November 25 might seem so far away, but with all the steps you will need to prepare to get ready for a big Black Friday eCommerce sale for your shop, it will seem like no time at all! Black Friday is one of the year’s biggest shopping days and is often regarded as the start of the holiday shopping season. Now, Black Friday is part of a bigger trend known as Black Week or Cyber Week - or even Black November! For eCommerce business owners like you, Black Friday can often start on the Monday before Black Friday and extend through Cyber Monday the following week.
Online shopping for Black Friday brings in more than $9 billion worldwide, with more than 100 million people taking advantage of the deals. If you are working on how your business can get in on these sales, we have a complete guide to preparing for a Black Friday sale, so your business is ready to bring in some online sales at the start of the holiday season.
How To Prepare for Black Friday eCommerce Sales
As you begin to prepare, you might be trying to decide if you want to do Black Friday, Cyber Monday, all week or weekend, or some other time frame entirely. With Black Friday’s success, online businesses got into the holiday shopping game with Cyber Monday starting in about 2005. But that does not mean online businesses can only do Cyber Monday. Many eCommerce deals happen for more than just one day, especially after the pandemic shifted shopping habits.
As you decide how long to offer your deals, what to put in your sale, and how you should start promoting the special event, take a look through our tips in this guide so you can figure out exactly what is right for you this year.
5 Tips To Prep for Your Black Friday Sales
A good Black Friday sale does not just happen. It takes time and planning to make your sale a success. We will be going more in-depth on all of these areas throughout this guide, but these five tips can create a great foundation for your sale.
1. Check Your Website
- Website challenges can cause some of the biggest frustrations for customers and online store owners alike. If your website cannot handle the traffic, it may crash. If your website is not optimized for mobile, your loyal customers may not be able to find or purchase what they want from their phones or tablet. Ensuring that your website is updated with the capacity to handle an increase in traffic from all device types will help to reduce frustrations and lost sales and orders.
2. Audit the Checkout Process
- You want to make sure that the checkout process is easy for customers. Audit the process in advance to see what it is like for a customer to buy from you. Reduce the number of steps involved and add payment options like one-click purchases through Shopify Pay or other methods. Make sure you understand what it is like to be a customer checking out on your website.
3. Develop an Audience
- If you plan to use social media to promote flash sales or offer additional codes on Black Friday, begin developing an audience early. You can do this in many ways but some of the most common include partnering with an influencer and running targeted ads. You can even run contests or giveaways or offer special discounts in September and October for new followers or referrals. Get creative and develop an audience of people who can purchase and share your deals on Black Friday.
4. Start Promoting the Sale Early
- Depending on what you plan to offer and how long your online sales will run, you should start the various promotions of the sale early. You can begin sending emails to your email lists in October, previewing the Black Friday sales (particularly if you plan to offer gift sets or launch new items). If you are going to be running any ads, starting the ads early can help you reduce the ad spend you need to budget for, as costs tend to increase the closer we get to the big day and competition increases.
5. Plan for Order Fulfillment
- Promoting your sale is important, but that is not where Black Friday ends for business owners. You still need to package and ship all the orders you had on Black Friday. Decide whether you want to handle all order fulfillment (and potential returns) in-house or if you should outsource. If you are outsourcing, you need to start the process early if you do not already have an order fulfillment partner. This is so you can get your inventory there and all necessary setup steps in place well ahead of Black Friday to reduce any chance of delays.
What To Sell on Black Friday
First up, before you can start to promote the fact that you will have a Black Friday sale, you need to decide what you want to sell. Here are three ideas for what you can put on promotion for the start of the busy shopping season.
1. Your Bestsellers
A good place to start is to identify a number of your bestsellers. These can be perfect for Black Friday promotions because you already know how popular they are and how well they can sell. One thing to consider with bestsellers is to implement maximum quantities on orders to ensure stock for as long as possible. Otherwise, ensure you have adequate stock or are okay selling out early. You can also use bestsellers for flash sales throughout the day or week.
