5 Ways to Prepare Your Clients for Black Friday

How to prepare your clients for the holidays

For most online retailers, the busiest part of the year has already started to ramp up. In all likelihood, most of your client's yearly revenue will be generated in the next couple of months. Supporting them through this critical time period is a great way to solidify your business-client relationship.

If you have a lot of clients wanting to make the most of the holiday season, including Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday, here are some starting points to help them out. 

You might also like: 6 Ways to Prepare for a Client’s Online Traffic Spike

What are the key dates?

I have spoken about ecommerce at Google, General Assembly, and at many meetups, but ironically enough I don’t do a lot of online shopping. I’m the sort of person that buys three of the same shirt and then that’ll do me for six months. Needless to say, finding out about Black Friday was a surprise for me.

Black Friday is an opportunity for your clients to increase their revenues by tapping in to the feeding frenzy and buying power of consumers during the holiday season. It occurs on the day after the US holiday of Thanksgiving, making it the the fourth Friday of November. This year, Black Friday is November 27th.

Mark your calendars: Black Friday is November 27th. 

The popularity of this unofficial US holiday has spread to the UK, Europe, India, and beyond. US brands brought the concept in the UK, but in 2014 it was popularized by John Lewis, Argos, and other major UK retailers. The hype around the idea has created a positive feedback loop, and many people believe this year's Black Friday event will be bigger than ever.

It’s also worth noting that Small Business Saturday (SBS) emerged in response to Black Friday. In contrast to Black Friday, Small Business Saturday aims to promote smaller brands whose campaigns are dwarfed by those of larger players. In the US this year, SBS is on November 28th. In the UK, we prefer to take a polite break between the two shopping sprees before pulling out our credit cards again. This year, SBS in the UK will be on December 5th.

A final event to be aware of is ‘Cyber Monday’ — another marketing concept turned unofficial national celebration. Worn out after a hard weekend of eating and spending, many Americans stay in on the Monday after Thanksgiving — and savvy brands are ready for them. Cyber Monday tends to be bigger for retailers of smaller appliances and fashion. Obviously the cyber element means the online channels are the ones that are mainly overrun.

Side note: I didn’t realize we still used the word ‘cyber’ to mean online, but perhaps the term was penned by people that don’t understand computers.

How to make the most of the holiday season

Here are some pointers on how to help your clients blow it out of the park on Black Friday weekend.

Set up key metrics in advance

The customer journey is generally split into:

  • Awareness of your brand

  • Consideration and evaluation of your offering

  • Conversion i.e. the actual sale

  • Loyalty, where customers return to you because they enjoyed the last experience.

  • Advocacy, where your customers are actively promoting you. This is the holy grail of all brands.

As an additional service or upsell, you can offer to measure your clients' web properties at each point so you can look for areas of concern. Here's what to look at for each area:

  • Awareness: Measure mentions on social media, inbound links, and PR coverage.

  • Consideration: Measure number of site visitors.

  • Conversion: Measure number of sales, conversion rate to both cart and checkout, and average order value (AOV).

  • Loyalty: Measure repeat purchases, and good reviews.

  • Advocacy: Measure positive mentions on social media post-purchase.

Do this over a weekly or fortnightly period and compare to previous points. Look for areas of concern such as high bounce rates or low conversion rates, and then adjust their website accordingly.

It’s also a good idea to split your website measurements by device type. Let’s take the add-to-cart conversion rate. You should record this by mobile, tablet, and desktop so that you can spot anomalies. If your tablet users aren’t adding to cart as much as the others, could that be to do with the UX at that breakpoint?

Plan your campaigns

Some clients won’t be fully prepared for the holiday season, and may not even be aware of opportunities like Small Business Saturday. A well-planned marketing campaign can help them make the most of each day, so help them out by suggesting or offering the following:

  • A photography shoot with a seasonal twist.

  • Setting up #BlackFriday, #CyberMonday, and #SmallBusinessSaturday offers and campaigns. This includes preparing email campaigns ahead of time, and using a tool like Buffer to do the same on social media.

  • Have offers ready for the early shoppers, last minute shoppers, and post-25th bargain hunters. Think about the context of each customer. For example, in the UK, most people sit around doing nothing on Boxing Day and will be tempted to go online and look for offers — be ready for them.

  • If you’re using affiliates, let them know about your best offers so the can also promote them. Consider investing in a lookbook shoot, lifestyle video, or new product photography so that affiliates have something to work with.

  • List out other important dates in a shared Google Spreadsheet so that can you stay organized.

Think about the channels you’ll be using and measure the effectiveness of each. Some common channels include:

  • Organic search. How is the website ranking for your client's key terms? Can you nudge any higher with a content review? Is your Google Webmasters Tools healthy?

  • Mass media. This is something the client will need to do, but have them think about the publications in their industry that are producing gift idea articles. Contact relevant journalists. One way to do this is to look on twitter for #journorequest posts where journalists ask for products to feature.

  • Bloggers. Who are the influencers in your industry? Are they compiling their own gift idea articles? Find the key influencers using FollowerWonk. There’s also a hashtag for #bloggerrequest, so watch out for influencers in your industry that use this. (Do this by searching on Twitter for #bloggerrequest and then a keyword related to your product such as ‘interiors’, ‘fashion’ or ‘gadgets.’)

  • Social. Your client might need a schedule for posting out content and offers based on the dates we came up with above. Do a quick check of each active social profile, ensuring messaging, branding, and imagery are consistent with the client's website.

  • Email. Email is still the highest converting channel for ecommerce. Use offers, inspirational content, and product features to direct people to your website. Here is a brilliant set of ideas to pass on to your clients for their email marketing campaign.

