Black Friday eCommerce & Marketing Strategy: Back-to-Frontend

Black Friday - ahh! Before you panic, read this article. Your ultimate guide begins in 3,2,1...

Nikole Wintermeier | Sep 02, 2019

Cyber Week-1

Black Friday - ahh! Before you panic, read this article. Your ultimate guide begins in 3,2,1...

When you think of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, what comes to mind?

Is it the hordes of deal-hungry shoppers flooding the gates of your brick-and-mortar store?

Is it the sudden influx of webshop traffic that freezes up servers and slows down screens?

Or do you see a once-in-a-year opportunity to:

  • Provide discounted products
  • Increase product sales and revenue 
  • Make your brand and products stand out

Black Friday brought in $5 billion in the US with Cyber Monday hitting $7.9 billion in 2020. 

This year, Black Friday is on November 26th. With more people shopping online than ever before, it's as important as ever to have a Black Friday eCommerce strategy you can trust.

Especially for your retail recovery.

This year, we've got your back. Here's your indispensable guide that will inform your eCommerce strategy from your back-end (digital environment, eCommerce, servers) to your front-end (marketing, campaigns, webshop experience). 

And – the cherry on top – how to optimize your overall communication with behavioral psychology.

These step-by-step actions will take you through your backend preparation to your frontend


 

Black Friday Marketing Strategy Phase 1:

 

Preparing Your Backend 

 

1. Load-test & performance-test 

Load and performance testing: Your new best friends.

Check what parts of your webshop are “expensive” and see if you can dumb these things down to speed up your site. 

For example, 

We’ve experienced that search bars are “expensive”. 

  • Removing a search bar from your webshop just for this weekend craze will make everything a little more lightweight. 
  • Consider reducing your items per page from 200 to 50. 
  • Streamline everything from your landing page to checkout (or, like Artsper does, make it easier to find products without having to search for them).

This is important:

If at checkout, your site visitors are confronted with gateway timeouts, server timeouts, or error messages, this will hurt your conversion rates.

It’s important to know which parts of the website are your “expensive” bottlenecks and then either throttle them or mitigate the risk. 

Every Second Counts

“It’s not just about Black Friday, it’s about your website in general.” -Sjoerd Mulder CTO of Crobox

Want to know a secret?

Load-testing and performance-testing should not just be carried out before Black Friday. 

In fact, these steps that we are so graciously providing you can help optimize your overall site, for every occasion, to keep your shoppers engaged at every stage of their journey. 

You’re welcome. 

In 2012, Amazon lost 16 billion in sales by just having one second of lag-time in their website. No pressure, but slow websites of even 0.2 seconds could drastically lower your conversion rates!

This is important to note for Black Friday and Cyber Monday because, (and do I really have to tell you this?) there’s just that much traffic coming your way!

 

2. Simulate your Black Friday eCommerce influx online

 

simulation for black friday

So, in order to anticipate this website traffic, why don’t you pretend for a second it's already Black Friday? 

Don’t panic. 

I only mean that you should simulate the traffic so that when the weekend finally hits, your system can recognize and be able to cope with the craze appropriately. 

Simulation will also allow you to find your bottlenecks. For example, if your check-out is the slowest part of the system, you can either:

  1. Solve the problem by adding more check out avenues or, 
  2. Mitigate the problem by adding a message to tell your customer to “please hold”.

Let’s try and visualize this: 

Imagine your brick-and-mortar store on Black Friday. The queues are endless. People start tapping their feet impatiently.

black friday queue

You need to deal with this or your customers will get frustrated, start fighting, or simply get up and leave. 

But to cope with a COVID-19 world, with people shopping online instead of in-stores, what do you do?

You could:

  • Set up new cashiers to reduce the queue
  • Have a desk-clerk come up to your customers and personally explain why the traffic is heavy
  • Entertain them with a message or offer while they wait

Either way, it’s up to you to evaluate what suits your infrastructure best, and what you can realistically achieve once you’ve played the queue scenario out.  

Check out this example from J Crew:

jcrew black friday queue message

They anticipate the problem in order to address it. This is the kind of transparency that will matter to your customers.  

Whilst simulation is definitely our go-to advice (take the blue pill Neo, for God’s sake!), there is still room for error because unfortunately, simulation doesn’t rely on real people. 

And let me tell you something about people: We are fickle and (for the most part) unpredictable. Your shoppers demand tailored, unique experiences and mostly fit into hedonic and utilitarian shopping states...

Except on Black Friday. 

Well, that’s not entirely true, but the psychology of Black Friday and Cyber Monday will trigger more extreme shopping states that operate on different psychological levels.