2. Upsell & Cross-sell
You can upsell and cross-sell with your bestsellers during your promotions. This is when you encourage customers to upgrade to a more expensive version, add more items, or purchase a complementary item. Another way you can do something similar to cross-selling is to introduce “holiday bundles” of like items or popular items into gift sets.
3. Launch a New Product or Variation
The start of the holiday season or during a big sale can be a great time to launch a new product or variation of a product. To make this a success, you can add that new item into bundles with popular items, upsell other items, and create excitement and buzz around the new product on social media. You can even take pre-orders from current customers and encourage them to share that they pre-ordered from you.
When To Advertise for Black Friday
After you’ve started checking over your website and planning the items you will include in the deals, you need to figure out your advertising strategy. You will want to start early to get the most out of Black Friday ads! You should start advertising your holiday deals in October, so people have time to plan for their holiday shopping and can include you in those plans. Some of the most effective ad campaigns start around October 1 and run through the week of Black Friday.
Starting early is a great way to engage and excite your customer base. The closer and closer we get to Black Friday, the more “noise” about sales, promos, and events will fill social media. If you start early, you can get ahead of others and keep your costs down if you use paid traffic (as costs tend to go up closer to the day).
Advertise on Social Media
When you combine eCommerce and social media, you are enabling customers to find you where they are – instead of having to find you where you are. This can get your products in front of more new people and expand your customer base. You are getting your products out to a wider audience by posting on social media and boosting or turning those posts into ads and running a targeted ad campaign.
Social media also allows people to share your products themselves by resharing your post or adding it to their story, showing their friends and followers what you have to offer.
Send Emails To Past Customers
You probably already have a pretty substantial email list from past online sales, so use that to send emails promoting your Black Friday sale. You can send out emails to your entire list or segment it to target specific customers for certain products or promotions. You can even use email marketing to reward your best customers with additional savings or early access to new products, flash sales, and Black Friday deals. The normal email marketing rules apply here, too:
- Use A/B testing on subject lines.
- Personalize your messages.
- Follow up on abandoned carts.
Use Social Commerce
When you use social commerce, you can make it possible for people to purchase on that app so that they never have to leave Facebook, Instagram, or TikTok. This improves the user experience for holiday shoppers with a see it, click it, buy it mentality. All they have to do is hit the Buy Now button on your post or story, and in many cases, the app will store their shipping and payment information so they can just purchase it instantaneously.
This type of shopping particularly appeals to younger generations, with more than half of Generation Z using Instagram to discover new brands and products. Nearly half of all Americans between the ages of 18 and 34 have purchased on social media in recent years.
Partner With Influencers
Boost sales and increase your reach when you partner with influencers. Even micro-influencers (someone with between 5,000 and 10,000 followers) can have a huge impact. They can expand your reach and get your products in front of like-minded consumers. If you are primarily a local business, you may even be able to find a local influencer in your area to help you out. How does this work?
Well, first, you need to define your target audience. The more clear a picture you paint, the easier it will be to find an influencer who creates content specifically for that audience. Then, you need to set your goals. You can have them promote your products, or you can have them help promote just the Black Friday sale event, which might involve including your store on a holiday round-up post or list. Then you can begin to reach out to influencers with your ideas on collaboration for your store or sale.
You can further extend savings for your customers with unique links or codes to better track which influencer partnerships worked for future collaboration.
How To Run a Black Friday Sale
Now that you know what to do to prepare for a Black Friday sale, how do you run one? Don’t worry – we have some tips for you to understand the next steps after the planning stage.
To run a successful Black Friday sale, you should start early. Not just with the planning; you want to start your sale early, too. If you could start your sale on Monday or earlier in the month, you can get ahead of the big rush. You will have less competition from other stores running sales, and your customers will not be overwhelmed by the content or inundated with deals.
If you make it easy for people to checkout, they are more likely to purchase from you. If you have a “one-click” buying option, like PayPal, Shopify Pay, or Apple Pay, you can make it simple for people to take advantage of the deals.
In addition to simplifying payment options and checkout, having a shorter checkout process, even if paying by card, can help. You should try to reduce the number of pages and click-throughs people have to do to checkout. If you can have it all on one page for credit card purchases, more people will finish the checkout process.
