As I’m sure you’re fully aware, running an online business can be a challenge at the best of times – and Black Friday is no exception.
A whopping £1.4billion was spent online on this day alone in the UK in 2017, up some 11.7% on the previous year, making it a golden opportunity for online retailers.
The question is though, how can your eCommerce business prepare for this crazy day of online shopping and capitalise on all those additional sales?
In this article we hear from 15 eCommerce experts with their top tips for smashing Black Friday, so you can take full advantage of this massive influx of online shoppers and reap the sales rewards.
#1 Richard Goss: Preparation is key
Richard Goss is the Commercial Director at Rinkit. With over 10 years’ experience in the eCommerce space, Richard has seen plenty of Black Fridays, and believes the key to success is in the preparation.
“It’s definitely worth speaking to your couriers about collecting on the Saturday and Sunday of the Black Friday weekend – they will do it and it helps them, you and your customers.”
“You should also start creating product bundles now and let them propagate in advance of the big day.”
“Finally, pre-pack as much as you can now so that when it comes to Black Friday, all you need to do is stick the label on.”
Richard’s key takeaways are…
- Speak to your couriers in advance
- Create product bundles now
- Pre-pack as much as you can
#2 Matthew Thorpe: Make your customers feel extra special
Matthew Thorpe is the Founder of Grasshopper, a web consultancy with over 13 years’ experience in eCommerce and Internet Marketing. They specialise in driving online sales, increasing visitor traffic, SEO and Online Marketing.
“Segment your list in advance and target them based on products they have purchased already. A 30% off everything is a little lazy and non-targeted. You will get a better strike rate because they need it.”
“Instead of hitting customers with an offer on the day (like everyone else will), plant the seed a week before and have a couple of pre-sale emails to whet their appetite. Then use the increased traffic to get people onto your list, even if they don’t buy.”
“Don’t be tempted to spam customers with discount offers. Just because it’s cheap, it doesn’t mean to say people will buy it, and you will damage your brand. Get them to open your emails because it will interest them.”
Matthew’s key takeaways are…
- Target segments
- Create pre-sale buzz
- Always add value to your customers
#3 Paul Rogers: Perform a site search
Paul Rogers is the Founder of Vervaunt and an eCommerce Consultant. Over the years Paul, along with his team, has provided key eCommerce and paid media consultancy services to business all over the world.
“In my experience, site search is a good opportunity to drive improvements when going into peak trading periods. You want your site to be performing at its best.”
“Applying boosting rules is a good example, to ensure that the right products are being promoted (which could be at a global or query level), whether this is based on margin, general popularity or a seasonal surge.”
“Spending time looking at search terms that are driving 0-result errors and fixing these using synonyms is another good quick win. Historically, I’ve had some really good wins with clients in this area, often as a result of a term not matching catalogue references. Ideally, you’d use an NLP-based (natural language processing) search solution, which would be in a better position to facilitate more advanced queries.”
“Other things that I'd generally recommend looking at would be the allocation of paid media budgets, (ensuring that key campaigns aren't capping out and that budget is focused on high demand products etc). Invest time in server-provisioning and ensure that top sections of your site are merchandised effectively.”
Paul’s key takeaways are…
- Perform an overall site search
- Apply boosting rules
- Fix 0-result errors
- Re-allocate paid media budgets
#4 Chris MacNeil: Make the most of Amazon Black Friday
Chris MacNeil is the Founder of E-booster Ltd and is a specialist in Amazon FBA (Fulfilment by Amazon) and FBM (Fulfilment by Merchant). He’s been helping individuals, small businesses and large organisations to build successful Amazon campaigns for over 16 years.
“Amazon Black Friday offers you a fantastic opportunity to make a lot more sales due to the major upturn in traffic on Amazon. In order to benefit from this, you must be prepared and ensure that your inventory stocks are high enough to cope with the additional demand.”
“Your aim on Amazon Black Friday is to get as many people to view your product listings as possible. You must be prepared to monitor customer feedback and respond promptly. When others see these swift responses, they are more likely to buy from you.”