Make sure your analytics are capable of making accurate predictions, and you have a holistic picture of who your customers are before you start your Black Friday/Cyber Monday campaigns.    

In order to do this you should:

  • Profile your customers according to their consumer psychology (which I’ll talk you through later), 
  • Acquire historical data to analyze what resonated the most with them last year, and then apply this to your simulation game.  

 

3. Optimize your infrastructure to cope with incoming traffic 

This is an easy one. Ok, not easy, but obvious.

Once you’ve TESTED, TESTED, TESTED, then you should OPTIMIZE – if caps weren't enough to hammer that in, what is?

If your eCommerce platform operates in a cloud environment, scale up your capacity by adding even more servers.

Or you could get bigger servers! 

Whatever you decide, bigger or better - horizontal or vertical upgrades - make sure you have enough processing capacity and your software is READY TO RUN TESTS. 

If you’re running a big eCommerce store (and to you I say, chapeau!), then optimize your own hosting infrastructure with the results from your experiments. 

Whatever shape or size you come in - we don’t discriminate at Crobox - make sure that your Server Operations Manager can monitor service overload or error messages in real-time over the weekend. 

And if you’re an eCommerce store that’s outsourcing to a third-party platform like Amazon, make sure you can rely on their processing capacity. 

In other words, it's all about communication.

If you are that third-party platform, then communicate with the account manager of the hosting provider to make sure everyone is on board and you are all prepared for the incoming traffic. 

simulation black friday

Also, be sure to simplify on-site navigation for your webshop visitors. Optimize your taxonomies for SEO so that people can find your categories better, from what they've searched for. 

When they do land on your webshop, you want to provide a definitive direction with conversion-focused landing pages so that your customers can get to the product they want too, fast. 

Although we are all for customizing the customer experience and delivering personalized messages, sometimes it might be easier for your server to send static product recommendations. 

This all depends on how much you think you can handle in terms of processing as well as manpower.

 

Case Study: Black Friday Winning With Bol.com 

bol.com black friday landing page

Here’s a sweet story to interrupt (or add to) your learning curve:

Bol.com decided to add more servers to cope with their capacity during Sinterklaas. (For those of us who aren’t Dutch, Sinterklass is like Christmas but comes early. The best thing ever, basically).  

By January, Bol.com had spurted organic growth, so they needed to add even more servers, and so it went, up and up and up.  

What do you take from this?

  • If your revenue grows with your capacity, then you are WINNING
  • If one grows more than the other, then this will cause a PROBLEM

But backend testing and optimizing is all about trying so that with each year you improve your Black Friday and Cyber Monday strategy. 

Especially these days, where consumer spending is uncertain, it's important to have a flexible infrastructure, and culture that is open to change. 

 

Black Friday Marketing Strategy Phase 2:

 

Preparing Your Frontend 

 

4. Know & Understand Your Niche

“Know Your Customers” is that marketing 101 platitude that’s repeated endlessly. And, quite frankly, I’m tired of hearing it, because it’s so obvious:

Customer-centric retailing is the approach that will drive your sales way, way up. 

So instead of the usual KYC advice, I’m going to tell you to: Know Your Niche.  This is just as important, especially for your Black Friday eCommerce strategy.   

The first frontend step comes in three sections. You need to:

You should also know why your customers are shopping with you: e.g., Black Friday shoppers want things like bundles and free shipping, so provide these kinds of incentives to maximize your AOV. 

Knowing how you can excel in your niche and industry, understanding why customers buy; these things will allow your eCommerce strategy to take off. 

 

5. Inventory preparation 

Once you understand how to be original while staying true to your brand, prepare your inventory both in-store and online in advance. 

In 2017, the traditional gift verticals of fashion and jewelry, and toys and games, saw the highest increases. But this shifted drastically in 2020, where working from home products and self-care were trending. 

In order to monitor trends,

Use data and analytics to prepare your inventory with respect to your local market. 

Every geographical location will have different results during the weekend, so take that market research (which you’ve already consolidated from Step 4 above) and localize it in order to understand your customers on a demographic level.  

Your inventory should be in direct conversations with your product taxonomies. This means having clear communication channels between your merchandisers, inventories, and digital marketers. 

Break down those departmental silos!

 

6. Black Friday email marketing campaigns 

Speaking of marketers. 

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are all about careful, consistent, and customized marketing. 

happy socks black friday

To get to this maturity level you can do three things:

  1. Segment your audiences in order to target them with relevant offers. 
  2. Use email as an opportune channel to get across your offers because this is the highest converting channel for Black Friday promotions.
  3. Retarget your old customers too, offering deals, discounts, and updated loyalty programs. 

Personalized email campaigns are the call-to-action that will ensure returning customers. Plus, you can grow their loyalty whilst fostering brand equity. 

