Ecommerce leaders: every single marketer on the planet feels your Black Friday pain right now.
In past lives, when I worked at the intersection of internet marketing and retail, Black Friday was a marketing black hole. Every year, come Halloween, about 10 of us would sit around a table, asking the question “what should we do?” And every year, the question mark became bigger and bigger.
In hindsight, I look back on these meetings as ridiculous: about 10 years older and wiser, I now realize that to be competitive on Black Friday, you need to basically start preparing a full year before. And of course, most merchants make this necessary investment in time and otherwise-wasted strategic brain power because 30% of annual retail sales occur between Thanksgiving and Christmas
But I also learned that with some creative brainpower, Black Friday marketing magic can, in fact, happen. Even with days leading up to Black Friday, there is plenty that ecommerce stores of any size, can do to make the most of retail’s biggest day of the year.
We interviewed more than 50 marketers to learn their last-minute tips and tricks. Here were some of our favorite responses:
1. Rethink Your Curation Strategy for Merchandising & Product Discovery
From: Mikhail Ledvich, head of marketing at Shippo
Perspective: Technology company that powers shipping for thousands of eCommerce businesses
“Some of the most overlooked optimization is around merchandising and product discovery,” says Ledvich. “There is so much focus on getting the buyer to your site, that optimizing the site to surface the right products, cross-sell and upsell opportunities often doesn’t get done. Don’t let the hard work that you did to get the buyer to your site go to waste; make sure you are surfacing appropriate products. A last minute hack can be to create new categories: Winter 2017, For Him, by brand, etc. to help people discover products.”
The takeaway: What you have is already your best asset. Use curation to your advantage to create some last-minute holiday guides on your product category pages or even on your blog. Here’s a screenshot of this year’s holiday gift guide from ModCloth:
Image via ModCloth
2. Launch Your Existing Black Friday Campaign Sooner
From: Tom Caporaso, CEO at Clarus Commerce
Perspective: The biggest challenge for marketers is standing out in a very crowded space. Not only are small retailers competing against big retailers, but it’s difficult for every retailer to get a consumer to commit to a purchase, especially in the online space, where shoppers can vanish in just a click. Keeping a constant eye on competitors’ offerings—and having a response plan in place for various contingencies—will help you stand out from the crowd during a hectic Black Friday shopping season.
“One way to gain a competitive edge is to launch what you already have sooner,” says Caporaso. “There’s still plenty of time, and it’s a way to get in front of your customers before your competitors. According to PwC, 64% of consumers will begin holiday shopping before the start of Black Friday week—and 29% will have completed most of it by then. By the time Black Friday rolls around, more than a few shoppers might have already spent half or more of their holiday shopping budgets, so marketers need to make sure they’re attracting these consumers with deals earlier than normal.”
The takeaway: Consumers are doing a bulk of their shopping earlier in the year, anyway. Why wait until Black Friday to launch your campaigns? As the following article from Tech Times reveals, a number of tech giants are following this trend:
Image via Tech Times
3. Add LiveChat to Your Site to Personalize Each and Every Experience
From: Kurt Elster, Unofficial Host for Shopify Optimization Podcast
Perspective: Just as your store needs a great product-market fit to succeed, your Black Friday marketing will need to absolutely provide value to your customers to stand out.
“Adding LiveChat to the site (even if just for the holidays) to answer shopper questions can bust objections at the purchase decision, boost conversions, and give you powerful insight into customer behavior.”
The takeaway: Remember that attention spans are shrinking—make it easy for your shoppers to make decisions. Ensure that you have a well-defined process for collecting feedback:
Image via ModCloth
4. Speed Up Your Pages By Optimizing Your Images
From: Kurt Elster (again, because he’s awesome)
Perspective: Personalized emails are likely going to be the highest ROI channel for any store, regardless of industry. Personalized product recommendations with bundle discounts can drive huge conversions.
“Ecommerce purchases during Black Friday are consistently up year over year, and so is mobile shopping. The biggest impediment to a mobile shopper is site load time. Speeding up load times by running your images through a free app like ImageOptim is an easy last-minute optimization.”
