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October 26, 2018

Preparing Your Ecommerce Business For Black Friday & Cyber Monday

DISCLAIMER: This is not a Black Friday blog post filled with generic stats. It’s a strategy and implementation piece focused on helping ecommerce teams drive results through easy tweaks and considerations. Happy reading!

Black Friday is now less than 1 month away. Is your ecommerce business ready to take advantage?

Officially Black Friday takes place on Friday 23rd November 2018 in the UK, although many shoppers expect to see deals and offers during the week leading up to Black Friday as well as during the few days after, including Cyber Monday, which takes place on Monday 26th November 2018. Due to the increased awareness and traction this period has had particularly over the past 3-5 years, it is a huge opportunity for any ecommerce retailer that wants to get involved with it, to vastly increase sales and revenue. If you have decided to opt out this year, this post isn’t for you. But the truth is, most ecommerce retailers will still be looking to maximise this sales period as effectively as possible.

What I am hoping to give you in this post is some key advice that you can go away and work on, in time for Black Friday, to allow you to deliver the most successful campaign possible.

Prior To Your Black Friday / Cyber Monday Promotions

There are a number of key tasks and activities that should be conducted at least 3-4 weeks in advance of Black Friday/Cyber Monday. Here is a breakdown on my advised approach:

Planning & Organisation

This will be key to the delivery and execution of your Black Friday campaigns and avoids any last minute decisions having to be made. Decide, in advance, what products are going to be involved and determine how the promotions and offers will work. Doing this ensures you choose products that have good stock levels and allows you to implement promotions that, whilst strong, still maintain a level of profitability that is feasible for you. Create a sheet in Excel or Google Sheets to plan how these will run throughout the campaign (When emails will be sent to highlight what coming in advance, when different promotions within the period start and finish etc.)

Create all the assets you will require to maximise your promotions, think about the following:

  • Banners for onsite, email, social, display & affiliate activity
  • Black Friday/Cyber Monday promotion specific landing pages, that are optimised in advance, so they can be found in organic SERPs for industry relevant Black Friday/Cyber Monday based searches
  • Ads for any print based marketing

This will ensure there is a  consistency to your approach. In addition to this, you might want to consider some additional activities that you wouldn’t normally do. For example:

  • Do you work with affiliates and can you agree on some extra paid placements with your key affiliates, to maximise your exposure?
  • Do you have physical shops to consider and can some well targeted leaflet drops support your promotional activity?

By thinking about your campaigns in this way, it is much easier to take advantage of the Black Friday/Cyber Monday period, simply because you get things in place to allow you and your teams to be much more proactive, rather than reactive and you are giving people the necessary time to plan, organise and create all that is required.


Testing is often overlooked when it comes to key promotional periods, as people are often focused on the trading side of things. However, by not having your store ready to deal with the influx of additional visitors, this could result in significant issues.

Think about it like this, if you have planned effectively and the execution of your activities goes well, you are very likely to see the huge increases in visitor and concurrent users in your cart/checkout that you were hoping for. Therefore, what would be worse than your site struggling to handle these increases, resulting in users not even being able to navigate your site properly, or worse still, are unable complete their purchases. I, for one, would not be willing to risk that, at such a key time.

Put simply, working with your website developers and server/hosting providers, could alleviate that problem relatively easily, through load testing. At best, it will reinforce that your current setup is already capable of handling significantly increased site usage and at worst it highlights that the implementation of additional infrastructure is required, which I would much rather know in advance.

