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 increase sales and revenue by providing discounted products and personalized experiences to your customers to keep them satisfied and delighted?
Last year, Black Friday brought in $5 billion in the US with Cyber Monday hitting $7.9 billion.
This year Black Friday lands on November 29 so buckle up and let’s get going!
What follows is an indispensable guide that will prepare your eCommerce store for this important time of the year.
We got your back.
These step-by-step actions will take you through your backend preparation to your frontend.
Here’s how to prepare for Black Friday and Cyber Monday:
We’ll cover each step in detail, from A to Z, and once you finish reading you will understand how to not only cope with this weekend, but to go the extra mile and beat your competition.
Load and performance testing are your best friends. Check what parts of your webshop are “expensive” and see if you can dumb these things down to speed up your website.
We’ve experienced that search bars are “expensive”.
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 thus important to know which parts of the website are your “expensive” bottlenecks and then either throttle them, or mitigate the risk.
“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.
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!
So, in order to anticipate this website traffic, why don’t you pretend for a second it is already Black Friday?
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.
If your check-out is the slowest part of the system, for example, you can either:
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.
You need to deal with this or your customers will get frustrated, pull at each other’s hair, or simply get up and leave.
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:
You are anticipating the problem in order to address it, and that’s what matters.
Thus, 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:
You get the picture.
Make sure your analytics are capable of making accurate predictions, and you have a holistic picture of who you customers are before you start your Black Friday/Cyber Monday campaigns.
In order to do this you should:
This is an easy one. Ok, not easy, but obvious. Once you’ve TESTED, TESTED, TESTED, then you should OPTIMIZE - sorry for shouting, just wanted to hammer that in again.
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 3rd 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.
Also, be sure to simplify on-site navigation for your webshop visitors.
Similarly, 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.
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?
But backend testing and optimizing is all about trying, so that with each year you improve your Black Friday and Cyber Monday strategy.
“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 during Black Friday and Cyber Monday weekend.
The first frontend step is therefore to:
You should also know why your customers are shopping with you: 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 you to take off.
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.
So where do you fit in?
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.
As if you think I’d leave you marketers out. No way.
Black Friday and Cyber Monday are all about careful, consistent, and customized marketing.
Personalized email campaigns are the call-to-action that will facilitate returning customers and grow their loyalty whilst fostering brand equity.
Everybody wants to get in on that!
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!
This one we’ve already mentioned but psychology is important when prescribing predictive analytics and gaining that 360-view of your customers.
It’s going that extra mile.
Using psychographic data to profile your customers by seeing what psychological principles they respond to best will allow you to serve them more relevant messaging and alleviate the stress of shopping.
Why is this important?
Well, like I said, Black Friday and Cyber Monday symbolize the epitome of stressful shopping, where customers are easily frustrated, likely heckled, and prone to cart abandonment.
So, nudge them along to facilitate their shopping journey using persuasive messaging.
For example, you could create a sense of urgency using words like “hurry”, “limited time offer”, “shop now”, and “don’t miss”.
Scarcity is very effective during Black Friday. But of course this differs per retailer.
For example, during Cyber Week in 2018, we found that Novelty words had a conversion rate of 2.4%, whereas Social Proof had 1.8% and Scarcity 1.7% for one of our fashion retail clients.
The impact continued into the weeks after Black Friday with products bearing Novelty words getting a 3.42% conversion rate.
This means there is no one-size fits all for psychology.
Use segmentation, analytics, and profiling to get closer to your customers and facilitate their shopping during this busy weekend (more on persuasive marketing tactics here).
Knowing what emotions drive your high-value segments towards Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals will boost your conversion rates overall.
Mobile phones are 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:
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.
So get around!
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:
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.
So there you have it!
Your comprehensive A-Z guide to preparing and excelling this coming Black Friday and Cyber Monday, all the way from your eCommerce backend to your frontend.
It’s going to be tough - I'll be honest - but if you follow these steps and stay true to your brand without panicking and losing your purpose throughout, then you will automatically see:
And so much more...