How Retailers Can Prepare for Black Friday and Cyber Monday

Ron Dodby Ron Dod

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For all retailers, Black Friday and Cyber Monday are the biggest days of the year. According to Forbes’ Black Friday 2019 report:

“Black Friday was a record-setting day for US-based digital retail, according to Salesforce… 2019 Black Friday saw $7.2 billion in digital sales in the U.S. alone. That’s up 14 percent over last year. Globally, Salesforce says sales hit $20 billion as other countries participate in Black Friday sales, even if they don’t have a U.S. Thanksgiving holiday.”

While Cyber Monday is a newer shopping holiday than Black Friday, the figures are just as staggering. As CNBC reports on Cyber Monday 2019:

“Cyber Monday shoppers spent a record $9.4 billion online, up 19.7 percent from a year ago, according to data released by Adobe Analytics… In addition to buying more items, Cyber Monday shoppers were also buying pricier products. Adobe found that the average consumer’s online shopping cart was 6 percent bigger at checkout than last year.”

Moreover, retailers of all sizes benefit from these two shopping blowouts. As the CNBC report goes on to detail:

“Retailers with more than $1 billion in annual revenue saw online sales jump 540 percent compared to an average day, Adobe said. Smaller retailers with less than $50 million in yearly sales also benefited from the shopping holiday, seeing a 337 percent increase.”

While Black Friday used to be all about packed department stores, the paradigm has shifted the shopping frenzy online. This will be particularly true in 2020 as COVID-19 has pushed substantially more shoppers into the digital realm.

However, the new coronavirus and eCommerce pairing that will shape the 2020 shopping season extends beyond B2C businesses, lending itself to B2B software, tools and other products seeing massive deals and promotions.

Therefore, no matter which vertical a company serves, it is necessary to start prepping for the Black Friday, Cyber Monday madness that is soon to come.

If retailers wish to maximize their sales during this massively profitable shopping season, it is vital to begin mapping out efforts and campaigns now before things get hectic.

To help serve that end, today, we will be covering exactly what sellers need to do to prepare for Black Friday and Cyber Monday. That all starts with two essential planning activities.

Plan for Success

The first thing that retailers must do to succeed in the sales season is to map out their promotions and ensure that their technology is in order.

Planning Sales

Before doing anything else, merchants must decide precisely what deals, specials and promotions they plan to offer.

Given that there are just two days between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, it is wise for retailers to plan out (at minimum) a four-day promotional cycle, featuring a different type of deal each day.

four day promotional cycle graphic

For instance, sellers could plan out something like:

  • Black Friday: 25 percent off storewide
  • Saturday: 20 percent off + free shipping on all orders
  • Sunday: Buy one, get one half off
  • Cyber Monday: 30 percent off + free shipping

However, this is just an example. There are tons of promotional variations that sellers can leverage, including:

  • Free gift card offers
  • Percent-off sales
  • BOGO sales
  •  Free or expedited shipping
  • Percent-off when X number of items are purchased
  •  Entry into raffles
  • Deal-per-hour sales
  • Free gift with purchase

Depending on how a retailer opts to structure their Black Friday, Cyber Monday sales event, it can be a lot of information to manage. Therefore, sellers will want to create a spreadsheet to track essential details, such as:

  • Products
  • Regular price
  • Sale price
  • Start and end dates
  • Type of sale
  • Promotional channels used

Test Technology for Performance

In 2019, Costco’s website crashed on Thanksgiving for a devastating 16 hours, costing the company an estimated $11 million.

Year after year, disastrous website crashes have plagued the likes of Walmart, Lowe’s, Macy’s, Lululemon and a multitude of other major corporations.

Therefore, it is critical that merchants test their site’s ability to handle a massive influx of visitors without slowing down or crashing.

There are an array of load testing tools that retailers can leverage to test their site’s performance under stress, including:

Ensuring that a retail site is available and in working order during the Black Friday, Cyber Monday surge is critical to a brand’s profitability during this vital shopping season.

