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Strategy Centre

Black Friday Ecommerce Strategy

  
28 September 2018
  
Black Friday Ecommerce Strategy

Black Friday last year peaked at eight times
an average day’s trade for IRP Customers

IRP Customers saw substantial YOY growth (2016 v 2017) during the Black Friday period:

Black Friday Ecommerce Strategy

Key points:
•  The global nature of the Black Friday period makes it a key sales opportunity during which IRP clients have experienced substantial YOY growth.
•  In preparation for Black Friday and during the campaign period, you should focus on your website stats and customer data, your competitors, pricing, offers & discounts, shipping, live support, website creative elements and your mobile site.
•  Before and during Black Friday week, focus on email marketing, remarketing, social media, PPC, Facebook Ads and Affiliate Marketing.
•  Post Black Friday, reflect and request customer feedback. Also re-engage with customers and analyse the performance of your Facebook, PPC and Affiliate Marketing Campaigns. Think ahead for your Christmas campaigns.

CONTENTS
Introduction
Plan for Black Friday Week
Pre & During Black Friday – Fundamentals for Website
Pre & During Black Friday Week — Marketing
Post Black Friday
Summary
Future Dates

INTRODUCTION

Every year there is so much hype around November — you guessed it: BLACK FRIDAY. Sometimes hype can be over-rated but in this case you should BELIEVE IT!

Black Friday originated as a one-day event, however it is now very much a shopping period [Web Economic Forum, 2017]. Last year, Black Friday sales varied between a weekend, a week-long event and the whole of November [Tech Radar, 2018]. This is anticipated to continue for 2018.

KEY STAT: According to Adobe Analytics, USA consumers spent $19.62 billion online during 23-27 November 2017, up $2.6 billion (15%) vs 2016 [Practical Ecommerce, 2017].

What may have originated in the USA has expanded globally. According to research carried out by Voucher Codes shown in Fig.1, the Black Friday shopping period has gained traction in other countries.

Cyber Weekend Across the World (We Forum, 2017)
Fig. 1 Cyber Weekend Across the World, Online & In-store [Web Economic Forum, 2017]

Key global highlights from Black Friday 2017

  • According to Criteo, Black Friday 2017 was the biggest Day in Ecommerce History [Criteo, 2017].
  • £1.4 billion was spent online (up 11.7% from 2016) in the UK on Black Friday [Digital Commerce 360, 2018], 39% was via smartphone [IMRG, 2017].
  • Last year on Black Friday, the USA had a total of $5 billion spent online, up 17% YOY [Digital Commerce 360, 2018], with 40% via smartphone [Tech Crunch, 2017].
  • The average peak hour for traffic and sales was at 4.00pm in Europe including the UK. [Campaign Live, 2017].
  • Irish customers opted to purchase early morning around 9.00am [Campaign Live, 2017].
  • Londoners waited until after work – traffic peaked from 6.00pm, with purchases being made closer to 7.00pm [Campaign Live, 2017].

Cyber Monday

Remember not to just give emphasis to Black Friday as there still a huge opportunity to generate sales on Cyber Monday. Extend your promotions and offers, add an additional x% off and give your consumers more time to purchase from you in case they missed you during Black Friday.

KEY STAT: Data specialist PCA Predict confirms that last year's Cyber Monday online sales in the UK were up 3% between 11.00am and 5.00pm compared to 2016. [BBC.co.uk, 2017]

Adobe states that, last year in the USA, online sales on Cyber Monday reached $6.6 billion [Forbes.com, 2017], making it the largest online shopping day in ecommerce history excluding 11 November – Single’s Day [RententionScience.com, 2017].

So we are planning for more record Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales again!

With the enormous sales potential outlined above, we have collated a range of suggestions — that you may or may not have considered — on how to make the most of the IRP features and tackle the Black Friday Madness.

Once you have read these suggestions and started your planning, don’t forget to schedule a call/meeting with your Account Manager and PPC provider to discuss your Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Holiday season strategies — they can provide further help and guidance on the IRP features mentioned in this article.

