Your Black Friday and Cyber Monday planning should have started months ago. I feel you, fellow procrastinator. I’m editing this post mere hours before it will be published.
But have no fear—you can still pull off an epic BFCM sale with only a few weeks to go. From one last-minute junkie to another, a tight deadline is a great motivator.
Don’t let the rush pressure you into a bad decision, though. If you’re a small business, competing with retail giants on price shouldn’t be your goal. The deal-seekers will always chase the lowest prices. This is not your audience. As an independent merchant, however, you can still participate—and have a stellar sales weekend—by employing a little creativity.
You already have the tools. It’s a matter of packaging them into a compelling campaign. And trust me, you also still have time. 25 days, to be exact.
Here’s your 3-step guide to planning and executing a flawless Black Friday and Cyber Monday promotion in under a month (on top of all of your other superhero feats):
Are you ready?
Is your store in a good state to handle a surge in sales? Shopify has your back when your store floods with traffic—we’ve survived the flashiest flash sale without a blip—but the rest is up to you. Do you have the inventory? Do you have the infrastructure in place to handle an uptick in customer service inquiries? Can you ship everything on time?
If you answered “yes”, let’s get rolling!
What’s your offer?
While customers expect a deal on Thanksgiving weekend, you 👏 are 👏 not 👏 Wal-Mart. Drastically slashing prices just isn’t feasible for most small businesses.
There are other meaningful ways to participate in BFCM and still reward your customers without making a huge dent in your bottom line. Win-win.
How much will your discount be? Will it apply to everything or specific collections or products? Are there other ways to reward your customer without killing your margin?
There are several options, including:
- Unique coupon codes for specific customer groups
- Site-wide sale with a universal coupon code
- Sale products or collections (no code required)
- Gift or gift card with minimum purchase
- Free shipping
You can implement and communicate your plan in a number of ways. If your offer itself isn’t a “door crasher”, your approach can still create some buzz. Make it creative and interactive, inspire urgency or anticipation, and consider exclusive loyalty offers.
Here are some ideas (with real examples from other retailers) to inspire your own campaign:
Gift guide or gift giving themes: remind your customers of the impending holiday season, and the urgency to start shopping. Link to holiday-themed or gift-giving collections. Studies show that consumers are eager for holiday content as early as Halloween (that’s today!).
Timed deals: create excitement with new deals released every hour or at different intervals throughout the weekend.
Sneak peek or pre-sale: allow social followers and email subscribers early access to view or apply the deal.
“Door crasher”, early access, or limited-quantity promotions: reward early birds and create a sense of urgency, exclusivity, or scarcity.
Extend your sale: catch the procrastinators or anyone who missed the buying frenzy, and extend your deals through or past the weekend.
Release a new or seasonal product or collection: give current customers a reason to come back for new products that are also on sale.
Gift with purchase: add the element of suspense by offering a "mystery gift" with minimum purchase.
Gift cards as gifts with purchase: give a $10 gift card (valid only after January 1st) to customers who purchase over $100, for example, to extend the relationship with customer through the holidays. 💡 TIP: now might be the right time to update the look of your gift cards with seasonal themes.
Run a contest or giveaway: use Shopify’s integration with Gleam to generate anticipation for your promotion and build your email list
What are the terms and conditions of your offer? How will you communicate terms clearly to your customers to avoid disappointment or customer service nightmares?
- Establish clear start and end dates and times for each offer.
- What is the discount? Is there a minimum order value to be eligible for the deal? Set conditions on the Create Discount page.
- Are there any excluded products? Clearly identify these terms in your fine print.
- Is the offer exclusive to certain customers or regions? Targeted email communication is best for this type of deal.
- If you’re offering free shipping, are any countries excluded? This is also a good time to set up your shipping calendar: cut off order-by dates to receive products in time for Christmas.
Create a content calendar for your campaign that accounts for every step. When will social posts and emails deploy? What will be scheduled automatically and what tasks will be implemented manually. Do you have a team? Who is responsible for what?
Set up your sale collections to launch on time using Future Publishing.
Be sure to schedule email and social communication throughout the campaign—teasers, reminders, and “last chance” notifications.
Assets & Copy
Create and schedule all of your emails, blog posts, and social content up front to free up your time to manage the influx of sales and customer service inquiries during the busiest shopping season of the year.
What assets do you need to create? Consider:
- Website: home page, landing page, banners, pop-ups, collection headers
- Social: network-specific posts
- Retail: do you also run a physical storefront? What are your in-store signage needs?
If you’re not a designer (or don’t have the budget to hire one), there are plenty of free, beautiful graphics and photos, plus tools to put them all together.
Layer type over free stock images using a tool like Canva, try Shopify’s slogan generator to help inspire clever copy for your campaign, and create graphics from scratch using a free Photoshop alternative like Gimp.
💡 TIP: keep your imagery and messaging consistent across all channels, but optimize copy to suit each social audience or customer group.
Royalty-free stock photos by Unsplash
Create social graphics with Canva
Set up Your Store
To discount only certain products in your shop (with no code required), set sale prices by adjusting the regular and “compare at prices” of those products, then create a Black Friday/Cyber Monday collection with automatic conditions. Alternately, you can use an app like Product Discount to easily apply deals to products by brand, type, or collection.
For a site-wide discount, you can opt to create generic discount codes that customers apply at checkout.
If your deal is free shipping, either add a free shipping rate or create a shipping discount code.
