Strategy Centre

Survive The Black Friday Madness

14 October 2016

Survive The Black Friday Madness

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!

What may have originated in the USA has expanded across the world in recent years [Fig.1] and consumers worldwide are now searching for Black Friday sales earlier and earlier each year [Fig. 2].

In fact, Black Friday is now so popular that it is increasingly becoming the start of the ‘gift buying season’, with consumers wanting to get ahead and start their Christmas Shopping early (International Business Times, 2015).

How Black Friday is Expanding Around The World (Dunnhumby, 2015)

Fig.1 How Black Friday is Expanding Around The World [Dunnhumby, 2015]

Index of Black Friday Search Queries As A Proportion Of Overall Search Terms (Dunnhumby, 2015)

Fig.2 Index of Black Friday Search Queries As A Proportion Of Overall Search Terms [Dunnhumby, 2015]

Black Friday is an extremely busy time of the year. 2015 was BIG, with a 36% YOY increase, generating £1 billion in online sales, making it “the biggest day for online shopping ever” [Redeye, 2016].

Last November, the IRP saw a YOY increase of 92.79% in sales growth and transacted over £1 million on Black Friday 2015 and so we are planning for another record Black Friday again. Especially as this year is more likely to be a WEEK—LONG affair, known as ‘Black FIVEDAY!’ [Redeye, 2016] with forecasts that the UK will spend £5 billion between 24 and 28 November [Ecommerce News, 2016].

2015 also saw the true emergence of mobile as a key driver for Black Friday sales. According to Custora, the last Black Friday weekend saw over 26% of orders come through via mobile [Shopify, 2015]. This year, with increased smartphone usage, it is likely that this figure will double to 50%.

KEY POINT: It has been predicted that “this year, Black Friday and the following week will be the tipping point for mobile in the UK, with mCommerce revenues overtaking desktop sales and reaching £2.55bn” [Mobile Marketing Magazine, 2016].

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

“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 to plan the above for both:

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

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

IRP Commerce Equation

Fig.3 IRP Commerce Equation

So, let’s get started …


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 Window, 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 POINT: UK retailers alone lost £180m to returns from Black Friday last year [Drapers Online, 2015].

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 Look at all of your products and plan your sales ahead of time. This could be created in Excel as shown in Fig. 4. or created directly in an IRP Stock template file to be uploaded and update prices.

Sales Plan

Fig.4 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.

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

6. Free shipping

The majority of companies last year 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

KEY POINT: Consider extending the return times, as many purchases
may be gifts.

8. Live chat

If possible, make sure to enable the Live Chat 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.

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.
  • 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
    • Create Black Friday landing pages. These pages should be country-specific and translated where necessary.
    • 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’.
    • KEY POINT: Create a 301 Redirect to a Black Friday landing page.

    • Black Friday Gift Guides
      • Create ‘Black Friday Gift Guides’. They could take the form of his / hers / stocking fillers.

      KEY POINT: Gift guide themed emails see a “48% higher transaction rate” [Campaign Monitor, 2015].

For more information, refer to the Custom Content Pages help topic in the IRP Knowledge Base.

  • 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.
  • 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.
    • 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.


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

1. Email Marketing

Email was the biggest ‘traffic driver’ to websites and drove a quarter of sales, outperforming all other channels [Redeye, 2016]. 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:
      • Existing Customers: Target your top customers and reward them with exclusive sneak previews / exclusive VIP Sale.
      • KEY POINT: Remember Pareto’s rule: 80% of profits come from 20% of your customers [Smart Insights, 2016].

      • 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

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

A note on 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.

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 5. 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 designed and scheduled to be sent to remind your consumers what they could be missing.

KEY POINT: Last year, the average cart abandonment rate during the Black Friday-Cyber Monday weekend was 72% — this is up 7% since 2014 [Barilliance, 2015].

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

3. Social Media

Black Friday 2015 “was crowned the most social Black Friday to date” but it is predicted that this year will be even more social [ReadyPulse, 2015]. 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]BlackFriday2016

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

Communicate your offers / promotions to Export Technologies or your PPC provider as early as possible and discuss bids / budgets.

  • The weekend prior to Black Friday is an ideal time for:
    • 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 POINT: Most companies are wrongly paying through the roof for PPC in December and should be redistributing some of their AdWords spend on retargeting clients who have browsed / purchased in the Black Friday rush [Google Presentation to Export Technologies, 2016].


1. Cyber Monday

Cyber Monday generated £934 million and has increased 31% YOY [Redeye, 2016]. So consider extending your promotions / offers to allow your consumers to grab a ‘last chance’ deal in case they missed out on Black Friday.

2. Reflect & Feedback


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.

  • 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.

3. 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.

4. PPC

It is also worth reflecting and catching up with your PPC provider 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.


Black Friday 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.


See Fig. 6 for some other key calendar dates that you may wish to consider — and keep watching the IRP World for more coverage on upcoming campaigns.

The Key Holiday Shopping Dates For Online Retailers 2016 (Linnworks Blog, 2016)

Fig.6 The Key Holiday Shopping Dates For Online Retailers 2016 [Linnworks Blog, 2016] — CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE

Additional Reading


Anonymous - Interesting read. I like the tactical approach.
14 Oct 2016 11:16
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