The Ultimate E-Commerce Guide to Black Friday

The shopping season is fast approaching. Black Friday — the kickoff of Christmas consumerism — falls on November 29 this year, six days later than last year. However, e-commerce stores easily will compensate for this shorter shopping season: Last year consumers broke records with US$6.22 billion spent online, but this year Black Friday is set to surpass $12 billion in online sales.

Statistically, e-commerce platforms are said to generate 300 percent more sales on Black Friday and Cyber Monday than on an average day in November. However, with increasing competition, it’s more important than ever for online businesses to ensure their deals actually get seen. There’s no better way to do this than through careful preparation.

There are a number of aspects to focus on: Whether it’s making sure that a website is fully optimized and ready to welcome the Black Friday traffic surge, or setting up personalized messaging, this shopping season is all about attention to detail and going the extra mile to promote deals.The only way to match these standards is by setting up a comprehensive omnichannel strategy.

For consumers, it can be difficult to navigate the plethora of offers, especially as more and more online stores enter the discount arena. Preparation is a gamechanger; the more consumers plan ahead, the better their Black Friday shopping experiences. Whether it’s through exploring social media, setting up notifications in advance, or keeping an eye on the right websites, there are tried-and-tested methods to finding the best deals across the Web.

Whether you’re a business or a consumer, chances are you want to make the best out of the shopping event of this year. Read on to find out how to position deals in the best ways — and how to discover them effortlessly.

Tips for E-Commerce Stores

Email newsletters. Email is the indisputable king of Black Friday marketing. In 2017, 116.5 million emails were sent on Black Friday, more than any other single day of the year, according to Campaign Monitor. Brands also saw increased opens and clicks — and this is a trend that isn’t going away.

With a high return on investment, email newsletters allow online stores to leverage their loyal audience. To achieve their full email campaign potential, merchants should start sending emails three or four weeks prior to the event. It’s also a great idea to design a series of enticing emails that build on each other. For example, an email announcing when the promotion starts, a reminder, an email that slightly increases the discount, and a last chance to shop email, ideally with a 24, 48 or 72 hour promotion expiration.

Abandoned cart emails represent another ace in the sleeve of e-commerce brands. In fact, these messages usually have the highest performance during Black Friday.

Cart abandonment is immensely high throughout the shopping season. Last year, it increased to 81.93 percent. By deploying emails to regain customers’ attention, e-commerce stores can lower that number. In 2017, abandoned cart emails had a 34 percent open rate, 9 percent click-through rate, and 2.13 percent conversion rate, according to Omnisend.

Advertisements. Black Friday advertisements aren’t restricted to the domain of big brands. Even smaller online stores can leverage ads, particularly through social media or affiliate links placed on third-party websites or on aggregator platforms.

In fact, Google has released a new ad unit aimed at helping advertisers run more effective holiday campaigns. The feature — known as “promotion extensions” — gives advertisers the power to highlight specific promotions in their text ads without cutting into character counts. These promotions can be set up for different days and keywords.

Partnerships with coupon sites and media. Coupons sites are very popular with customers and are accessible through search engines when they’re seeking out information on Black Friday deals. However, they are equally valuable for small and medium e-commerce stores. They use them not only to overcome their inherently adverse position, but also to capture first-time shoppers.

Likewise, partnering with media is a smart move. Whether in digital or paper form, different publications publish deals throughout the shopping season or even create a designated website section to post deals. Collaborating with them thus can help e-commerce stores gain additional exposure.

Social media. Social media platforms, including Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, are also a great location for Black Friday deals. The networks offer interactive features that allow brands to be creative about their messaging — for example, e-commerce stores can create unique hashtags or organize a Q&A session on when the deals are starting and what to look out for.

However, businesses trying to capture the attention of their online audiences know that these platforms’ algorithms aren’t always favorable to organic outreach. In case brands are struggling to reach their desired audience, it might be necessary to opt in for paid promotion.

Interestingly, recent years have seen more unique forms of deal promotion across the networks. Online stores are more likely to leverage giveaways and user-generated content, or experiment with GIFs or videos.

Moreover, merchants have partnered with influencers to promote deals in a more authentic and conversational way. The promotion of coupons also has entered popular sites like YouTube, where brands place them in their bios or in video descriptions.