“A secret that is not that well known to drive sales on Black Friday, is to offer free shipping on your products. People shopping on Amazon Black Friday are expecting a good deal, so you can reduce your prices, offer free shipping or even better, do both.”
“If you have a number of related products on Amazon then you can strategically bundle them in an attempt to win the 'Buy Box'. If you have some low-cost items that complement the main product, then offering a bundle can really make a difference.”
Chris’s key takeaways are…
- Ensure your inventory is stocked up
- Monitor customer feedback and reply promptly
- Offer free shipping to stand out
- Bundle related products together to win the “Buy Box”
#5 Dave Hermansen: Reduce prices based on your industry
Dave Hermansen is the Founder of Storecoach.com and has been in the eCommerce space since 2003. Today, Dave is one of the web's most notable Internet Marketers, particularly in the realm of eCommerce and drop-shipping.
“What we do in preparation for Black Friday depends on the type of website we are working on. But no matter what type of site it is, we definitely create a Black Friday banner with an overall message that these are the lowest prices of the year. We affix that banner to the top of the homepage as well as every category and product page, and of course, the sale ends at the stroke of midnight in order to create urgency.”
“If the website is a one-off site where somebody purchases once, and you never hear from them again, for example a site selling refrigerators, we really don't do anything except create the banner. We don't change our prices because there is no reason to. They are still the lowest prices of the year, all we have done is spun a perception.”
“On the other hand, if it is a site with repeat customers and/or one with a large following on social networks, you're not going to get away with that. For those types of sites, create a ‘Black Friday Specials’ page and link to it from a banner. You certainly do not want to discount every product on your site; you just want to have a few where you lower the price.”
“Pick a few of the most popular products and knock the price down as much as you can. It is an extremely good idea to offer your specials on products that usually need accessories (which are not discounted), so that you can recoup some of the discounts you gave.”
“You'll definitely want to tease your ‘Black Friday Specials’ on social networks each day, starting a few days before the big event. "Don't Miss Our Black Friday Sale - Our Lowest Prices of the Year - Prices Too Low to Advertise!", for example.”
“It doesn't really take much planning or much work to have an effective Black Friday. You just need to think a little bit and, of course, rinse and repeat for Cyber Monday!”
Dave’s key takeaways are…
- Effective website banners that create urgency
- Reduce product prices based on your industry
- Tease your deals on social media in the lead up
- Don’t forget to repeat for Cyber Monday!
#6 James Gurd: Entice with price-driven hooks
James Gurd is the Founder of Digital Juggler, a specialist eCommerce and Digital Marketing consultancy, and has delivered high-level international eCommerce strategies for big names such as House of Fraser, Victoria Beckham and Rocco Forte Hotels.
“Encourage people to sign up for price alerts. Do this at different levels, from receiving all price alerts to being able to subscribe to specific categories, brands and products based on customer interest.”
“Build a ‘discount’ landing page that links to all products that will feature in your Black Friday promotion, and add a ‘get a price alert’ CTA (call-to-action) for each product. Depending on the systems you use, you can also do this via SMS and look at push notifications (most effective if you have an app).”
“Targeted campaigns are important as well. For people who have bought more than X times from a specific category or brand in last 12 months, send a focused email with matching products. Offer tiered incentives to drive basket size e.g. increasing the discount based on spend threshold.”
“Use affinity segments to cross-promote products/brands to people based on their previous purchase history. Use price levers to up-sell higher ticket items e.g. customers who have only ever bought items less than £100, promote discounted items that are £100 or more. And create special bundles where the customer gets a good discount, but you get a much higher average order value.”
“But most important of all, ensure that your people and processes are ready to cope. Ensure there is sufficient resource throughout the Black Friday period to handle inbound enquiries and make sure you have the best possible 24/7 technical support to keep the website and back-end systems working efficiently as demands peaks. There’s no point driving huge sales increases via the website and phone line if your operational capacity won’t support it.”
