While most people are embracing the sunshine and preparing for summer holidays, eCommerce professionals should be thinking about the upcoming holidays… this winter!
The winter holiday season traditionally kicks off with Black Friday and, in recent years, Cyber Monday sales, making this November weekend one of the most critical sales times for merchants.
Black Friday marks the beginning of the holiday shopping season. This major shopping event falls on the Friday after American Thanksgiving, with Cyber Monday taking place the following Monday — in short, the weekend has become one big shopping spree.
I know what you’re thinking. “It’s not even June!” But this year, it’s vital to prepare for Black Friday and Cyber Monday (BFCM) as early as now to ensure seamless sales.
Why BFCM is so important to your bottom line
Black Friday and Cyber Monday, or BFCM, is one of the most anticipated shopping opportunities for consumers and, thus, one of the most anticipated sales periods for merchants (both online and in-store).
The shopping event became popular in the 1960s as a way to mark the start of America’s shopping season. While people used to skip work to hit the stores, consumers are now able to shop from the comfort of home. Although this “holiday” was born in the United States, it’s recognized in many parts of the world, especially in countries like Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia.
The revenue potential from BFCM is huge: In 2020, a whopping 174 million shoppers took advantage of the BFCM sales, compared to 83.3 million the year prior. Meanwhile, Cyber Monday was the real goldmine, with sales of $10.8 billion in the U.S. alone, marking the single largest sales day of the year. Globally, the 2019 BFCM weekend generated $717.5 billion in sales.
For many merchants, BFCM is a game-changer, with the potential to produce year-making sales. Read on to learn how to maximize the 2022 sales event with our all-inclusive Black Friday-Cyber Monday Checklist.
How to make the most of BFCM
Over the past several years, the number of shoppers lining up for Black Friday sales in stores has waned as consumers opted for the convenience of online shopping over cost savings. This presents a great opportunity for eCommerce merchants seeking a piece of that $10.8-billion pie. Since “eCommerce” and “convenience” are so closely intertwined, merchants with online stores have gained the upper hand, and with it, the freedom to be creative with their BFCM offerings.
While customers will be ready to drop some coin during BFCM, it’s important to remember you’ll be competing with offers from dozens if not hundreds of other merchants. With this in mind, you need to plan for your BFCM thoughtfully and well in advance to make the most of this sales period through killer deals, exceptional customer service, and brand loyalty.
1) Be aware of annual considerations
BFCM is a highly lucrative sales event, but it can also be a logistical nightmare if you haven’t thought ahead and gotten your proverbial ducks in a row. Each year, there are a few factors that change, such as the state of the supply chain, dates and deadlines, and marketplace events.
Before you dive into your BFCM planning, make sure to consider the following:
Supply chain challenges
Recent years have seen supply chain issues the likes of which merchants have never faced before. These can affect all aspects of a business, from procuring and receiving goods to getting them shipped out to customers.
The supply chain crisis continues as 2022 unfolds, with product availability issues, inflation, labor shortages, and political decisions making it extra challenging to move goods.
If you’re an Amazon seller, we recommend working on your Amazon IPI score and getting as much inventory into Amazon FBA as possible to prepare for the surge.
Shipping timelines/cut-off times
Shipping goods is always challenging, but never more so than during the holidays when carriers are overwhelmed with packages.
In the winter season, knowing your cut-off times for packages is absolutely critical; holiday shoppers often don’t have the time (or the patience) to wait for items to arrive.
Check with your preferred shipment partners about their cut-off dates and communicate them to your customers to limit last-minute scrambling.
2) Diversify your sales channels
Diversifying your revenue streams across different sales channels can help you capture more consumer market share, and boost visibility across different platforms.
Consider tweaking your deals based on what does best on each channel, for example offering one bundle on Walmart.com and another on your Shopify store.
Your BFCM offers should also be advertised across sales channels well in advance of your sale’s launch to get customers excited and help them plan ahead for their shopping activities.
3) Stock up on inventory across sales channels
As we mentioned earlier, it’s important to order the appropriate amount of inventory for the BFCM rush as early as possible. Supply chain issues are a concern every year, but global conditions have exasperated them further than we’ve seen before in 2022.
For Amazon sellers, work on boosting your Amazon IPI to help increase your FBA storage allocation, and store as much as possible in FBA. Send in your light and fast-moving goods, because this is usually the most cost-effective item for FBA, and a high sales velocity can help increase your FBA inventory limits.
In addition, create mirror FBM listings in case your FBA listings run out of stock, and prep and prepare your goods for sale as early as possible. You’ll want your items ready to replenish FBA inventory as soon as it’s running low, and you can use this pool of items to fulfill FBM orders as well.
