Black Friday Ecommerce: 15 Ideas, Tips & Strategies to 3X-10X Holiday Sales in 2019

Black Friday Ecommerce: 15 Ideas, Tips & Strategies to 3X-10X Holiday Sales in 2019

This post was originally published in September 2018 and has since been updated for readability and accuracy.

The countdown has started, but there’s still time to optimize your 2019 Black Friday ecommerce sales strategy.

We’re expecting another record-breaking year for holiday ecommerce sales. Online spending on Black Friday and Thanksgiving alone is projected to increase 25% YoY to $12.3 billion U.S.

Likewise, CNET reports that Cyber Monday was more successful than Black Friday in 2018. The online sales event brought in $7.9 billion US in sales—even higher than the record-setting Black Friday in 2018 that generated $6.2 billion US.

“Modern shoppers tend to prefer online shopping, and while the deals themselves might not be quite as good on Cyber Monday as on Black Friday, the former tends to drive more actual revenue for sellers,” explains Rick Broida for CNET. 

Are your team and website ready for the boost in traffic and transactions on all these upcoming dates?

To help you refine your plan, we’ve identified 15 Black Friday ecommerce tips to save you time and convert more customers in 2019:

  1. Most successful Black Friday campaigns
  2. Create a master plan for Black November
  3. Fine-tune your Black Friday marketing tactics
  4. Take site performance off the table
  5. Optimize for mobile-first buying
  6. Improve your site navigation
  7. Simplify the checkout experience
  8. Rescue abandoned carts by any means necessary
  9. Launch more campaigns, faster
  10. Automate front and backend productivity
  11. Invest in post-Black Friday loyalty
  12. Prepare a Black Friday shipping and returns plan
  13. Have a contingency plan for trouble
  14. Go IRL with pop-up shops
  15. Use Amazon as an additional holiday sales channel

1. Most successful Black Friday campaigns

“You can’t go into Black Friday and put 15% off, 20% off and expect to do well. Everything comes down to your offer—it’s the one time out of the year you can lower your prices without feeling like you’re losing brand integrity,” says Chase Fisher, founder, and CEO of Blenders Eyewear. “Make sure your offer is compelling, no matter what.” 

Blenders has been known to go deep on its Black Friday offers, with 55% off on all sunglasses sales. In past Cyber Mondays, the ecommerce team has even marked down snow goggles by 40%. That’s why the company boasted sales surges of up to 10 times that of its previous year’s Black Friday Cyber Monday performance.

According to Numerator, discounts were even deeper for all retailers in 2018—across all product categories—averaging 49.6% off versus 45.5% in 2017. Since your competitors will also be going deep, be sure to factor that into 2019 your strategy, using the averages below as a guide.

Largest increase in Black Friday discount

But instead of discounting your entire store, Greg Zakowicz, Sr. Commerce Marketing Analyst at Bronto, recommends taking a page from Blenders Eyewear and offering category-specific sales.

“The challenge for retailers is that as sales start earlier and earlier, it puts increased pressure on them to deliver the discounts they have trained their customers to expect,” says Zakowicz. 

Using category-specific sales accomplishes several things: 

  • Generates incremental sales with higher margins 
  • Engages email subscribers and visitors for longer
  • Helps you better manage your inventory, ordering, and future promotions 

Go all-in on VIP customers

Don’t be afraid to go even bigger with discounts and offers to your best customers. The email below, offering 70% off a hair densifying collection, was one of several offers sent to the VIP customer segment of MONAT beauty brand’s 2018 Black Friday sales event:

VIP discount

According to a benchmark report by Klaviyo, highly segmented VIP emails often only make up just 3–5% of your overall list but spend three times more per recipient than other customers in your database.

Your discount strategy should also be part of an overall master plan leading up to Black Friday. Let’s review what should go into that plan.

2. Create a master plan for Black November

Many retailers begin promoting their sales a month or so before Black Friday. So, you’ll need to pace your promotions throughout what is now referred to as “Black November.”