Push notifications. Push notifications are great for diversifying shopping season marketing strategy, and can form an interesting alternative to features like SMS messaging.

Whether in-app or in browser, their power lies in their flexibility. They can be sent to specific segments or at specific times only. Brands who add masterfully crafted copies, experiment with emojis, and include a clear call to action are much more likely to succeed.

Website optimization. However, no matter which channel captures the consumer, all online stores must know that shopping decisions are finalized on the website. Homepage optimization is fundamental: Black Friday can increase site traffic up to nearly 100 percent compared to a normal state.

Preparation for this surge is key. Slowdowns, bugs or site shutdowns, together with frustrating errors such as accidentally emptied carts, could be critical in discouraging customers to make a purchase.

Any potential issues, including overburdened APIs, servers unequipped for peak traffic, third-party components slowing loading time, or too many graphics, should be resolved.

The website also should be fully mobile-friendly; last year mobile devices accounted for 67 percent of all Black Friday digital traffic.

Once the website is ready, e-commerce stores can experiment with pop-up windows and banners. It doesn’t matter whether they’re designed by an in-house graphic or through templates available online — the bottom line is making the promotion very attention-grabbing and functional.

What to Be Mindful Of

Apart from making sure that deals and coupons are reaching the target audience, the nature of the promotion itself can have enormous impact too. For example, it’s smart to offer a flat sale across the whole site. It not only encourages users to discover categories they normally don’t browse, but also places an urgency on their shopping decisions. While category-specific sales are more common throughout the year (“Autumn is here, buy a sweater!”) a universal sale presents a stronger call-to-action.

When it comes to the percentage off, e-commerce stores offer sales at different values. Last year, the average online discount was 24 percent.

Whatever an online business decides to go for, ity can experiment with gamification too — for example, by incorporating a spin-to-win wheel with discounts at different percentages. Getting creative is crucial — and once benefits like free shipping are thrown in, each deal becomes a true consumer magnet.

Destination and timing are also important. Deals can be valid for a limited time only, so keywords like “last hour sale,” “expires soon” or “flash sale” are likely to bring attention. Online stores also can collaborate with coupon sites and offer exclusive codes that can’t be found elsewhere to attract new consumers.

How Can Consumers Find the Best Deals?

Black Friday may not come until the end of November — but the deals start rolling in the weeks ahead, so consumers should watch out for any announcement from their favorite brands or across media to ensure they catch any deal that’s relevant to them. Enabling push notifications also can be beneficial.

Monitoring the content of magazines and newspapers is beneficial because they often pay close attention to Amazon and other retailers. This means that they provide firsthand information for customers looking to buy the “bestsellers,” including Xbox, Amazon Echo, or Apple products.

Social networks are also very effective. Consumers can identify the deals directly in their feed or explore other promotions by using specific hashtags.

Interestingly, some of the best deals are discovered through interaction with peers. Whether it’s Facebook groups or forums like Reddit or Quora, consumers who have the time and patience may discover some true gems in user content.

Conducting a simple Google search can do wonders. In many cases, Google takes consumers to different coupon websites, which are great for product discovery. These websites also have shopping specialists that tend to work 24/7 during the Black Friday week to verify the deals. This way, consumers can ensure that a promotion is valid and up to date.

Things to Avoid When Shopping

While Black Friday brings many exciting possibilities, getting caught up in a shopping frenzy can be frustrating and exhausting. To ensure a pleasant and stress-free shopping experience, consumers should be prepared and know exactly what they’re looking for. This way, they can avoid impulsive purchases and ultimately laborious returns. By thinking strategically instead, smart shoppers can even buy Christmas presents and avoid the last-minute holiday shopping hassle.

While prices matter, consumers don’t need to buy a product on the first site they find. Instead, they can use different browser extensions or tools that help them track prices over time or compare them across servers. Shoppers also should remember that Black Friday is just the beginning. Cyber Monday often represents a just-as-good — or even better — shopping opportunity, often with slightly increased discounts or extras.

Being prepared for the Black Friday shopping craze is important for all parties involved. E-commerce stores should prioritize an omnichannel marketing strategy and make sure their websites are fully functional. Customers can make the best out of the shopping event of the year by writing up their to-buy lists and remembering to think twice before making a purchase.

Simone Wu

Simone Wu is digital marketing manager at CouponBirds.

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