For multi-channel merchants, the key will be to store inventory in strategic locations, and use redundancy to help prevent stockouts. That means you want inventory in multiple places that can kick in if something happens to your primary fulfillment provider.
For example, you might sell on Walmart through WFS, and Amazon through FBA. You’ll want to pick another 3PL partner you can use for FBM and Walmart orders in case you run out of stock with your marketplace fulfillment providers.
4) Customize your deals
A look at social media during any shopping event will quickly yield information about what consumers do and don’t like. Your BFCM should be personalized for your unique customers and sales channels.
Some tips to execute custom deals:
- Avoid misleading creative or communications about your deals. Give the customer all the information they need about the deal up front.
- Don’t over-communicate early sales, especially if you’re pushing the same message repeatedly.
- Each customer is unique. Segment your customer base and change your messaging, deals, and even your communication tactics to fit each audience.
- Keep track of who has already purchased, so you don’t send them the same promotions again. Instead, try offering them something new, or personalize your next message based on what they bought.
- Adjust your messaging for each channel. Your copy should be customized for email, SMS, social media, and other formats.
- Highlight exclusive deals. For example, you may only offer a certain bundle during BFCM, and via your Shopify website.
5) Give newsletter subscribers early access
Show your existing customer base some love by offering early access for newsletter subscribers.
This could be a special coupon code that’s available in the days leading up to your big sale to give loyal customers a little something extra in return.
You could also create a custom landing page specially for your newsletter subscribers to purchase from. They would just have to click a tracked link to get access, or confirm the email address they used to sign up.
6) Offer two-day shipping
Two-day shipping is the bare minimum customers expect these days. If you don’t usually offer two-day shipping, BFCM is a great time to add it to your repertoire.
Two-day shipping ensures your customers receive their packages quickly, and can boost conversion rates as well.
Worried about the cost or logistics of fast shipping? Consider partnering with a fulfillment provider like MyFBAPrep to handle your order fulfillment and shipping needs.
An external partner can help you leverage economies of scale to get the best deals, and unify your customer experience across a wide fulfillment network.
7) Consider Black November
BFCM deals start rolling into people’s inboxes and popping up in digital advertising channels almost as soon as the Halloween makeup comes off.
In fact, some retailers have taken it a step further and moved to a bigger sales period: “Black November.”
If you want to extend your sales period and take some pressure off your BFCM weekend, consider running your deals throughout the entire month of November.
Just remember: If you run a full month of deals, keep your creative and messaging fresh, and avoid bombarding your existing customers with the same content over and over.
8) Provide multiple payment options
Consumers want choice, and how they can pay is a very important one. Multiple methods let your shoppers enjoy purchase flexibility.
While credit, debit, and Paypal are among the most commonly used payment options, other avenues are growing in popularity thanks to their flexibility and convenience.
Some new emerging payment methods:
- Apple Pay/Google Pay/Amazon Pay: These mobile payment systems can be used for online purchases. They handle the entire checkout process with pre-filled defaults and only require PIN or TouchID verification to complete transactions easily and quickly
- Buy Now, Pay Later: This layaway-esque option does exactly as it promises — let shoppers buy now and pay later. Affirm, Afterpay, Zip, Sezzle, and PayBright act as point-of-sale loans and split the cost of a purchase over a few weeks or months with regular installment payments instead of a single up-front cost.
9) Look at what worked well in the past
Every brand is different, so it’s important to analyze your past metrics to make decisions on how to proceed in 2022.
It can be difficult to decide which of the last three years you should look at to predict 2022. 2019 was the last “normal” pre-pandemic year. 2020 had huge tailwinds for eCommerce. 2021 saw a slight return to normal, but faced some headwinds when it came to PPC and fierce competition.
We recommend looking at 2021, the most recent sales year, as an indication of what to expect in 2022.
Check out what products sold best during your previous BFCM weekends, and look at the sales channels that performed best.
It’s also crucial to look at what didn’t work. Maybe your newsletter tanked, or a particular sales channel didn’t perform as well as you’d expected.
By learning what didn’t work, you can find opportunities to improve and make 2022 your best BFCM yet.
2022 BFCM checklist
The key to a successful BFCM lies in a lot of advanced preparation and planning. The following checklist should cover most of what you need to know to have your most successful sales event yet.
Prep for a longer sales process and sales period
Short BFCM sales are a thing of the past. As previously stated, sales and promotions now run for weeks (or even months) prior to BFCM, especially online. Since door-buster deals and long lines at stores are waning, you need to be locked and loaded for a longer sales period. This means offering your deals before and after BFCM.
According to a 2021 holiday trends study by Justuno, almost 65% of U.S. shoppers planned to make their holiday purchases before Thanksgiving. What’s more, global eCommerce spending didn’t decline after peak holiday sales in 2020!