Here are a few key dates to include in your calendar:

  • Single’s Day (China’s biggest shopping day of the year): November 11
  • Thanksgiving Day: November 28
  • Black Friday: November 29
  • Cyber Monday: December 2

Those key dates are critical if you have both a North American and Chinese customer base. Keep in mind:

  • Black Friday may be known as the biggest day for discounts, but you should begin your promotions much earlier because Many retailers start “leaking deals” through advertising in late October and early November, then nurture through email and social media to drive sales

To maximize your sales potential throughout the holiday season, review our global retail calendar.

Your sales plan can never be too detailed. This whiteboard screenshot illustrates how meticulously the Blenders team plans its Black Friday promotions:

Black Friday planning whiteboard

Your plan should include similar tactics as the strategy above:

  • A Black Friday buzz-building campaign that includes a countdown, deals, and specials using ads, email, and social leading up to the event.
  • Sneak peeks on door crashers and other amazing sales that will go live during the weeks leading up to and on Black Friday
  • A coordinated promotional strategy across all online channels—websites, emails, and social—to maximize sales on the day of your sales
  • An influencer and micro-influencer engagement strategy to boost word of mouth about special offers
  • Post-Cyber Monday deals (e.g., extended sale offers) for last-minute shoppers emphasizing shipping dates and gift wrapping throughout December

Next, let’s look at how to integrate your sales and marketing strategy throughout Black November.

3. Fine-tune your Black Friday ecommerce marketing tactics

Start advertising early

According to Numerator, “Black Friday and holiday-themed advertising declined from last year between October 1 and November 22. Retailers spent an estimated 16% less on broadcast, digital, and mobile ad campaigns surrounding their Black Friday and general holiday shopping events.” Yet, Numerator also reported ad spending was up 8% year-over-year overall. 

Numerator explains that this shift is happening partly because consumers now shop year-round for holiday gifts, thanks to new events like Amazon Prime Day in July. “This new reality may have retailers reconsidering their level of investment in holiday-themed advertising, specifically in October and early November,” says Kristen Lucas on the Numerator blog.

The other reason they cite is “shopper exhaustion” with Black Friday ad messaging. Numerator explains that consumers have been inundated with these promotions for over ten years, and are “well aware of Black Friday sales.”

However, it doesn’t mean you should stop advertising completely. Nick Winkler highlights holiday advertising trends and how to maximize your ROI in his post: Win the Ecommerce Holidays with a Strong Customer Acquisition Strategy.

Nick’s top tips include:

  • Buy traffic early (before costs begin to soar) to build social audiences
  • Remain top of mind by remarketing frequently
  • Narrow your AdWords ads to high purchase intent keywords, like “buy [blank product]” or “best deal on [blank product]”

Additionally, consider how to capitalize on your growing social audience as part of your integrated Black November plan.

Build anticipation through social media

Leading up to Black Friday and Cyber Monday, you can make an emotional connection with customers using inspiring imagery and highlighting positive testimonials on social platforms. 

Ten days away from Black Friday, Blenders shared an Instagram giveaway. Two days before the giveaway, they built hype around “the biggest Black Friday Sale. EVER.” using #blackfriday.

Simultaneously, Blenders was building buzz on Facebook and hinting at the “INSANE” size of the upcoming sale.

Then, when Black Friday hits, use email marketing to drive immediate results.

Segment your emails before and during Black Friday

Email is still a staple of Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales. “The more segmented and targeted your emails, the higher revenue per recipient you’ll generate. You’ll also see higher open rates, and higher click through rates—helping you build and maintain a strong sender reputation,” says Alicia Thomas from Klaviyo.

When Thomas evaluated the campaign performance of a smaller, more targeted group of contacts (between 1-25% of the master list), she noted the open rates were around 18.29%. Another campaign, sent to the other 75% of the master list, achieved a lower open rate, around 12.93%. The more targeted segment also saw revenue per recipient at $0.17 versus $0.11 for the less targeted send.