One more thing to do to simplify checkout is to either automatically have coupon codes added and applied or get rid of the codes altogether. This will make it easy for customers because they will not have to remember or search for a code when they are ready to check out. By making the checkout process easier for customers, you can reduce cart abandonment and increase the average order value.
Optimize for Mobile
Mobile is becoming a much more popular way to shop, with consumers spending more time on their devices than ever before. Your website should be optimized for mobile; if it’s not already, then now is a great time to do it. In recent years, mobile transactions have grown to more than half of all Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales.
Some of the areas that you should optimize for mobile include site navigation and website speed. You should consider adding a one-click purchase option on your product pages so they can buy right from the product page itself. You can run special promos on mobile or have it automatically apply the code if you can.
By combining a mobile optimized site with easy checkout options like Apple Pay or Android Pay, you can make it an easy decision for customers to purchase from you.
Keep an Eye on Inventory Levels
A worst-case scenario is waking up after the end of your sales to see that the sales exceeded your inventory. Ensuring your inventory management is accurate ahead of time can help prevent this. Monitoring inventory levels throughout the sale and removing items early can make it so you do not have to email a customer that an item is unavailable after purchasing it. If you can, you should connect your inventory management software with your eCommerce software so the current levels are always reflected live on your website.
Have an Order Fulfillment Plan
Your work isn’t done after the sale ends. There is still so much to do. After the orders roll in, you should fill orders as quickly as possible. If you offered two-day shipping or another expedited method, you should prioritize those orders first, then fill the other orders. Package and ship orders promptly so that when more holiday orders come in, you can move on to taking care of those customers.
Typically, with most shipping companies, you have until at least December 20 to have packages delivered before Christmas, but check with the carrier you use and plan for potential delays. Ship early, whenever possible.
If you don’t yet have an order fulfillment partner, planning for a big Black Friday sale might be a good time to look into your options for order fulfillment services.
How To Get Ready for Black Friday Shipping
Shipping the Black Fridays orders is just as important as getting your sale ready to go, if not more important. Now, you have customers who are expecting their order. They are excited to get it, and if it is a gift, get it wrapped and given to the intended recipient. Many consumers are also used to quick, two-day shipping, which adds an extra level of pressure to meet customer expectations.
In-store or Curbside Pick-up
When the pandemic hit, more people than ever began online shopping. Now, it is almost the norm in most American households. Many also take advantage of purchasing online and pick up in-store options. If you have a physical location, giving this option to local customers can be a good way to keep shipping costs down for both you and the customer.
Whether you offer shipping or in-store pick-up, you should be clear about your shipping rates, timelines, and policies. If you hit any challenges after the orders are placed, clearly communicate what is happening and the new timeline for your customers. This will help alleviate any customer service issues and build trust with your customer base. It will also help with setting realistic expectations for order fulfillment.
Give Customers Shipping Options
You can offer a range of shipping options, including different carriers or shipping speeds. This gives customers a choice to pay more if they want items faster or if they are okay waiting a little longer to save some money (and give you a little time to prioritize other orders that want expedited shipping). Whatever shipping options you provide, make sure you or whoever does your order fulfillment can meet those expectations for your customers.
Have a Returns Plan
On Black Friday, sometimes people will make impulse buys or hit the purchase button on an item they do not want. In those cases, you may have to handle a few returns. Make sure your return policy is clear and easy to find on your website. If you have any items that are not eligible for a return, ensure that the item’s product description clearly states that it is non-returnable or any limitations on the return policy.
If your customers have to return an item, an easy, clear return process can make them more likely to purchase from you in the future. You can even automate the returns process or outsource it to your order fulfillment provider if possible.
Best Black Friday Tactics for eCommerce Store Owners
When you think about your Black Friday sale and what that could look like in 2022, some tactics may help you develop a solid plan to land sales from past customers and draw in new ones too. These tactics have been used by eCommerce store owners for sales of all kinds – from holiday sales to anniversary sales to new product launches or phasing out of old product lines. Each tactic can be combined with others to make sure your customers know what you have to offer and how they can take advantage of your deals on Black Friday and beyond.
