— October 9, 2018
It is time to prepare your online store for Black Friday Cyber Monday!
Last year, Black Friday generated $ 5 billion in sales in just 24 hours – and that’s in America alone, as 58 million people opted to only shop online, leaving brick-and-mortar numbers down from previous years. Additionally, a Shopify report revealed that during the peak Black Friday Cyber Monday (BFCM) sales period last year, Shopify retailers processed a whopping $ 1,138,574 per minute.
In short, there are billions worth of sales up for grabs across Thanksgiving weekend and it is time to ask yourself how to prepare your online store for BFCM and get cracking. There are six main eCommerce areas to consider when preparing your online store for BFCM:
- Your site
- Your products
- Your promotional strategies
- Your marketing and ad strategy
- Your fulfillment and customer service strategies
- Your admin/organization strategies
If you think it is too early to get your store ready for the biggest shopping days of the year, think again! With only eight weeks ago until BFCM, you’re already running out of time and it is time to prepare your eCommerce site and marketing strategies to cash in on the action.
So without further ado, because we know you’re short on time, let’s jump into your full Black Friday Cyber Monday checklist!
1. Will Your Site Handle the Extra Pressure?
A website crash during peak Black Friday Cyber Monday shopping times could cost you in a huge way. This is a big concern specifically for those store owners hosting their own sites with WooCommerce or Magento platforms.
Before the traffic – and the pressure – mount, you should test your site server’s load capacity to ensure your store doesn’t go down. Tools such as Blitz.io will help you test your capacity now, eliminating the chance of nasty surprises.
2. Do You Have Broken Links and/or Boring 404s?
Now is the perfect time to review your site and use tools such as dead link checker to make sure there aren’t any broken links. It is also a good time to review and update your 404 pages that are strategically designed with holiday shoppers in mind. Perhaps a deal countdown with a CTA to sign up or a display ad link to your top three selling products and their promotion prices.
3. Are Your Product Photos Looking Their Best?
Do a quick review of all your product photos to make sure they are at their best for the holiday season. If you’re running low on time, start with your top products first.
4. Are You SEO Ready?
If you haven’t reviewed your SEO strategies and implemented your Black Friday Cyber Monday keywords, now is the time! By using relevant, targeted keywords in your headers, giving preference to seasonal keywords, tidying up your URLs and deleting duplicate content, you can up your SEO potential a notch.
5. Have You Got the Right Apps/Plugins?
Did we mention this was the busiest shopping day of the year? Now’s the time to implement third-party services to help make it as smooth as possible, leaving you time to fulfill all those extra orders while upping your customer shopping experience. Such as these top Shopify app considerations:
- Streamline your shipping and fulfillment funnel with Shippo
- Drive Black Friday Cyber Monday traffic with Traffic Booster
- Take tracking to the next level with Aftership
- Increase followers/email lists with Coupon Pop special offers and discounts
- Have your inventory, orders and customer management in one place with Tradegecko
- Use chat apps like Tido to improve customer service
6. Have You Tested Your Promotional and Discount Codes?
Do you know what holiday discount and promotional codes you will be using? Have you tested them in incognito mode to ensure the right discount amount is applied or that they work? The best way to tackle your codes is when you create your codes, create a spreadsheet with the code, the date of its release and the promotion it is tied to. Then ensure you go through the list to test them all before launch.
7. Have You Designed Your Holiday Banners and Landing Pages?
Have you created your holiday-themed website banners or specific Black Friday Cyber Monday landing pages? Banners add to user experience while also promoting your holiday sales, and specific landing pages (such as a list of top products or a special promotion) can help push BFCM SEO and traffic through PPC campaigns.
8. Have You Updated Your FAQ?
Whether or not your shipping, returns or other FAQ have changed, Black Friday Cyber Monday is likely to attract a lot of new customers who don’t know your store and policies. Make sure you display this prominently, to help answer questions before your potential shopper has even asked. This will help your store seem more trustworthy while also streamlining your customer service as much as possible.
9. Have You Reviewed Conversion Metrics to Find Your Top Sellers?
Take a look at your online store’s metrics to find this year’s top sellers and those popular products with high margins that will make a good Black Friday Cyber Monday deal. You also want to evaluate last year’s sales to see which of your products had the most success, to narrow down your list of products to push this BFCM and to assess your order estimates.