Thomas outlines 10 email segments you can use to increase sales over Black Friday and Cyber Monday:

  1. Seasonal Shoppers
  2. Recent Openers
  3. VIP Customers
  4. Product Browsers
  5. Category Buyers
  6. Hasn’t Purchased (but is engaged)
  7. Email Ignorers
  8. Almost Purchasers
  9. Geographic Targets
  10. Gift Givers

For the Recent Openers, Browsers, Ignorers, Hasn’t Purchased or Almost Purchased segments, it’s vital to tailor offers to push them to the checkout—or at least to open your email.

For the Almost Purchasers segment, Ivory Ella sent an email out to only those customers who had received their morning email but had not opened it or placed an order that day. 

For Email Ignorers, try enticing them with free shipping or a complimentary gift with purchase. Ursa Major of VT sent a “free shipping plus a free bar of soap” offer at 7 p.m. the day after Black Friday to convert subscribers who didn’t open an email on the day of the sale.

All of these tactics focus on driving incremental traffic and sales on Black Friday. But can your site handle the surge?

4. Take site performance off the table

The potential to lose or gain millions in sales on Black Friday can hinge on your ecommerce platform’s reliability.

Despite SweetLeg’s best efforts to make its ecommerce site bulletproof, spending thousands extra each month on better servers, a Black Friday crash cost the company six-figures in lost sales. “There was just an error page: Try back again later,’” says Chris Pafiolis, founder of SweetLegs. “Too many requests. Too many people. It just choked.”

 

After replatforming in just 30 days, SweetLegs had its best Black Friday and Cyber Monday ever. The company launched a 50% off promotion for the duration of the sale, and the site stayed up the entire time.

 

Whether or not you need to replatform right now, it’s good to have a backup strategy. Install an uptime monitor like Uptime Robot or Pingdom to notify you when your website experiences downtime. That way, you can react quickly or immediately lean on your platform support team.

Site crashes are a huge turn-off, but a slow loading site can be equally irritating for customers.

Increase your site speed

Every second a page loads, the worse a site’s bounce rate gets, as reported by Google’s mobile page speed study. Therefore, slower ecommerce sites will lose Black Friday customers to a faster competitor’s site.

On the other hand, web performance expert Tammy Everts discovered through a client experiment that a two-second page speed decrease could boost your conversions by 66%

To improve your Black Friday ecommerce site speed and performance, review our optimization tips for Shopify Plus ecommerce sites

Additionally, PageSpeed Insights is a Google Labs tool that personalizes suggestions to improve your site performance and speed. It calls out elements, like CSS and JavaScript, that can slow down your site.

Using Google’s Test My Site tool, you can even calculate how fast site speeds can increase your mobile conversion rates. Mobile users are impatient and rank
slow pages as their number one annoyance online, ahead of site crashes.

5. Optimize for mobile-first buying

U.S. consumers now spend more time on their mobile phones than watching TV. If your mobile site experience isn’t up to par with your competitors, they’ll be spending that time elsewhere.

While most customers still check out on their desktop and use mobile to browse, last year during Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Shopify merchants saw mobile transactions account for 66% of all sales, compared to 39% for the rest of the U.S. industry.

You can boost your likelihood for mobile shopping success by improving your site navigation, website speed, and offering one-click purchases to mobile-first customers, according to Fluent’s Devices and Demographics report

Keep in mind, “responsive design is not mobile optimization.” Shanelle Mullin explained in ConversionXL. “Though responsive design is much better than having to ‘pinch-and-zoom,’ it isn’t an optimized experience for mobile visitors,” says Talia Wolf, who was quoted in Shanelle’s post. “At its core, responsive design makes the desktop experience look good on mobile, but it doesn’t address the specific needs of mobile visitors.”

Inflow’s Best-In-Class Ecommerce Mobile Report offers best practices, including a downloadable matrix of how top ecommerce brands measure up across mobile design and optimization criteria.