What other apps can you integrate with your store to help your campaign? Try:
- Countdown Timer Bar
- Free Shipping Bar
- Popular Marketing Tools by Zotabox: pop-ups, banners, stickers, and forms
- Explore more: 7 Shopify Apps That Will Help You Sell More This Black Friday and Cyber Monday
Install a live chat app to help alleviate the customer service crush, and respond to support issues in real-time.
Set up Your Email Marketing Campaign
Last year, email marketing accounted for 25% of sales on Black Friday sales and 22% on Cyber Monday. As a small business competing for sales on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, email is a powerful tool. It can get expensive to stand out in the noise of BFCM. Why not focus instead on a repeat business from a captive audience: your customers and subscribers? Use BFCM as an opportunity to reward existing customers, maintain relationships, and improve loyalty.
- Install MailChimp and Bulk Discounts to send unique codes to each customer
- Segment your list:
- Exclusive gifts to repeat/loyal customers
- Re-engagement deals to lapsed customers
- Schedule emails by timezone to reach your customers at optimal times
- Simplify the design process by using MailChimp’s predesigned or drag-and-drop templates
- Get inspired by other successful email marketing campaigns
Subject lines on an average day are critical to email marketing. They’re even more so as email volume hits its holiday apex. Take a minute to remember your own inbox last Thanksgiving. I bet it looked a little something like this:
- Use keywords like “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday” to appeal to customers looking for deals in their inboxes, but remember that these terms are saturated, so you’ll need to be creative to stand out
- Use segmenting to make subject lines more personal/relevant to each specific customer group
- Personalize subject lines with customer names, location, etc.
- Split test your subject lines throughout your campaign and tweak as you go
Promote it on Social Media
Consider both organic (loyalty offers for existing fans) and paid content. Remember that the paid space is competitive on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, so be sure to target your campaigns wisely to get the biggest bang for your buck.
- Ask customers to share or tag friends
- Offer exclusives to each social channel, using unique codes to help direct your decision making next year. Which platforms converted better? Where should you throw your efforts?
- As with email efforts, schedule posts throughout the campaign
- Remember: customers use social media as a customer service channel. Stay on top of your mentions and DMs throughout the weekend.
- Design catchy but on-brand graphics that don’t cheapen your profile—especially important for lifestyle brands
- The Beginner's Guide to Marketing on Instagram
- Relax, Advertising on Facebook Just Got a Lot Easier
- 5 Powerful Tools for Growing Your Business on Pinterest
- The Small Business Blueprint to Marketing on Twitter [Guide]
Even if you’ve automated everything from go-live sale prices to social posts and emails, make sure you’re on hand to check that everything deploys smoothly and on time.
Shopify 24/7 Support is on hand to help you through the busy weekend—luckily most of us are in Canada and we’ve long since digested our turkey feast.
Before executing your campaign, be sure you understand how you will track its success. Results will help inform future marketing efforts.
When your deal expires, look at the results: was it worth it? What worked? What didn’t? Where is your money best spent in 2017?
- Your 3-Step Guide to Building a Marketing Plan that Works
- Google Analytics for Ecommerce: A Beginner's Guide
- Don't Fear Analytics. I'll Make it Simple for You
💡 TIP: Have a follow-up strategy to keep existing and new customers engaged beyond BFCM.
Anti-Black Friday Campaigns
Many merchants elect to not participate in Black Friday or Cyber Monday in a traditional way or even at all. When we visited merchants across North America last year, we discovered that small businesses approached the weekend much differently than their massive chain counterparts.
Here are a few ways to (not) participate:
Small Business Saturday
This Saturday focuses on supporting small businesses—almost the antithesis to the winding lineups outside of Best Buy. Appeal to consumers looking to support small and local businesses for their holiday shopping: tell your brand’s story in your campaigns.
While everyone’s in a turkey-gluttony coma or suffering buyer’s remorse, this is the time to draw customers to your store with the promise of regaining a little good karma. Typically on Giving Tuesday, “offers” are in fact in the form of donations to charity or 1-for-1 campaigns.
Outside of Giving Tuesday, extend the good-deed-doing through the entire weekend by partnering with a charity in line with your business or values. Last year, Goods Shop found that their customers embraced the donation-over-deals approach and "no one left empty-handed".
Probably the most famous example of Black Friday push-back is Cards Against Humanity’s annual stunts—in 2015, they sold “nothing” at $5 a pop.
Outdoor gear retailer Rei, is riding the second year of its #OptOutside campaign, in which they close their stores and encourage their employees and customers to spend the day, err, not spending. While the chain may not be generating a cent that day, the hashtag yields 1.8 million Instagram results—valuable brand reach that keeps on giving beyond BFCM.
Despite the trend of backlashing brands, shoppers in 2015 still spent $4.45 billion during Black Friday and Thanksgiving—25% increase over the previous year. The point: it's not going anywhere.
Plan Ahead: BFCM 2017
You may have been late to the game this year, but there’s still time to change your feet-dragging ways. Use your learnings from your 2016 efforts to start planning for next year.
Target has a permanent landing page dedicated to Cyber Monday, welcoming visitors year round to sign up for upcoming Black Friday alerts and exclusive deals.
While your own efforts don’t need to be as extreme, it’s a reminder to start planning much earlier. In the spring, start by building your email list, planning inventory purchases, and banking content in anticipation of the impending holiday.
Don't let it creep up again! 389 days will pass quickly for a busy entrepreneur.