Plan for Black Friday Week

“Failure to plan is planning to fail!”

As with any ecommerce strategy, the plan will consist of two core parts:

  • Fundamentals for website
  • Black Friday marketing

For this campaign, you’ll also need to ensure that you plan the above for both:

  • PRE & DURING — from NOW till Black Friday
  • POST — after Black Friday

And of course, don’t forget to constantly keep the IRP Commerce Equation in mind:

IRP Commerce Equation
Fig.2 IRP Commerce Equation

So, let’s get started …

Pre & During Black Friday — Fundamentals for Website

1. Data is king

Data is highly important but almost one in four (24%) UK retailers are not using it effectively to optimise their sales activity [Redeye, 2016]. Make sure you review your data prior to making any key decisions.

What is your data telling you? Ask yourself these questions:

  • Can you identify any yearly trends?
  • How was your performance last year across all your channels — Email Marketing, Google Analytics, PPC, Bing, Affiliate Marketing, Social Media? How can you better last year’s performance?
  • Which were your best countries?
  • What did people search for?
  • What were your best-selling brands / products?
  • What was the best time in terms of engagement and sales — days / hourly?
  • What were your best promotions?
  • How did you compare to your competitors?
  • Were there more post-sale returns / cancellations than normal?
  • Try and understand your customers’ returning behaviour. Are there specific products that repeatedly are being returned? Were your customers buying multiple sizes?

KEY STAT: According to LCP Consulting, Black Friday purchases returned are 50% higher than the rate across the year as a whole. [Yieldify, 2018].

Don’t forget to monitor your Google Analytics closely during the week of Black Friday so that you can be reactive and make the most of your opportunities in other countries. For example, if you’re receiving a lot of traffic from one country and have no conversions, test this country website out so you can rectify any issues.

2. Competitors

Subscribe to your competitors’ email lists and keep an eye on their social media. This will give you an idea of how your campaign / messaging / offers are comparing to theirs.

KEY POINT: Use VisualPing to monitor any changes that your competitors make to their website.

3. Plan your sales

Don’t be lastminute.com. Look at all of your products and plan your sales ahead of time. You could create this in Excel as shown in Fig. 3. or create it directly in an IRP Stock template file, to be uploaded and update your prices.

Sales Plan
Fig.3 Sales Plan

4. Offers & Discounts

Your customers are constantly shopping around and are more price-savvy than ever, always looking for the best deals. You can create endless types of promotions on the IRP but keep in mind the time needed to set these up — do what is feasible and realistic for you and your team.

KEY POINT: Consider your brand(s) image — the same offer / discount won’t work for them all. If you are a luxury brand, don’t feel pressure to give crazy discounts — this could be detrimental to your brand image. Take advantage of the Black Friday traffic but think of DIFFERENT ways than everyone else and promote your PREMIUM QUALITY. Black Friday Themed Bundles, Free Shipping, Limited Editions, or Exclusive ‘Members Only’ sales can be enough to boost conversions, without degrading your brand.

5. Assign related products to featured, popular, and sale items

Ensure all linked products are up to date, especially on popular models which are low in stock. Have ‘Best Selling’ and ‘Also Bought’ live so alternatives can be easily found. Also don’t forget your ‘Add to basket’ promotions and enable 'Show Basket Recommendations'.

For more information, refer to the Product Settings help topic in the IRP Knowledge Base.

6. Free shipping

The majority of companies offered their customers FREE Shipping — it is one of the “most popular offers for converting customers” [Campaign Monitor, 2015]. So this is a MUST.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • Offer FREE SHIPPING on all orders over £x?
  • Will you vary your FREE Shipping offer country to country?

Once you have decided this, you need to set up your Shipping Methods. Remember there is also a Default Shipping Method on the IRP which works if you don’t meet a specific criteria, but you’ll get charged a set rate.

KEY POINT: Don’t forget to promote your Click & Collect service to take pressure off delivery services!

7. Extras

Discounts and FREE Shipping are great but the majority of your competitors will be offering something similar. Can you give your consumers something extra?
  • A FREE gift
  • Offer gift-wrapping
  • Extra-Fast Delivery
  • Amazon Pay – For more information, refer to Amazon Pay Accounts article in the IRP Knowledge Base.

