Adapt Your Online Store for Black Friday
Halloween is over, but the holidays are just beginning. It is an exciting time of the year, especially if you are a shopper. Black Friday is an occasion people look forward to for an entire year, hopeful that what they are looking for goes on a big sale. Others are in it for the massive discounts, hunting those hot deals. There is genuinely no other day of the year (more like a week nowadays) that benefits customers this much.
But what if you are not a customer and instead own a store? Specifically an online store. Do you feel confident that you have prepared your website for the flood of shoppers visiting it? Are you certain that the website can not only sustain the load that will be put on it but also that your supply will last? How convinced are you that the sales you are offering are enticing? Will you even participate in Black Friday? These are all questions you should ask yourself if you own an online store with Black Friday looming on the horizon. In this blog post, we will give you some advice about how to prepare your website for Black Friday so it can accommodate your customers.
What is Black Friday?
Let’s talk briefly about Black Friday and when it became a holiday associated with massive discounts.
Regarding shopping, Black Friday became a widely spread term in the 1980s. It is always the first Friday after Thanksgiving and marks the beginning of the Christmas shopping season. The name comes from the idea that retailers back then typically operated at a loss for most of the year. However, when the Christmas shopping season started (marked by that specific Friday), they would make all their profits. And, since black is used to show positive amounts (and red is used for negative amounts), the name Black Friday came along. The day marking retailers’ transition into the black.
While it originated in the United States, the holiday has spread worldwide recently. More and more companies and businesses realized how lucrative such a day can be. Black Friday has grown so much that it is not just a single day anymore. Many places have whole weeks, or even the entire month, dedicated to it. It has become a global occurrence.
Should You Participate in Black Friday?
The short answer is, “If your store can afford it, then yes.” However, we are not here to give short answers, so let’s elaborate.
Online shopping has exploded in recent years. According to Forbes, almost 21% of all retail purchases worldwide are expected to be made online. At least 79% of shoppers do so online at least once a month. When you think about those numbers in the grand scheme of things, that is a lot of people and goes to show just how popular online shopping has become in recent years. Oddly enough, it was the COVID-19 pandemic that spurred this growth in online shopping when physical stores were closed. Since then, customers’ initial interaction with a store is its website and not its physical place. Convenience, combined with ease of access and almost no effort required to shop, has made online stores such a huge success. Websites are open 24/7, don’t require you to drive over, and offer their entire catalog in a single, convenient-to-browse space.
With online shopping proliferating, we strongly recommend you consider participating in Black Friday (and Cyber Monday afterward if possible). Many customers purchasing your goods or services for discounted prices is better than a meager few buying them full-price. Not only that, but it will also allow you to build a community around your store. That might not seem as important as profits, but those people will return to your store and even talk to others about it. Having regulars like that is invaluable to a business.
Black Friday is an excellent opportunity to show off the quality of your product and your website and also to reap profits while increasing your customer base.
Get Your Online Store Ready
Now that we have convinced you to participate in Black Friday, it is time to prepare your store! Much effort goes into preparing for the holiday, so we recommend starting as soon as possible. It is not just about slashing your prices for a weekend. Many other factors must be considered before launching a Black Friday sale on your website. Below, we will outline the most important ones.
Determine Special Offers and Discounts
Black Friday is all about discounts, so let’s start there. Look through your inventory or list of services and decide what you want to discount. See what you can afford to sell at a significantly lower price while maintaining profits. That might be a good time to get rid of unsold items as well.
Another angle to slashing prices is not what you can afford to discount but what your customers want you to discount. Check what items or services sold the most and lower their prices. Such popular items will sell out even more quickly than before. You can also perform surveys beforehand to see what your customers are looking for or want to see on a Black Friday sale.
The bottom line here is not only to reap the greatest profits but also to offer your customers things they are looking for since they are more likely to get bought. Additionally, write exciting descriptions and instill a sense of urgency in your sales. Show off that the discount goes away after a short period and that customers should act quickly while the price is low or items are still in stock.
Prepare Your Website
The next big thing when getting ready for Black Friday is to ensure your website is up to the task. People need to know that a Black Friday sale is going on. Not only that, but they also need to be able to shop without interruption. That is why these are the three major things you must take care of before launching the sale.