With your mobile site optimized, consider ways to improve your mobile sales promotions.

Personalize promotions based on a user’s device

Average conversion rates on a mobile phone (0.55%)are still significantly lower than those on a desktop (2.06%) today. And while many merchants are increasing those rates by optimizing their mobile site experience, you can also boost sales with personalized offers. 

Epsilon Marketing found that “80% of consumers are more likely to do business with a company that offers personalized experiences.”

Tailoring offers to a customer’s mobile device is a good strategy. By detecting their device type, your offer can dynamically adapt to reflect the value of items in their cart—relative to your site’s free-shipping threshold.

For example, your first message could display: “FREE SHIPPING to TORONTO with a $50 purchase.” then, when a user adds a $25 product to their cart, it’ll change to “YOU’RE $25 AWAY FROM FREE SHIPPING” to encourage users to buy more.

Dynamic Yield reported that iOS users for a large outdoor retailer’s site spent about $110 on average on Black Friday. Meanwhile, Android shoppers had an average order value of around $85.

For device targeting, Dynamic Yield suggests using a page curl notification to display a 20% off coupon for orders larger than $100 for Android users. That same 20% off promotion could be applied to more expensive items for iOS users.

Make sure your mobile site navigation is optimized to help users easily browse on all devices, as well.

6. Improve your website’s navigation

Improving your on-site search functionality will help customers to navigate your site quickly to find holiday gifts. Likewise, 80% of visitors will abandon a site because of a poor on-site search experience.

Before the holiday rush, find a predictive search tool that offers:

  • Real-time analytics: To help you understand trends and performance with unlimited real-time analysis.
  • Instant, accurate search results: To retain customers who are almost twice as likely to convert when using site search.
  • Storefront customization flexibility: To use search as an extension of your brand by controlling overall search styling.

International Military Antiques (IMA)’s catalog of 7,500 products has unique attributes such as type, time period, and nationality. Some products need to be listed under multiple names and descriptions. That’s why on-site search used to be a significant challenge for the merchant.

After installing InstantSearch+, IMA created detailed rules that fit its shoppers’ behavior and requirements, so customers could more easily find what they wanted to buy.

IMA’s integration with InstantSearch+ boosted conversion rates from visitors who use IMA’s custom search engine by seven times higher than those who browse.

Shopify Plus users can also add predictive search to their theme using the Ajax API.

Mimic offsite platforms on-site

MVMT Watches features an Instagram gallery—powered by Foursixty—embedded at the bottom of its site to help mobile users quickly browse its product line. It also encourages customers to visit their Instagram and see social proof that customers love MVMT products.

Users can also click and scroll through MVMT’s latest Instagram posts, view more images and pricing, and click on a single “Add to Cart” button—without ever leaving the site.

Additionally, MVMT leverages a host of traditionally offsite multi-channel and mobile-first elements like:

  • Full-screen product images
  • User-generated content and reviews
  • Additional “Styled on Instagram” visuals

All of these elements help to speed up the browsing and conversion experience. You can take that experience one step further by streamlining the checkout process.

7. Simplify the checkout experience

CNBC reports that consumers spend $5,400 a year on impulse purchases. While food was identified as their biggest splurge, 53% claim to spend it on clothing, 33% also bought household items, and 28% bought shoes.

To boost impulse purchases on Black Friday, reduce the on-site barriers to buy. ‘One-click’ buying enables customers to purchase items with a single click, with the customer’s payment information stored in a secure mobile wallet. Businesses can enable one-click purchases by offering these options on-site:

  1. Shopify Pay
  2. Apple Pay
  3. Android Pay
  4. PayPal

You can also add dynamic checkout buttons to increase mobile transactions.Once a customer has selected their preferred payment method, Shopify’s backend remembers their choice and automatically presents that payment button on all future visits. 