KEY POINT: Consider extending the return times, as many purchases may be Christmas gifts. For example for any gift purchased from 1 November, retailers such as M&S, John Lewis, Debenhams, Ted Baker and ASOS have extended their return policy period until 31 January [Mirror, 2017].

8. Live Support

If you have resources that can be dedicated to manage Live Support it is recommended that you enable this feature on the IRP. It is a great way for customers to contact you easily and for you to respond to their queries quickly. To aid an even quicker response, perhaps you could have preset answers ready. Remember to set Activation Rules to allow the Live Support to be enabled / disabled on certain days / time periods and set Country Restrictions where necessary.

KEY POINT: According to a research carried out by Forrester, “44% of online consumers say that having questions answered via live chat while in the middle of an online purchase is one of the most important features a Web site can offer” [Reve Chat, 2017].

9. Creative required for the website

Prepare in advance and design the creative elements for your desktop and mobile websites:

  • Home Page Banners: Pre-Black Friday week
    • Email Sign-Up: boost your mailing list and encourage your customers to sign-up to receive your Black Friday deals (recommended to do ASAP).
    • Teaser / countdown home page banners.
  • Home Page Banners: Black Friday week
    • Update banners across brand, category and the top section.
    • Create alternatives for sold-out items for showcasing what has sold-out and showing what else is available.
    • Banners for the day for Black Friday and Cyber Monday or simply use one that can be used for the duration of your sale period.
    • Custom Product List Templates are available for Custom Content Pages and static home pages.
      • Be sure to use the IRP Design Repository to discover pre-made templates, including a product scroller option.
    • Remember that you have the Banner Deactivation Scheduling feature to enable you to plan your campaign well in advance.
  • HTML Banners
    • Create HTML Banners to more efficiently update your country-specific sales messaging and USPs.
  • Translation of Banners
    • All your banners should be country-specific and translated where relevant. For more information, refer to the Banners help topic in the IRP Knowledge Base.
  • Make sure your Products reflect the offer
    • Make sure you have the ‘sale’ icon updated on all models as well as the updated RRP and web price.

      KEY POINT: Create a Black Friday gif beside the model using the customised offer icon.

  • Black Friday Pages

    KEY POINT: Create a 301 Redirect to a Black Friday landing page.

    • Create Black Friday landing pages. These pages should be country-specific and translated where necessary.
    • Deal of the moment / hourly deal
      • Create a widget / countdown clock to hover on both your landing page and basket page to try to increase your AOV.
    • Pay attention to your SEO and include search terms so that you will show up in organic search. i.e. your searches should return results for ‘Black Friday’.
  • Update your Contact Us / Store pages
    • If necessary, update your store opening hours for Black Friday. Be a step ahead and add your Christmas Opening Hours too.
    • For more information, refer to the Custom Content Pages help topic in the IRP Knowledge Base.
  • Interventions
    • If you have the Interventions licence, we would recommend for you to discuss a strategy with your Account Manager on the types that you could implement and customize for this holiday period, i.e. device specific, country-specific, dependent on customer action, FREE Shipping.
    • For more information, refer to the Interventions help topic in the IRP Knowledge Base.
  • Christmas
    • Create your Christmas content (home page banners, custom content pages, gift guides, etc.) and upload them prior to Black Friday. From NOW is when your consumers will be making purchases for Christmas.
    • It is also recommended that you update your Returns Information Page (if you are extending your Returns Policy) and Delivery Page (to detail Last Chance Shipping Date before Christmas and Delivery Times over the Holiday period).

10. Mobile – Think Mobile First

Last year, two-thirds of shoppers were on mobile for Black Friday shopping [Leanplum, 2017]. IRP completed a substantial amount of development work enhancing the mobile listings pages with new functionality and customisable options.