- Website Appearance – Show your customers that a sale is going on. Put custom banners in your website’s header that brag to your customers about your discounts. Integrate a timer somewhere, showing when the sales will end. We mentioned that sense of urgency before, and it will drive customers to make purchases. Just make sure the new appearance is pleasant to look at and does not interfere with the website’s navigation. It should be easy to explore without any unnecessary hurdles or popups. If you can optimize for mobile as well, you should consider doing it. A large portion of shoppers use their mobile devices nowadays;
- Website Clarity – Next up, ensure that the products or services on your website are easy to understand. Everything you offer for Black Friday should have a clear description with no ambiguity whatsoever. The customer must be able to understand what they are purchasing by reading the description. Additionally, if you have photos, they must also convey the same clarity as the description. Don’t mislead your customers, and show them exactly what they are purchasing;
- Website Stability – Study your website’s analytics and see if the current host can manage an increase in traffic. Few things are more off-putting than a slow or poorly functioning website. While it can be challenging to estimate or judge how well your website might perform under load, you can follow this rule of thumb: don’t let your website consume almost all your hosting’s resources. Ultimately, how stable your website is depends on your hosting provider, so make sure you have plenty of headspace left for increased traffic. Also, optimize your website if you haven’t done that already. That will boost its speed, which will make your customers that much more happy. We have two excellent blog posts on the topic here and here.
Your website will be what your customers interact with the most, so you must be sure it’s ready for Black Friday. People spend a lot of money on that day and throughout the rest of the shopping season, so it is a perfect time for profits.
Your website is not the only thing that needs to get ready for the shopping season, though. Your entire infrastructure has to be prepared as well. That means your warehouse, your employees, your delivery services, and so on. Everything that goes into selling your goods or services must be ready to handle the increased traffic and orders. If you are self-employed and running a single-person business, then consider hiring temporary workers for the season. These are four crucial backend considerations to keep in mind.
- Warehouse and Processing – Organize your warehouse or storage area. Put the items you have chosen to discount at the forefront and ensure processing is streamlined and done efficiently. Finally, make sure you have enough stock to accommodate Black Friday purchasing;
- Shipping and Returns – You must have very clear and robust shipping and return policies. They must be easy to find on your website and must be easy to understand. Since it is Black Friday, shipping and delivery might take longer than usual, so ensure you note that in the policies. It is best to put a generous time frame on shipping without being egregious. We also recommend a no-return clause for sale items in your return policy. Managing shipping and returns during Black Friday can bog down your operation, so do not accept returns. Earlier, we mentioned clear and unambiguous descriptions, and those will help immensely with preventing returns. Also, free shipping might be an excellent extra incentive;
- Delivery – Whether you do the delivery yourself or you use a third-party company, you must state the time frame within which the goods or services will be delivered. Again, you can be a bit more generous with the period to account for the increased activity due to Black Friday, but don’t go overboard;
- Customer Service – Finally, bolster your customer service if available. Black Friday is a busy time not just for sellers but for customers as well. Because of that, if something goes awry, a friendly customer service agent can make a world of difference when helping your customers. Contact information should be in plain sight on your website (email, telephone, chat, and so on), and if you have a contact form, ensure it is functional.
If you follow these recommendations, your infrastructure should be ready to handle Black Friday without any issues. All that is left is to advertise your promotions!
Advertisement and Social Media
It is time to let the world know about your incredible deals! Your Black Friday sale won’t succeed without advertisements, so it is time to focus on that.
Firstly, what should your advertisement really be about? As with a few other things in this blog post, we suggest you keep it clear and straightforward with a call to action. Display your most purchased or discounted products or services, and proudly display how low your prices are. Show off the date when the sale ends, which should be enough. The rest is up to you regarding how it looks.
But having an idea of what the advertisement should look like is insufficient. It is time to post it online and where better than social media. Everyone is on social media now, and if your business doesn’t have a social media presence, then you are missing out on a lot of marketing opportunities. For instance, Facebook has more than two billion active users, and a study shows that more than 60% of marketers prefer to use Facebook. That is a lot of people to advertise to. You should focus on social media marketing as it has the highest potential of reaching many people. You can create a few posts that you upload at even intervals throughout the month, hyping up your sales. It does not have to be anything flashy or outstanding, as customers nowadays often enjoy a more straightforward way of communicating. Everyone’s life is so fast and busy.
