The holidays are around the corner—which means Black Friday and Cyber Monday are too. If you want to make the most of this year’s biggest shopping event, it’s critical that you start planning as early as possible.
Factors such as an unsettled economic climate, supply chain issues, and consumer demand fluctuations can raise challenges when it comes to navigating BFCM and holiday sales. Following this Black Friday checklist and tapping the resources in our annual Black Friday Cyber Monday toolbox can help you face these challenges and execute a marketing strategy to reach (and surpass) your holiday sales goals.
Black Friday checklist: 25 ways to prepare
- Plan for a longer sales period
- Leverage data to identify products for BFCM promotion
- Craft an irresistible BFCM offer
- Set your holiday shipping strategy
- Reward loyal customers
- Organize your upcoming sales
- Double down on your top sales channels
- Retarget past visitors and customers
- Plan and launch your email marketing campaigns early
- Update your homepage with seasonal creative
- Assess your site for mobile-friendliness
- Test and prepare your store for traffic surges
- Benchmark and grow your conversion rate
- Increase conversion with buy now, pay later
- Leverage chatbots to drive conversion
- Assess your checkout experience
- Go international
- Optimize order and fulfillment workflows
- Serve shoppers in person with Shopify POS
- Provide prompt and personal customer support
- Offer easy and hassle-free returns
- Create contingency plans
- Monitor analytics for actionable insights
- Turn seasonal shoppers into year-round customers
- Reflect on what worked and what didn’t
Holding a Black Friday sales event takes lots of planning—from preparing inventory for the anticipated uptick in demand to designing eye-catching marketing campaigns to readying your website. Here’s your checklist to get on the right track.
1. Plan for a longer sales period
As the year’s biggest shopping weekend approaches, the event will again be dominated by online shopping. However, there will also be sales and promotions in the months and weeks leading up to BFCM, and opportunities to drive in-person shopping.
According to a 2022 joint survey by the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics, 56% of US shoppers took advantage of pre-Thanksgiving sales or other promotions. Overall, NRF forecasts growth in holiday sales during the period between November 1 to December 31 at 6% to 8% over the prior year.
With shoppers starting earlier and considering whether to buy online or in-person, start communicating your offers as early as possible—and extending them beyond BFCM, if financially (and operationally) feasible. Make sure to include these plans in your Black Friday sales strategy to maximize sales and revenue opportunities.
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2. Leverage data to identify products for BFCM promotion
Picking and ordering the products you want to promote for BFCM should be done as early as possible, especially if you rely on suppliers to source or manufacture that inventory. Suppliers have been operating above capacity since the pandemic started and need plenty of lead time to get your products ready and delivered on time.
There are multiple ways to forecast seasonal demand and identify what merchandise to re-up for BFCM, including:
- Shopify Reports. If you run on Shopify, use Shopify reports to help in decision-making. For example, the sales by product report can filter by the previous year’s BFCM dates so you can see which products typically sell well during the BFCM season.
- ABC analysis. ABC Analysis helps you identify your best- and worst-performing products. A-grade products are your money makers and represent the specific products that make up 80% of your revenue; B grade is in the middle and represents 15% of revenue; and C-grade products may be dead stock and represent the specific products that make up only 5% of revenue. BFCM is an opportunity to drive revenue by featuring A-grade products in your Black Friday campaign with modest discounts, as well as deep discounts on dead stock.
- Inventory management systems. Inventory management software has the technology to track inventory, monitor stock within the supply chain, and streamline operations, among other tasks important during high-demand times like Black Friday. Inventory management tools are available through Shopify, as well as Stocky and ShipHero on the Shopify app store.
3. Craft an irresistible BFCM offer
A strategy many retailers use during BFCM is to run a “jaw-dropping” sale on a popular item to attract customers to their store. Once customers visit your online store for the deep discount, there’s a chance they buy other items on their way to the checkout.
There are numerous apps available to Shopify merchants to urge customers toward making bigger purchases. These apps can promote:
- Discounts, sales, and limited-time offers
- Product upsells and cross-sells
- More completed checkouts and fewer abandoned carts
Occasionally, a majorly discounted flagship product serves as a loss leader, as customers add higher priced items to their order carts to make up for the difference. The goal from a business standpoint is to gain revenue in excess of the loss.
