Get Ready: Black Friday Is Coming

November 14, 2016 by Leah Na'aman

Introduction

Last year, customers spent $2.72 billion in eCommerce sales on Black Friday – a figure that was up 14% on 2014’s numbers. Thanksgiving Day also saw a significant increase with online sales figures hitting $1.73 billion. Meanwhile, mobile shopping resulted in a total revenue of $583 million for online retailers, while a record $639 million was raised on Thanksgiving Day.

The conclusion? You need to get your eCommerce store in the best shape possible for Black Friday and here’s how…

The necessary steps to Black Friday success

Step #1: Analyze and evaluate

Before doing anything, it’s vital that you go through last year’s data. There are numerous general steps you can implement, but none will be as successful as when you combine them with personalized research specific to your eCommerce store and your audience.

Assess your organic search performance from last year’s Black Friday period, as well as your performance since that time. Identify products that brought in the most revenue, as well as those that brought in the most traffic. The profit margin may not have been as large on individual high-traffic items, but they give you the power to upsell.

You should also run inventory on all keywords on your site, ensuring you’re hitting the right targets and taking note of what’s working.

Step #2: Prepare your store

There is UX work to be done to prepare your online store for Black Friday. Site navigation should flow smoothly bringing customers from sales pages to products to checkouts efficiently and without delay.

Developers and marketing teams should coordinate on all promotions and campaigns to ensure the right pages and sections are optimized for extra traffic directed to sales pages. It’s also important for developers to be aware of when specific campaigns are launching, so they can anticipate traffic boosts.

On top of technicalities, it’s also important to ensure you have manpower over the Black Friday period. Schedule working shifts in advance and make sure there’s an experienced developer on call at all times over the period.

Step #3: Assess your load capacity

We post regularly about the importance of load speeds and how a mere one-second delay can have a hugely negative impact on your sales potential, not to mention your overall reputation with customers.

Check load times and make sure your site is optimized to perform at its best without delay through periods of high traffic. Compress large images, activate Magento’s caching features and ensure your server is up to the challenge.

Step #4: Start building SEO now

Your social media campaigns will help spread the word, but SEO still plays an important role in driving traffic to your online store. You’ve evaluated your current keyword positioning, as well as data from last year, so now is the time to put it to good use.

Content creation is a proven way to get some traction, but don’t wait until a week beforehand to begin posting. Yes, that may get some results from social media publishing, but articles need to be live longer to have any SEO impact. The 45-Day Rule was developed after intricate analysis of Google Trends data and shows that promotions posted to your online store the week of Black Friday will result in 20% of overall search traffic while posting 45 days in advance will result in 90%.

And don’t forget about links. External links to your site from influential publishers and bloggers will help to increase your standing, but a clever internal link strategy can also boost your results.

Step #5: Get a jump start on marketing

If you leave all your promotion until a week or two before the Black Friday period, you’re likely to get lost in a sea of sales announcements and miss out on some great conversion opportunities. Create some buzz around your sale in the month leading up to its launch with Coming Soon teasers and previews.

Christmas gift guides are a great way to attract customers, doubling as an article that provides SEO help, while also giving customers an idea of what you’ll have on sale during Black Friday that will help them to whittle down their present lists.

Coming Soon pages will also link in with the previously mentioned 45-Day Rule, allowing your sales pages to begin ranking while you work on building them.

Step #6: Optimize and test your checkout

A large number of conversions are lost when visitors reach your checkout, but there are a number of steps you can take to increase your conversion chances. Speed is important; both load speed and the length of time it takes to get from the start of the process to the end.

If you’re working with Magento 2, its out-of-the-box checkout process is a huge improvement on Magento 1’s version. It will allow you to bring customers from Add to Cart to the Order Completed page in quicker times and with fewer steps.

You should also run some tests in advance of Black Friday to make sure your checkout can deal with significant increases in traffic when you launch your sales.

Step #7: Create a backup plan

No matter how prepared you are, things can always go wrong, so be sure you have a contingency plan in place. You need to sit down with your IT department in advance to identify possible problems that could arise and how the damage can be minimized as quickly as possible.

Step #8: Be prepared for early hitters

Black Friday may officially begin on Friday, but last year saw a big spike in Thursday shopping, with numbers up 25% on 2014. Have some pre-sale promotions ready to go on Thanksgiving and ensure your site is ready to handle any traffic increases on the day.

Increased holiday shopping can also roll past Cyber Monday into Tuesday, so be sure you have staff on hand from Thursday to Tuesday to deal with any issues that may arise.

Step #9: Create strategic bundles

Discounts and special deals are a classic way to encourage people to buy from your store, but the holiday shopping period is the perfect time to launch product bundles as part of your sale. For example, you could offer a discounted tablet with the option to upgrade to a bundle that also includes a case, detachable keyboard and headphones. It works on a similar principle to Recommended Items, but is tailored to ‘sale season’ and isn’t dependent on your customer taking the time the click through numerous extra products.

Add the Bundle option to the Purchase section of the product page and take advantage of the urgency created by Black Friday sales.

Step #10: Optimize your delivery deals

Free delivery with quick postage times is always enticing, but especially attractive during sales when people are spending more than they normally would. Be competitive and be sure you’re clear about delivery dates in relation to Christmas. Customers want to know their purchases will be there before the festive period reaches its climax, but will also value some wriggle room in case the product isn’t what they expected and they need to make a return or find a replacement before Christmas Day.

And speaking of returns, offering flexibility on returns, such as an extended period, will help earn you favor among customers.

Black Friday 2016 looks set to be a hugely profitable period for online retailers, even more so than last year, which means it’s imperative that preparations begin now.

For more eCommerce tips and tricks stay tuned to our blog!

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