10. Have You Researched Trending Products?
Knowing what people are currently buying or wanting can help you anticipate what will sell. To do that, you want to find those trending products in your niche. By researching on social media and in forums, marketplaces and review publications, you can find last-minute products to add in time for the holidays as well as gain insight into which of your product types are more likely to sell. Check out our How to Find Trending Products to Sell Online guide for steps on how to do just that.
11. Have You Picked Out Products That Would Make Good Gifts?
Another consideration when planning your promotional products for BFCM is to think about products that will make good gifts. Traditionally, Cyber Monday is a great day for savvy Christmas shoppers to buy the bulk of their clothing, electronic and toy holiday gifts at a discount and people will be on the hunt for those gifts. Therefore, if you have products that make good holiday gifts, consider adding them to your list of products to promote.
12. Have You Checked Your Inventory Levels?
Stock up! Once you have created your list of products to push with promotions, you want to make sure that your inventory levels are high enough to match your estimated needs. This is the perfect time to install one of those apps we mentioned earlier, Tradegecko, which can help you track your inventory before and during peak shopping days.
13. Have You Chatted with Your Suppliers?
Lastly, if you are dropshipping or rely on wholesale suppliers, you should get in touch with them before the craziness begins to give them your expected demand and discuss systems for the increased sales and, in the case of dropshipping, fulfillment needs. New to eCommerce? Here are some general dropshipping tips to get you started.
14. Have You Considered Gift Cards?
Lastly, if you don’t have gift card options on your site, this may be a good time to install and test them before the holidays. By running checkout promotions where customers are offered a cross-sell of a voucher (where they pay less than the value of the gift card amount), this may help you use your BFCM customers to push those Christmas sales while pushing up your average order values.
15. Have You Thought About Giving Early Discounts to Grow Reach?
Next, you will want to consider using pre-BFCM promotions to grow your social followers and/or email lists before the big shopping days. This will help with email remarketing campaigns and social reach, for things like your big promotional countdowns, etc.
16. Have You Remembered Your Loyal Customers?
It’s not just previous customers and new shoppers you want to attract this BFCM; you should also be using the biggest shopping days to target and reward your loyal customers. This can be anything from exclusive deals to early entry to Black Friday Cyber Monday sales or a gift with every BFCM purchase.
17. How About Offering Gift-Wrapping?
By up-selling gift-wrapping services, you can help make BFCM more festive for your shoppers while pushing sales values. It can also be something you offer for free over a certain spend threshold or to reward those loyal customers we just discussed in the previous point.
18. Have You Started Yet?
Last year, one study found that 54% of online stores out of the 9,000 surveyed, had their BFCM marketing strategy ready to go at the beginning of October. If you haven’t started marketing, start now; today; this week! A lot of shoppers will research sales ahead of time and you want to make sure your eCommerce brand is fresh in their minds. The next couple of items on this checklist will help you create your marketing strategy if you don’t already have one or to tweak the one you’re planning to implement.
19. Researched All Your PPC Advertising Options?
First, you want to look at all the advertising options open to you during this time, to lock down the platforms you will use as well as plan your budget. It is important to keep in mind that bids will increase during these days, and you need to plan for the increased spend. But as the saying goes: it takes money to make money, and as long as the ROIs are good, you want to scale up this shopping season. Here is our top list of must-use advertising options for your Black Friday Cyber Monday marketing strategy:
- Google Ads (including Google Shopping, search and remarketing campaigns)
- Facebook Ads (including Dynamic Product ads, collection ads and remarketing campaigns)
- Instagram Ads (including shoppable posts and story campaigns)
20. What About Your Blog Content Marketing Strategy?
Blog posts, videos, podcasts – these are just a few mediums you can create to market before and during the peak shopping season. Good, high-value content can help you build trust while extending your reach. It will also improve your store’s SEO. This can be anything from Christmas shopping guides to Facebook lives, and should be part of your overall Black Friday Cyber Monday marketing strategy.
21. Have You Planned How to Create Hype Around Big Sales?
When planning your promotional marketing, it is essential to create hype – helping to get potential customers excited about the sales or promotions you will be launching. To create a buzz, you should be rolling out marketing in stages that include teases; and the sooner you start, the better.