Likewise, you can speed up the checkout process by displaying those buttons directly on product pages—giving customers the option to buy immediately or add the item to their cart.

Kill the coupons and codes

Coupons and special Black Friday codes will be everywhere this year. However, they can be a hassle for customers who might use the wrong code, or forget the code and abandon their checkout.

Customizing seasonal promotions on your ecommerce site can be easier with the help of Shopify Scripts. Using the Script Editor app, you can create scripts that run each time a customer adds items to their cart. These scripts can have many uses, from discounting products with specific tags to running promotions such as "buy 2, get 1 free," or a free gift with purchase.

Brooklinen’s Cyber Monday tiered strategy drove on-site conversions and increased average order values through spending thresholds:

Thanks to a custom Script, customers saw an overlay appear over their screen, offering a free gift choice as soon as their cart exceeded the first threshold of $150.

It’s a strategy called “optimizing closest to the money”. Using Shopify Scripts, merchants can customize their checkout experience to (1) reduce shopping-cart abandonment, and (2) increase average order value.

Shopify Plus merchants can also reduce checkout friction using automatic discounts. You can create and automatically apply discounts to a customer’s cart, without a discount code. It offers fast, flexible promotions using fixed, percentage, or buy-X-get-Y discounts to streamline the checkout process.

Using automatic discounts on Black Friday, you can:

  • Boost conversions: Discounts will be automatically shown at cart and checkout.
  • Have more flexibility with promotions: Customize discounts by adding a minimum purchase amount or quantity of items. Set conditions to only apply the discount to specific collections or products.
  • A/B test automatic discounts: Use A/B testing to identify the best automatic discount thresholds to boost sales and conversion rates. Then create a more complex, personalized experience with Shopify Scripts.

As part of the checkout streamlining process, you’ll need a plan to recover abandoned carts.

8. Rescue abandoned carts by any means necessary

Shopping cart abandonment is still high in online retail, an astonishing 75% worldwide, according to Statista

While many retailers still use email marketing to rescue abandoned carts, new automation solutions are becoming more important for millennials

For example, Pura Vida Bracelets uses ShopMessage for automation through Facebook Messenger. ShopMessage helps you:

  • Recover abandoned carts
  • Build a Messenger subscriber base
  • Trigger personalized conversations by onsite behavior

If a customer views a product on the Pura Vida website but doesn’t buy right away, the company can automatically offer a discount using ShopMessage.

It takes one click for customers to return to the checkout and see their cart reconstructed, with the discount automatically applied.

ShopMessage has helped Pura Vida to generate:

  • A 26% clickthrough rate
  • Over 400,000 sent messages
  • A 10% lift to top-line revenue from subscribers logged into Facebook

Additionally, Pura Vida uses Retention Rocket to rescue abandoned carts and automate marketing through SMS—sending an average of 987 messages a day with a conversion rate of 14.6%.

You can also use automation to streamline your Black Friday sales events and save your team some sleep and stress.

9. Launch more campaigns, faster

Since Black Friday is a significant source of revenue for most ecommerce teams, it can also be a big source of stress.

Socks For Living uses ecommerce automation to easily schedule, execute, and monitor events such as sales, product releases, inventory restocks, and content changes. The team uses Launchpad to automatically roll out and roll back discounts, theme changes, and products. That means their team doesn’t have to stay up late to post or take down a new sale. 

And they’re able to perform at a level they couldn’t achieve on their own. Over Black Friday and Cyber Monday 2018, the company had a 321% boost year-over-year (YoY) in sales thanks to email marketing efforts, which were directly supported by ecommerce automation

Launchpad’s real-time monitoring tool helped Socks For Living streamline which offers it promoted through email—and to whom—to prevent any awkward overlap. If one customer received an offer to buy a product for $15, they wouldn’t get an offer to buy that same product for $12 later on.

“We had the best Black Friday Cyber Monday that we’ve had on record,” says Josh Charlesworth, co-founder of Socks For Living. “Now, we’ve got bigger plans as to how to leverage Launchpad moving forward.”

