My first day at Shopify was November 21. As seasoned veterans of ecommerce will know, that means I plunged into the office mere days before the two most significant events of the year: Black Friday and Cyber Monday (BFCM).
While most of the Shopify team was focused on technical support for Shopify stores during Black Friday, a small group of us at The Stockroom—Shopify’s own ecommerce store for entrepreneurs—were feeling the excitement and pressure of merchants.
With little time to prepare, we decided to have a last minute sale on The Stockroom to try and capitalize on the 3x increase in online sales that the average merchant experiences on BFCM.
Choosing an Offer
To prepare for our BFCM sale, the first step was deciding what kind of discount we would offer. We had been brainstorming plenty of new product ideas for The Stockroom and realized this flash sale would be a great opportunity to move through our current inventory to make room for new merchandise in 2017.
We settled on a 25% off storewide discount since we believed it would help us sell through everything equally, without bombarding our customers with too many confusing discount offers.
To make our sale stand out, we decided to add a free gift to every customer’s order when they made purchases over a certain threshold. We decided to make the “Get Shit Done” Totebag a free gift for customers who spent more than $60. We had a lot of extra totebags in stock, and the product is relatively inexpensive to make.
We also decided to start our sale on Thursday instead of Black Friday, since our target market (entrepreneurs) might be busy managing their own sales during Black Friday.
Setting Up The Sale
To offer our customers a free totebag with every order over $60, we needed an app to automatically add the bag to their shopping cart once they reached that threshold.
Installing the app and setting up our offer was fairly straightforward. The Motivator App allows you to enter your minimum order value and customize the colors, font size, and language displayed to the customer.
Once we set up our goal, we did a little testing on our store and were very pleased with the results!
Creating a Marketing Plan
Now that our promotion was ready to go we thought about how to market our sale online. The Stockroom had an email list of around 8,000 contacts and a modest Instagram following of around 300 people, so we decided to use email and social as our primary marketing tool.
Our first step was creating images for our Instagram posts. I wanted the sale to have some recognizable branding across email and social. I chose to use light green text on a dark background in each of the photos for consistency.
Here are the three images I created for Instagram using Photoshop and Canva:
Although we had enough of a following to generate some sales, we really wanted to reach as many potential customers as possible.
We also posted our images on the Shopify Instagram page, and we created an Instagram story that had a direct link to shop our sale.
Here is the engagement we got on our Instagram posts:
Our Instagram Story Views and Clicks:
Once the social media images were created, it was pretty simple to repurpose them to create an email campaign in Mailchimp.
Here is a snippet from the first email we sent to our contacts:
Over the course of the weekend, we sent out four different emails to segments of varying sizes. Email turned out to be by far the most profitable marketing we did. Here are the results:
Date: November 24 Open Rate: 23.10% Click Rate: 1.60% Orders: 1 Sales: $163.50. Date: November 25 Open Rate: 26.80% Click Rate: 0.80% Orders:4 Sales: $298.54. Date: November 26 Open Rate: 32.30% Click Rate: 2.01% Orders: 35 Sales: $2868.37. Date: November 28 Open Rate: 20.20% Click Rate: 1.70% Orders: 5 Sales: $139.50
Black Friday coincided with a story on this blog about the origin of ecommerce. Luckily, there was space to promote the Stockroom sale.
This was super successful in driving traffic to The Stockroom. This post drove 508 sessions, 4 orders, and $431.62 in sales. The best part about this post is that it’s still on the blog, and might continue to bring in new customers.
The Last Minute Push
Over the weekend, we also put in work promoting our sale online. We used this list of last minute places to promote your sale in an attempt to drive organic traffic to our site.
I began by creating my own list of places I deemed relevant because I believed there would be either entrepreneurs (our target audience) or just people looking for a deal:
I created UTM parameters on each link to our store so I could measure how each post did in Google Analytics.
It wasn’t until I started trying to publish my promotional posts on Reddit that I ran into trouble. When it came to Reddit, I’d always been a passive participant—in other words, I was a long time lurker, but a first time poster.
Trying to post about my sale on each subreddit came with it’s own set of problems. For the most part, I didn’t have enough Karma. Karma is a score Reddit assigns to users based on participation in the platform like commenting and getting upvoted. You can grow your score by providing comments or links that get upvoted by other users.
Most of my comments either got deleted by the moderators or downvoted into obscurity.
I was feeling defeated but was determined, so I dug a little bit deeper into these threads.
I found two interesting posts on r/entrepreneur and r/productivity that looked inviting. Commenting on these existing posts also seemed a lot less daunting than starting my own thread, especially since they were soliciting information on deals that targeted my niche.
My promotion on these threads worked! Well, sort of. They worked to the point where they weren’t deleted, but they only generated 3 clicks.
Next, I moved to Facebook Groups. I felt much more confident on Facebook; I’ve participated in a lot of conversations in groups for Shopify merchants and ecommerce entrepreneurs. Most of the groups on my lists even had active threads where users could promote their sales.
I posted about my sale in 4 different groups. Here is the breakdown of how they did:
- Grow and sell: 27 clicks
- Ecommerce Entrepreneurs: 6 clicks
- Shopify Strategy: 1 click
- Shopify & Traffic Mastermind: 1 click
- T-Shirt & Apparel Masterminds - Entrepreneurs: 1 click
Although we didn’t get any direct sales from these clicks, our post in the Ecommerce Entrepreneurs group ended up getting us featured in an email sent from the group moderator who runs A Better Lemonade Stand. This resulted in 92 additional sessions and 1 sale for $163.50, which was a pleasant surprise I discovered in Google Analytics after the sale:
The Final Results
Our first Black Friday Cyber Monday weekend was a great learning experience for the Stockroom. We ended up doing over $15,000 in sales between Thursday and Monday.
Here is a daily breakdown of our traffic and sales on Shopify:
Although we benefited from the added reach provided by Shopify’s audience, I was concerned all weekend that most of our sales would only come from Shopify employees, or what you could consider “friends and family”.
At the end of the weekend I was surprised and delighted to see that only 50% of all sales came from people working at Shopify, and that we were able to make over $7k in sales from people we didn’t know. I felt a rush of relief knowing that our business was being validated from strangers and there was a wider demand for our products.
I definitely believe our BFCM sale would have benefited from more time to prepare. We only ended up emailing our past customers twice about the sale because of time constraints, when many savvy merchants email their customers each day and delve into advanced segmenting of their list to drive higher conversions on emails.
More time would also have allowed us to expand our promotional checklist to add more relevant Facebook Groups, and come up with a more strategic plan for Reddit.
If you are thinking about marketing on Reddit I suggest setting aside time to research each subreddits rules, and trying to contribute to the conversation instead of making your post a blatant ad.
Based on these results, I would definitely put more weight on content-driven campaigns like long form blog posts or starting a conversation on reddit rather than just advertising our discounted prices in the future.
Over to You
We’re curious to know how your BFCM sales went and which marketing tactics were most successful for you.
More importantly, what did you learn from your sale that you will use going forward?
P.S. If you’re just finding out about the Stockroom (Shopify’s own ecommerce store for entrepreneurs) and missed our BFCM sale, you can use SHOPIFYBLOG25 to get 25% off your first order.