The sellers’ guide to Black Friday and Cyber Monday

Here they come

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are coming. In about a month, you’ll have the opportunity to shatter sales records for your online store or brick-and-mortar shop. Perhaps you’re new to this experience. Or maybe it’s not your first rodeo but expectations in previous years fell flat.

Either way, this guide was created to help you get the most from the upcoming Black Friday and Cyber Monday (BFCM). We’ll cover all the strategies and techniques for providing the best customer experience — while maximizing your revenue.

Ready to talk turkey? Let’s dive in!

What is Black Friday and Cyber Monday?

Black Friday and Cyber Monday represent one of the biggest shopping events of the year. The rush begins the Friday after Thanksgiving, with Cyber Monday arriving after that weekend. It’s when people likely realize the holidays are right around the corner and time for gift-buying is dwindling fast.

If you’ve ever met a kid desperate for the latest and greatest toy, you likely understand that sense of BFCM urgency. And the numbers back it up.

Last year, sales during the week of BFCM  topped $100 billion by the time Cyber Monday hit — a full day earlier than in 2020. On Black Friday alone in 2021, shoppers shelled out more than $8.9 billion. While that’s a 1% drop compared with the year prior, there’s a good chance we’re poised for a post-pandemic rebound in 2022.

With so much revenue ready for the taking, planning a Black Friday and Cyber Monday strategy is the best way to set yourself up for success this holiday season.

How to use BFCM to promote your business and increase sales

No matter what you’re selling, customers are ready to open their wallets. You need to be primed to take advantage by making sure your business delivers the best possible experience during the shopping crush.

Many businesses end up waiting to start their Black Friday and Cyber Monday preparations until it’s too late.

Online stores should start preparing no later than October, but there is still time to catch up if you haven’t started . This gives them a chance to identify which products will go on sale, what prices to list those products at and figure out what types of marketing campaigns they want to launch — long before audiences will start looking for those deals.

During the preparation phase, start building email marketing lists  and testing the technology you’ll use to run each campaign to make sure there aren’t any issues. Get a jumpstart on things and create content for social media posts and any ads you’ll run for clients.

Be sure to add relevant content to each website under management. This way, you’ll be ready right out of the gate and won’t have to waste time taking care of preparations while also managing holiday inventory.

Ecommerce vs. in-person shopping

Many people associate Black Friday with the insanity often seen on the news — desperate shoppers locked in mortal combat over the last big-screen TV or must-have doll. (Remember the Tickle-Me-Elmo craze?) Perhaps it’s why ecommerce is now the preferred shopping medium, with 88 million shoppers making their purchases online in 2021, compared with 66.5 million braving the in-person encounter.

Still, there’s no replacing the experience of physically touching a product before you buy it. Ecommerce merchants who also operate brick-and-mortar locations can gain a considerable advantage through offers like letting shoppers buy online and pick up in store.

Meanwhile, shops that are completely online should attempt to bridge this gap through strategies including “buy now, pay later”  or relaxed return policies.

Keep in mind, your best bet is attempting to merge the convenience of online buying with the confidence of in-person shopping.

What shoppers expect from BFCM

Most sources indicate Black Friday as we know it today dates back to the 1950s. That means expectations have been shaped over quite some time. If your BFCM offerings fall short, it’s the quickest way to miss out on potentially record-breaking revenue. Let’s look at some of the basics you should consider.

Sales

These promotions allow you to set up a site-wide discount of a set dollar amount or percentage for customers on your target dates. Though the name implies that the discount applies to every item, it doesn’t have to. You’re able to include only the items that you want to discount.

For instance, you can exclude newly-released items from a site-wide sale or a specific product category can be exempt from the sale. However, by calling it a site-wide sale, you’ll capture customers’ interest and get them to browse through more of your products to see just how great your deals are.

Coupons

Discount codes are an easy way to encourage newsletter subscribers and visitors to your website to make larger purchases. Many businesses see great traction with mystery codes where visitors click a button or pop-up to unveil a code for a certain percentage off of their purchase. You’re able to set minimum and maximum values, so you won’t end up giving merchandise away. However, customers still benefit by getting their holiday shopping completed at a lower cost.

Free shipping/Pick up in store

Larger retailers like Amazon and Walmart offer free shipping over certain dollar amounts. By offering free shipping on all orders during Black Friday and Cyber Monday, you’ll make your site more competitive and discourage customers from shopping around for lower prices. Even better, you’re not cutting your profits by lowering the cost of your merchandise.

And if you operate a brick-and-mortar alongside your ecommerce shop, consider letting customers order online, and then snag their purchase in person. You’ll just need to dedicate staff and space to let them quickly cruise in and out. That way, you can capture shoppers who might prefer the in-person experience, but wish to avoid crowds and long lines.