Test your site and be ready for traffic surges
Real talk: There’s never a good time to have your site slow down or crash. But, BFCM weekend? That’s probably the worst time you could imagine.
Your online store’s speed is important to your customers, and a major contributing factor in your conversion rate and your store’s discoverability in search. Make sure you test your server load capacity, then wait for the surge of shoppers to flood in.
Have your fulfillment strategy locked and loaded
Surges in sales mean more orders to fulfill. While this is a great problem to have, there’s no denying the logistics can be challenging. This is why you need a clear and established fulfillment strategy in place.
Will you fulfill all orders yourself, or will you outsource? Can you optimize your fulfillment workflow to improve the process for your team? Decide how you’ll fulfill orders and make sure you have everything set up for it before the sales begin.
Make sure you’re mobile-first
Mobile commerce, or MCommerce, is on the rise; according to Shopify, 71% of BFCM purchases were made on mobile devices in 2021. This means it’s crucial that your store is optimized for mobile.
Make your store mobile responsive, and ensure it’s easy and intuitive to purchase from an online device. Test your processes through mobile and make any necessary changes before the BFCM kickoff.
Start planning now
We know it feels early for BFCM, but the time to put your plan in action is now.
Start thinking about every element of your BFCM strategy, from your messaging and creative to your customer retention post-BFCM and everything in between.
Test your prep work for the bundles you want to offer, experiment with different packaging, get your product shots ready, and send in your replenishment orders.
By doing so, you can concentrate on the action during your BFCM event without worrying about the minor details.
Begin building anticipation on social media
Social media is a great way to hint at your upcoming event ahead of your sale to build anticipation and grow your audience. You can use it to expand your email marketing lists too. To build anticipation on social, consider:
- Inviting users to sign up for your newsletter for early, exclusive access to sales
- Sharing positive reviews and other UGC about your store and products
- Counting down to your sale kickoff on your website
- Sharing discount codes with loyal customers
- Running contests on social media
Double down on your top sales channels
If you already sell on more than one channel, identify those that are most lucrative to your business and double down on them during the holiday season.
You want to look at:
- Which channels have the highest conversion rates
- The platforms that capture your most loyal customers
- Marketplaces your products are ranking well organically in
- Where your products have the most visibility
Explore the sales channels that resonate most with your target shoppers so you can reach potential buyers early this year.
Create a contingency plan
Even the best laid plans go sideways sometimes. Make sure you’ve got a backup plan if the you-know-what hits the fan by considering worst-case scenarios and being ready no matter what’s thrown at you.
For example, you can set up backup bundles, flash deals, and prepare pre-order landing pages that will kick in if something sells out.
Make inventory decisions now
Picking and ordering the products you plan to promote during BFCM should be done as early as possible, especially if you rely on suppliers to manufacture or source your inventory.
Around the world, suppliers have been operating above capacity since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and so require time to ready products for you.
Look at your inventory reporting to see what products have traditionally sold best and promote those during your BFCM sale.
Establish a shipping and delivery strategy early and communicate
Key sales periods are a good time to revisit your shipping strategy.
This doesn’t mean you need to offer every shipping option out there. It’s more important to align with your customers’ needs and to balance affordable and feasible options for your business. Moreover, when customers have too many shipping options to choose from, it can actually have a negative impact. Keep it simple, offer a few options (e.g., two-day, regular shipping), and create a better customer experience.
Also, remember that how you charge customers has a big influence on both your conversion rate and your profit margins. Consumers now expect free and fast shipping — preferably both. While free shipping isn’t actually free since you cover the cost, absorbing this expense can have a big payoff, especially if it increases the average order value (AOV), such as in instances where you offer free shipping over $X amount.
You might also consider offering a “buy online, pick-up in store” (BOPIS) option if you have brick-and-mortar locations.
Organize upcoming sales and share with your team
Plan your deals and discounts well in advance rather than throwing a sale together at the last minute. Take time to review your margins and inventory so you can set enticing discounts that still make sense for your business.
Create preplanned sales maps, prepackaged bundles, and exclusive deals. Share them across your team and with fulfillment partners so everyone can plan and prepare.
By documenting and preplanning, when sale dates approach, you can quickly and easily set your business up for success.
Optimize order and fulfillment workflows in advance
When a high volume of sales pour in over a short period of time, it can be difficult to fulfill and ship orders quickly. Some ways you can optimize your fulfillment workflows in advance of BFCM include:
- Organize your fulfillment area
- Hire additional staff
- Communicate clearly and regularly with fulfillment and delivery partners
- Prioritize and organize orders
- Partner with a fulfillment partner like MyFBAPrep
Set up abandoned cart recovery
BFCM is a great time to shop. That means consumers will be going to multiple stores, comparing offers, and likely abandoning their carts.
