It’s almost that time again – when shoppers set their alarms for ungodly hours and leave the Thanksgiving table early to wait in line outside their favorite retail store, hoping to get their hands on the best deals of the year.
Black Friday has become a cultural fixture, serving as the official kickoff to the holiday shopping season. Each year this shopping-fest seems to get bigger and bigger, as well, as businesses both large and small summon their troops – well, employees – to handle the massive crowds and checkout lines.
Some argue that the escalation of Black Friday has taken all of the fun out of waking up early and hitting the stores. Between businesses choosing to stay open on Thanksgiving Day and headlines of shoppers being trampled by a crowd or getting into a fight over the last TV in stock, this “holiday” has gotten a bad rap over the years.
But whether you’re the first one in line once you finish your Thanksgiving feast or you’d rather do your shopping online, it’s hard to argue with Black Friday’s importance to retailers. With 2016 numbers adding up to a record $3.34 billion in single-day sales – a 21.6 percent growth from 2015 – it’s more important than ever for businesses to prepare themselves for the potential sales to come when the clock strikes midnight Nov. 24, 2017.
Online shopping especially is playing a greater role in the Black Friday mania, which makes it essential for you to approach the holiday with a well thought-out digital marketing strategy.
Black Friday 2017 is right around the corner, so save yourself the stress and start preparing now by focusing on the following areas of digital marketing.
Web Design and User Experience
If you have an ecommerce business, you understand the importance of having a site that’s both reliable and easy-to-use. With the influx of traffic you may see on Black Friday and throughout Thanksgiving weekend, it’s important that your site can handle it.
Nothing puts a damper on sales like a slow or malfunctioning website, so make sure that your servers are dependable and ready for the rush.
Now is also the time to take a look at your mobile user experience. Last year, mobile devices were used to make 36 percent of online sales on Black Friday, and for the first time ever, more than a billion dollars was generated in online sales from mobile devices. We can only expect these numbers to increase this year.
Between the massive increase in mobile shoppers and the time-sensitive nature of Black Friday promotions, consumers are not going to stick around if a site isn’t compatible with their device.
While you may not have time to do a complete redesign before Black Friday arrives, you can still update site content to make it more visually appealing to mobile users. Start by consulting Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test to see if your pages are optimized for mobile.
Aside from simply functioning properly, you need to take a look at the actual shopping and checkout experience. Two major questions to ask are:
- Does your website make it easy for customers to add something to their cart and make a purchase?
- How many steps must shoppers complete before their order is complete?
Complex navigation or cluttered pages make for a poor experience that could turn off visitors from spending their time and money on your site. In the early morning hours of Black Friday, no one has time to struggle through your website to find the checkout! This holiday is all about shopping with speed.
Having easy-to-use features and perks like guest checkout, PayPal payment options and secure account information for return customers can all help to set your ecommerce experience apart from the competition.
Along with having a quick and simple purchase process, you need to make sure you have the products your customers are looking for in stock.
Take a look at last year’s sales to see what items were most popular as well as this year’s trends to make sure your discounts and offers line up with things your target audience actually wants to buy. If you don’t have the season’s most popular products available at a competitive price, it will be hard for you to succeed on Black Friday.
Social Media and Paid Advertising
Whether you’re an ecommerce or brick-and-mortar business, the importance of social media and paid advertising for any type of promotion is undeniable. To build hype leading up to Black Friday, give your social media followers a first look at upcoming sales. This will not only encourage consumers to plan their shopping strategy ahead of time and put your business on their list, but it will make them feel valued and in-the-know as part of an exclusive customer base.
To generate additional buzz and conversation, you should start running paid ad campaigns on social media several days before Black Friday. A great way to target your followers is through social-exclusive deals that invite users to print out a coupon or cash in on an online discount code when the shopping holiday arrives.
Google also offers paid advertising options that can be a valuable supplement to your social media presence. Featuring your business alongside relevant search results will help build awareness and excitement for Black Friday, while also driving qualified traffic directly to your website.
Finally, make sure your Google My Business information is accurate and up-to-date so shoppers can easily find your business’ location, phone number and hours of operation while they bustle from store to store in search of the best discounts.
Once Black Friday rolls around, it’s imperative that you have one or more employees keeping tabs on your social media accounts. Being responsive to any questions or concerns that people have while shopping will not only show that your company cares about its customers, but it could also encourage sales in the process. Shoppers will appreciate the fact that you are attentive to their needs – especially on the busiest shopping day of the year.
Consumers are constantly bombarded with emails from retailers trying to get them to take advantage of the latest promotions. But, if there is one time they are paying close attention to the sales being sent directly to their inbox, it’s in the days leading up to Black Friday.
Black Friday 2016 saw 12,606 email campaigns sent by retailers, 55 percent more than in 2015. Why? Because email works. Email drove 18.1 percent of online sales from Nov. 1-28 in 2016, lagging behind only search and direct traffic.
If you don’t already have a substantial list of email addresses to leverage, we recommend working to build yours up right now. Add a pop-up to your website, let social media followers know you will emailing out specials on Black Friday and ask customers to provide their email address during the checkout process (both online and in-store). Developing a quality list is a fundamental must in having success with email, and these small, easy methods can help you start or grow your contacts database.
Whether it’s an identical design, layout or message, there are plenty of companies whose email marketing message grows stale from overuse. Everyone loves buying things at a discount, but emailing consumers about your 40 percent off sweater sale three times a week is a sure way to get customers to ignore you or unsubscribe.
Where email marketing proves its worth is when companies find a way to mix in promotions with catchy, informational messages. Emails that aren’t solely about a sale, but rather educate the recipient about top trends, budgeting tips or opportunities to give back to the community help break up sales-y pitches and offer value even without a purchase.
Then, when shoppers do receive promotional messages on days like Black Friday, when they are looking to shop, they’ll actually pay attention.
The best approach is to send a healthy balance of promotional and non-promotional messages all year long, so that when Black Friday rolls around, you can focus on sales and your subscribers won’t be annoyed. Say what you will about email marketing, but the bottom line is that it works if done right – and it really works on Black Friday.
To take advantage of these eye-opening email marketing numbers, you must design your emails with mobile in mind. If clickable icons or text are too small to read or interact with on a mobile device, you can say goodbye to potential business from those recipients.
On a high-traffic day like Black Friday, shoppers’ patience is exceptionally low. They understand that businesses are vying for their dollars tooth and nail, so they’re not going to waste their time with a company that can’t accommodate their shopping preferences right off the bat.
Like your social media and paid advertising strategies, it’s also important to establish and implement your email marketing plan well in advance of Black Friday. Get your business in your customers’ minds before their inboxes are flooded, and keep the momentum going throughout the Thanksgiving weekend and into December.
Are You Ready for Black Friday?
Black Friday tends to bring a lot of anxiety to both retailers and consumers. There are so many deals to try and take advantage of, crowds of people fighting for the same items, and exhausted employees trying to keep the peace.
However, your marketing plan doesn’t have to be this way. It’s all about planning and preparation.
The key is to stay in touch with what your customers are looking for and make sure you’re highly visible on the platforms they use. If you can strategize early and put consumers first, you’ll likely win big this Black Friday.