Black Friday Cyber Monday: 10 Tips and Upcoming Trends From Industry Experts

Black Friday Cyber Monday: 10 Tips and Upcoming Trends From Industry Experts

Black Friday 2017 | Shopify Retail blogAs the summer draws to a close and we head into pumpkin spice season, retailers are already gearing up for one of the biggest shopping weekends of the year: Black Friday Cyber Monday.

To prepare you for a successful Black Friday 2017 (and its digital counterpart, Cyber Monday), we’ve talked to the experts and rounded up some of this year’s forecasted retail trends for the upcoming holiday season, along with our best tips and resources.

From the importance of a customer-centric approach to increased mobile sales to online and offline integration, here are the top 10 retail trends and tips for a successful Black Friday Cyber Monday 2017.

1. Black Friday Cyber Monday Isn’t Just for Big Players — So Start Early

If you’re unsure whether this shopping frenzy is a worthwhile opportunity for your business, just take a look at the numbers from last year. In 2016, U.S. and UK online retailers alike saw their traffic explode on Black Friday, with 220% more sessions than a normal day. And despite significant discounts, Black Friday sales totaled $3.34 billion spent online (a 21.6% increase year over year).

Cyber Monday sales in 2016 also smashed records, bringing in $3.25 billion and a 155% traffic boom to become the biggest day in the history of U.S. ecommerce.

These numbers do include the heavy hitters like Walmart and Amazon, but plenty of smaller businesses also benefited. In fact, Shopify merchants saw 3+% more orders than usual over BFCM weekend in 2016, and at its peak, the Shopify platform processed a whopping $555,716 in transactions in a single minute.

Joshua Uebergang, Head of Strategy at Shopify Partner Agency Digital Darts, stresses that Black Friday Cyber Monday 2017 is not only growing in the U.S. but internationally as well:

“While Black Friday is traditionally a U.S. sale, the international reach began when Canadians traveled South to take advantage of the sales. As more merchants serve international audiences and become aware of the yearly event, international customers will jump in on the bargain hunting online. I'm even working with Shopify stores that do not focus on the U.S. market, preparing for Black Friday sales.”

Additionally, research shows that more than 50% of holiday shoppers start researching gift ideas in October or earlier, so it’s important to plan ahead and start your holiday campaigns early.

BFCM WIN: Want to learn more tips on how to sell more this year during Black Friday Cyber Monday? Use our BFCM Toolbox to get set, get seen, and get selling this holiday season.

Starting early is actually becoming its own trend, as Scott Zakrajsek, Managing Partner at digital marketing and ecommerce agency Sproutward, notes:

“We’ve seen an ongoing trend with retailers jumping the gun on the Black Friday Cyber Monday weekend. Each year deals leak a little earlier. Sneak peeks hit inboxes a little sooner. Then a steady pulse of promotions, countdowns, and deals until the final days before Christmas. Savvy retailers know that acquiring customers early in the Holiday season can generate more opportunity for repeat purchases in the back half. Expect to see this continue and the Holiday chatter to kickoff in early November.”

How to Implement These Tactics

  • Make sure you have a plan (and system) in place for handling higher-volume traffic and orders over the BFCM weekend. If you’re an ecommerce seller, check out the Shopify BFCM Health Check to ensure your online store is ready for the spike n orders.
  • Participate in promotions and sales for Black Friday Cyber Monday 2017. Not sure where to start? Here are 10 tips to send high-converting sales emails and 5 unique ideas for BFCM promotions.
  • Check out this case study for Shopify’s The Stockroom, and learn how they made $15,192.17 in sales over the 2016 BFCM weekend. It’s full of great strategic and tactical ideas.

2. More Customers are Shopping Online and on Mobile Devices for Black Friday Cyber Monday Deals

Black Friday Cyber Monday mobile shopping | Shopify Retail blogAs more of us go online to shop, it’s no surprise to see that the classic Black Friday tradition of “lining up outside Walmart at 3 a.m.” has gone digital. Not only were online sales significantly up year over year in 2016, mobile devices accounted for a larger percentage of that traffic than ever before.

Because of this, mobile-friendly checkout options will play a significant role in helping companies benefit the most from BFCM traffic in 2017. Historically, mobile conversions have been significantly lower than desktop (compare an average conversion rate of 1.65% on mobile versus almost double that (3.6%) on desktop). This is partly because the mobile experience is an afterthought for many websites. In 2017, businesses that optimize for mobile conversions will come out on top.

Retailer Brandon Chopp, Digital Marketing Strategist for iHeartRaves.com, says that his team are preparing for Black Friday Cyber Monday 2017 by creating digital (online, social and mobile) strategies. He recommends that other businesses do the same to stay ahead:

"Our online strategy includes redesigning our websites with Black Friday landing pages and including Black Friday promotions and sales. Regarding social media, we like to run contests and promotions for all of our fans and followers. Social media and word of mouth can create incredible awareness. Lastly, our mobile strategy is crucial as about half of our sales come through mobile commerce. We have a dedicated mobile look, and we also have our own app, which makes it very easy for fans to view our content."