Offer Different Payment Methods
By offering different methods, you are giving people more choice for how they want to pay, and you can appeal to even more customers. If you can give people the choice to pay by card, Apple Pay or Android Pay, Shopify Pay, Amazon Pay, PayPal, or other methods, you can give choices to people to pay the way that is most convenient for them.
This is especially important for people purchasing from a mobile device, where it might be easiest to just put in their passcode and pay with their preferred method on file. You may even consider using a service like Afterpay or other payment plan options for customers making larger orders.
Keep Up With Website Updates
Making sure your website is updated, and any plugins you use are updated, is the best way to ensure functionality. You want to make sure you have enough server space and a website that can handle a decent amount of web traffic if you are going to be having a big sale. One of the worst things that could happen to your Black Friday sale numbers is for your website to crash and be down for hours while you or your team works to fix it.
Optimize Your Website
Once you ensure your website is up to date and can handle the traffic you will send to it, you should optimize your site. You should make sure you have well-written product descriptions and accompanying content. Have good quality photos of your products. Add some additional content on landing pages for the sales or write a holiday gift guide product roundup blog.
Don’t forget to make sure the meta descriptions and page titles are optimized as well. Use keywords related to the products you are selling. Do all of this before your sales begin – and before you even begin advertising them – so people who find your site are greeted by good content and photos.
As mentioned above, more and more people are shopping on their mobile devices. If you optimize your website for mobile, you can capture even more of the business from mobile. However, there is a difference between responsive design and mobile design. While responsive design is a good place to start, it can still present challenges to mobile browsing and ordering. If you have an option with your eCommerce platform, choose to have a mobile-first website.
Check Your Coupon Codes
If you are using coupon codes in place of or in addition to sales, check that the codes are accurately input into the backend of your website and make sure that the code matches the one included in emails, social media posts, and other marketing materials exactly. Adding a layer of challenge or frustration with broken coupon codes will just cause customers to abandon their carts and go shopping elsewhere.
Automate as Much as Possible
If you can automate things like when flash sales launch, online chat, email marketing, and other eCommerce tasks, you will free up your time from being tied to the computer all weekend long. Shopify Flow and other eCommerce automation tools can make it easier for you with little setup time for customer-facing and back-end tasks. Depending on your eCommerce platform and the automation tools you use, you may have access to a library of templates for common tasks. You can customize these templates and quickly automate many tasks before Black Friday.
Rescue Abandoned Carts
Shopping cart abandonment is going to happen, especially when there are so many sales and promotions happening all at the same time. But you can work to reduce abandoned carts and save the sale. Some online retailers may choose to use email marketing to rescue a cart, even offering an additional discount to get the customer back. But other automation solutions can help rescue an abandoned cart.
Facebook Messenger can be a good tool to reach customers by using ShopMessage automation, especially during a weekend when any company the customer has ever purchased from is sending emails about their sales.
Create a Plan
Now that you have all these tips and tactics to make your Black Friday sale a success, it’s time to develop a plan. Write out your promotions, then develop marketing and advertising plans around each one. Make sure you know exactly what you plan to offer and when you plan to offer it. This will make planning out your marketing timeline easier, as you will see when you should start running ads and sending emails. If you plan to use influencers or partnerships on social media, you should begin reaching out to those people to develop a collaboration plan.
Black Friday Checklist for Shopify or eCommerce Business Owners
As you begin to set your plan in motion, having a to-do list or Black Friday checklist can be a great way to keep organized and stay on track. It can seem early to get started, and it may get overwhelming to prepare for Black Friday while also working on Back to School sales or end-of-summer/early autumn events, but having a checklist in place can keep everything moving along.
Here are 10 items you should add to your to-do list to begin getting ready for a great Black Friday event!
- Check to ensure your website’s technical capabilities are up to speed.
- Decide which products will be on sale.
- Create any product bundles or holiday gift sets with your best-selling items.
- Make sure you have adequate inventory levels of all items included in the promotion.
- Streamline the checkout process.
