Just in time for the last Friday of November, Black Friday is upon us again this year. Initially invented in the USA, it is also becoming increasingly popular in Europe. Recently, sales have increased not only on Black Friday, but also on the following Cyber Monday. E-commerce merchants, in particular, take advantage of these special sales days and make massive profits. For example, according to the web portal onlinemarketing.de, as many electronic devices were bought on Black Friday in 2020 as in any other average month (!). So, it’s time for e-commerce merchants to prepare for this run. This article presents you with a 10-point preparation plan and a checklist to ensure nothing can go wrong.
1. A good plan is always important
One thing is sure: like every year before, the sales figures on the Black Friday weekend will rise again. So make sure you get your piece of the cake! Plan marketing and social media campaigns and the necessary budget as early as possible. If available, use data and evaluations from previous years and draw conclusions about this year’s business. Evaluate new product trends, and be bold in looking at the competition, whose ideas you may adapt for yourself.
2. Black Friday – The stress test for your systems
Make sure that your website can stand the pressure. Too many hits within a short time can significantly impact performance and, in the worst case, lead to system crashes. Nothing is more annoying than technical problems on such an important sales day for you and your customers! Therefore, test your systems thoroughly in advance with tools like PageSpeed Insights, GTmetrix or WebPageTest. Sebastian Mews, Head of Online Marketing at eClear AG, explains how important this is: “Amazon examined the impact of page speed on the conversion rate for its shop years ago and found out: Just 100 milliseconds less loading time leads to 1% more conversions!”
„Amazon examined the impact of page speed on the conversion rate for its shop years ago and found out: Just 100 milliseconds less loading time leads to 1% more conversions!“
Did you know? The share of mobile users on Black Friday in 2020 was already 67%. So check in advance whether your online shop is also responsive and user-friendly.
3. Do you know your customers?
Take the time to understand your customers better first. Evaluate the sales of the past months to get a clear picture of your target group. Start test groups that go through the sales and check-out processes in your e-commerce-shop and evaluate these results accordingly. This allows you to draw meaningful conclusions about your shop, product range and possible further sales channels. Do you already have regular customers? Address them in advance with a “pre-save” of the best offers by e-mail, or offer an exclusive VIP Black Friday sale.
4. The best product offer
Select the products to be promoted as early as possible. For example, make an ABC analysis of your assortment where A are the bestsellers and C are the slow sellers, which only clogs up the warehouse. Offer only a small discount for your A-items, as these sell well during the year. Take the opportunity to liquidate old stock to save on storage costs. Use inventory management software such as ERP and inventory management systems for this purpose. Which products performed exceptionally well last year? Play it safe and order as close to sales as possible to avoid bottlenecks and overstocks. And be careful: As a merchant, take manufacturing and delivery times into account so that the goods arrive (over-)punctually.
Look at your online shop to see whether all products are sufficiently described (offer additional languages if necessary), easy to find, and all details are visible to the customer in the pictures. This is where critical competitive advantages can arise.
Furthermore, respond to new product trends! A recent Shopify study shows that, on average, 38% of merchants introduce new products between Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Therefore, take the plunge. Your attention is highest on these days, and take advantage of this!
5. The right pricing strategy
You have decided which products should be promoted on Black Friday? Then communicate this as early as possible! Your competition does not sleep either, so you should use the possibility of “pre-saves” for your customers. It is advisable to offer at least one “super deal”. This bait offer should draw attention to you and be underpinned with additional impulse purchase items. You can rely on something besides a pure discount. Create variety and further incentives, for example, with package prices, offers that are very limited in time (à la: only available for one hour) and “Buy two, get three” promotions. Another eye-catcher can be gamification approaches, such as a virtual wheel of fortune or a lottery. Customers love competition.
6. Which marketing activities are the right ones?
As soon as the products to be promoted have been determined, prepare content, images, and banners for your appearances on social media such as Facebook and Instagram. Plan what content you want to post, when and where and plan the campaigns accordingly.
Fun fact: email marketing is still one of the most effective ways to reach customers. Therefore, always maintain your mailing lists with increased attention throughout the year, as there is much potential in them for you. Create the templates for the mailing in advance. A warm-up mail, a special VIP mailing and a thank-you mail after the successful completion of the Cyber Weekend are just a few ideas we would like to give you here.
Do you use channels other than just your online shop? Pursuing a multichannel strategy is an excellent idea. Via Amazon, eBay, Idealo, Google and Co., you achieve more visibility on the internet, which is essential for you and reach a much larger target group. Many online blogs and forums, such as the Amazon WatchBlog and magazines, offer tips for expanding your business.
7. The best way to deal with customers
If your marketing activities have had the desired effect and customers have found their way to your website, make sure that the corresponding purchases are made. The exemplary supporting customer service is the be-all and end-all here. Offer a live chat on your website, and moreover, feel free to offer a WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger. Be ready to respond immediately to your customer’s questions politely and respectfully. If necessary, train your support staff accordingly in advance, as things can get hectic in the heat of the moment.
If the rush is high, you should prioritise accordingly. For example, you can process orders from newsletter subscribers and your most loyal customers first, so that fast dispatch is guaranteed.
Check your checkout zone. Do you offer all relevant payment options? Are the prices and possible additional costs, such as shipping, sufficiently displayed? Only being confronted with a significantly higher final price at checkout as a customer is not good. Speaking of checkout: this process should be as simple as possible for the customer. Ensure that the effort required to fill in customer details is kept to a minimum and that auto-fill-in is activated as far as possible. Check this in advance with a test group. Nothing is more annoying than full shopping baskets that were not ordered.
8. Fulfilment and returns
When the first orders arrive, a well-coordinated fulfilment process is necessary. Ensure the best possible access for your employees to the shelves at the storage location of your products. Apps can help with warehouse management. Look at the respective app stores or watch short product tutorials on YouTube. Plan for additional staff for packing and shipping so that the order processing time is at most on a typical day. The customer should not get the feeling that you are stressed here. Otherwise, it may be their last order. Find the correct freight or shipping service provider and use several providers here should delays occur. Always look for cost-effective transport options and ensure that the customer can always track the goods shipped.
Another no-go for customers is complicated returns shipping. Offer this as simple as possible for the customer. For example, enclose a return label with the orders right away. We give you five more tips here.
9. The backup plan
Keep in mind that there may be bottlenecks in logistics and the production of the products. Therefore, plan for appropriate buffers and look for alternative logistics service providers and suppliers available to you in case of an emergency. As a preventive measure, ensure right at the beginning of the contract with service providers and manufacturers that failures are appropriately insured so that you, as a merchant, suffer as minor damage as possible and your company is still covered.
10. After Black Friday is before Black Friday
Phew, done! Have you had a successful Black Friday? Great! But can you do a little better? For example, start customer surveys directly after the event with tools like Survio and keep in touch with your customers. Where is there still potential? How can you turn seasonal customers into year-round customers? Collect all data from your marketing and shop systems carefully and start analysing them. Make initial considerations for next year because you know now – that a good plan is always important.
For a better overview, we have prepared a Black Friday checklist, especially for e-commerce merchants. You can download it for free.