monday—marking the largest ever US online shopping day. Cyber Monday also paved the way for the first $2B day on mobile and an increase of 10.1% for mobile conversions.

With the trend looking to continue for 2018, it’s imperative that you prepare your business for this period to maximise results. In this article, we delve into some key steps to ensure that you are ready for retail’s biggest weekend!

Use data to your advantage

‘Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.’

The old adage certainly rings true when you consider this mammoth shopping weekend. With data (and lots of it) available through analytics tools, there’s no reason why you should be walking into BFCM blindfolded.

Study previous years’ data and look for general trends. With the appropriate analytics tools, you’ll be able to make intelligent, evidence-based decisions, rather than just guessing. When analysing your data, you can ask yourself questions such as:

  • What were your best-sellers?
  • Were there particular stages where customers were abandoning purchases?
  • Did sales peak over the whole weekend or one particular day?
  • What proportion of sales came from brand new customers?
  • What was the cart abandonment rate and did this change?
  • Were the majority of conversions from desktop or mobile?
  • What was the ROI on your Black Friday marketing campaigns and which ones worked best?

These types of questions can help get your business ready for the demands of BFCM.

If you feel overwhelmed by the data you hold then consider switching to an analytics tool such as Magento BI. This fully automated system provides all of your data under one roof so that you can make faster and more informed strategic decisions.

Test your technology

Picture the scene: you’ve nailed your marketing campaigns, have a slick looking landing page and have record numbers of visitors but on Black Friday the site is painfully slow. On top of this, visitors to your site are having difficulty navigating between pages on mobile and when they do finally come to make a purchase, the site crashes. So they quickly scuttle off to a competitor whose site is a joy to purchase from.

This is every retailer’s worst nightmare. But it can be mitigated by testing, testing and more testing.

Load test your site well in advance of this long weekend to determine its break point. Ensure that your site will be able to handle the estimated number of visitors (plus a good chunk more, just in case) and check to make sure that the site is quick!

Speed is critical, as evidence from this Kissmetrics Report illustrates:

  • 47% of consumers expect a web page to load in 2 seconds or less
  • 40% of people abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load
  • A 1-second delay in page response can result in a 7% reduction in conversions
  • If an e-commerce site is making $100,000 per day, a 1-second page delay could potentially cost you $2.5 million in lost sales every year!

It’s also worth searching your site’s URL directly, from search engines and from social media call to actions to check the speed from different locations. This will ensure that you have all bases covered.

And lastly, test to make sure your site is optimised for mobile. By 2021, sales from mobile are to make up nearly 75% of all eCommerce sales, so it’s critical that you get this right to avoid the threat of lost sales.

If you’d like to learn more about testing the performance of your store through a website audit, then check out our key pointers here!


Use marketing to create urgency

It’s critical that you get into your customers’ heads well before BFCM comes around. Sending out a few tweets the night before Black Friday simply won’t do it.

In the weeks leading up to this weekend, shoppers will inevitably slow down on purchases as they wait for the big BFCM discounts. This is also the time when they are planning out what purchases they want to make and from where. This means that you need to be in contention to get on their list!

Use email marketing, social media, content, giveaways, advertising etc, to get on the radars of your customers early on. Then, when the time comes, consumers will have you in the back of their minds and will be more likely to visit your site for that sale item.

You can use emails and social media to build up excitement around your BFCM sales and to create a sense of urgency for your customers. Yes, you don’t want to spam your customers and overwhelm them with information but on the other hand, it’s important that you showcase what you have to offer. Beyond price, use incentives early on such as loyalty schemes, exclusive coupon codes, early access and free delivery to drive traffic and conversions.

Remember, though, that the average shopper will be hit with a deluge of marketing materials in the run-up to BFCM as businesses vie for their custom. So more than ever, this is the time to create marketing collateral that stands out and cuts through the noise of the generic sales emails filling up inboxes the world over.

Refresh your content

Your content is one key way to drive a visitor into a repeat and loyal purchaser. For BFCM, ensure that your content is reconfigured to account for this sales period. You cannot just leave it as it was and hope that customers will find their own way through your BFCM product pages. It’s the job of your content to create a sense of urgency, excitement and empowerment to make sure that customers choose you for their holiday purchase.

