When Black Friday Comes How To Stake Your Claim: 5 Tips to Maximize E-Commerce Sales This Holiday Season

Young woman paying credit card for purchases in grocery store

As fun as it is risking life and limb to re-enact the Hunger Games each year at America’s retail outlets on Black Friday, for some reason an increasing number of Americans prefer shopping online from the safety and comfort of their homes (for thoughts on that, see our In the kNOW article this month).

Here are a few tips we’ve picked up managing Black Friday/Cyber Monday (BFCM) for our clients over the years.

1.) Pre-Marketing Is Key!

In many ways, Black Friday really begins about two weeks prior to the actual event. Consumers tend to start searching for deals and making their gift-giving plans in early November, so your marketing needs to be on point and you need to plan for a 5-10% traffic lift starting the week after Halloween.

If you’re reading this, we’re assuming you already know that maintaining a database of users and likely users is critical to the success of any online store, as is good management of your social endpoints. Assuming that’s all handled and your messaging across all channels is coordinated, what should you say?

Like any sales challenge, creating a sense of urgency and exclusivity is key. As such we often recommend a countdown timer or an offer limited to the first X number of respondents, with X scaling based on the size of the store and existing customer base.

Indeed, we’ve seen instances where just adding a countdown timer to the store can lift add-to-cart events by a percentage point or two.

Another tried and true tactic is to use your social channels to let people know that they can get a coupon code for signing up to your email or SMS club prior to a certain date, and limiting the number of possible redemptions can create that sense of scarcity that can drive action.

There are lots of different ways to skin this cat and of course every brand and customer base is different, but just taking these two actions are almost guaranteed to give your store a boost this holiday season.

2.) Know Which Metrics To Track

Our clients tend to be established businesses (often media companies and other agencies) that are stepping into e-commerce for the first time.

It’s very easy for businesses like that (or anyone who hasn’t run an online store before) to get stuck in the weeds with a subject as complicated as online sales, so here is a very quick primer on what to look for in your store beyond top-line sales.

  • Conversion Rate – This is the ratio of site visitors to customers, and the prime objective measure of how effective your site is at selling your product or services. This metric should drive every decision regarding the design and overall user experience of your digital properties.
  • Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) – Essentially this is the total amount a customer will ever spend with your business. You’ll want to give a lot of attention to increasing average CLV over time via targeted communications and loyalty perks along with just providing quality products and services.
  • Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) – This tracks how much on average you’re spending per customer. The CLV should drive the CAC and as you optimize your online and physical marketing the delta between the two should increase until you hit a plateau of optimization. Our marketing team works hard to ensure the average CAC is far below the average CLV.
  • New Vs Returning Customers – It’s easy to fall into the trap of focusing only on acquisition since that’s the initial challenge to overcome when getting started with e-commerce. Once you’ve overcome that first phase and have developed an existing customer base it’s critical to continue to support, engage, and incentivize them. Not only are there fringe benefits like word-of-mouth marketing and social buzz, but a returning customer will often spend more with a trusted brand on BFCM.
  • Cart Abandonment – This metric indicates the number of people who get as far as adding an item to a cart but never actually completing the sale. On Black Friday this metric can frequently end up in the high 70 and low 80%’s even for skilled and experienced operators. Combatting abandonment is a combination of reducing friction in the checkout process and making sure the customer is already in your system so you’re able to follow up if this happens.
  • Revenue Per Visitor (RPV) – The average spend per store visit. Along with Conversion Rate, this is a key metric to track when deciding how to price and present products in your store.
  • Churn Rate – This metric is the bane of every online seller’s and marketer’s existence. It tracks customers who buy and never return, or cancel subscriptions after signing up. Fighting churn requires a combination of constant value propositions, proactive support, and engagement, and aligned messaging across all marketing channels. It’s a beast that must be fed daily.

This list represents the bare minimum to manage an online retail property and there are literally dozens of other metrics to monitor. Many retailers need outside help as they grow, which is why we’re here!

3.) Make Sure Your Site Can Handle the Load

As a boutique agency, our hosting clients tend to be highly bespoke with custom features and unique user journeys built in. We always batten down the hatches for digital properties we host on BFCM because on more than one occasion the weekend after Thanksgiving has accounted for more than 50% of their traffic for the entire year.

If you’re on a cloud service like Shopify you can be sure that your site’s infrastructure is solid, but even on platforms like that you still need to make sure that your store’s templates are optimized to ensure your pages load quickly.

Fast-loading sites can convert 5-15% higher than slow-loading ones. Reducing friction in the checkout process tends to bump up those conversion rates as well, so adding features like a single-page checkout or dropping in “Checkout Now” buttons or using one-click purchasing with solutions like Apple Pay, Google Checkout, and/or PayPal on product pages is a good idea.

It’s also important to remember that slow-loading pages bog down your digital infrastructure the same way that a slow cashier ties up a checkout line. If the line gets long you’re going to lose sales, and even on cloud platforms like Shopify your store will see a performance (and conversion) hit if your page templates are too heavy or badly coded.

The traffic surge usually starts overnight and peaks around 10:00am but stays sustained throughout the day. Mobile tends to peak a little bit earlier than desktop. There’s also typically a second peak towards the end of the day around 11:00pm.

We often put stores into “battlestations” mode as early as possible, sometimes even a full week before BFCM, and don’t resume normal operations until after the holidays have passed.

4.) Capture Contact Info Early & Automate Responses

It’s critical to know who your site visitors are and get their consent for you to contact them. Once you’ve got them in your database you can follow up if you see events like repeated browsing without a purchase, cart abandonment events, or worst of all, a dropoff in activity or a long period with no visits at all.

We typically use CRM platforms such as Adobe, Salesforce, and Microsoft Dynamics to manage first-party data for our clients. We also frequently employ smaller-scale platforms like Sharpspring and Klaviyo to send regular campaigns to drive engagement and automate various flows to mitigate churn and abandonment.

It’s critical to make sure that your brand is set up to detect a potential conversion if it stalls and prepped to respond accordingly. Automating flows like Abandoned Cart, Browse Abandonment, and Abandoned Cart has the highest open rates, conversion rates, and profit-driving rates of any tactics we know of.

5.) Make Sure Your Mobile Experience is Optimized

There’s not much left to say about it at this point. The war ended a while ago, and mobile won. 75-80% of online traffic and sales on Black Friday come from a mobile device.

We still see stores where the mobile presentation is an afterthought, and it hurts our souls. Established stores will sometimes try to incrementally optimize their sites and in our experience, that’s a recipe for disaster.

It’s better to rip the band-aid off and build a new mobile-optimized responsive UX from the ground up. Desktop doesn’t dominate anymore but it also can represent 1/4 to 1/3 of a store’s sales so it needs attention as well.

If you don’t feel like you need the expense and overhead of a native app, at least make sure your store presents well and loads quickly in mobile Safari and Google Chrome.

Hopefully, your BFCM plans are already well underway, but if you’d like to have a conversation about what you can do to optimize your online store, click HERE to get in touch.