If you want to crush it this BFCM, you need a compelling BFCM offer to convince customers to purchase with you. Failing that, you need to set up abandoned cart email sequences to get them back after they’ve left.
- Abandoned cart emails that provide additional discounts
- Pop-ups that show upon exit intent that share limited time offers
- Sidebars that upsell or cross-sell to showcase the variety of your store
Update your website with BFCM creative
In the month leading up to BFCM, you want to have images and graphics ready to go live on your website. That includes your homepage, banners, product pages, and even pop-ups.
Tip: Prepare these creatives in advance so you have a branded look across all your communication channels (ie. social, emails, website).
If someone visits your website coming from an ad or social media, you want them to recognize they are in the right place, and be able to find their deal right away.
Retarget past visitors and customers
When you retarget past visitors to your store, you reach people who might have forgotten all about you and would have otherwise missed your sale.
You can and should retarget customers who have previously purchased from your store as well. Existing customers are usually easier to reach and market to than brand new ones, so they should be high on your priority list. They’re also more likely to buy, which boosts your likelihood of closing a sale with them.
Launch email marketing campaigns
Start planning your email campaigns long before your Black Friday or Cyber Monday sales kick off.
In addition to getting the word out before the deals go live, they reduce the number of things you have to manage right before your sales period begins.
To create the best email marketing strategy:
- Place email collection fields and sign-up pop-ups on pages so you can email shoppers who’ve visited, but aren’t ready to buy and help build suspense and buzz about your upcoming sale
- Personalize your campaigns to give your customers a more tailored experience
- Send hints or teasers in the weeks leading up to your BFCM sale launch so your audience knows to watch for your announcement
- Thank your customers after the sale wraps up
- Remember to send abandoned cart emails
Use BNPL to increase conversions
Buy now, pay later (BNPL) solutions allow customers to make an online purchase today, then pay for the order in installments over a period of time, similar to layaway.
These solutions are proven to boost conversions as well as AOV.
BNPL can also reduce cart abandonment rates by offering an additional payment option.
Reward loyal customers
BFCM is a great time to build relationships with previous customers and convince them to return to your store. It’s also a prime opportunity to reward your loyal customer base by targeting them early with your best deals.
Offer stellar online chat support
Chat support on your website is a great way to connect with your customers in real time to provide much needed support and personalization.
Online chat can also include FAQ links to help connect shoppers with answers they need when you or your team is unavailable.
Blow your customer service out of the water
The holidays can be a hectic time for customer support, and the hard truth is, they don’t always bring out the best in our customers. One way to improve the customer experience is to be courteous and respectful of your customers, and have a quick response time when issues arise.
Arm yourself and your team with pre-written, helpful phrases and replies so you can deliver consistent service in the moment with minimal effort. Some common customer frustrations to prepare for include:
- Lost or delayed orders
- Dissatisfaction with purchases
- Damaged packages or products
Offer easy returns
Returns are as much a part of the buying experience as payment options, with most shoppers today expecting free and easy returns.
Clearly communicate your returns policy and make sure it’s easy to understand. Popular places to showcase your policy include a dedicated Shipping and Returns Policy page, your FAQs page(s), and product pages. It should be included in all order notification emails as well.
Assess your checkout experience
Be honest: Does your checkout experience inspire customers to buy? The checkout process is a make-or-break moment that determines whether customers pay up or bail.
Lengthy checkouts can be a conversion killer, especially on mobile, so accelerated checkouts like Shop Pay, Apple Pay, Google Pay, Amazon Pay, etc., are a great option to boost conversions.
These checkout methods let customers autofill saved information, which reduces barriers to purchasing.
Ask for feedback before BFCM
A fresh set of eyes can help you identify issues on your website and provide important feedback that can improve your shoppers’ experiences. Look for common problems or areas where visitors are confused or frustrated and work with your existing customer base to find solutions before you kick off your BFCM sale.
Be ready to nurture BFCM customers
Once you’ve earned a customer, it’s imperative you nurture that customer to increase the likelihood they’ll return to your store to purchase again.
Prepare nurture email campaigns to keep your BFCM customers engaged long after the sales have ended to turn these one-time buyers into repeat customers with a higher lifetime value.
You can send post-sale emails to subscribers, engage with them on social media, or set up retargeting campaigns to remain top-of-mind with relevant products and enticing messaging.
Wrapping up — Get ready for BFCM 2022 as early as today
BFCM may seem like it’s far away, but it’ll be here sooner than you expect. By preparing early, you’ll be ready to launch your deals and tactics in the most efficient, effective way possible.
You’ll also ensure your assets are ready to go, inventory is prepared, and you don’t miss out on sales because you overlooked an opportunity.
Follow the BFCM checklist we’ve shared above to set yourself up for success. Happy selling!