4. Set your holiday shipping strategy
Defining a shipping and delivery strategy is important for every business, but it’s not a one-and-done deal. Revisit your shipping strategy during the busy seasons like BFCM to assess what options are in place for customers and any special offers that might be beneficial to help increase sales during the holiday season—like free shipping at purchase tiers to boost sales and conversions. For example, you might offer reduced shipping costs at orders totalling $50, but free shipping at $75. Or, local customers may be able to take advantage of additional free shipping options, like buy online, pickup in store.
Customers expect fast and free shipping—ideally, a combination of the two. In fact, one survey found that 62% of shoppers expect the arrival of their free shipping orders in less than three days. During BFCM, offering expedited shipping may also help you convert to a sale. That’s because customers benefit from quick delivery and reduced chance of product damage (while you can maximize storage space if using warehouse storage, for example). But keep in mind: This promotion can be expensive, so to make it worthwhile for your business, you must consider expected sales.
Next, publish the details of your shipping policy on your FAQ page, via emails, and across other marketing channels. Communicate shipping transit times at checkout so your customers know when to expect their deliveries, even before completing their purchase. Remember, be transparent about shipping delays due carrier delays or other issues that may hold up your customers’ packages.
5. Reward loyal customers
Reward loyal customers with your best deals, such as tiered-spending rewards, extra discounts, early access to Black Friday sales, perks for friends and family referrals, and bonus points as part of your customer loyalty program. For example, you can offer existing subscribers on your email list exclusive sales.
By incorporating these tactics into your customer marketing plan, you have an opportunity to email and retarget previous customers and strengthen your relationship with them. It can also encourage repeat customers, which boost sales, and increase brand awareness through word-of-mouth marketing. Check out loyalty apps for more inspiration.
6. Organize your upcoming sales
BFCM promotions can have a lot of moving pieces, so staying organized is crucial. Make sure to take the following steps to stay on top of the details:
- Create a “planned sales map” in Google Sheets or Excel to give a simple outline of all upcoming sales and promotions. Here’s a pre-made Google Sheets template you can use to plan your sales this year.
- Input the products you want to run holiday specials on and schedule sales start dates and prices.
- Input the date ranges for other promotions, like free or discounted shipping.
- Schedule your rollout of promotional messaging surrounding each promotion.
This document will be your roadmap to your holiday campaigns.
7. Double down on your top sales channels
If you haven’t yet embraced multichannel selling, it’s time to try it. If you’re already selling on multiple channels, identify which are the most lucrative for your business and double down during the holiday season.
Shopify offers sales channels to make it easier to reach buyers on popular social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, Pinterest, and more. By leveraging these channels in Shopify, you can easily sync your products, inventory, and other tasks across channels and centralize everything within your admin console.
Shopify offers a series of webinars with actionable strategies on how to make the most of each sales channel and drive qualified traffic to your store. Check out:
- Free ways to reach millions of buyers this holiday season
- Create a winning customer experience for Black Friday Cyber Monday
- Creating holiday ad campaigns that convert
- How and where brands are connecting with Gen Z and Creators
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8. Retarget past visitors and customers
If you haven’t already done so, set up the Meta pixel to retarget past customers and visitors to your site. The Meta pixel enables you to remarket to prior customers and track specific actions, such as what product page they have visited. The tool also tracks:
- Add to bag or cart
- Other actions
A major benefit of leveraging this analytics tool is that it has the potential to re-engage people already familiar with your site (but who may have forgotten about your store and not otherwise checked out your sale). Meta retargeting also can help increase conversion rates and drive return on investment (ROI), since they already have brand awareness.
9. Plan and launch your email marketing campaigns early
Email is a crucial channel in your Black Friday marketing strategy. Begin planning, creating, and scheduling emails long before Black Friday sales start. Here are some tips for a winning BFCM email marketing strategy:
- Optimize your site for email capture. Make it easy for visitors to stay informed about your upcoming sales, even if they’re not ready to make purchases yet, by placing email collection fields and sign-up pop-ups on various pages of your store—and consider enticing sign ups by offering early access to sales. Make sure the email addresses you collect are high quality and that you have consent from customers to send promotional emails.