Building Anticipation

With planning, organisation and testing either underway or out of the way, focus on building anticipation towards your Black Friday promotions. Whilst some retailers prefer to steer clear of doing this, so they don’t impact sales now, the truth is that most shoppers know very well that Black Friday is coming and will hold on to their hard earned cash, ready to spend at that time. My preferred approach is therefore to build some excitement and momentum towards your promotions. Doing this through the following channels, will get people interested in advance of your promotions and get people talking too, creating a bit of a buzz:

  • Email – Use a series of emails in the weeks moving towards Black Friday. Include countdowns and “sneak peek” type activities. Also consider early exclusive access to your best and most loyal customers.
  • Social – Get talking with your followers about what’s coming and support your email activity even get them to engage with polls, that might help steer your promotions.
  • PPC – Implement industry relevant “Black Friday” & “Cyber Monday” keywords, in specific campaigns and ad groups, so you can see how they are performing in isolation and adjust accordingly based on performance. This allows you to be found by the people who are researching before the events.

The overall message here is, if you are going to embrace Black Friday/Cyber Monday, don’t be afraid to highlight this to your potential customers in advance.

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During Your Black Friday / Cyber Monday Promotions

Now Black Friday is here and you have got everything in place, it’s now down to the execution. It’s make or break time:

Joined Up Marketing

As mentioned in the planning section, consistency is key to delivering an effective message across all your acquisition channels and on site. It may seem obvious but these are the key things to consider:

  • Ensure the tone of voice, language and messaging remains the same
  • Use the same/similar visual assets
  • Update banners across all key channels (Onsite, Email, Social, Display & Affiliates) to reflect your promotions.

By approaching your marketing in a joined up way, it’s easier for you and your teams to deliver, and much clearer to potential customers who see your activity across multiple channels and multiple devices.

Urgency & Scarcity

The Black Friday period is a frantic, “last minute deal” type mindset, so don’t be afraid to play on this sense of urgency through key channels. Think about:

  • Sending “Only x hours left” emails at relevant times
  • Implement dynamic countdown timers in your AdWords & Bing Ads ad copy, so potential customers understand the urgency, before evening arriving on site
  • Implement countdown timers on site

From a scarcity perspective, try and utilise “only x left in stock messages” where possible, this helps persuade potential customers not to wait but buy now, before it’s too late!

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Retargeting previous customers and previous site visitors is already a well used tactic across multiple platforms, but stepping up your strategy on the run up to and, especially during Black Friday is vital. Think about the following:

Ensure all your audiences are separated correctly and up to date. Think about;

    • Site visitors
    • Basket abandoners
    • Previous purchasers

Are there any other audiences you could start to build now too?

Increase bids / bid adjustments on your paid retargeting activities:

    • Google Ads (Dynamic retargeting & RLSAs)
    • Criteo
    • Facebook

Make sure your basket abandonment email journey is in full working order and consider tweaking the messaging, to reflect that extra urgency associated with Black Friday. Or, if you don’t currently deliver abandoned basket emails, now is the time to get a series in place, as this will bring huge opportunities during Black Friday.

Customer Service

This will be a key one for all ecommerce retailers, because as a result of the increase in activity and sales, you will see an increase in customer service requests. It goes without saying that this should always be high priority for any ecommerce retailer but it is paramount during a period like Black Friday, because getting it right results in more sales.

  • Make sure live chat is resourced properly and readily available
  • Ensure you deliver quick responses, especially through social channels
  • Offer easy and hassle free returns

In addition to all of this, don’t forget to keep an eye on your competition both before and during the Black Friday period, this will allow you to help steer your promotions and offers more effectively.

Post Black Friday / Cyber Monday Promotions

Analyse & Learn

Once you have made it through the inevitable whirlwind that Black Friday will produce. It is important you take stock of everything both good and bad. Use data from all of your platforms to assess what worked well and what didn’t. We all know that data driven decisions is what will help deliver improvements  for your next campaign.

  • Make detailed annotations in Google Analytics, making it much easier to look back and compare form one year to the next
  • Take screenshots/keep assets stored, so you can actually see what you ran with.
  • Compile year on year comparison stats to get a detailed understanding of overall performance and performance by channel.


Hopefully, working through these recommendations will enable you to have a successful Black Friday / Cyber Monday period, whether it’s your first one or you have been doing it for years.