Free gifts

This is a great way to unload slow-moving inventory. When customers spend a set dollar amount, you offer them a free gift of your choosing. Typically, the gift is a low-cost item, but it can also take the form of rewards dollars or gift cards they can use in the future.

How to communicate BFCM events for your business

Knowing when to advertise for Cyber Monday and Black Friday deals is just as important as knowing when to plan your strategy. You need to do it early enough to build excitement, but not so early that customers get annoyed with your efforts.

Advertise that you’ll run specials, but don’t give everything away. Keep the exact promotions and deals a secret until closer to the big day. A little mystery can actually keep shoppers engaged. As you get closer to the big day, you can start teasing some of the promotions and deals.

Social media

Create social media posts to drum up excitement and interest in your upcoming Black Friday promotions. Use brightly colored images to attract attention with both current and new customers. Encourage others to share those posts with anyone they think might be interested in the deals and use hashtags, stories and feed posts to reach your current supporters with ease. If you choose to run social media ads, set a firm budget and stick to it.

Email marketing

Use your current email list and newsletter to get people thinking about Black Friday before the sales start. Make these emails more personal by offering pre-Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales based on the items your list is already interested in. Or offer an extra discount or bonus items to subscribers by giving them a code they can use at checkout.

Word-of-mouth

Testimonials and reviews are powerful ways to garner social proof. In the lead-up to BFCM, check out the reviews you have online. If any are negative, be sure to address those concerns in a polite and straightforward manner. If your website has the functionality, positive reviews are great to showcase on home or product pages. Similarly, if you’ve secured a few testimonials, those too are great to display in online and offline marketing collateral.

In-store advertising

Generate a sense of excitement and anticipation at your brick-and-mortar with flyers, posters and anything else that could build Black Friday or Cyber Monday hype. A word to the wise, though: you might want to be vague until the actual event — perhaps just Huge discounts! or Storewide specials! If a shopper comes in ready to buy something, you don’t want to encourage them to put off their purchase until it’s cheaper.

Have a game-plan for unexpected complications

From server downtime to shipping delays, Murphy’s Law will likely be in full effect this BFCM. Murphy’s Law refers to the theory that anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. It simply asks that people expect the unexpected.

For example, the BFCM period is notorious for overloading servers, causing websites to go down. Downtime and sluggish website performance equal lost revenue on any day of the year, but BFCM is the period when you can least afford them. Today’s busy shoppers won’t hesitate to click away from your website if it isn’t functioning properly.

Server downtime

Test the server load capacity of your store with Pingdom to find where it’s lacking and how to improve it. And check out this article for tips and tools to improve website performance.

Shipping delays

Be transparent about shipping delays due to pandemic aftereffects, natural disasters, carrier delays, the impact of peak volume, and whatever else might hold up your customers’ packages. Build a relationship with your shipping services so that you can communicate accurate information to your customers.

Unhappy customers

Focus on crafting the best brand messaging that takes ownership of all problems and communicates expected challenges to consumers. Being real with your customers is a great way to build loyalty and garner empathy as you weather the storm of BFCM together.

Low inventory

If you do sell out of your products, congratulations! But remember to communicate the minute you don’t have a product in stock. Particularly for multichannel sellers, running out of stock would be a nightmare that could very well come to pass, considering that even big-name retailers are reporting similar challenges.

Other issues

A toy merchant wouldn’t need to worry about shortages of flour and sugar, but a purveyor of holiday cookies sure would. It’s important to evaluate any other issues that might arise which are specific to your business. Take a moment to jot down any potential show-stoppers for your particular operation, and then brainstorm creative solutions should they arise.

How to keep customers after BFCM

It’s been quite the ride, so why break up with your customers after BFCM? In addition to the stellar experience you just provided, there are a few more things you can do to keep shoppers coming back.

For starters, you might offer some incentive — like an additional discount – for first time buyers or anyone who signs up for your emails. When you blast out sales or promotions, they’ll remember the great experiences they had during BFCM.

Same goes for social media. Prior to Black Friday, make sure you have profiles on all the major platforms, and then entice shoppers to follow you. This doesn’t just have to be about online sales — you could share news, product reviews or even just your own clever musings.

If you’re mostly a brick-and-mortar, free swag like stickers and clothing goes a long way in keeping your business top of mind.

If, say, you encourage BFCM shoppers to grab a free bumper sticker on the way out the door, there’s a good chance you’re getting free advertising for the rest of the year.

Whatever strategy you employ, it’s important to do something. With all the work you just did preparing for Black Friday and Cyber Monday, make that little extra effort and keep the momentum going.

This article includes content originally published on the GoDaddy blog by Brenda Barron, Kevin Wood.

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