- Personalize your email campaigns. Personalization is an effective retention strategy to get your brand recognized and email opened. To stand out, leverage Shopify Email to customize your subject lines, preview, or body text with the customer’s first name, and include offers and product recommendations based on their purchase history. In return, you may be rewarded in opens, clicks, conversions, and in increased engagement.
- Send “warm-up” emails with hints and teasers. Whether your BFCM offer is a discount, an exclusive product, free shipping, donations to charity, or a unique-to-you promotion, start teasing it early to your subscribers so they’re on the lookout for your announcement. This includes sending exclusive offers to various customer segments, like your VIP customers.
- Thank your customers when your sale ends. Strengthen customer relationships with a followup email that thanks them for shopping during your Black Friday Cyber Monday event. Be careful not to over-communicate, since purchasers are likely getting order-related emails in the days following BFCM. Aim to have automated thank you emails set up five to seven days post-event.
- Create abandoned cart emails. During the Black Friday shopping period, online shoppers are more likely to abandon their carts—nearly 80% on average did so daily in 2022. An automatically triggered email can help capture some of these abandoned conversions.
10. Update your homepage with seasonal creative
What better way to promote your holiday sales than with fresh visual creative on your ecommerce website? You can incorporate seasonal motifs into the hero image on your site and extend that imagery to multiple sales channels, for a memorable, cohesive campaign.
If you lack design expertise to create eye-catching visuals yourself, consider using a tool like Canva or hire a Shopify expert to create your graphics.
If you’re a Shopify merchant, Shopify’s theme editor makes it easier and faster for you to make changes to your online store. The theme editor enables a smoother, more intuitive editing workflow for a better editing experience with faster loading times.
11. Assess your site for mobile-friendliness
In 2022, mobile purchases continued to outpace desktop sales, at 73% and 27%, respectively, across all of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. What this means for small business owners is that being mobile-first is essential. A few questions to ask yourself to assess how mobile-commerce-ready your site is:
- What’s your online store’s user experience like on mobile?
- Is it easy and intuitive to make purchases on your site?
- Is your website mobile responsive?
Shopify themes are responsive and mobile friendly. But if you run on another platform, test how your site looks on a mobile device.
12. Test and prepare your store for traffic surges
A slow website will lose customers. Optimizing your website’s performance for Black Friday traffic surges is paramount to help avoid slow load times or site crashes. Test and prepare your ecommerce store in the following ways:
- Use analytics tools such as PageSpeed Insights and Pingdom to achieve faster loading speeds. One study found that just a 0.1 second increase in site speeds can result in about a 10% increase in conversions.
- Assess the architecture of your site, making sure it’s not overloaded with unnecessary tools that could slow it down.
- Keep customers engaged by minimizing pop-ups displaying deals and special offers, increasing the likelihood of conversions.
- Optimize your product pages for conversion by including clear calls-to-action (CTA), descriptions, and payment methods.
13. Benchmark and grow your conversion rate
Getting customers to your site is only one piece of the BFCM success puzzle. You also have to convert those site visitors to paying customers.
Increasing your conversion rate by just 1% could mean significant increases in sales. To determine your benchmark, research what the standard ecommerce conversion rate is for a business like yours. Factors to consider include geographic location, gross merchandise value (GMV) to assess business health, and targeted industry vertical (such as apparel and accessories, home and garden, or health and beauty).
Use the ecommerce conversion rate calculator to:
- See how you compare to other brands of the same size and industry
- Get actionable tips on how to boost your ecommerce conversion rate
- Identify gaps in your brand’s conversion strategy and find opportunities for improvement
14. Increase conversion with buy now, pay later
Buy now, pay later (BNPL) is an increasingly popular form of payment for ecommerce customers. According to one survey, 35% of consumers have used buy now, pay later when shopping. Examples of BNPL financing include Afterpay, Affirm, and Klarna.
Shop Pay Installments is the native buy now, pay later solution on Shopify that offers customers several installment payment options, some interest-free. There is also a premium installment package available to select merchants. Shop Pay Installments can decrease cart abandonment by as much as 28% and increase average order value up to 50%.