With those tasks out of the way, sellers can start diving into laying the groundwork for the marketing strategies that will ultimately net them the clicks and conversions the weekend is all about.

Ensure Technical Optimization

Search engine optimization is critical for ensuring that consumers can find a seller’s site come Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Before diving into the more commonly discussed aspects of on-site optimization, it is essential that merchants ensure that their technical SEO components are up to scratch by:

Verifying SSL Usage

SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) is a digital security technology that establishes an encrypted link between a web server and a browser. Sites that employ this technology begin with HTTPS rather than HTTP.

Given that Google made this security protocol a ranking signal back in 2014, it is critical that merchants move their eCommerce stores to HTTPS. Not only will this measure help to enhance a store’s visibility, but it will also aid in increasing conversions as shoppers want to know that their information is secure.

Checking Mobile-Friendliness

As Retail Dive reports on the winners and losers of Black Friday 2019:

“Adobe called Black Friday ‘the biggest day ever for mobile,’ tracking $2.9 billion in sales from smartphones alone, or 39% of all e-commerce sales, a 21% increase from last year. The percentage of online traffic from smartphones rose 15.8% from last year to 61%, Adobe also found.”

Given how comfortable consumers have become shopping on smartphone devices and the like, it is imperative that sellers double-check their site’s compatibility with mobile.

minerva salon website informational popup

If it hasn’t been said often enough, mobile optimization is highly important and a factor that should not be overlooked when making Black Friday and Cyber Monday preparations.

Speeding Up Sites

Search engines and users alike prefer websites that load quickly. As a result, speed is an important ranking signal.

pingdom website speed test results

Therefore, employing strategies to improve an eCommerce site’s speed is a necessary Black Friday, Cyber Monday preparational task.

Some common tactics that sellers might use include:

  • Employing a premium hosting service
  • Using a fast DNS (domain name system) provider
  • Compressing images
  • Eliminating redirect chains
  • Minifying website code
  • Deploying a CDN (content delivery network)

Fixing Duplicate Content Issues

Duplicate content is a massive issue in eCommerce circles. Because of the massive number of pages these sites feature–often with products that are incredibly similar (think color variants)–issues of carbon copy content often arise.

Therefore, seeking out and fixing duplicate content issues is a necessity to ensure that a site’s rankings are not harmed and its users not confused.

Reviewing Website Structure

The general rule of thumb is that a site’s most important pages should be able to be reached in three clicks or less from any other page on the site.

Given this benchmark, the ideal structure for an eCommerce site goes something like:

Homepage > Categories > Sub-categories > Products

Structuring a site in this way will ensure that shoppers can easily find what they are seeking.

At the same time, it is vital that merchants optimize their checkout process.

spanx checkout order giveaway

Come Black Friday and Cyber Monday, sellers want shoppers to be able to check out as quickly and efficiently as possible. Therefore, some things that can be implemented to serve this aim include:

  • Enabling guest checkout
  • Minimizing checkout pages and form fields
  • Showing shipping costs upfront
  • Offering multiple payment options

With all of this worked out, let’s move on to the on-page portion of Black Friday, Cyber Monday SEO preparations.

Optimize On-Page Content

Again, visibility is critical for generating traffic during the shopping season. Therefore, wise retailers will take the time to optimize their on-site content to ensure that their pages surface for various Black Friday and Cyber Monday related queries.

Elevating on-site content begins with performing keyword research.

Conducting Black Friday, Cyber Monday Keyword Research

To generate organic traffic over this highly profitable sales weekend, sellers should focus their keyword research efforts on:

  • Black Friday keywords
  • Cyber Monday keywords
  • Product keywords
  • Keywords related to the holidays

conducting keyword research graphic

There are a multitude of keyword research tools that sellers can utilize for this task (including their Search Console query report from the previous season). However, when conducting keyword research, merchants will want to pay particular attention to a keyword’s:

  • Search volume: This informs sellers on the level of demand related to the keyword. The higher the volume, the larger the audience.
  • Keyword difficulty: This is how challenging it will be for a retailer to rank for a specific phrase, based on the strength and authority of other sites currently listed for the term.
  • Keyword intent: Does the keyword have an informational, commercial, navigational or transactional intent? The intent of the keyword will play a massive role in which pages it is used to optimize.
  • The competition: What keywords do direct competitors rank for? Can they be outranked for specific phrases? Where are their keyword gaps? These are all highly essential questions to ask when conducting keyword research.