Get your product pages ready a week or two before sales so that search engines have a chance to index them and include them in feeds. You may also want to put up a Black Friday or Cyber Monday category page, as customers often want to view all offers in one place.

A tactic often used by retailers is creating a landing page for Black Friday or Cyber Monday sales several weeks ahead of time, then implementing “hints” in phases, such as a call-to-action that asks visitors to register for email alerts, and previews of the products that will be marked down.

Remember, content is your chance to talk to and connect with an audience. It’s something you can use to your advantage in maximising BFCM results and getting customers from point A to point B. Invest effort into your content and copy and think about how you will use it to get a message across that informs, intrigues, excites and wows all at once.

Add holiday shopping features

It’s important to remember that the behaviour of customers on this weekend may well be different to other times in the year. There’s no way around the fact that for BFCM, customers are looking for the biggest discounts possible. This will likely alter how they will go about making purchases. It’s safe to say that much more comparison will be taking place. Customers will be browsing around various sites looking for where they can gain the most value. And not only that but if they’re buying Christmas gifts for friends and family, then they’ll be browsing products that they might not know much about.

Thinking about these different behaviours, you can install features on your site to help conversions and drive sales. Take for example a customer who has a list of 10 items to buy and is comparing your store against a few others. What this person needs is an easy way to curate and summarise these items so that they don’t have lots of page tabs open on their laptop. In this case, functions such as a wishlist, recently viewed and save for later will make that customer’s purchasing experience far smoother and enjoyable.

We’ve rounded up some features that might come in handy for holiday shoppers. If you already have them on your site, consider emphasising them and ensure that they are running smoothly. Load test and trim the features so they are working flawlessly. If you don’t have them, now is a good time to implement them:

  • Wishlist
  • Save for later
  • ShareRecently viewed
  • Up-sells
  • Cross-sells
  • Top lists
  • Best sellers
  • Discount categories
  • Gift finder
  • Gift wrapping
  • Gift message
  • Gift cards
  • Voucher codes
  • Deliver to different address
  • Refine selection by price range
  • Size guides
Undertake dry runs of your key user journeys

You must ensure that common user journeys and scenarios are tested and optimised before the shopping season begins.

It can be easy to fall into the trap of always seeing your web store from an internal perspective. But what about your external audiences? How do they experience the site?

It’s crucial that customers trust the information on your site and have a consistent and enjoyable experience across all channels. Spend some time navigating around your company’s website and check to make sure that everything is working properly or as expected. Examples of some things to look out for are:

  • Broken links
  • Conflicting product information
  • Missing product information
  • Incorrect formatting/display/alignment
  • Slow-loading pages
  • Incorrect redirects or misdirected pages
  • Image pixelation or stretching
  • Missing images or files
  • Issues with formatting affecting page visuals

On top of your own testing, you can also consider employing user-testing to get immediate feedback of your site. The more feedback the better!

For further practical advice on developing relationships with customers and increasing customer lifetime value, check out these pointers!


Think about your offer

As the discount event of the year, try to make this your strongest offer of the year. If you just have the same offers as you did last month then customers will be less inclined to visit your store. The offers for BFCM need to offer more value than your competitors. And whatever it is that you are offering, make sure that this is displayed prominently through your site and marketing so that customers know exactly what value you are delivering.

It’s also crucial that your offers have consistency. You do not want a situation where a product with a 10% discount on Black Friday is then marked up at a 50% discount on Cyber Monday. Yes, consumers want a discount but on top of that, they want to feel that they received the best and most exclusive discount possible. If you then undercut this discount soon after, the customer is going to feel let down, angry and suspicious of your brand.

So think about what value you can deliver to your customers, tell them exactly what it is and then deliver it with full transparency!

You can learn more here about how Vaimo’s clients saw an average revenue growth of 72% last year and a 50% increase in orders for the Black Friday weekend. And if you’d like to speak to us about how we can help drive forward the digital commerce success of your business then get in touch with a member of our team today!