Black Friday is a good opportunity to show that you care, without pushing your product sales on the unwanting. Email marketing is a good way to do that. 

 

7. Black Friday marketing using social media 

The marketing channel that nearly every one of your shoppers is using.

Leverage social media well before Black Friday and Cyber Monday hit. 

You can create hashtags for Twitter, use images on Instagram, or customize your profile across all platforms to show your Black Friday and Cyber Monday engagement.  

For example, ORO LA successfully leveraged social media during Cyber Week to scale their eCommerce success. 

And guess what? They achieved a 29.3% lift in month-over-month revenue thanks to using Instagram photos alone!  

ORO LA black friday instagram

If you have a Black Friday eCommerce strategy, make sure it's consistent across all your channels. This is also key to a strong omnichannel presence:

Make your campaigns consistent, personalized, and effective throughout whichever platform you engage your customers on. 

 

8. Optimize your webshop for mobile phone

In 2019, mobile orders came in at 53% of total orders during Black Friday weekend. Moreover, Tech Crunch shows that $2.2B was spent via smartphones. This channel has seen a boost especially post-pandemic. 

Mobile phones are, and will continue to be, your Holy Grail.

Capitalize on this trend by optimizing your webshop for this device, and (oh no, here we go again):

TEST to see what works and what doesn’t.

Consumer-friendly webshops on mobile devices are designed for easy access so that people can shop from Wherever, Whenever (we’re meant to be together). 

If you can have a perfect mobile webshop AND a frictionless checkout process, well:

shakira gif

 

9. Omnichannel integration 

But it doesn’t stop with mobiles. Your customers want a seamless Black Friday and Cyber Monday experience across multiple channels

And don’t forget to gather data from your customers across all touchpoints so that the entire customer journey is adapted and cared for during this weekend. 

Also, 

So get around! 

  • Leverage ads and campaigns in email, social media, mobile, online, in-store, and anything else to keep your customers involved. 

Take MeUndies’ Black Friday campaign. They attracted 13,000 viewers who converted at 25% based on their Facebook Live party, hosting DJs, dancers, and (duh) discounts:

meundies black friday

Whilst DJs and dancers are an expensive alternative, Facebook is a coveted channel, and MeUndies successfully managed to create a buzz around their brand.  

You don’t need to spend loads to make yourself heard across different channels. Just grab the attention of your shoppers in a unique and exciting way. 

 

Black Friday Marketing Strategy Phase "The Cherry On Top"

 

Tips From Our In-House Behavioral Psychologists 

 

10. Leverage Scarcity 

Black Friday Deal

Scarcity is one of the most well-known, widely used (and abused) behavioral messages in the marketing field that relies on a cognitive bias. 

This bias suggests that scarce products have a higher perceived value, increasing the urgency for a person to act (e.g., click, purchase, or sign-up). 

But since this principle triggers fear to encourage behavior, it is highly disputed (to abuse this can quickly become a Dark Pattern).

However, when it comes to Black Friday, this prejudice couldn’t be more suiting.

 

How to leverage Scarcity for Black Friday Marketing

black friday marketing

Scarcity can be divided into

A. Limited stock

B. Time

With this in mind, your communication can build anticipation by highlighting the limited time of your discount pricing, product availability, or exclusivity. For example:

  • Off-Platform: Use scarcity-driven messaging to create urgency on social media leading up to the event.
        • “First 100 people to check out will receive 50% off their cart.”
        • “Black Friday Deal: Only 175 Product Xs available for €200!”
        • “First 500 orders receive our exclusive Product X free with your Black Friday purchase.”  
  • On-Platform: Use smart notifications and banners to show time limits, product inventory numbers, and highlight exclusive Black Friday deals:
      • “Only 50 left!”
      • “5 hours left.”
      • “One-day Black Friday discounts!”

Scarcity is great to see in action in your Dynamic Messaging (i.e., smart notifications, product badges, overlays).

Crobox's Dynamic Messaging actually runs on AI so we can personalize the messages your shoppers see.   

This is great for your Black Friday marketing because whereas one shopper responds to "Only 50 left!", another could be more interested in "5 hours left". 

You want to optimize every Scarcity message your shoppers see to really make their experience individualized

It's a win for your conversion optimizations, but also for the shopper who's not just getting pushed the same old messages, but can actually spot the ones tailored to them, to help them discover more about your Black Friday items or collections. 

 

2. Motivating Uncertainty

Motivating Uncertainty

Have you ever questioned the appeal of the lottery? You can thank the uncertainty of the prize for that.

Research has found rewards that are ambiguous are more powerful in motivating behavior than guaranteed rewards.

Seems hard to believe - right?