The takeaway: Pay attention to the finer technical details. You wouldn’t want the unexpected to happen.
5. Don’t Chase a Leprechaun to the Other Side of the Rainbow
From: Mark Aseltine, founder at Uncorked Ventures
Perspective: Ecommerce founder with extreme hustle
“A couple of years ago, we tried an extreme discount for our most expensive wine clubs (e.g. get your first shipment for $1). I thought that we would be giving up short-term revenue for more long-term revenue. I was also concerned that people would scam us and only take one shipment and then cancel,” explains Aseltine.
“Really, neither happened. Instead, we received less sales and less short-term revenue. We discounted too much, and it made people think our products were cheap.”
The takeaway: Whatever you do, don’t resort to severe sales—they really can be too severe. Black Friday should fit into your long-term business plan.
6. Test EVERYTHING
Perspective: Bird’s eye view into overall ecommerce landscape
“Go through the entire process of visiting your website and placing an order as if you were a customer, and get your team to do the same. Train your customer service team in advance on how to respond in what if scenarios, and prepare them for a high volume of questions/transactions. Make sure your website reflects your most current inventory levels,” says Akers.
“Because every other store discounts heavily during Black Friday, it's challenging to find competitive incentives that get people to buy while not cutting into margins too much and while not attracting bargain hunters. We all want to loyal customers, not just people who only buy once.”
The takeaway: Long-term Loyalty > short-term sales.
7. When in Doubt, Focus on Your Mobile Experience
From: Mike Catania, CTO at PromotionCode.org
Perspective: Experienced CTO
“Mobile in-store searches, according to Google, are up since last year and Google has already said it wants sites that are optimized for the user experience on mobile,” says Catania. “Just because your website loads well on your personal iPhone 6S doesn't mean that the remaining population of mobile users are getting an equally good experience. Live testing on every device you can get your hands on is a must-do before the calendar flips to November.”
The takeaway: No matter how good your mobile experience is, it probably could be better. There’s still time to make optimizations before Black Friday.
8. Sanity-Check Your Basics
From: Ian Wright, founder at Merchant Machine
Perspective: Search engine optimization expert with cross-functional background
“Sometimes, it’s the most basic thing like making sure you have a dedicated landing page for your special offer(s) or promotion(s), and making sure things like title tags and meta descriptions are included. If you have a very strong offer people will search for it, so make sure they can find it when they do,” Wright explains. “Also, double check that your page loads properly and includes all the basic information you need to be found via search engines and make sure your page shares properly and easily on Facebook, Twitter, and other relevant social channels.”
The takeaway: As much fun as it can be to plan elaborate campaigns, make sure that you’re focused on simple and low-hanging opportunities, too.
9. Be Where the Shoppers are by Utilizing Social
From: Maura Smith, VP of marketing at affiliate network Pepperjam
Perspective: Bird's eye view into overall ecommerce landscape
“Many marketers focus so heavily on planning their own marketing strategies that they fail to see the strategies that many shoppers create for themselves. It is quite common for shoppers, especially Black Friday veterans, to plan their attack for finding the best deals and avoiding the worst crowds,” says Smith.
“While they plan, many shoppers turn to third-party sites that have tips, tricks, and lists of the top go-to places. Marketers can optimize their outreach by partnering with these third-party sources that can bring their brand to the consumer, rather than waiting for the consumer to find them and their deals.”
The takeaway: Make the most out of your lowest-hanging social media channels—for instance, you can build a curated Tumblr page with recommended products from your store, for instance. You could also share your most popular holiday products on Instagram.
For inspiration, take a look at this holiday curation from Urban Outfitters on Pinterest:
Image via Pinterest
The bottom line is to make the most out of what you already have. You have many resources at your disposal, and best of all—you can continue to collect data and insights to repurpose into your Black Friday strategy, next year.
Remember, you’re in it for the long-haul. Breathe, make low-hanging optimizations, and believe in yourself (and your team) to have an amazing year.