You might also like: How To Create PPC Campaigns For Your Clients' Holiday Shopify Stores

Examine the entire buying process

Once you’ve done the hard work of getting a visitor to a website, make sure they don't let you down.

You may not want to do the following for your client, but you can still pass it on for them to do themselves. It depends how involved your service is beyond the website design. It might even be worth setting up a new service specifically to help clients with this type of testing throughout the year.

  • Try to buy on all devices, and look for stumbling blocks. You’ll be surprised at the changes the client has made to your design, or how that buy button you thought was obvious actually isn’t alongside live content.

  • The homepage needs to convey what is unique about the client's store. If it doesn’t, tell them.

  • Use the header of the website to communicate selling points, such as free shipping and guarantees. It’s also important at this time of year to mention that goods are still available for delivery before Christmas. This should be immediately obvious when landing on the site. Easy and hassle-free returns are a key selling point you should mention when it comes to gifts.

  • High quality photography is crucial in ecommerce. Does the homepage use powerful imagery? Here are 8 tips to create eye-catching photography if not. Is their product photography consistent? Are they photos of the products in use? Can you get an idea of product size from the images? Is there a sufficient level of detail?

  • On product pages, make it clear when items will arrive. Also make sure that any shipping fees are visible at this point.

  • Check for spelling errors, because they instantly destroy credibility. Everything in ecommerce is about trust.

  • Add a menu option for ‘Gifts’ and group the subheadings by price bands, such as ‘Under £25,’ or ‘Under £50.’ You can also have subheadings for specific scenarios, such as ‘Gifts for her,’ ‘Gifts for the person that has everything,’ and so on.

  • Include a 'Bestsellers' menu item. This is what many casual browsers will click on to get an idea of what the company sells.

  • Make sure there is social proof throughout the process, such as accreditations, customer reviews, testimonials, and any press coverage.

  • The client contact details should be obvious. Convince them to add a phone number if there’s not one already. It may seem like it’s going to create a lot of work answering calls, but the feedback they get could be invaluable. They will also be able to reassure customers that are concerned about gifts arriving in time.

  • Run a broken link check. Websites change a lot, and you may be surprised by how many broken links you have.

  • Research by Nielsen shows that you only need to watch five people use your website to gather the majority of important feedback. Do this and find out where you can improve. Do this in person if possible.

  • Run the website through http://fivesecondtest.com/ or https://www.usertesting.com/b/ to gather feedback from fresh eyes.

  • And finally, add a Christmas twist with a little bit of mistletoe somewhere in your header. It may seem twee but it shows your brand is ‘alive’ and that you’re thinking about Christmas.

Get ready for the rush

Clients need to be ready to deal with higher-than-usual demand — otherwise they end up being a victim of their own success. Here are some quick tips to make sure their site is ready for Holiday-level traffic.

  • The store should be able to handle a sudden surge in traffic. If you’re on Shopify, this shouldn’t be a problem — you’re sharing the platform with 200,000 other shops so your traffic will be a drop in the ocean. If the website is not on a hosted platform, however, make sure you have the capacity to deal with peak visitor numbers. If you are experiencing problems, consider upgrading hardware, using a CDN like Cloudflare, and enabling caching and compression of your website assets.

  • Fulfilment is a mystery to most web designers. Impress your clients by providing advice on this topic. If the client is fulfilling in-house, ask them to review their setup and look for areas of improvement. Can any barcode scanners be put closer to the aisles? Are popular products the easiest to get to? Are there Shopify Apps that would help organize and speed up the whole process?

  • If they are using a third party for warehousing and fulfilment, check on the integration they have already and see if there are ways it can be improved. Is your client having to email the warehouse once a day? Can that be automated?

  • The client needs to watch the phone and social media so that they're ready to deal with customer queries and feedback. Employing an intern to help could be an option during busy times.

Make the most of new customers

If all has gone well so far, the client will be seeing a lot of orders, including many from new customers. Ideally, these new customers will follow the customer journey all the way to becoming loyal repeat customers. Here are some ways to encourage exactly that.

  • The easiest way to get repeat customers is to do an excellent job on the first order. This means exceeding expectations and ensuring all touch points convey what their brand is about. This is why it’s important for the client to go through the order process themselves. Everything should be consistent and true to their brand: auto-responders, product descriptions, packaging, store policies, checkout copy, and so on. If you make use of playful, informal language, make sure this is a theme throughout the process. This goes for colour palettes and photography styles also.

  • Packaging is often the first physical touchpoint with the brand, so make sure it does the product justice. Luxury products shouldn’t be shipped in a Jiffy bag. Are there interesting materials the client can use? What’s the unboxing process like? Do they include small gifts or discount codes to share with friends? Can you show them how to set up coupon codes in Shopify that they can send to new customers? What about including free samples of future products too?

  • An automated email follow up two months after the festive season with a "thank you" message and a discount code can work wonders. There are Shopify apps that can do this, including Remarkety, Nostoand Emma.

  • Use Yotpo or Trustpilot to automatically ask customers for a review after they receive their delivery. Reviews are crucial to demonstrating the quality of your product and service to future prospective customers.

In summary...

This time of year is a great business period for ecommerce businesses, so make sure your clients catch the wave.

In January, sit down with your clients and make a list of improvements for next year based on what worked best. The main realization will be that planning needs to be done way further back, so make a note to begin talking to your clients about Christmas in summer. Sounds weird, but this is how seasonal commerce works. Preparation is crucial.

Whatever you do, don’t forget to pause in January and take some time to celebrate the success of your clients. Find out how it went for them and use their feedback in your preparation for the 2016 holiday season madness.

Until then, good luck!

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