Black Friday Ecommerce Strategy to Boost Your Sales
Black Friday is a huge opportunity for eCommerce businesses to boost revenue, create extra cash flow, and take steps towards building a bigger business long-term.
But you need to approach Black Friday (and the days/weeks surrounding Black Friday) with a carefully planned strategy. You can’t simply expect sales to go through the roof just because it’s Black Friday.
If you fail to plan, you plan to fail, as the saying goes. This article is here to help you plan. Read on as we help you build a powerful Black Friday eCommerce marketing strategy that will deliver a long-term boost to your store.
Why is Black Friday Such a Big Deal for eCommerce?
Over the years, Black Friday has morphed into the shopping event of the year. It’s no longer just the "Friday after Thanksgiving". Thanksgiving is now the "Thursday before Black Friday".
Consumers have become accustomed to finding great Black Friday deals, along with deals the days before and after. And for more and more people, online shopping (eCommerce sites and shopping apps) is the first place they look when they want to buy something.
They come with a herd mentality that leads to huge amounts of money spent online. In 2022, Black Friday accounted for $9.12 billion in eCommerce sales.
In addition, conversion rates are significantly higher, with Adobe Analytics showing average conversion rates of 5.6% on desktop and 3.3% on mobile for Black Friday 2022.
According to Shopify, conversion rates for Shopify Plus merchants were even higher, at 7.38% on average over Black Friday.
To put these figures in perspective, the average eCommerce conversion rate year-round is 1.89%.
More active online shoppers means a big opportunity for your store. But it also means more competition which is why a smart Black Friday marketing strategy is important.
Check out more Black Friday statistics in this article.
“Black Friday” is No Longer Just Friday
Of course when we say “Black Friday”, we’re not only talking about one day. At one point, this was a one-day shopping event, but as Prime Day is now a two-day event, Black Friday has morphed into a week-long gold rush.
Cyber Monday is actually a bigger day for eCommerce merchants than Black Friday. Cyber Monday sales totaled $11.3 billion in 2022, $2 billion higher than Black Friday and the highest single day of the holiday shopping season.
The increase in conversion rate is bigger as well, with 6.9% on desktop and 3.6% on mobile.
Overall, “Cyber Week” generated $35.27 billion in sales in 2022. And each year, more merchants are starting earlier and extending the BFCM (Black Friday-Cyber Monday) excitement later, to further capitalize on the benefit they get out of the year’s top shopping event.
Some even refer to “Black November” instead of Black Friday, as a lot of retailers run sales over the whole month, instead of waiting for Cyber Week to begin.
Thinking Long-Term About BFCM
Similar to how Black Friday is not just a one-day event, smart brands don’t approach BFCM as an isolated event, only seeking a short-term boost. It’s an opportunity to build long-term momentum and bring new, loyal customers into your brand.
Short-sighted businesses see BFCM as a cash grab. Smart businesses use BFCM to build relationships and leverage the excitement of Black Friday into long-term benefits.
With the December holiday season coming up right after Cyber Week, you really need to be thinking long-term. A five-day increase in revenue and a spike in cash flow is great, but bringing new fans in for your brand who continue to shop with you through December is better.
19 Tips to Ace Your Black Friday eCommerce Strategy
Now let’s move on to a bumper list of proven tips to help you get the most out of Black Friday, Cyber Monday and the surrounding days for your eCommerce business.
1. Make Sure Your Site is Fast and Responsive
Before you start thinking about how to win Black Friday, first make sure you don’t lose it.
You'll lose Black Friday if your site is too slow or if there are technical issues with your site that drive shoppers away. Speed and responsiveness are always important, but with more people shopping during BFCM, their importance is magnified.
Longer time for a page to load has been proven to increase bounce rate, potentially by as much as 123%. You can expect an even shorter leash during Black Friday with the competition for consumers’ attention.
And as responsiveness goes, any site that’s not mobile-friendly today is missing out on a huge share of their audience. Expect the share of mobile vs desktop traffic to skew even heavier in favor of mobile over Black Friday/Cyber Monday. Data from Shopify stores in 2021’s BFCM period showed 71% of purchases were made on mobile, as more people go for the convenience of being able to shop from their phone.
