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E-commerce Critical Sales Periods: How and When to Gear Up for Black Friday and Cyber Monday

The holiday season is marked by the glitter of fairy lights, the jingle of carols and the frenzied clicking of keyboards as online shopping reaches its peak...

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During the holiday season, the world comes alive with the shimmer of fairy lights, the jingle of carols and the frenetic click-clack of keyboards as online shopping peaks. Unless you’ve been living in a cave, you’ll know that Black Friday and Cyber Monday are a pretty big deal for e-commerce businesses in the lead-up to the holiday season. Not to put too fine a point on it, but these sales periods can either make or break businesses, so it’s essential to navigate them well. This playbook is your comprehensive guide to making the most of critical sales periods in e-commerce.

Understanding the magnitude of Black Friday and Cyber Monday

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are two of the most important dates on the e-commerce calendar. Initially a post-Thanksgiving shopping ritual in the USA, it’s now a global phenomenon reaching as far as enthusiastic European and Australian shoppers. Last year, US customers spent a record $9.12 billion on Black Friday and $11.3 billion on Cyber Monday, according to Adobe. This compared to a regular day of online sales of about $2 to $3 billion. In recent years, Black Friday and Cyber Monday have overtaken Boxing Day sales for online traffic and revenue, but the key is getting well-prepared to maximise reward.

Timing is everything: Pros & cons of an early Black Friday start

During the Black Friday/Cyber Monday (BFCM) season, retailers face a common dilemma:

When is the right time to start sales promotions? 

Should you start early or wait until later? 

Let’s explore some pros and cons of starting your Black Friday promotion early.

Pros of an early start

  • Attracts early-bird shoppers and captures a larger market share through a wider promotional window.
  • Sets the tone for the competition and positions you as an industry leader.
  • Allows you to plan your stock and adjust it based on sales trends. 
  • Builds customer trust and loyalty through early access to discounts.

Cons of an early start

  • Increases discount period, potentially decreasing margins.
  • Necessitates planning and the need for a well-defined sales strategy well in advance.
  • Hinders the ability to position yourself strategically and analyse competitor tactics.

Regardless of the start date, ensure your offerings resonate with your audience’s needs and provide real value. In a world where both online and brick-and-mortar stores offer deep discounts, standing out is more critical than ever.

Case study: Amazon

Effective pre-event promotion is the driving force behind Amazon’s triumph during the BFCM season. Amazon heavily promotes its Black Friday sales in the weeks leading up to the event. In recent years, it has partnered with credit card companies to offer exclusive deals to cardholders. It even places print ads in newspapers and magazines in the weeks leading up to Black Friday. Last year, Amazon saw a 128% increase in revenue on Black Friday. 

8 steps to prepare for Black Friday and Cyber Monday

Whether you prefer to arrive early or make a grand entrance, preparation is the key to success! Here are some items that should be on your Black Friday prep list:

  1. Start planning early
  2. Set realistic goals
  3. Know your competition
  4. Prepare inventory and stock
  5. Stress test your site
  6. Set your shipping & returns strategy
  7. Hashtags, hashtags, hashtags!
  8. Create Black Friday/Cyber Monday content
  9. Start planning early

Start planning for Black Friday and Cyber Monday months in advance. Analyse past data, identify patterns, anticipate stock needs and set the logistical wheels in motion. A good digital marketing agency will be working with you early to lay the foundations for a successful BFCM period. Internally, collaborate with all departments to ensure a seamless customer experience from the moment they click to the moment the product is delivered. 

  1. Set realistic goals

Having clear sales goals is crucial. Do you want to increase your sales by a certain percentage, attract new customers or introduce a new product? Be realistic about the discounts you offer — while they should be competitive, they should not compromise your profit margin.

  1. Know your competition

Analyse your competitors’ past and present Black Friday strategies. What do they usually do during Black Friday? How do they promote their sales? Identify opportunities to differentiate yourself and stand out from the crowd.

  1. Prepare inventory and stock

As a consumer, it can be incredibly frustrating when the item you want is out of stock. This means a missed sales opportunity and damages your brand’s reputation. Black Friday is one of the busiest shopping days of the year, and you need to prepare for the surge in traffic and sales. Use sales data from previous years to help you forecast demand.

  1. Stress test your site

A recent Deloitte study has shown that a slow website can reduce conversions, while even a 0.1-second improvement in site speeds can result in a 10.1% increase in conversions. Invest in technology that can handle the high volume of traffic and sales during Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Test your website to avoid crashing under heavy traffic. An increased bandwidth or a content delivery network may help ensure a smooth user experience. 