15. Leverage chatbots to drive conversion
Depending on your business model, you may not have 24/7 customer service available for those browsing your site. Overcome this hurdle by leveraging chatbots, which can engage and answer questions from customers on your website, social channels like Facebook and Instagram, and even through mobile apps. On websites, they frequently appear as dialogue boxes.
Chatbots can answer specific queries quickly—just as if the customer were interacting with a customer service representative. The responsiveness and accessibility can improve customer satisfaction, and in turn, turn browsers into buyers—driving conversions rates.
If on the Shopify platform, there are multiple ways to connect with shoppers via chat. Shopify Inbox gives you an easy way to streamline communications with potential (and returning) customers, wherever they are.
Inbox gives you valuable context about your customers, including showing the items they’ve added to (or removed) from their carts when shopping. You can even add FAQs to your chat window to quickly give shoppers the answers they need to feel confident about shopping with you. And post-purchase, customers can check their order status on their own.
16. Assess your checkout experience
Make sure to examine your checkout process, especially on mobile. Having to fill in every field can slow the checkout process and hurt conversion rates. Using online checkout services like Shop Pay, Apple Pay, and Google Pay accelerate the process by autofilling saved information and reducing the keystrokes or clicks required to make a purchase. Simplifying the checkout process can help boost mobile conversions.
Shop Pay, in particular, is the internet’s best-converting checkout, lifting conversions by up to 50% relative to guest checkout providers.
Our survey found that Shop Pay increases checkout speed by four times, and that’s not all. Checkouts going through Shop Pay have an average checkout-to-order rate of 1.72 times higher than those going through regular checkouts.
17. Go international
Though it began in the US, Black Friday has grown in popularity internationally, including in the United Kingdom and parts of Europe. Having an online store already allows you to expand beyond your primary market, but Shopify Markets gives you the tools and support to do so successfully on a global scale.
The platform allows you to create custom buying experiences with currencies, languages, domains, and payment methods that align with the local markets you’re operating in. These features help you drive conversions with your international customers and increase visibility on search engine results pages (SERPs).
18. Optimize order and fulfillment workflows
A high volume of sales within a short period can make it more difficult to fulfill and get orders to customers quickly. Here are some ways you can optimize your fulfillment workflows and get your back office in order for BFCM:
- Organize your fulfillment area. Whether using a warehouse or your basement to fulfill orders, you want to make sure your fulfillment area is stocked with adequate supplies and that your most popular products are easily accessible for quicker picking and packing.
- Get helping hands. You will likely get an influx of orders over the BFCM period, so if a small business, recruit friends or hire additional staff to help fulfill and ship orders to customers.
- Over-communicate. Communicate clearly and regularly with your fulfillment and local delivery staff to help avoid errors and save time. Consider using the Shopify Timeline feature in your admin to share instructions internally with staff members about orders, customers, and fulfillment.
- Group orders. Plan in advance how you want to prioritize your orders, then group them by commonality for quicker processing.
Some common ways to organize and group orders include:
- Customer priority. Organize orders by customer priority and fulfill orders to your most loyal customers first to show appreciation. Use order tags, available on the Shopify App Store, to identify your most important customers.
- Shipping requirements. Organize orders by shipping priority, so customers who pay for expedited shipping get their orders first. You can also organize by delivery method, so products fulfilled by local delivery or a given shipping provider, are grouped and fulfilled simultaneously.
- Product type. Group your orders by product type to optimize the time it takes to pick and pack your orders. Pro tip: Define product weight and dimensions in your Shopify store admin so that when it’s time for fulfillment, you can pick the most appropriate packaging and shipping options.
Shopify Plus merchants can use the ecommerce automation solution Flow to build customized workflows to automate tasks and processes in your store and across apps.
19. Serve shoppers in person with Shopify POS
Of the $1.8 billion in retail ecommerce sales during the second quarter of 2023, 15.4% comprises ecommerce sales, according to the US Census Bureau. This leaves a large percentage of sales attributed to brick-and-mortar stores or other in-person shopping experiences. So the best prepared businesses must have the capabilities to serve shoppers during the holidays—and all other times of the year—wherever they choose to shop.
Consider holding a pop-up shop to reach your target audience in person, perhaps at a local market or by partnering with another retailer, leveraging Shopify POS to make in-person sales.