Using Keywords to Boost Black Friday, Cyber Monday Traffic and Sales

With valuable keywords in hand, sellers can begin to optimize their site’s pages.

During this stage, it is essential that merchants take the time to comb through their site to ensure that all of the existing copy on the homepage and important landing pages is relevant, targeted and compelling. If not, consider revamping those sections.

Additionally, this is when merchants will want to take it upon themselves to maximize the potential of their product pages, optimize category pages for better rankings, improve FAQ pages and influential and evergreen blog posts to verify that they are optimized for the shopping season.

goedekers black friday deals blog search results

Aside from the body content, some of the key areas that retailers will want to include their newly uncovered keywords include:

  • Page titles: These appear on the tab of a web browser, titles of social media posts and as the blue links within search engines.
  • Meta descriptions: These live below the page title in the SERPs, showing the relevance of the page and help to influence clicks.
  • Image alt-tags: Including keywords in image alt-tags helps provide better context to search engine crawlers and helps them to index images accordingly.
  • Headings and subheadings: These elements help to show the hierarchy of a page and determine its relevance for a given search.
  • URLs: When logical, include target keywords in page URLs to show Google that the page is indeed about the targeted term.

Create Content for Black Friday, Cyber Monday

As most are aware, content is the backbone of SEO. Therefore, one of the most powerful strategies for increasing a site’s rankings and relevance for a query is to create highly-shareable content, getting their users to drive traffic to the site.

tiege hanley christmas gift ideas blog post

The key to this is to ensure that the content produced is exceptionally relevant to the sales season and valuable for shoppers. Given that framework, retailers can create content that drives revenue and is likely to get shared across emails and social media by generating resources like:

  • Gift guides
  • Infographics
  • Video content

Generate Dedicated Landing Pages

Building eCommerce landing pages that increase conversions is an essential step for the Black Friday weekend in general, and SEO performance in particular. If users are consistently bouncing from landing pages, Google will see this as a bad sign and promote other pages over it in the SERPs.

Moreover, creating dedicated Black Friday, Cyber Monday landing pages will help consumers to get what they want faster, thereby reducing friction and increasing sales.

nordstrom gift giving email

Therefore, sellers should utilize their seasonal keyword list to generate landing pages that clearly showcase to consumers the products or product categories that are on sale, alongside a clear call-to-action.

The point here is to keep the message targeted, clear and relevant to the search. Do not clutter the page with a multitude of offers and sparkling this-and-that which will distract from the goal of the page.

Organize Social Media Efforts

Social media is one of the single most important tools for retailers during the Black Friday, Cyber Monday sales stretch. Therefore, it is essential for sellers to get their accounts in order and promotional plans prepped.

To achieve this, it is necessary to:

Prepare Social Profiles

The first thing that retailers will want to do is prep their profile for turning visitors into customers.

Upon landing on a merchant’s page, the first thing that a user will notice is the profile picture and header image. Therefore, it is essential to maximize this real estate by creating images that generate a sense of intrigue and urgency around Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales events.

Additionally, sellers should include links in their Twitter and Instagram bios, as well as their Facebook and LinkedIn about sections, to the previously created landing pages for these sales.

Finally, it is wise to pin a tweet and/or Facebook post to the top of each profile promoting whichever deal is currently running, depending on the date.

Identify Relevant Hashtags

Before creating posts promoting Black Friday, Cyber Monday sales, retailers should take the time to find relevant hashtags that will help them increase their reach.