- Begin advertising early! Use social media, email, website banners, and more.
- Optimize your store for mobile browsing and purchases.
- Determine which payment options you will offer.
- Figure out your shipping and order fulfillment plan.
- Have a returns policy and plan in place.
Partner With the Right Fulfillment Partner
If you are doing a lot of sales in an average month and expecting a large number of orders with your holiday season promotions, it may be time to consider outsourcing your order fulfillment to a third-party logistics partner (3PL). When you do this, you can see many benefits and get more time to focus on developing new products or running great promotions for your customers. The 3PL will handle inventory management, order fulfillment, and returns management for you.
Let’s take a closer look at how using a 3PL works and the benefits for eCommerce businesses.
How 3PLs Work
3PLs can help with several logistics tasks for your business. In addition to taking some of the workload from your business and your staff, they have additional tools and resources to help your business grow. The data into your inventory and orders can help you make important decisions in the future, and their processes can make order fulfillment more efficient. Here’s how it works.
The first step is for the 3PL facility to receive your inventory. They input the data of what was received into their warehouse management systems, so they can accurately keep track of what they have.
After the items have been received, they need to be stored. Your business will be assigned an area in the warehouse with shelves, bins, or pallets.
Once an order is placed, the order fulfillment process can begin. There are a few different methods for this, but a common one is called “pick and pack.” The 3PL’s software should be integrated into your eCommerce platform, so an order slip is printed, and the warehouse worker can take the slip through the warehouse to pick up each item in the order.
After the items have been picked, it’s time for packing. They are securely packed in the correct size envelope or box, with packing peanuts or cushioning to ensure items stay safe throughout the entire journey. Depending on your 3PL, you might be able to use branded boxes or packing tape so a customer can easily identify their order when it arrives on their doorstep.
Depending on which shipping option the customer chooses, the package is labeled for the correct carrier and is ready to be picked up. Most 3PLs input the tracking information into your eCommerce platform and an email can be automatically sent to the customer so that they can track their order.
A 3PL can also help with managing returns. Impulse buys or unhappy customers are inevitable, especially during the crazy holiday shopping season. Your logistics partner might be able to make it easier for you and your customers to handle when returns are needed.
Benefits of Partnering With a 3PL During the Holiday Season
If you are worried about order fulfillment or feeling overwhelmed with managing the entire process on your own, partnering with a 3PL might be the right choice for you. Here are some of the benefits you will have if you partner with a 3PL for the holiday season.
Accurate Managing of Inventory
3PLs have technologies, processes, and systems to accurately track your inventory. This is especially important during the holidays so that your store can show the correct inventory levels and out-of-stock items do not keep getting sold. Over time, you may even have access to data that can predict holiday spikes for certain items.
More Shipping Options
Order fulfillment might be why you seek out a 3PL, but giving more shipping options to your customers is a happy bonus for you and your customer. 3PLs have relationships with shipping carriers and often have negotiated discounts for you so that you can see lower costs and expanded shipping options. You may even be able to expand to include international shipping or shortened timelines with 3PL warehouses and networks across the country.
Dedicated Warehouse Space
As you grow and expand, you can quickly run out of warehouse space to store inventory. At a 3PL, you won’t need warehouse space in-house anymore, as the inventory is stored at the 3PL’s warehouse. In addition to warehouse space, 3PLs have warehouse management systems (WMS) that can help with accurate inventory levels, organization, and data analytics.
Using Rakuten Super Logistics, now ShipNetwork for Black Friday eCommerce Holiday Shipping
Rakuten Super Logistics, now ShipNetwork integrates several eCommerce platforms so that you can take full advantage of order fulfillment and automated processes ahead of the busy holiday shopping season. When you partner with ShipNetwork for all of your logistics needs ahead of any big sales and promotions, you can have quick and accurate fulfillment services, two-day delivery networks, and great shipping rates.
If you plan to have a big Black Friday or holiday sale, now is the time to start talking about order fulfillment and 3PL services. If you want to learn more about how to get a 3PL integration in place before Black Friday, request a quote today to find out how we can help you.