But why stop with sales when you can boost productivity by streamlining and automating internal workflows?

10. Automate front- and back-end productivity

Ecommerce automation tools like Shopify Flow let you automate nearly any customer-facing or back-office process you can imagine. You can also store and execute triggers, conditions, and actions you specify, without any coding.

Merchants can, therefore, automate business tasks for Black Friday and Cyber Monday, such as:

  • Customer service
  • Fraud prevention
  • Design and development requests
  • Merchandising
  • Marketing and advertising 
  • Managing inventory

Velour Lashes and its agency used automation for its Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales. One of its past 12 Days of Christmas sales events involved an offer to double loyalty points through Loyalty Lion. The workflow example below demonstrates how the team tagged and tracked loyal customers based on different spend thresholds.

You don’t have to spend time guessing which workflows would work best for your site or create them from scratch, either.

Shopify Flow offers a library of pre-made workflow templates that you can use to automate multiple business processes. For example, you can send browser push notifications after a customer makes a second-order, create support tickets after a negative customer review, and send a win-back email to “at-risk” customers. All Flow templates can be customized on your own in ten seconds or less.

Since automation works so well with loyalty programs, let’s look at other ways to turn Black Friday into a loyalty-boosting opportunity.

11. Invest in post-Black Friday loyalty

Customers who redeem loyalty rewards spend twice as much as those who don’t. That’s because the psychology of a loyalty program email is completely different than promotional emails: 

  • Loyalty emails include rewards that your customers have worked to earn, so they don’t want to lose those points
  • They’re one of the few emails your customers receive that is 100% personalized 

LoyaltyLion integrates with a number of email service providers (ESPs)—like Dotmailer, Klaviyo, Bronto, and HubSpot. So you can automatically enhance customer emails with loyalty information, such as point totals.

And emails sent through LoyaltyLion, like this one, perform considerably better than the industry average—with a 35% CTR—generating 3% of a retailer’s annual revenue

Don’t forget to promote rewards in the customer’s cart, as well.

Integrate in-cart rewards during checkout 

Enabling customers to claim loyalty rewards directly from their cart with one click helps to grow average order values. Using LoyaltyLion’s In-Cart Rewards and Instant Points, Dr. Axe increased:

  • Average order values (AOV) by 36%
  • Purchase frequency by 100% compared to non-members

Additionally, luxury hoodie brand Evy’s Tree uses Shopify Scripts to offer a variety of automated discounts and to repackage its pricing and merchandise at the cart level. The company enhances customer experiences by:

  • Creating Scripts to calculate and apply discounts in real-time at checkout automatically
  • Pairing Scripts up with Sweet Tooth Rewards, which helps merchants earn loyalty through the Shopify Plus platform

After integrating rewards and automated discounts at checkout, Evy’s Tree’s retention rate is over 50%.

A loyalty program can also help bring customers back in the New Year.

Give them a reason to come back

There are a variety of tactics you can use to reduce post-holiday seasonal slumps. 

You can double or triple the points a customer earns for a site visit during your January sales:

Or offer your loyalty program members exclusive gifts when they make a purchase in January or February:

Finally, you can offer gift cards, with a purchase over a certain threshold, to encourage return visits after the holidays. And according to Gift Card Granny, 65% of gift card holders spend an extra 38% beyond the value of the card.

12. Prepare a Black Friday shipping and returns plan

According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), “61% of shoppers plan to buy their last gift in the week leading up to December 25.” To capitalize on this opportunity, ecommerce merchants need to have a solid last-minute shipping plan.

Here are two key dates to keep in mind:

December 9: Green Monday

The concept of “Green Monday” was developed by eBay in 2007. It refers to the Monday that’s at least ten days before Christmas. Holiday shoppers are in full swing on this day which makes it a critical time to increase your marketing efforts.