20. Provide prompt and personal customer support
Black Friday is a potentially hectic time for customer support. Part of providing a fantastic experience that leads to customer satisfaction is having quick response times—the other is being courteous and respectful to customers.
Make sure your customer service training includes best practices for communication, conflict resolution, and problem-solving. For example, have a few standard phrases and replies prepared for your customer service reps to help in them deliver more consistent, helpful service when responding to customer pain points:
- A lost or delayed order
- Dissatisfaction with a purchase
- Delivery of damaged package or products
Remember to train your team to have keen listening skills and empathy, so they can engage and communicate effectively with customers in a genuine way.
21. Offer easy and hassle-free returns
No Black Friday checklist is complete without tips for handling returns and exchanges. Returns are a key part of any customer experience, but especially during Black Friday. A 2022 survey found that 87% of shoppers noted free returns as an important part in their purchasing decisions, and nearly as many checked return policies before making a purchase.
Make sure you have a return policy that is clear, fair, and well-communicated on your store’s website. Consider showcasing your return policy in the following places:
- Shipping and return policy page
- FAQ page
- Products page
- Via order notification emails
Find the best returns management system that integrates seamlessly with your business operations systems and ecommerce store.
As part of a smart returns strategy, you may wish to temporarily extend your returns and exchanges policy during the holiday season.
22. Create contingency plans
Creating a contingency plan means routinely asking yourself uncomfortable questions and preparing for the worst case scenario: Are the proper backup systems in place if the site crashes? What happens if the shipping company experiences supply chain delays?
Taking the necessary steps upfront minimizes the possibility of having to troubleshoot later—which you won’t want to do in the midst of Black Friday weekend.
23. Monitor analytics for actionable insights
There’s a lot you can learn from your Shopify analytics, including how your Black Friday marketing efforts are converting to visits and sales. Since marketing is such a fundamental part of BFCM, make sure to brush up on how you can track, measure, and improve your marketing campaigns directly in Shopify with marketing analytics. The overview dashboard shows key sales, orders, and online store visitor data, and you can dive deeper into specific reports to get more insights.
To take your analytics a step further, set up and utilize additional user-tracking tools to gather detailed data about user behavior during Black Friday Cyber Monday. There are heat map apps, activity logs, and other useful metrics available in the Shopify App Store that can help you answer questions like:
- Where are visitors clicking?
- How do customers read your product pages?
- What regions of the country generate more sales?
24. Turn seasonal shoppers into year-round customers
BFCM doesn’t end when the sale wraps—now you have new customers with the potential to become repeat buyers. Take steps to maintain and nurture the relationship with them.
Keep your customers engaged year-round by staying active on social media and sending out post-sale emails to your subscribers. If these seasonal one-time shoppers didn’t sign up to your email list or follow your social media accounts, then retargeting might be your next best option for re-engagement.
25. Reflect on what worked and what didn’t
BFCM and the holiday season are excellent times for your business to learn from its missteps as well as its successes. The lessons you learn have their own distinct value outside of revenue earned. That’s why it's important to track everything and reflect on what worked and what didn't.
As you implement new strategies and tactics this year, make sure to take notes (and screenshots) to document your decisions and outcomes. These records provide a benchmark for next year’s holiday season.
Here’s to a successful BFCM and holiday season
Preparation, planning, and starting earlier are the keys to a successful holiday season. This Black Friday checklist should cover most of what you need to know for this year’s upcoming sale events—with online sales expected to hit record numbers. Hopefully, it puts you in a better position to succeed during this holiday season.
Make sure to check out Shopify’s Black Friday Cyber Monday resource page for tools, webinars, resources, and tips.
If this is your first Black Friday Cyber Monday, treat it as a learning experience. Stay motivated and ambitious, set realistic expectations, and remember to enjoy the ride.
Black Friday checklist FAQ
How do I prepare for Black Friday?
There are several steps you can take to prepare for Black Friday, including:
When should I start my Black Friday sales?
With brands and consumers stretching the holiday shopping season beyond the confines of Black Friday Cyber Monday, consider starting your Black Friday deals as early as the beginning of November.
How do you attract customers on Black Friday?
What sells the most on Black Friday ?
Clothing, shoes, and accessories are top-selling items on Black Friday, according to market research company NielsenIQ (NIQ). Electronics are bestsellers as well.