James’ key takeaways are…
- Encourage sign ups to price alerts
- Build a ‘discount’ landing page
- Utilise targeted campaigns and segments
- Make sure you have enough resources in place to cope with the increased demand
#7 Ryan Gardiner: Never just wing it
Ryan Gardiner is the Founder of DCI Digital, which specialises in helping businesses build a successful online presence. Combined with his many years as eCommerce Manager, Ryan knows a thing or two about smashing Black Friday.
“The sad truth is, I’ve witnessed more businesses fail at Black Friday than I have succeed, and not just from the smaller guys either. Regardless of the advice of my team, tips they’d read online, or just cold-hard stats put in front of them, they were driven by hype and promises of riches from the media.”
“Plan and prepare, don’t just wing it. It’s well known that some industries certainly lend themselves better than others to the Cyber Monday & Black Friday epidemic, but what I’ve witnessed is a similar trait among the business owner’s mindset that’s the real problem.”
“One of the biggest reasons retailer giants do so well with Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales is because they’re promoting popular products, they know people already buy. Of course, the discount can certainly make or break the sale, but if the people don’t want the product in the first place then a minor discount is rarely going to sway them.”
“If you’ve got a few winning products, put all your time and effort into squeezing every drop of juice out of them. So many businesses chase fairy tale sales on products that have never proven themselves as sellers. This is the biggest shopping day all year, don’t waste it promoting products that you already know don’t sell.”
“If margins are tight, have a chat with your supplier or rep and explain you’ll offer them prime positioning on your Black Friday/Cyber Monday marketing in exchange for preferential rates during that period to allow you to offer a bigger discount.”
“Make sure you have strategic cart abandonment in place! People are easily distracted this time of year.”
“Consider the lifetime value of a new customer, not just the Black Friday sale profit. If you’re restricted by brands forcing RRP’s on you, offer it as a discount code by email.”
“If your email list is already segmented, try to send targeted emails to users rather than a general email blast.”
“Prepare your Adwords titles in advance. Duplicate Ads and change titles to mention Black Friday to massively improve CTA (click-through rate).”
Ryan’s key takeaways are…
- Plan and prepare, never just wing it
- Maximise sales of winning products
- Have strategic cart abandonment in place
- Prepare your Adwords titles in advance
#8 Kathir Sid Vel: Beware of the coupon code wormhole
Kathir Sid Vel is the eCommerce Specialist at Optimise Web and has been developing digital strategies for eCommerce clients for almost 10 years. He’s helped countless small and medium-sized businesses strategise, launch, and flourish in the digital world.
“Coupon codes are synonymous with Black Friday. Get your coupon code strategy right, well in advance. It is highly likely that your customers might be expecting a coupon code of some sort. Do not make it hard for them to find your code(s). Flash the coupon code on all pages.”
“Promote your Black Friday coupon code on your social profiles. Create a 'Black Friday Coupon Codes' page and optimise it for search rankings. The last thing you want is for your customer to leave your website to search for coupon codes and get snatched away by a competitor.”
“You'll be registering a high volume of sales. It could be easy to lose track of stock. Get your stock system integrations tested and ready for real-time updates. Even better, make it clear how long it would take for the ordered products to reach your customer. Buy yourself a bit of breathing space as you're going to be very busy fulfilling a large number of orders!”
Kathir’s key takeaways are…
- Get your coupon code strategy right
- Promote your coupon codes on social media
- Ensure your stock status and lead times are accurate
#9 Chris Dawson: Gift-sets always sell well
Chris Dawson is the Founder of Tamebay, the leading provider of intelligence and news for all online sellers, and prior to this he was a full-time eBay seller for over eight years. Having made his living by trading on this platform, Chris has first-hand knowledge of how to maximise sales over the Black Friday period.
“It’s the best quarter for business we are coming into at the moment. But how do you get involved?”