How to Implement These Tactics

  • Make sure you can support mobile checkout on your website. Here are 13 responsive Shopify themes to boost your mobile experience.
  • Make use of mobile-specific and mobile-friendly technology (push notifications from apps, text messages, click-to-call, one-click checkout) to encourage mobile conversions. Check out tools like LeadPages and LeadDigits to help deliver mobile marketing messages.
  • Consider a “virtual line” in lieu of the physical lineup — for instance, a special email list that your customers can sign up to and get an email as soon as the Black Friday Cyber Monday sale begins, with a one-click call to action that users can access via the email app on their phone. You can also try hosting a flash sale for loyal customers using a tool like Frenzy.
  • Offer a “click-and-collect” option for customers who want to skip the lines while still scoring a great Black Friday Cyber Monday deal.

3. Optimize for Instant Gratification

With companies like Amazon offering services like same-day delivery and one-click checkout, customers are starting to expect this level of convenience across the board.

Make sure that you keep an edge over your competitors by making it as easy as possible to buy from you — and for customers to receive what they order right away.

How to Implement This Tactic

  • Offer free delivery with no minimum purchase, or a free upgrade to next day delivery as an incentive to purchase more.
  • Offer a “‘click-and-collect”’ option with same day pickup.
  • Provide support for customers to check out in-store with a mobile wallet feature, or online via one-click checkout.

4. Integrate Your Marketing Channels (and Use Them All)

Black Friday Cyber Monday 2017 shopping | Shopify Retail blogIn 2016, retailers who invested in a strategy which combined mobile, email, and social marketing had an average of 30% higher sales over the Black Friday Cyber Monday weekend than businesses which focused on just one or two channels.

It’s not just about the number of channels, though — it’s about tapping into your audience where they are, and actively pursuing their business. You’ve built up your audience on all these platforms: social, email, your app, search. By integrating these channels with your strategy, you ensure consistent messaging and remind people to buy from you. After all, research suggests that it takes at least three repetitions of a marketing message before a target will buy (and some say it’s as high as 20 times).

How to Implement This Tactic

  • Make use of existing audiences to share your message.
  • Incentivize existing customers to share with friends and family using promos and offers.
  • Ensure that all marketing channels are unified in sharing your primary message and that you have an integrated strategy for getting the message out to your customers.
  • Make use of mobile advertising, social, and email campaigns in the run-up to Black Friday 2017.
  • If you want some ideas for email campaigns, check out these 8 templates.

5. Personalizing the Experience Based on User Behavior

Data from past years shows that new users will often spend as much as 50% more money per person over the Black Friday Cyber Monday weekend, compared with returning users. However, they also tend to be more difficult to convert (3% conversion rate versus a typical rate of 7%). This may be because their motivation to buy is based on a sale price rather than brand loyalty.

Consider how you can target your BFCM 2017 strategy to each of these different types of users. For existing customers, try offering them personalized incentives to spend more such as exclusive “loyal customer” discounts or personalized sales recommendations.

For new customers, you’ll need to identify opportunities to re-engage them as customers once the Black Friday 2017 rush is over.

BFCM isn’t just a single high-revenue weekend; it’s an opportunity to build a sales funnel for your products which can carry customers into your marketing campaigns for the next 12 months. Don’t lose sight of the lifetime value of your customers in the Black Friday Cyber Monday 2017 whirlwind!

On the topic of expanding the reach of your BFCM campaigns, Brian Lim, founder and CEO of iHeartRaves, suggests taking it a step further, with the concept of “Black November” (running Black Friday style sales throughout the month). He notes:

“Sales don't start on Black Friday anymore as most companies start earlier to try to top each other. Spreading sales throughout the month versus over a few days helps with order fulfillment and customer service tremendously.”

How to Implement This Tactic

  • Ensure that your content educates new users to understand the value you offer as soon as they land on your site or enter your sales funnel. For instance, a welcome message, curated landing pages, and/or putting your unique selling proposition front and center can help nudge those unfamiliar with your brand to make a purchase.
  • Offer special incentives to purchase during this sale period, such as free shipping for first-time customers.
  • Segment your customers into different email lists based on whether they make their first purchase during the BFCM weekend. Create a customized email activation campaign based on converting these discount-focused first-time customers to returning users.
  • If you want more ideas on how to re-engage first-time shoppers, read up on how to turn seasonal one-time shoppers into lifetime customers.

6. Integrate Online and Offline Experiences

Black Friday Cyber Monday gifts | Shopify Retail blogAs the customer journey moves increasingly online, and as more shoppers engage in a multi-channel process before purchasing, it becomes more and more important to integrate the offline, brick-and-mortar retail experience with the digital world.