December 13: Free Shipping Day

During Free Shipping Day, ecommerce stores often provide free shipping on all items and guarantee delivery by Christmas Eve. If your store participates this year, be sure to set shipping expectations upfront with customers.

You can use one of several Shopify apps to show whether products in a customer’s cart are eligible to ship within a quick time frame. If the products won’t arrive in time, identify them in the cart as shipping separately. You can warn them on the product page, as well.

For more last-minute shipping ideas, read our post on holiday shipping and fulfillment strategies. You can also check out Shopify’s Global Retail Calendar for all the important holiday shopping dates.

Transform returns into retention

Impulse purchases are far too common during the frenzy of Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals, as are cancellation and return requests. You’ll lose customers if you punish them with a complicated return policy or poor experience.

According to Return Magic:

  • 58% of shoppers mentioned that adding return friction with extra email or phone communication results in a negative return experience
  • 80% of consumers expect free returns, while only 25% of retailers offer free returns
  • 72% of consumers said they would spend more and buy more often with merchants that make the return experience simple
  • 89% of repeat customers who had a good return experience are likely to buy again

That’s why it’s crucial to display a clear return policy to earn your customers’ trust. 

With Return Magic, you can automatically generate labels, refunds, and emails to save time and enhance your customers’ shopping experience. You can also customize your portal to look and feel like your website. Likewise, create specific Black Friday policies for final sale and discounted items.

13. Have a contingency plan for trouble

Recurring issues can have a serious impact on your fourth-quarter earnings. The following steps will help you troubleshoot any unexpected problems.

See if you can replicate the issue 

Perhaps someone is having trouble loading the payment information page to add a credit card. Determine what device are they using, in which browser and version?

Get screenshots to help your team replicate, or reverse-engineer the problem someone’s having. It might be affecting other customers, as well. You’ll also have to filter out “local” issues that may not be caused by your site or servers. 

Determine if this is an isolated event

Shopify’s Status Page can help you determine if this is an isolated event or system-wide issue. Engineers are performing 24/7 monitoring and will update any unusual problems within minutes of them occurring.

Check your third-party apps, themes, and plugins

A rule of thumb is to always test new apps and themes on your “backup” or staging development store, first. Then replicate the exact working conditions as your live production site should be able to spot problems on the backup version before pushing the problematic app combination to the site your visitors are hitting.

Lean on Shopify Plus’ priority support

They can also help you test drive these settings. Connect through email, chat, or phone by heading over to Settings > Account page.

Use the Live Chat option in your Shopify Plus admin 

Use the Shopify Plus Troubleshooting Guide

The Shopify Plus Academy team has developed a support cheat sheet to help you sequentially resolve any issues at hand.

Don’t forget to plan for stockouts

You don’t want to wake up the day after Black Friday or Cyber Monday, having sold out all of your inventory with no backup plan. That’s precisely what happened to Brute Force, and the company had nothing left to sell for the rest of the holiday season.

Here are a few ways to avoid this situation:

Monitor inventory levels

Your ecommerce platform tools should let you set up tracking to monitor your inventory levels during Black Friday. Look for seasonal trends in your inventory history to prevent stockouts.

If you’re planning a pop-up event during the holidays, or are moving inventory into additional warehouses or spaces:

Save time by combining inventory levels with automation tools to replenish products.

Set up inventory management workflows

Shopify Flow can be integrated with the inventory monitoring tools I just mentioned. It automates most customer-facing or back-office processes, without any coding.

You can automate business tasks for Black Friday and Cyber Monday, such as:

  • Customer service
  • Fraud prevention
  • Design and development requests
  • Merchandising
  • Marketing and advertising
  • Managing inventory

A workflow like this one can send you a Slack message when your inventory levels dip below 10 items:

All of the tips we’ve shared so far relate to driving immediate sales on your site. But what about multi-channel sales strategies?