22. Have You Started Retargeting Old Traffic and Previous Customers?
By now we know how much easier and more cost-effective it is to convert existing customers than brand new ones. As part of your marketing strategy, it is vital to include remarketing strategies targeting both previous traffic and previous customers. Shoppers are about to be bombarded by marketing messages, but if they remember your brand or have bought from you before, they are more likely to choose you over your competitors.
23. Have You Created Your Email Marketing Strategy?
With reports, like from Hubspot, stating that email marketing contributed to 25% of only Black Friday sales, as online store owners, you know just how crucial email marketing is to your BFCM marketing strategy. And if that is not enough motivation to get you thinking about email marketing today, try this one on for size: during Black Friday Cyber Monday last year, email marketing had the highest conversion rate.
Image source: Shopify
Now is the time to start preparing and planning your Black Friday Cyber Monday email marketing strategies and scheduling those critical emails well ahead of time: countdown to sales, last-day/hour reminders, teasers and loyal customer VIP promotions.
24. Created Your Holiday Marketing Strategy?
Once you know the platforms you will be marketing to/with, you should create a full marketing strategy that includes your planned blog posts, PPC campaigns, promotions (which we will discuss further down), ads and more. Scheduling as much as you can beforehand will ensure you are freeing up time to deal with marketing changes, increased sales and fulfillment issues that may come up as the sale day nears.
25. Have You Planned Your Ad Copy?
Part of your planning should be creating and planning out all the ads within the campaigns you have chosen. The sooner you plan this out, the more thought-out it will be. Plus, it will give you time to A/B test headlines, images, videos, etc. to ensure you are getting the best results for your spend.
26. Have You Considered Influencers?
For an extra marketing push this season, have you considered influencer marketing and sponsored product reviews? These can help give your eCommerce brand a helpful push in the trust department and present your promotions to a wider audience in different niches. Check out our influencer guide to get you started: Beginner’s Guide to Instagram Influencer Marketing for Online Store Owners.
27. Checked and Updated your Fulfillment Strategy?
It’s crunch time to ensure you are ready for all those sales your Black Friday Cyber Monday marketing strategy will bring you. To do this, you may need to update your fulfillment strategies to help you handle the massive increase in orders. Ask yourself whether your systems are in place and whether you have enough staff (if you’re managing your own fulfillment) to handle the influx of orders without compromising on delivery times.
28. Checked and Updated your Customer Support Procedure?
Late deliveries are not the only way you can hurt your business. Customer service not only plays a huge role in making the shopping experience is great for customers, but it will ensure that you can convert all your BFCM first-time shoppers into repeat customers in the coming year. You want to make sure you have extra staff to handle the additional queries that will hit you from all platforms, and that they keep your standard of politeness, etc. no matter how much it grows.
You also want to create contingency plans for dealing with problems that could arise. You know those worst-case scenarios you think will never happen? Plan for them just in case. The quicker you deal with big issues, the less impact they will have on your brand.
29. Are You Keeping an Eye On Your Biggest Competitors?
Before, during and after formulating your marketing and site strategies, you want to keep a close eye on your biggest competitors. What products are they promoting? What deals are they offering? Subscribe to your competitors’ email lists today, to help you track their strategies so that you can make quick adjustments if you need to.
30. Are Your Reminders Set?
The key to not burning out is to ensure you are super organized over this time. To help you keep on top of all your must-dos and tasks this Black Friday Cyber Monday, put each step in all your strategies into your calendar or task board (like Trello) platform. Inputting everything ahead of time will mean reminders on the days you need to implement tasks and this will ensure nothing gets forgotten.
31. Are You Set Up to Track Everything?
Last but not least, make sure that everything is set up to enable you to track everything. You want to track ads, products, conversions and promotional traffic before the madness hits, during the rush and after BFCM concludes.
There you have it, how to prepare your online store for Black Friday Cyber Monday. It may seem like a lot of work, but if you tackle it one point at a time, you will get through this. Remember, it is not just the BFCM shoppers you are preparing for, but the heaps of one-time shoppers you will be able to add to all your sales funnels and remarketing campaigns in 2019. This will allow you to scale your eCommerce business with remarketing.