Utilizing new technologies like mobile wallet payments, beacons, and smart shelves can provide a richer customer experience and potentially drive more foot traffic to your physical location(s). Offering options like click and collect (order online, pickup in-store) integrates online and offline shopping and allows customers to receive their purchase right away without waiting in long lines or arriving to find the item out of stock.

Shoppers want options that save them time and money — a good criteria for judging whether or not a technology or feature is worthwhile. Ensuring a seamless transition between channels, and between the online and offline experience of your store is essential.

As Caroline Klatt, CEO and co-founder of Headliner Labs, points out:

“There are no physical limits to online shopping. Too full from turkey dinner? Not ready to battle the crowds? You don't have to when you can take advantage of all the deals from the comfort of your couch. The physical retail experience is important to customers, but ultimately retailers have to meet their customers wherever they are — in store, online, on mobile — and deliver a great experience across channels.”

How to Implement These Tactics

  • Ensure a smooth user transition between channels and between the offline and online experience, through coherent branding, messaging, and personalization.
  • Keep users logged in across devices and platforms as much as possible, and personalize their experience across the board.
  • Provide in-person and online personalization for customers who are part of your loyalty programs. Something as simple as a special Black Friday 2017 gift offer for loyal customers goes a long way to engage them for the long term.

7. Focus on the Customer Experience

Black Friday Cyber Monday customer experience | Shopify Retail blogAs technology drives greater innovation and access to new products, the differentiator becomes all about the customer’s experience with the brand. Black Friday 2017 and similar seasonal shopping events offer a unique opportunity to showcase your business’s unique selling proposition for new customers. (Conversely, a poor customer experience during a first-time visit to your store or website will cost you potential lifetime customers).

How to Implement These Tactics

  • Include the desired customer experience (online and offline) as part of your planning for BFCM 2017.
  • Make sure that all your messaging and visuals remain consistent across channels and in-store.
  • Consider bringing in additional customer service resources like temporary staff to support a higher volume of customer interactions.

8. Treat Black Friday 2017 Like a Product Launch

With all the noise around sales, discounts, and offers during the BFCM weekend, and more companies (and countries) joining in every year, it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle.

But if you treat it like a product launch and build excitement around your offerings in the days and weeks leading up to the sales, your customers will be more likely to remember why they wanted to buy from you.

Kimberly Marek, Chief Creative Officer at 7 Charming Sisters, notes that this extends to opening earlier access to deals and offers:

“Each year we see online retailers begin deals earlier and earlier. This trend is expected to continue in 2017. The best thing online retailers can do is promote your deals and promotions weeks before Black Friday. Offer them a sneak peek at what’s to come. Savvy retailers will open purchase access to these deals on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving (or earlier). We are seeing the holiday shopping season start earlier every year and online marketplaces will need to catch up with big box store trends if they want to remain competitive.”

How to Implement These Tactics

  • Have a separate email list and campaign for people who want to be the first to hear about Black Friday 2017 offers and sales, and offer them a head start on being able to take advantage of your BFCM discounts.
  • Create a social campaign around your BFCM promotion, and encourage customers to post about what they purchased.
  • Get people to opt-in to mobile notifications and send them a text when the products they want go on sale (with one-click checkout).
  • Generate some excitement around the launch of your BFCM offers with a countdown clock on your landing pages. Try Powr’s Countdown Timer, available in the Shopify App Store.

9. For Local Businesses, Leverage Community for Small Business Saturday

Campaigns like #SmallBusinessSaturday (the day after Black Friday) are all about leveraging local communities and in-person experiences to create a national movement. And it’s been very effective to date — last year, a record 112 million shoppers participated in this American Express-led community initiative.

While this campaign is specific to the BFCM weekend, it’s a great reminder of the power of community in building up local businesses year-round.

How to Implement These Tactics

10. Take a Deep Breath (and Don't Stress Too Much)

It can be easy to feel the pressure to do everything for a big event like Black Friday 2017. But don’t let yourself get overwhelmed!

The most important thing is just to make sure you’ve got the right systems in place to handle extra traffic and orders, and enjoy the holiday as much as possible.

How to Implement This Tactic

  • Make time for friends, family and alone time
  • Plan ahead
  • Enjoy the experience

Moving Forward With Black Friday Cyber Monday 2017

Those are just a few trends and tips to help you transition into the busy holiday shopping season.

Now, we’d love to hear from you. Are you gearing up for a big BFCM campaign this year? Did you see a boost in sales last year?

Photo of Bridget Randolph

About the Author

Bridget Randolph is a coach and consultant, helping business owners gain clarity in their marketing strategies and create thriving businesses. She's based in NYC and works with clients across the U.S., providing SEO consulting, copywriting, and integrated marketing services. She is currently developing an online training course, 'SEO for Busy Entrepreneurs', which aims to demystify the basics of SEO for the average business owner.

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