14. Go IRL with pop-up shops

While online sales soared last Black Friday and Cyber Monday, customers still spent billions at physical retail stores, even with slower year-over-year growth. Ecommerce businesses can use pop-up shops to engage with and sell to customers in a retail setting during the holidays.

Tom McGee, president and CEO of ICSC, explains, “The convergence of physical and digital continues to be important as consumers have come to expect an integrated experience allowing them to buy products through a variety of channels…omnichannel retailers are the real winners this season.” 

That’s why Google created Google Local Inventory Ads to help shoppers find product availability at stores nearby. You can also use them to drive local customers to your pop-up.

Likewise, pop-up shops are an excellent channel for acquiring new customers. Katherine Hill, Director of Offline at BaubleBar, explained to Retail TouchPoints: “We see about half of the people who walk into our pop-up shops have never heard of our brand before…It’s a very strong customer acquisition channel for us.”

Finally, pop-up shops help customers discover unique and affordable gifts. According to a poll by PopUp Republic (reported by VMSD), 61% of people said the top reason to visit a pop-up store was to “find seasonal products.” Other key reasons were to find new and unique products, to shop locally, and to benefit from great prices.

You can get creative with pop-up stores and events by using emerging technology like augmented reality to drive immediate sales. Nike’s Jordan Brand did this exceptionally well with the launch of its Tinker III sneaker, using 3D video to build excitement around the new shoes.

You can soon bring those immersive offline shopping experiences on-site as well. Shopify Plus merchants can now upload video or 3D models directly to products in your Shopify admin. This new feature allows them to store and edit all their assets in one place, using new editor apps. And your customers can view videos and 3D models natively in their browser.

15. Use Amazon as an additional holiday sales channel

Roughly half of all product searches now start on Amazon, according to a recent Mary Meeker Report. Likewise, Tinuiti’s holiday shopping survey revealed that Amazon now “outranks all other online gift sources” when customers begin their holiday shopping. The digital marketing agency says visibility on Amazon during the holiday shopping season is now “a must,” along with investments in Google’s paid shopping and search advertising platforms.

When shopping for the holidays, where do you begin to search for gifts?

However, it’s tough to stand out in a sea of Amazon products. That’s why it’s important to allocate some of your advertising budget to Amazon Advertising, which offers sellers valuable tools like:

  • Amazon Search for product searches
  • Amazon Ad Platform for static and video assets
  • Amazon Media Group for higher-end managed services

Of course, many retailers have reservations about working with the ecommerce giant. In fact, 61% of sellers fear Amazon will take away their seller privileges at some point, and 43% are concerned about negative customer feedback.

But if you think of Black Friday as the Super Bowl of online shopping, then buying ads and listing products on Amazon will help boost awareness for emerging brands. And you can use that exposure to attract satisfied customers to your site long-term.

“We realized it is hard for people to have faith in a new brand, especially for something as sensitive as footwear. We really liked the idea of Amazon being able to list our products side by side the bigger legacy brands. That helped validate our product,” says Nolan Walsh, co-founder at Thursday Boots.

The footwear brand only lists its best-selling items on Amazon. It then entices repeat business by selling new product launches exclusively on the Thursday Boots site. More Amazon promotional ideas can be found in our post which outlines the multi-channel sales benefits of working with Amazon and eBay.

Ready or not, Black Friday ecommerce is coming 

Is your ecommerce site ready for the biggest retail event of the year? While online holiday sales are expected to climb in 2019, there’s no guarantee that your site will reap the benefits.

You need a Black Friday strategy that takes everything into consideration—from mobile site speed and performance to integrated online and offline promotions, to shipping and contingency plans for unexpected issues and stockouts.

For more insights on how to maximize sales in the coming weeks, download our Holiday Pre-Season Playbook. We wish you a very successful Black November and we’re here to answer any questions you have leading up to the main event. 

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About the Author

Andrea Wahbe is a freelance B2B marketing strategist and corporate storyteller who writes about Canadian SMEs, marketing, and digital media trends. Follow her on Twitter.

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