To Black Friday…or not?

Laura Dean

Laura Dean

Black Friday, the annual retail sale, is now widely recognised as the biggest online shopping period of the year for the US and UK. SaleCycle suggests that it has grown so much in the UK over the last five years, that it now surpasses the pre-Christmas shopping period and is expected to break all previous sales and traffic records in 2022.

If you’ve got an e-commerce website, how do you decide if Black Friday (and indeed, Cyber Monday) is right for your business? Sure, you can hop on the trend like many others, but there are several factors to consider if it is right for you first.

Although there is no denying that Black Friday promotes strong traffic and sales increases for some e-commerce sites, buyers often question whether they are truly getting a better deal. In some cases, this causes scepticism and may delay sales purchases, having the opposite effect on your usual website visitors.

In part due to the COVID-19 pandemic, traditional bricks and mortar shopping has taken a back seat in recent years and the demise of the high street as we know it has brought digital into the focus.

No matter what the time of year, shoppers now have greater access to information that helps them make purchasing decisions and it’s more important than ever to have a digital strategy in place.

One thing we must not do, is underestimate the power of a bargain shopper. Google has the influence to grow or shrink your traffic so it’s important to keep your content optimised and get your ad strategy in place early if you want to take part.

How to determine if Black Friday is right for your e-commerce business

Knowing your business is the first step to planning your sales strategy. When considering your approach to Black Friday it’s important to think about whether the sector you are in, and your product type responds to the need and urgency that Black Friday and Cyber Monday promotes.

Do you offer commodity products that are purchased on need rather than desire? Is there demand for your products all year round or are they affected by seasons and trends? Most importantly, do your profit margins allow for discounts or are you increasing the cost of customer acquisition and standing to lose rather than gain?

Consider customer loyalty…

How loyal are your customers? Every business’s dream is to have consistent, returning customers. Some might even argue that a loyalty scheme would be better for these businesses. If your motivation for taking part in Black Friday is to bring in new custom, have you considered what the cost of acquiring those customers is? And is it more cost effective to reward those who repeatedly return to you?

The act of discounting is in effect, ‘buying’ your customers and could deter them from purchasing on the lead up to Black Friday in expectation of a better deal on the horizon.

So, you’ve decided to take part in Black Friday, how should you prepare?

Throughout November, shoppers are being bombarded with messages from retailers advertising their Black Friday deals. It’s important to carefully select yours so that they don’t get lost in the noise.

Here’s some ways you can do that:

Know the trends of your business

Any business operating online should be using analytics to inform their strategy. Google Analytics gives you rich data that helps you to understand your buyer’s journey and the times that they like to buy.

Look back at previous years and pay close attention to your website statistics for November. The week prior to Black Friday and the week after have, for many sites, grown rapidly in recent years and these analytics will tell you if they impact your business or not.

Look at your sales, traffic, cart abandonment, conversion rate etc., to help you to plan for the rise in traffic and truly capitalise on the best time to target your customers.

Once you’ve created a profile of expected activity, plan your messaging for maximum impact.

Email Marketing

Of course, when considering communications such as email marketing, it’s best practice to already have a strategy in place that gives your customers and prospects regular touch points; they should consistently hear from you with valuable messaging that interests them, so that they come to expect your communications. This can be through regular newsletters or campaigns throughout the year.

Email marketing can be used to promote your Black Friday sale in the weeks and days leading up to it, but don’t forget to use it afterwards too.

Consult your analytics to consider the best times to communicate with your customers. Do they want to receive your messages in the morning or evening? How do they usually respond to your emails?

You should use AB testing on a small sample first, to make sure the headline captivates their attention. Maybe your customers prefer a plain text style? You can also use AB testing to understand if they’d prefer to receive a HTML campaign from you.

If email marketing is your communication of choice, be careful of sensitive words in your subject line. Email service providers may mark your emails as spam and decrease your chances of deliverability if you use terms such as FREE, DISCOUNT, %, CLICK, OFFER EXPIRES and excessive punctuation in your subject lines.

Email marketing should be an extension of your brand marketing. Ensure that your communications are consistent with your brand and overall messaging.

Use personalisation to engage with your customers and always be sure to segment your data properly first. Your campaign will perform better if you’re sending something of interest – remember, blanket emails will only increase your unsubscribe rate and tell your audience that you don’t understand their needs.

Where possible, use urgency to encourage your customers to act. Adding a countdown or an additional incentive to buy now can help you to close that sale and reduce cart abandonment.

If you’re running a multiple point email campaign, keep an eye on your statistics and adjust according to open and click through rates. Also be sure to automatically opt out those customers who do not engage with your communications – never spam your audience!

After purchase email communications

Once a customer has converted on your website, don’t lose sight of the opportunities to retain them. Use your online shopping platform (WooCommerce, Shopify, Magento, etc) to set up automatic email responders that thank your customers for purchasing. Now is a great opportunity to capture their return custom by offering them a discount or incentive to buy again from you.

Refer a Friend and loyalty schemes are also a great way to build your customer base and grow your marketing database.

Finally, make sure that you learn from every campaign and customer interaction. Use this as an opportunity to further understand your audience and continue to promote things that interest them.

Account Based Marketing

The rise of account-based marketing has truly peaked in recent years. It’s no secret that the cost of acquiring new customers is much higher than retaining those that you already have. Keep this in mind when you’re running a campaign or considering the buyer journey.