2. Be Prepared for Increased Activity
There’s no point dreaming up a list of unique Black Friday marketing ideas if you can’t actually handle the increased activity. So spend the time leading up to Cyber Week making sure you’re ready for a hectic sales week.
There are a number of facets to this. Inventory is one. You need enough stock to handle more sales. Many unprepared retailers cap their Black Friday gains by running out of stock because they didn’t plan ahead.
Your website also needs to be able to handle an increase in traffic. Make sure your hosting and the technical architecture of your site is not going to give out if you end up getting 4-5x your usual traffic numbers.
Finally, make sure you have enough staff to keep business operations running smoothly. Get all hands on deck from your support team, and have team members ready to answer customers’ questions immediately. You can’t leave customers waiting 24 hours to get an answer - by then they’ll have already taken a similar deal from a competitor.
3. Audit Your UX and Checkout Flow
With more traffic on your site, the shopping experience becomes all the more important. Small issues are magnified. Things that may have cost you a few hundred in lost sales in an ordinary weekend could cost you tens of thousands during Black Friday/Cyber Monday.
Before Black Friday, do a self-audit of the customer journey and look for any areas you can improve. You need to ensure the navigation is smooth, intuitive and easy to locate. Make your CTAs big, bold and obvious. Look through every part of your site from a CRO angle. Minimal improvements will make a big difference come late November.
Look at your checkout flow and see if there are any opportunities to make this smoother and more streamlined. During BFCM, customers will be rushing to finish their purchase and start looking for the next deal. Anything you can do to remove friction from the buying process and make impulse purchases easier will result in a lot of extra sales.
4. Automatically Apply Discount Codes
As part of your checkout flow, it’s a good idea to cut out the friction of having to enter discount codes.
This just adds hassle for the customer. They might forget the code, they might enter the wrong code, or they might not realize they need to enter a discount code, check out, and come back upset when they realize they paid full price.
Discount codes are a good marketing tool - they make the promotion feel more exclusive and are great for generating shares and helping your Black Friday sale go viral. But during a big promotional period like Cyber Week, they can also be a barrier to conversions.
If you use codes, have them automatically applied at checkout, or do away with codes entirely (but still show the savings in the checkout flow).
5. Supersize Your Deals
Black Friday is not the time to offer 5% off. Even 10-20% off is unlikely to raise many eyebrows.
Shoppers will be seeing big discounts all over the internet during BFCM, so you need to up your game to stay competitive. As long as your margins can afford it, Black Friday is the time to go big.
Discounts in the range of 35% off, 45% off or 50%+ get people excited.
This might temporarily hurt your profit margins, but you get a range of benefits to make up for it, such as increased cash flow. More importantly, you introduce people to your brand and acquire new customers who you can market to in the future for full-price, high-margin sales.
6. Offer Exclusive Discounts to Your Top Customers
Leverage BFCM to boost loyalty with customers who have already shown an inclination towards your brand. Along with promotions to a wide audience, you can run exclusive, higher value promotions specifically for your “VIP” customers.
How you define your VIPs is up to you - it could be people who have spent over a certain threshold, those who have made multiple purchases, or even everyone on your email list who has bought from you in the past.
For these customers, getting an exclusive discount cultivates good vibes, making them feel special and appreciated. Many will remember this feeling later, and come back to buy from you again, as well as providing positive reviews and testimonials that further boost your brand.
7. Run Strategic Promotions
There’s no getting around the fact that running high-discount promotions will put a bit of a dent in your margins.
A lot of merchants try to hedge their bets and offer smaller discounts to maintain margin, and end up with little benefit while still losing out on profit.
A better way to do it is to use high-discount promotions strategically to help boost sales of higher-margin products. You essentially make these promotions your Loss Leaders - products that get customers in the door, where you can market other products to them or make a cross-sell which makes you more money.
For example, you could run a big promotion on one product, then advertise accessories for this product in the checkout flow or as a follow-up email. Or you could heavily discount consumable products, with the idea that customers will come back and re-order at full price at a later time.
8. Push Subscription Products
Subscriptions are another way to use big promotions in a strategic way. Consumable subscription products bring their value not from just a single order, but from the long-term value of customers who subscribe and pay you every month, 90 days, or whatever the subscription term is.