Naturally, #BlackFriday and #CyberMonday will be of use. However, sellers will also want to locate other hashtags that could help get them in front of potential buyers.

For instance, retailers might find that #GiftGuide2020 or #FreeShipping can help them connect with those who are interested in their offers. Additionally, it is wise also to include hashtags related to specific products to reach those seeking deals for those particular items.

Schedule Posts

With useful hashtags uncovered, it is time to start crafting and scheduling posts so as to make the Black Friday, Cyber Monday weekend easier to manage.

gerber childrenswear instagram post with black friday deal

Thankfully, there are tons of great social media scheduling tools like Hootsuite and Buffer that merchants can use to streamline their social efforts.

However, when scheduling posts, be sure that there is a lead-up to the weekend to generate significant buzz and avoid publishing everything on the day of the sale. In that same vein, it is advisable that merchants check when the best times to post on social media are for them.

A/B Test Advert Creatives

Merchants will undoubtedly want to run social media ads during the Black Friday, Cyber Monday weekend. However, ensuring their effectiveness is dependent on testing.

A significant advantage to retailers planning their Black Friday, Cyber Monday campaigns early is that they have the opportunity to A/B test social media advertising creatives.

Through developing materials early, merchants can run video adverts alongside a version of the same promo that just features copy and a striking image to see which one generates more clicks.

This way, when the time comes to ramp up ad spend, sellers will know that they are running a version of the ad that will bring the highest ROI.

Create an Opt-In

One of the most important uses of social media is to generate leads for eCommerce stores. Therefore, a great way to get new email subscribers prior to the Black Friday frenzy is to encourage followers to opt-in to the store’s newsletter so that they can get in on all the deals.

Moreover, merchants might even want to consider sweetening the deal by offering new subscribers a coupon or entry into a sweepstakes. Through this offer, sellers are likely to earn tons of new emails that will potentially result in sales come Black Friday weekend.

On that note, let’s dive into the email preparation stage of our Black Friday, Cyber Monday marketing strategy.

Optimize Email for Sales

eCommerce email marketing is typically a merchant’s most profitable channel.

According to a 2019 Data & Marketing Association report, email marketing tends to reap $42 per $1 spent, on average. Given that information, it is vital that sellers optimize their email efforts with the following steps:

Design Emails for Scannability

It is well-known that when it comes to emails, recipients are more likely to quickly scan a message than read an in-depth communication.

Therefore, it is essential for merchants to design their emails with scannability in mind. Providing consumers with the information they desire in an expedient and visually striking manner is key to generating conversions with email marketing.

Follow up an easily digested, visually stunning email that contains a great offer with a compelling call-to-action, and retailers have themselves an email recipe for success.

Create Urgency

For shoppers, Black Friday is all about scoring awesome deals before inventory is gone. Therefore, it is pertinent for retailers to create a sense of urgency in their email campaigns.

create urgency email campaigns graphic

Retailers can achieve this sales-driving effect in a multitude of ways, including:

  • Introducing a countdown timer
  • Labeling sales “while supplies last”
  • Drive home the point that sales are one-day-only

By leveraging urgency and scarcity, sellers can effectively drive customers to their store via email.

Begin Before Black Friday

To ensure that subscribers are properly hyped for Black Friday and Cyber Monday, retailers should begin promoting their sales in the weeks leading up to the actual event.

The fact is that around 40 percent of folks start their shopping before Halloween, according to the National Retail Federation. As for the other 60 percent, many begin before Thanksgiving.

If sellers let their subscribers know ahead of time that there are fantastic deals just around the corner, they can potentially steal sales away from other merchants.

Besides, come Thanksgiving and Black Friday, consumer inboxes will be bulging with offers, potentially getting lost in the mix.

A/B Test Subject Lines

Again, a major consideration for planning Black Friday, Cyber Monday marketing efforts early is the ability to test out the effectiveness of various campaign components. In this case, retailers should test their subject lines to maximize open rates and click-throughs.