  1. Set your shipping & returns strategy

Effective shipping is more than just an operational cost; it’s a strategic tool to transform your business. Create a balanced shipping strategy that aligns with customer preferences and e-commerce capabilities. Almost half of online shoppers say that extra fees, like shipping and taxes, will cause them to abandon a purchase at the checkout. Consider offering free delivery to increase average transaction values and build customer loyalty. Always be transparent about delivery times and potential delays to foster trust.

Regarding returns, most customers expect free and easy returns and may only purchase if the option is available. A well-thought-out and clear returns policy can help persuade undecided customers to buy.

  1. Build strong organic traffic with BFCM content and SEO

Create dedicated BFCM landing pages for SEO and build equity to these every year. You may also produce evergreen SEO pages on your website dedicated to promoting your Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals by category. 

  1. Hashtags, hashtags, hashtags!

Leverage social media hashtags during Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Create unique, brand-specific hashtags like #YourBrandBlackFridayDeals to promote your sales. Combine popular Black Friday-related tags like #BlackFriday, #BlackFridaySale and #BlackFridayDeals with your brand-specific ones for broader reach. Encourage user-generated content by introducing a contest or incentive tied to a specific hashtag, increasing engagement. 

Marketing and promotions: Stand out from the crowd 

On Black Friday, your inbox becomes a battleground of promotional emails, each vying for your attention. With so many offers, customers might miss the brands they’re interested in — that’s why it’s crucial to stand out from the crowd. Here are some ways to utilise intelligent targeting, clever segmentation and personalisation to ensure you get noticed.

Plan your paid media campaigns 

In the competitive landscape of holiday shopping, paid media advertising allows you to cut through the noise and connect directly with your target audience. To maximise impact during BFCM, it’s crucial to conduct thorough market research, identify key trends, and craft compelling ad creatives that resonate with potential customers. An experienced digital marketing agency will employ data-driven analytics and monitor performance metrics to allow for real-time adjustments, ensuring that advertising efforts are optimised for the highest return on investment during this critical shopping period. 

Leverage discounting

Know what irresistible sales will draw your audience to your site. While deep discounts may attract customers, they often buy more than just the discounted product. In some cases, the discounted product serves as a loss leader, with the difference being made up by them adding more items to their cart than they would have otherwise.

Get creative

Offer discounts, exclusive products, free shipping, donations to charity or any other unique promotion. Start promoting your offer to your subscribers well in advance to ensure they are well-informed about the upcoming deals.

Customise your deals

Customise your Black Friday deals and communications based on your customer’s past purchasing behaviours and browsing patterns. This will boost your sales and enhance user experience, which in turn will help foster brand loyalty. Remember, the key is to start early and be strategic in your approach.

Segment your audiences

Understand your customers’ preferences and segment them accordingly. Send personalised deals straight to their inboxes, providing a much-needed break from the overwhelming promotional emails they receive during the holiday season. This simplifies the sales process and positions your brand as a reliable and go-to option for future purchases.

Post-BFCM reflection

Once the dust settles and the sales numbers are in, it may be tempting to give yourself a pat on the back and move on. However, now is the time to delve into the data to see what worked and what didn’t. Here are some actions you can take post-BCFM to nurture your customers and set yourself up for success next year.

  • Maintain customer relationships: Nurture your relationship with new customers you acquired during Black Friday rather than letting it end after the holidays. Keep your customers engaged year-round by staying active on social media and sending out regular eDMs.
  • Retarget customers: If those one-time shoppers didn’t sign up to your email list or follow your social media accounts, retargeting is your next best bet. Set up retargeting pixels to turn one-time shoppers into regular customers you can advertise to year-round. Bring them back to your website with enticing ad copy and continue to expose them to your latest or most relevant products.

With these strategies, you’re not just closing the chapter on this year’s BFCM — you’re opening the door to a more prosperous year ahead.

Here’s to a successful BFCM!

Whether you’re launching a new e-commerce business or running a well-established one, the core principles of success remain the same: preparation, personalisation, promotion and post-analysis. In the constantly evolving world of e-commerce, it’s not enough to simply ride the wave — you must also steer the ship, adjust the sails and set the course. As your supportive partner, Orange Line is here to lend a knowledgeable hand and guide you through the stormy waters of e-commerce, leading you to clear skies and successful sales. Safe sailing and happy selling!

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