Things like supplements, beauty products, food products and even clothing in some cases work well as regular subscriptions. For BFCM you can offer these subscriptions at a huge discount - potentially even giving the first month free, or close to it, with the idea that the deal will be too good to pass up on, and then once you’ve got them hooked, a lot of customers will keep paying the regular subscription price.
Just make sure you have some previous data for your subscription products that shows the churn rate (the rate of customers who cancel their subscription) is relatively low. You can expect a higher churn rate from people who got a discount on the initial purchase, so if this number is already high you might make a loss from your promotion in the end.
9. Promote Bundles and Threshold Discounts
Another great discount strategy is to offer attractive discounts for people who spend above a certain threshold.
The higher the order value, the higher the discount you can afford to give. So instead of just offering a blanket 50% discount across your store, you can offer a big money-off discount for people who spend $100, or $150, for example (check your average order value and set this threshold comfortably above what people regularly spend).
Similarly you can promote bundles or deals that require multiple products in an order, such as a Buy Two Get One deal, or a discount that unlocks when a customer buys X number of products.
Learn more about the average order value in eCommerce and how to increase it in this post.
10. Use Scarcity and Urgency
You need to make your promotion feel exclusive and make potential buyers feel like they need to act now if they want to take advantage.
That’s why most successful online retailers lean heavily on scarcity and urgency tactics.
Scarcity is the idea that there are only a certain number of discounts available, while urgency is the idea that there discount will only be around for a limited time.
Both achieve the same goal: to make the shopper take action. This helps you close the sale when you have the customer’s attention - more often than not, if they leave, they’re not coming back.
You may need to manufacture these two states somehow. Though there is some innate sense of urgency with BFCM (it doesn’t last forever), five days (for a promotion running from Thursday to Monday) doesn’t really convey the kind of urgency that tells people it’s now or never. And as far as scarcity goes, you might actually want as many people to participate in the promotion as possible, but customers will be more likely to take action if they feel like there's only a limited number of discounts available.
11. Rotate Promotions Throughout BFCM
Rotating promotions are a great way to manufacture scarcity and urgency without making anything up, as well as keeping things fresh for people who visit your store multiple times over Cyber Week.
For example, you might start with a 12 hour promotion offering 50% off on a particular product line. When the 12 hours are up, it could be Buy One Get One on a different set of products. Later, you run a flash one-hour discount offering 75% off on one product, limited to X number of redemptions.
This generates excitement, along with the scarcity and urgency you want, making customers feel like a deal will be gone soon if they don’t act fast. It also incentivizes people to keep coming back to regularly check your store and see what the next deal is going to be.
Amazon executes this strategy brilliantly during Prime Day. They constantly change promotions over the 2-day event, with deals only available for a limited time.
If you’re wondering whether this works, Amazon did an estimated $12 billion in sales for Prime Day 2023, doing almost as much as Black Friday + Cyber Monday on their own.
12. Run Gamified Promotions
Another way to make your Black Friday marketing campaigns stand out is to use gamification.
Gamification means using game mechanics in your promotions to make them more fun and engaging. Common gamification strategies in marketing include “spin to win” games, mystery coupons, and challenges that unlock more discounts.
An example you could use for BFCM is a ticker tracking how many discounts have been redeemed over the week. When you reach certain thresholds, new (or higher) discounts get unlocked.
This encourages customers to spend more to unlock better deals, and also functions as social proof when shoppers see that other people have been spending big.
If your gamified promotion is novel enough, it can even generate publicity and drive additional customers to your store.
13. Lean On Owned Traffic Channels
Moving from promotion strategy to customer acquisition strategy for Black Friday/Cyber Monday, the first tip is to heavily utilize owned traffic channels.
Email is the most likely owned traffic channel you’ll have to work with, but you could also have push notifications, an SMS list or an owned audience on social media.
Paid channels are incredibly competitive during Cyber Week, which makes them extremely expensive as well. The more owned channels you have, which allow you to get in front of people without paying, the more you can afford to offer heavy discounts without crippling your profit margins.
14. If You Run Ads, Run Them Early
Though competitive and expensive, paid ads are not necessarily a no-go for Cyber Week. They’re still a great way to get your Black Friday deals in front of new people.
But if you’re going to use paid ads as part of your Black Friday strategy, start early - perhaps even before Cyber Week.
As it gets to Black Friday, ad prices shoot up. You can get in at more reasonable prices the earlier you run your campaigns, along with getting in front of customers before the floodgates open and every brand is competing for attention.