However, this is only the case when a person is goal-oriented (i.e., wants to purchase a specific product) rather than in a passive state (i.e., just browsing).  

So motivating uncertainty, or promoting various potential rewards, is ideal for situations when an individual has already decided to buy a product on Black Friday.

 

How to leverage Motivating Uncertainty for Black Friday Marketing

black friday marketing motivating uncertainty

Imagine someone is searching for a jacket. They find one they like and land on the product detail page.

By offering a gamble on a discount (let's say either 15% or 20%) on this landing page, the sensation-seeking individual will be more driven to act.

This approach is lower cost than offering a certain reward because the amount of discount varies per shopper.

Meanwhile, it improves the customer experience as the shopper gets the thrill from gambling to see which discount they will receive.

  • Off-Platform
      • Target customers who have shown behavior searching for products that match your discounts. Targeting specific product searches is essential because motivating uncertainty is most effective in individuals who have already opted for a decision. E.g., if someone has been searching for deals on Playstations, tailor your ads for this product.
        • “Discount Lottery: Receive 15% - 20% off Playstations this Black Friday.”
  • On-Platform
     
      • If individuals are already on your platform, you can use a broader approach by offering discounts on their entire purchase through smart notifications.
      • “You can save 10% - 15% on this product. Discounts are applied during checkout!”

 

3. Anchoring & Price Sensitivity

 

Anchoring

 

Who doesn’t love a good deal?

There’s nothing like walking into your favorite clothing store and seeing the perfect sweater for only €59 instead of €99.

Even if you’re generally a person who wouldn’t spend more than €50 on a sweater, you can’t help but say no to such a great deal.

In this situation, consumers are subject to two processes.

First, anchoring occurs when an inflated price followed by a drastically lower price is shown.

Individuals use the first price as an anchor, or basis, for how much the product should cost. So when they see the lower price, it will seem even lower than if they only saw the discounted price.

The second process, price sensitivity, is appealed to by showing the customer how much they are saving.

And on Black Friday, customers are driven to save as much money as possible. Facilitating savings mental math will lead to more enjoyment and satisfaction with their purchase.

Read on for more psychological pricing tactics that we've tried and tested. 

 

How to leverage Psychological Pricing for Black Friday Marketing

When possible, highlight how much the shopper will be saving.

  • Off-Platform
      • Share the deal through newsletters and social media, expressing how much will be saved.
        • “Save up to €200 on TVs this Black Friday.”
        • “Black Friday only: €50 euros off all running shoes.”
        • “Price cuts this Black Friday: €100 sweaters for only €50!”
  • On-Platform
      • Show the original price before the discounted price.
      • Calculate how much will be saved, show this on the product detail page and checkout page.
      • Push specific products’ discounts by setting them next to more expensive items.

 

4. Social Proof

 


There is a sense of comfort in looking to others to make the right decision.

And in situations where there is an overload of choice, it's often the most foolproof way of making a choice.

Engaging social proof is commonly used by marketers to highlight products in their catalog.

Specifically, the use of visual ratings and reviews have made way for the success of this principle in nudging purchasing behavior.

Social proof explains the tendency for individuals to look at other’s behavior to determine their own in new or overwhelming situations.

 

Social proof powers offline Black Friday, as you see with the camping, long queues, and chaos within the stores. But it also has the power to drive online Black Friday sales if used correctly.

 

How to leverage Social Proof for Black Friday Marketing

There are various ways to simulate social acceptance of your products online. For instance:

Off-Platform:

      • Use a referral program inviting your customers and their friends to have early access to your Black Friday Deals.
      • Offer discounts for people who share their purchases on social media.

On-Platform:

      • Highlight best selling items in the webshop to nudge purchase behavior:
        • “Most Popular”
        • “Today’s hottest item.”
      • Show the number of times products have been purchased on the product display page.

 

In short, Black Friday Marketing drives FOMO


In the end, the framing used to appeal to these biases contribute to creating a feeling of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) in shoppers.

And while some struggle with FOMO more than others, everyone deals with it when given an offer they couldn't possibly decline.

Appealing to people’s FOMO feeds the apprehension they feel about making the wrong decision.

Individuals don’t want to be the odd man out and will often base their decisions on avoiding it.

So, by making an offer that can't be refused, FOMO engages urgency in shoppers, causing them to act in fear of missing out.

By posting your discounts on social media, you're already setting the stage for FOMO. But these effects can be increased by using any (or a combination of all) of the biases covered in this article.

 

Wrap Up 

So there you have it! 

Your comprehensive Black Friday marketing strategy guide from (literally) back to front. 

It's time to start prepping your webshop and stores for the BIGGEST OPPORTUNITY OF THE YEAR.

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