Another angle you can take is newsletter and email marketing. That requires you to already have a list of customers who wish to receive your newsletter and email promotions. We do not recommend emailing random people who have not signed up on your website. Anyone who has agreed to accept such emails from you, though, is acceptable to send to. Again, like with your social media posts, you should not overwhelm your customers and send only a few emails throughout the month. The advertisement and newsletter should be clear yet informative and enticing enough. Remember that emails are a very popular marketing method, so you should try to differentiate yourself from other potential marketers.
Aside from these two marketing methods, you should also check to see if your website is SEO-ready. That typically involves using correct keywords in your product descriptions and metadata. You can even buy some ad time from Google, for instance, if you wish to go the extra mile. We have a blog post about catching up after summer break in which we talk about marketing strategies. You should check it out to read more on the topic.
During and After November
Just because Black Friday is a singular day in November, it doesn’t mean you can’t use the whole month and the months after it to your benefit. The best things you can do before and after the shopping season are observe, learn, and reward. Let’s elaborate!
Observing and Learning
Tracking the performance of your ad campaigns and sales is a great way to find out what works and doesn’t, what your customers prefer to buy, and what they avoid. Here are a few specific things to keep an eye on.
- Google Analytics – If you have not added your website to your Google Analytics account (it is free), you should absolutely do that. Google offers some excellent tracking tools at no cost, which can tell you how many users have opened your website in a given time period, how many have left after just a couple of seconds, which pages are most viewed, and so on. It is a great tool that can tell you so much about your website that you can’t otherwise know;
- Best Sellers – Keep a list of what sold the most (and the least, for that matter). That way, you can learn which products were most sought after or which discounts worked the best. You can also learn a lot about your sales strategies through such tracking: which ones worked and which ones did not;
- Social Media Analytics – If you have been advertising on social media, then it is likely the platform has a way for you to see how a post is doing. How many views, impressions, comments, reactions, and so on. Facebook and Instagram have those tools, for instance. Learn from what you see there as well, as that information is invaluable.
Learning is not the only thing you can do, though. Black Friday is just the start of the holiday shopping season. Immediately after, it is Cyber Monday. You should apply the same tactics you did for Black Friday to bolster your Cyber Monday profits if your store participates. The methods are the same, just adapted for the latter holiday instead of for Black Friday. If your store can sustain it, keep the sale going. If not throughout the whole months of November and December, you can still take advantage of Thanksgiving and Christmas to host a couple more sales before the end of the year. The increase in revenue is a given, but there is something else that will also be beneficial for your store.
Loyalty is essential to turn a normal customer into a returning customer. Return customers spend more money than first-time or only-time users. Not only that, but the majority of a company’s business comes from those same recurring customers instead of from new ones. Finally, people who are familiar with your brand and know you provide a good product or service are far more likely to stick with you than look someplace else. They will also recommend your business to others, which can lead to more returning customers. As you can see, loyalty is essential, and you should reward it.
People like feeling appreciated, and that applies to their purchasing habits as well. That is why we suggest you create a loyalty program for various returning customers. For instance, people who have agreed to receive your newsletter can sometimes get a discount code. Or, users who shop a lot from you can get other special discounts or offers that show you appreciate their business. Such incentives may appear small at first, but as your customer base grows, and more and more people come back to your business because they are satisfied with it, you will see the appreciation you show will pay off.
Black Friday is a massive day for all retailers, online stores, and other service providers. If you decide to participate in it, as a seller, you should absolutely not underestimate the effort that will go into getting ready. Do it as soon as you can: designate what will be discounted and how much, provide the best service you can muster, have robust sales and return policies, and make sure your customer service is ready. Afterward, continue with your efforts to improve your store, note down trends for the future, and show some appreciation.
We know it is a lot of effort to pull off a successful Black Friday sale. However, we also know how rewarding it can be. It is about more than just the revenue, as the customers themselves are important for a business. What we have outlined in this post should help you focus your efforts on the best Black Friday.
Finally, we recommend two of our other blog posts for further reading. Last year, we wrote a piece about preparing your online store for the holiday shopping season, which also has some excellent insights. The second post is from a couple of years ago on a similar topic to this one, and its advice can still hold true today.
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