Be sure to refer to the IRP Mobile Website Overview in the Knowledge Base to make sure that your website has the following key features enabled and customised appropriately:

  • Custom Mobile Menu Links
    You can add a custom mobile link for 'Black Friday' to display in your mobile menu and prioritize it to the top of the menu.
  • Mobile Product Listings Page
    Define the style of mobile product listings pages: Single / Two Across / Three Across.
  • Filter button
    Customers can also use the 'Sort By' dropdown from within this filter section. We recommend this option is activated to allow customers this option either from this area or directly from the sticky filter bar.
  • Add to basket directly from listings
    Customers can add an item to their baskets directly from a listing page (instead of having to go to the model page) if the Application Setting 'Enable Add To Basket Direct From Mobile Listings' is enabled.
  • Enable the Application Setting 'Enable Ajax Add To Basket'
    When the customer successfully clicks the Buy Now button, the 'Added To Basket' the confirmation popup window will be shown (displaying the item added and basket total), allowing the customer to either view their basket or to continue shopping.

PRE & DURING BLACK FRIDAY WEEK – MARKETING

You may use many different marketing channels but the key is to make sure that all your messaging is aligned.

1. Email Marketing

Email is a key channel to drive traffic to your website. It is the perfect way to engage with existing customers, re-engage with inactive customers as well as to acquire new customers. Your emails need to be designed, tested and scheduled ready to go.

Your consumers’ inboxes are going to be inundated with Black Friday emails, so here are some key tips to consider for your email marketing.

  • Timing is key
    • When to send? When are your audience most engaged? This will vary country to country so pay attention to time-zones.
    • Leave yourself enough time and schedule your emails across the week of Black Friday.
  • Prioritise, segment & target
    • You need to send relevant emails to targeted audiences:

      KEY POINT: Remember Pareto’s rule: 80% of profits come from 20% of your customers [Smart Insights, 2016].

      • Existing Customers: Target your top customers and reward them with exclusive sneak previews / exclusive VIP Sale.
      • Inactive Customers: This is a good opportunity to re-engage with your inactive customers. Invest time, and try and turn them into ‘repeat’ customers.
      • New Customers: Consider offering them a special ‘welcome’ deal.
    For more information, refer to the Mailing List Segments help topic in the IRP Knowledge Base.
  • Types of Emails
    • Create Awareness: Teaser / countdown emails prior to the week of Black Friday
    • Exclusive: Sneak previews for your VIP customers
    • Upselling / Increase AOV: Include Product recommendations in your emails
    • New Product / Brand promotions
    • Emotional / Connect: Black Friday Gift Guides
    • Urgency: Last reminder before sale ends / limited time / limited quantity
    • Product Recommendations in Re-engagement Email Campaigns – incorporate Custom Product List Templates

For more information, refer to the Email Campaigns help topic in the IRP Knowledge Base.

A note on email subject lines

Your consumers will receive numerous emails all containing a similar ‘Black Friday’ subject line. You need to stand out from the crowd and increase the chances of your consumers opening your emails — be ORIGINAL and CREATIVE.

Some important things to consider: style of copy, number of characters, capitalisation and emojis.

KEY EXAMPLES OF TOP PERFORMING SUBJECT LINES FROM LAST YEAR:
J. Crew's subject line 'For Cardmembers: Early access to our biggest Black Friday sale ever' saw a top-performing read rate of 46.7% and Sephora – 'Today is Sunday, but for you it's Cyber Monday' [Mailgun.com].

A note on emojis

Emojis are colourful and a nice touch to help catch your consumers’ eyes, plus they are still not widely used. However it is worth noting that some browsers may not be compatible, therefore it is important to check how the icons will display across mobile, desktop and tablet.

Example of Black Friday emoji (Emoji Meanings, 2016)

Fig 4. Example of Black Friday emoji [Emoji Meanings, 2016]

Here are some useful links relating to emojis:

2. Remarketing Emails

Remarketing is key. Your consumers will be deliberating and browsing across many websites, hence why there may be a rise in dropped baskets. Don’t miss out on the opportunity of trying to convert more sales.