If you have a sales team, now may be the time to use those old fashioned tactics and phone your key customers to make them personally aware of your offer. Account Based Marketing gives you the opportunity to really tailor your approach and personalise the message for your customer. Developing specific offers for your clients will yield a higher return and you’ll benefit from a longer buying relationship.

Targeted Advertising

The success rate of blanket marketing will never be high, because although you can cast a wide net, there will always be high competition for your audience’s attention. In fact, 72% of consumers claim that they respond to marketing messages that are exclusively crafted to their choices.

Using paid advertising such as Google Ads guarantees intent. If a consumer is searching for your brand or your relative keywords, then this often means that they are looking to buy. Using a carefully planned campaign with a managed budget can help you to capitalise on those consumers without overspending.

Website Messaging

Driving traffic to your website is the first step, once the visitor has arrived, there are a number of things to consider and actions to take to increase conversions.

  • Create bespoke landing pages to accompany ad campaigns and email marketing. No visitor wants to click on your link, only to arrive at your homepage. Take the time to create bespoke content that pushes them towards the information they actually want to see.
  • Use banners, animations and call to actions to drive visitors to high value product pages that are set up for conversions. Increase your engagement levels with a countdown timer that promotes urgency and motivates them to make a decision before the offer ends.
  • Get a live chat bot in place to answer frequently asked questions. Live chat allows you to proactively talk to website visitors and bots allow you to streamline the need for person interactions – leaving your team resources available for giving the best possible customer service.
  • Make sure your website is mobile responsive. Much Black Friday traffic now comes from mobile, so make sure you’re set up for success.
  • Consider logistics – make sure you have the right staff and stock in place to manage demand.

If you’re expecting a steep rise in visitor numbers to your site, make sure you’re prepared for the demand. Only promote products that can meet the demand and make sure that your server is prepared – a website crash will certainly deter customers and result in lost revenue.

Be sure to keep the customer experience at the heart of your strategy. A broken link, out of stock item or high response time could easily result in a bad review that could cause long term damage for your business.

Social Media

Hopefully you already have a social media marketing strategy in place that has resulted in a loyal following. This audience is primed for your messaging and you may already have great brand awareness. This offers similar levels of intent to a person searching directly for your product, increasing their chances of conversion.

Organic social media at your usual regular posting slots may be expected and anticipated by your audience. This also provides an opportunity to boost your content with targeted ads and re-marketing. If this is something you’ve never tried before, now could be the time to test it!

Track your success

As with any campaign, it’s important to track your return on investment. Every strategy is a learning opportunity to better connect with your audience and understand their buying behaviours to benefit your bottom line.

Make sure you use promo codes to directly track attribution and keep an eye on those email marketing statistics. It’s important to constantly refine your messaging throughout the lifecycle of your campaign for maximum benefit.

It’s important to make sure that your Google Analytics account is up to date. If you haven’t transferred to the new GA4 yet, speak to us about booking in your update.

You might find that Black Friday isn’t for you, but the silver lining is that you’ll learn a lot about your audience and you may build a marketing list that will convert outside of the Black Friday window.

Finally…be prepared for Cyber Monday – it often performs better than Black Friday. (Repeat steps above!)

So you’ve decided not to take part in Black Friday, what can you do instead?

Black Friday isn’t for everyone, but that doesn’t mean you can’t promote your products or services all year round. There’s lots of things you can do that don’t include slashing your profit margins and potentially alienating those regular customers.

Customer loyalty schemes

  • Capture those customers that might buy from you regularly by rewarding them with special offers, points or discounts.
  • By regularly keeping in contact with your customers, you keep your brand at the front of their mind so that they will return to you or promote your business through word of mouth.
  • Be sure to keep your offers exclusive so that the customer feels rewarded for their loyalty.

Address it head on

Some brands feel that heavily discounting or joining national shopping days such as Black Friday, reduces the worth of their product or service. If that’s you, this is a value you can share with your audience.

Use a campaign (email marketing, website messaging, social media marketing) to make your customers aware that you prefer to add value in other ways (such as loyalty schemes, special offers).

Some brands have become well known for not taking part and in fact highlighting that in some cases, such sales events, lead to a negative impact on the planet and workers. It’s important to use messaging that mirrors your brand values and resonates with your customer base. This is an opportunity to switch your campaign to sustainability and use your platform to share added value blog articles that promote your product or service.

Mutually Beneficial Offers

For some retailers the concern over Black Friday, is cutting profit margins on individual products to a level that is not sustainable. Buying customers through discounts that mean you operate at a loss, is no good for business growth or sustainability. Instead, try to increase your average transaction value by offering promotions on products purchased together.

Combining products or services that complement each other can offer a dual benefit that does not mean compromising on your profit margin so much that it is not viable, but also offers value to your customer.

Use targeted campaigns and remarketing to capture those customers that have considered your product/service offer but not yet reached the point of conversion.

Continue your year-round sales and marketing strategy…

If you’ve confirmed that Black Friday is not for your business, there’s plenty of ways to grow your business and increase sales throughout the year.

At Browndog, we have a team of 15 experts with over one hundred years of combined experience. We even run our own e-commerce website, so we’re well positioned to offer business insights and put together bespoke marketing strategies. If you’re serious about using marketing to grow your business, we’d love to talk to you.

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