For this task, it is best to utilize a dedicated eCommerce email marketing platform like Omnisend, as this tool provides the features and functionality necessary to achieve peak email performance.

Consider Integrating More Channels

While the power of email marketing cannot be denied, emails can get lost among the untold sums of other email communications that shoppers receive.

For that reason, retailers should strongly consider integrating additional contact channels into their efforts, such as text messages and Facebook Messenger.

According to data from Omnisend, “We found that marketers using three or more channels in their marketing campaigns earned a 90% higher customer retention rate, and 250% higher engagement and purchase rates.”

There are a variety of ways that sellers can utilize these communication portals to increase sales, such as contacting shoppers about flash sales. However, leveraging Facebook Messenger and SMS as a means to touch base with consumers about abandoned carts can also prove to be a highly profitable strategy.

Naturally, this will require retailers to collect subscribers’ phone numbers, so it is wise to add those to signup forms as an optional field.

Prioritize Pay-Per-Click Adverts

The final critical component that merchants will need to plan in advance for their Black Friday, Cyber Monday marketing efforts is their PPC strategy.

To ensure that PPC adverts successfully draw in relevant shoppers, it is wise to utilize the keyword list created in the SEO section. Beyond that, retailers will also want to:

Emphasize Great Deals

This is Black Friday and Cyber Monday shoppers are seeking.

Therefore, when developing ad campaigns to run on platforms like Google, sellers will want to ensure that they generate highly enticing copy that places significant emphasis on their promotions and just how high-level awesome they are for consumers.

No matter what type of deal a retailer runs, it is essential to put this front and center in their Black Friday, Cyber Monday advertising campaigns.

Boost Budgets Significantly

Consumers aren’t the only ones spending like crazy on Black Friday weekend. During this period, merchants across the globe are dumping more money into their ad budgets than usual.

Therefore, to ensure that merchants are surfacing for highly profitable, transactional keywords, it is necessary to boost advertising spend to capture customers.

If sellers fail to invest in their ad campaigns, other retailers will surely snatch up what could have been their customers.

Check Delivery Schedules

During the Black Friday weekend, shoppers act differently than they do at other times of the year. At this time, they are more likely to hop online in the wee hours of the morning or stay up late into the night.

Therefore, it is essential that merchants check their ad delivery settings to ensure that the campaign does not go dark during these crucial shopping hours.

Employ Google’s Countdown Widget

Remember that sense of urgency we talked about earlier? Sellers can achieve that same effect with the PPC ad through the use of Google’s countdown widget. This functionality enables retailers to automatically showcase the days, hours and minutes until a sale ends.

Utilizing this feature, sellers can help their Black Friday ads stand out from the rest and drive conversions from consumers.

Optimize Product Feeds

Retailers who are running PPC ads during the Black Friday, Cyber Monday season will obviously want to leverage Google Shopping ads. These ads are one of a retailer’s most effective sales tools.

However, if merchants want to get the most out of their Shopping ads campaigns, it is critical to optimize their Product Feed to ensure that the ads surface at the right time.

Given that Google Shopping ads are not keyword-based but instead leverage a retailer’s product feed to serve up ads, it is essential that this document is highly refined to serve the most relevant queries possible.

Therefore, sellers should take the time to meticulously fill out vital areas such as:

  • Titles
  • Categories
  • Descriptions
  • Images
  • Prices

Additionally, once this task has been completed, sellers might also want to consider running Google Smart Shopping campaigns to help lighten their load.

Final Thoughts

The weekend that stretched from Black Friday to Cyber Monday is undoubtedly one of the most profitable weekends of the entire year.

Because of the massive potential that this time holds, it is absolutely essential that retailers begin their marketing preparations early to ensure the most fruitful outcomes possible.

However, this can be challenging for retailers who are busy managing day-to-day operations, particularly amid the shifting landscape of COVID-19.

Let Visiture help carry the load. We offer all the marketing services and expertise your company needs to ensure that this Black Friday is its most profitable one to date.

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