Make sure you have 'Black Friday' themed dropped basket emails and remember targeting and tailoring is key. Add targeting criteria for your Dropped Basket Emails based on the configuration of a customer's basket. i.e only send if basket value greater than £X, only send if basket value contains brand 'A' or category 'B'.

KEY POINT: Last year, global basket abandonment over Black Friday weekend was 72.5%, with the USA having the highest abandonment rate. [Barilliance, 2017].

For more information, refer to the Email Campaigns and the Dropped Baskets help topics in the IRP Knowledge Base.

3. Social Media

Make sure and have a Social Media Plan in place to organise, prioritise and schedule your posts. Engage and keep up with the social media conversation leading up to Black Friday. Make sure you have all the relevant #s: #BlackFriday, #BlackFiveDay, #BlackFriday2016, #CyberMonday, #CyberMonday2016, etc.

  • Update your Profile Images & Cover Photos
  • Promote email sign-up — could this be aligned with a competition?
  • Share sneak preview of Black Friday deals
  • You should consider using Facebook symbols

KEY POINT: Create your own specific hashtag and promote it across all your channels in advance of Black Friday i.e. #[ClientName]BlackFriday2018

During the week of Black Friday, monitor your posts:

  • Which posts are doing well and build on them
  • Share product offers / Black Friday Gift-Guides (use a mix of images and video)
  • Encourage user-generated content

4. PPC

Discuss bids / budgets and communicate your offers / promotions / discount codes / any required updates to ad copy to your PPC provider so as your ads will be approved prior to the day they are required to go live.

Give important considerations to these areas:

  • What are the offers you will run?
  • Do you have enough stock?
  • How much are you prepared to spend over the period?
  • Custom Landing Pages

The weekend prior to Black Friday is an ideal time for:

  • Search Remarketing campaigns targeting your mailing list / past website visitors.
  • Display Remarketing campaigns. If this is something you would like to do, you will need to provide creative. Please refer to the Google creative spec.
  • Gmail-sponsored promotions.
  • It is also worth communicating your Christmas plans in advance.

KEY POINTS FROM GOOGLE:
• Black Friday through Cyber Monday remains a significant end-of-November peak in retail interest – but has been shrinking as demand has broadened throughout Nov & Dec.
• Gift shopping has grown more last-minute, as confidence in delivery has grown.
[Source: Google Presentation to Export Technologies, 2018]

5. Facebook Paid Advertising

Make sure to have your Facebook advertising aligned with the rest of your marketing schedule. Use these top tips to get the most out of your campaigns:

  • Analyse last year's ads: what type of ads worked best in terms of engagement and conversions, country-specific campaigns and, just as importantly, which did not work as well – how can these be improved for this year? We would recommend utilizing carousel ads to show more products.
  • Create buzz and awareness prior to your Black Friday Sale launching.
  • Be willing to spend – everyone will be fighting for the top spot of advertising but make sure you are smart about who you are targeting.
  • Use the same graphics and messaging to reiterate your offering and complement your website.
  • Use lookalike audiences, custom audiences and upload your mailing list to retarget your existing customers.
  • Retargeting via Dynamic Product Ads – make sure to update ad copy.
  • Have all creative and copy for ads created well in advance of your sale to allow enough time for Facebook approval, as due to the busy time it could take longer than usual.
  • Remember to schedule your ads to end when the promotion / sale is over.

KEY FACEBOOK 2017 STATS FROM 2017 HOLIDAY SEASON:
• Shoppers bought more on mobile than desktop.
• According to eMarketer, mobile ad spend made up 62.5% of digital ad spend.
• There were 1.8x more online conversions in EMEA markets (DE, ES, FR, GB, IT and PL) and 1.2x more in APAC markets (AU, HK, JP, KR, PH, TH).
[Source: Facebook.com]

6. Affiliate Marketing

Insure your Marketing Plan is aligned with your planned Affiliate Marketing Promotions:

  • Ask your Service Provider to accept relevant Publishers – voucher/ loyalty/ discount/ price comparison to your Affiliate Programme to support your Black Friday promotions.
  • Analyse your previous Black Friday Affiliate Marketing Campaigns and contact your Top 10 Publishers to inquire about events that they have planned for their audience.
  • Your Service Provider should communicate your planned sales, voucher codes and daily deals to your Publishers and network a couple of weeks ahead to create a buzz and to allow enough time for tracking implementation and content creation.
  • If you feel that discounts do not fit your brand image, ask your Service Provider to set up a code for free shipping without minimum spend, a voucher code limited to new customers, or a combination of both.
  • Black Friday is a global event – so utilize Black Friday to your advantage in terms of international reach and your growth strategy.
  • If you have set up a Custom Content Page, communicate the link to your Publishers and set up the tracking in your network.
  • Update your graphics and messaging in the network to promote your Black Friday deals.
  • Review your commission structure and increase or decrease commissions accordingly.
  • Use Black Friday as an opportunity to build quality backlinks on your Publisher sites.
  • Review your product listings and checkout to insure that the customer journey runs smoothly, that the call to action is clear and that the customer has a good shopping experience with you on Black Friday.

POST BLACK FRIDAY

1. Reflect & Feedback

Internal

It is worth reflecting and catching up with your IRP Account Manager to discuss what worked well, what didn’t and what you would do differently.

Customer Feedback

Customer feedback is also extremely important. Consider sending out a survey and ask your customers to rate different aspects of your Black Friday campaign. This will be invaluable and may identify things you may not have picked up on. Adding an incentive might be a nice touch. Aspects to enquire about include the following:

  • How did our Black Friday offers / promotions compare with other companies?
  • Social Media communication
  • Email marketing
  • Navigation of website
  • Customer Service
  • In-store offers
  • Other — comment box

KEY POINT: Some of these findings may be particularly useful to keep in mind for your Christmas campaigns.

2. Re-Engage

Re-engage with your customers (new, existing, inactive) and send them product recommendation emails to complement their purchase(s) during Black Friday. This is a good way to maintain customer engagement and encourage repeat custom.

3. Facebook & PPC

It is also worth reflecting and catching up with both your Facebook and PPC providers to discuss bids / budgets and which campaigns worked well, which didn't and what you would do differently (again this may provide good insight for your Christmas campaigns).

After Black Friday and Cyber Monday, it is also an opportune time to focus heavily on remarketing campaigns to make use of the new customers gained and really target your existing customers in the build up to Christmas.

4. Affiliate Marketing

Make sure you review your Affiliate Marketing, as follows:

  • Review your Black Friday commission structure and adjust your commission accordingly, back to your default.
  • Analyse the performance of your Publishers and identify new top performers.
  • Re-evaluate your Affiliate Marketing campaigns and apply your knowledge to your Christmas campaigns.

SUMMARY

The Black Friday period represents both an enormous opportunity and an enormous challenge. You can see from this article that the sales potential is massive, but for it to be fully maximised, a comprehensive website and marketing strategy needs to be implemented. This needs to start today.

Aside from all of the steps above there are many more elements of the IRP which can be utilised to fully take advantage of this key upcoming retail period. Please review further articles in the IRP Strategy Centre for strategies on traffic, improving your average order value and for conversion strategies.

Please note: your IRP Account Manager will not have the capacity to accept any requests for assistance in the week running up to Black Friday so please ensure that if you require any assistance to set up your campaign, you do this well in advance of the Friday of the week before.

FUTURE DATES

See Fig. 5 for some other key calendar dates that you may wish to consider — and keep watching the IRP World for more coverage on upcoming campaigns.

omnisend Ecommerce Holiday Planner 2018
Fig.5 Ecommerce Holiday Planner 2018 [omnisend 2018] — CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE

A recent report by Criteo claims that there is another key period to maximise sales before the year is out, particularly for the USA and UK. Be sure to prepare for Cyber Week II – the week between Christmas and New Years [Criteo, 2018].

Additional Reading

Comments

Anonymous - Hi Alan, a PDF version has now been sent to you.
02 Oct 2018 20:57
Anonymous - Can you do a pdf version of this as the print feature does not print everything on the page.
02 Oct 2018 17:06
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