“Make up your own gift-set, with a combination of your best-selling products, it will increase your average order value. Because instead of buying one item in one transaction, your customers will actually be buying several. It also makes it more attractive, because as soon as you call something a gift-set, someone will think “oh great I can buy that for so and so for Christmas”. Make sure you include the word “gift set” in the title of your item.”
“In terms of delivery, you don’t need to offer a bargain price with premium service. Offer next day delivery for Black Friday because if customers buy something for Christmas, they have a whole month to wait for their item, therefore slower standard delivery will ease the pressure of your warehouse. Look at offering extended returns, so customers feel they have a safety net if they buy something at the Black Friday sales, and your business will be there to support them after Christmas”.
Chris’ key takeaways are…
- Make up your own gift-sets
- Offer next day delivery
- Consider offering extended returns to account for Christmas
#10 Tom Robertshaw: Ensure optimal site performance
Tom Robertshaw is the Founder of Meanbee Ltd and Hivemind Research. With years of eCommerce experience, Tom has been propelling his eCommerce clients to success all year round, and Black Friday is certainly no exception.
“It’s best to focus on squeezing the most out of your site. A last minute check for quick wins on server performance (time to first byte), or frontend performance (time to load/interactive) is always a good idea”
“Is your cache hit rate looking good? Is there any more aggressive caching strategies that you can put in place during the high traffic periods? Have a developer look over the frontend as well to see if there's any optimisation that can be done on a number of images, CSS and JS files being fetched and parsed on each page load.”
“For images that you upload to content areas, make sure they're optimised and compressed before upload. Not all eCommerce platforms will do this for you and you don't want customers bouncing from the first page because the large images made it take too long to load.”
“The increase in traffic during this period is a great time to run some A/B tests because it won't take as long to get a good sample. Clearly, there's some risk involved, but also a big opportunity!”
“I'd recommend using a wallet that people are familiar with like PayPal Express. This is typically easy to set up on most platforms and helps to get those orders in before people change their minds. With this, there's no need for customers to worry about your checkout which they're probably not familiar with. It's probably too late for it at this stage, but for the larger ticket items, a financing payment method may also be helpful in getting the sale for some customers.”
“Make sure that there's a line around to the add to basket button which clearly says what standard shipping is likely to cost. Consider running a promotion to reduce shipping costs during this period (and incorporating into product price if need be) as it can really be a sticking point with customers. A good deal on a product might be ruined by unclear or steep shipping costs.”
“You want to make sure that your campaign reaches as many people as possible and they feel the urgency to grab a deal before they're gone. Ensure you've got multiple newsletters going on, preferably with some targeting based on past purchases if you can.”
“Your messaging, particularly around urgency will be different depending on your brand, but if there's a way you can build up excitement in advance and then show depleting stock levels or time left to capitalise on the deals, that'd be great!”
Tom’s key takeaways are…
- Optimise overall site performance
- Make the most of A/B testing opportunities
- Ensure a smooth checkout process
- Use familiar and simple payment methods
- Offer clear and good value shipping
- Triple check your marketing strategy
#11 Craig Weiss: Hype it up
Craig Weiss is the Founder of ArtYah, a handmade marketplace facilitated by state-of-the-art technology. With years of experience in the eCommerce space, Craig understands what makes a really successful Black Friday sale.
“Raffles certainly can generate sales. Putting items on sale and making sure to use social media channels to advertise the sale about a week ahead of time.”
“Post to forums about what products are on offer and when your Black Friday sale will take place.”
“Also, Black Friday is a crazy day, and conveying the idea how easy it is to shop online at your store will help people figure out the best values.”
Craig’s key takeaways are…
- Create hype on social media
- Post to forums
- Make it really easy for your customers to shop online
#12 Darren Ratcliffe: Make sure you’re well-resourced
Darren Ratcliffe is the Founder of Digitl, an eCommerce consultancy that aims to deliver growth for retailers in the UK and internationally. He’s worked in the digital sector throughout his entire career and helped the likes of eBay and JD Fashion PLC to their success.