This also gives the algorithm more time to optimize your ads and serve the right ads to the right people come crunch time, and allows you to build an audience that will cut costs down during the busiest part of Cyber Week.
15. Run Personalized Ads and Promotions
Shoppers see thousands of ads and promotions during Cyber Week. You need something to make yours stand out.
Personalization is a great tool for eCommerce stores, particularly during BFCM. The more you can make your promotions speak directly to the customer, the better your chance of standing out from all the other “save 50% this Black Friday” emails and ads.
If it takes more time to segment your audience and create unique offers for each customer, it’s worth it. According to Klaviyo, a high level of segmentation on marketing campaigns has the potential to return over 3x the revenue of a broad, unsegmented campaign.
16. Use BFCM to Recover Abandoned Carts
Black Friday and Cyber Monday are a great opportunity to capture people who were on the fence but didn’t end up completing their purchase.
You can reach out to abandoned carts during Cyber Week to let them know the product they were looking at is now on sale, giving them a great incentive to come back, pushing them over the finish line to becoming a customer.
17. Refresh Creatives Often
Ad fatigue is leveled up to the nth degree during Black Friday. Ads and deals are everywhere someone looks when they go online, from their social media feed to their email inbox, and even on their phone’s lock screen.
It’s vital you mix it up and avoid showing the same images, video or copy over and over. Potential customers will quickly become blind to your ads, automatically passing them over for fresh ads from other brands.
18. Use Social Media to Build Excitement
Your social media channels can help drum up excitement in the weeks leading up to Black Friday. Utilize hashtags, giveaways, teasers that promise things like “The Biggest Black Friday Ever!”
You could run competitions to unlock limited, "early access" on upcoming Black Friday deals, or start promoting a Black Friday landing page that slowly reveals more details as it gets closer to launch.
It’s all about building buzz and anticipation. Make it so that people are counting down until 12:01 on Friday to jump on your site or app and see what awesome deals are available.
19. Offer App-Specific Discounts
Black Friday is a great opportunity to build long-term revenue by setting the stage for customers to spend more over their lifetime as a customer. And getting people to download your app is one of the best ways to boost LTV.
When someone downloads your app, they’re likely to shop with you more often and spend more in each transaction. It also lets you reach out to them with mobile push notifications, a great tool to increase engagement and order frequency.
During Black Friday you can offer exclusive discounts only available in the app. It’s a no-brainer for the customer to download the app to get the deal, and you get a powerful touchpoint with the customer you can use to drive sales after the holidays.
The Value of Having an App During BFCM
There are a number of big benefits to having an app as an eCommerce store, but brands who have an app are particularly well positioned to have a great Black Friday.
As explained in the last point, Black Friday presents the perfect situation to run app-specific discounts to get new downloads.
An app also gives you an owned communication channel, with push notifications, that help you break through the clutter and noise on social media and email during Cyber Week.
And when you get people into your app, it’s a contained, mobile-optimized shopping experience that will convert a higher rate of shoppers on mobile devices.
If you don’t have an app yet, building an app for your site is easy (and fast) with MobiLoud. We help you convert your entire site, as is (including any custom features or modifications) into apps for iOS and Android.
You can go live with your app in as little as a month, for less than you’ll spend on ads in an hour on Black Friday. And it’s totally hands-off - our team does all the technical work for, even as far as submitting your app to the app stores.
Are You Ready for BFCM 2023?
The holiday shopping season makes or breaks retailers every year. Smart brands take advantage of Black Friday/Cyber Monday to increase online sales and generate momentum they can take into December and get more valuable holiday shoppers.
The list of Black Friday marketing strategies presented in this post are all easily actionable tips to help you get a bigger boost during Black Friday. It's vital you plan ahead, because a half-hearted effort at building excitement is not going to cut it when all your competitors are running their own Black Friday sales.
It's best to start preparing your Black Friday marketing strategy as soon as possible. Plan out your Black Friday promotions and figure out what's going to make you stand out. Start building the assets you're going to need during Black Friday, such as owned traffic channels (including building and launching your own app), and fix any issues with your eCommerce site (e.g. site speed and customer experience improvements).
Do the hard work to prepare and you'll come out of Thanksgiving weekend with a bigger and more profitable online store than ever.