“It's a time of year where all retailers feel the pressure to take part and drive sales and often taking part can become more important than profit.”
“If you've not planned for Black Friday in advance, then I'd advise you don't - make sure you get the right stock to sell at a profit and give yourself plenty of time to promote the offers and create brand awareness.”
“Once the day arrives, make sure you're well-resourced to fulfil your orders quickly and efficiently and consider using FBA if your margins allow it.”
“Give new customers the best possible experience of shopping with your business and use the data for marketing to in the future.”
Darren’s key takeaways are…
- Don’t just do it because everyone else is
- Make sure you get the right stock to sell at a profit
- Make sure you’re well-resourced to fulfil orders quickly
- Give customers the best possible shopping experience
#13 Nuno da Silva: Perfect your strategy
Nuno da Silva is the Founder and CEO of Top Labels Online, a leading online fashion retailer. Having started in the UK, they’ve since expanded internationally and have plenty of experience in smashing Black Friday year after year.
In this video Nuno explains his Black Friday top tip, which is all about the importance of creating a really strong Black Friday strategy based on your individual company.
Check it out…
Nuno’s key takeaways are…
- Look at the bigger picture
- Choose the right timeline
- Set realistic goals
#14 David Freakins: Offer unique deals
David Freakins is the Founder of RC Geeks, which has grown over the last 10 years to become the leading retailer for remote control products throughout the UK and Europe.
“Black Friday is a really exciting time; we've watched this shopping weekend evolve over the last 5 years from being a US-only event, to now being a vital day in our sales calendar.”
“We've found that this day/weekend is all about preparation. You cannot prepare for this on the final week. We start planning several weeks before, which gives us time to create really attractive deals with our suppliers that are unique for our customers only.”
“We've found with so many retailers now following the same trends, regular fixed discounts are not the best way to maximise our sales. Instead we make our own unique deals, that often include bundled items, and means we're offering our customers something unique."
“Our customers are very savvy, they know if the deal is good or just an 'artificial' saving. Many retailers quote inflated RRP's etc. and this is something we've never been a fan of. We offer real deals to our customers and they thank us for it with their loyalty.”
“Once we've established our unique offers, we then forecast quantities and work with our suppliers to have adequate stock on-hand to fulfil our customers’ orders after the weekend. We often draft in extra staff to help fulfil orders after the weekend too.”
David’s key takeaways are…
- It’s all in the preparation
- Don’t follow the crowd, offer unique deals
- Forecast quantities and work with suppliers in advance
- Draft in extra staff to help fulfil orders
#15 Simon Toon: Think tactically
Simon Toon is the Director of Professional Services at Emarsys, and prior to this he was the Head of Technology Communications at House of Fraser. It's safe to say that Simon knows first-hand the importance of having a clear Black Friday strategy in place.
"Think about scenario modelling and testing your scenarios. This year I think there are going to be more tactical requests from the business to enable them to react to market needs - it’s not the same as it was in previous years, where we would always see year-on-year growth in eCommerce.”
“This year eCommerce grew more slowly and when that happens it becomes more and more difficult to make those extra sales and impress your shareholders. This means the business teams are under pressure to do more tactical things, and eke out any extra revenue they can. So it’s good to anticipate that in IT, and think what are the tactical things they’re going to ask us for?”
“Let’s have those conversations up front, and consider all the different things that you could ask for as a business. Let’s give IT the chance to work out how to support getting these changes done quickly and safely."
Simon’s key takeaways are…
- Test your scenarios in advance
- Think tactically – what can IT expect?
- Prepare your IT team for the increased demand
So, there you have it…
You now have the very best advice from the UK’s top eCommerce experts on how to smash Black Friday.
Whether you’re a big retailer or a start-up, you can apply these Black Friday strategies to your business and capitalise on those additional sales.
Is your business ready and rearing to go this Black Friday, or do you have any last-minute questions for us? We’d love to hear from you! Please leave a comment below.