The 27-Point Checklist to Prepare Your Store for Black Friday Cyber Monday

The 27-Point Checklist to Prepare Your Store for Black Friday Cyber Monday

Prepare for Black Friday Cyber Monday 2018.

Black Friday Cyber Monday (BFCM) is a tremendous opportunity for your ecommerce business to make money.

Last year, over $1 billion was collectively sold by Shopify merchants around the world during Black Friday Cyber Monday (BFCM)—and shoppers spent billions more throughout the four-day event at businesses of all shapes and sizes.

If you want to get in on this year’s biggest shopping weekend, now is the time to start planning.

Be a bestseller

Successfully navigating Black Friday Cyber Monday can be stressful for many store owners as they ready their campaigns and prepare their business for an influx of traffic, sales, orders to fulfill, and support requests.

During this and every BFCM, we want your store to be a bestseller, achieving whatever results represent your personal best.

There are always new milestones to reach regardless of where you are on your entrepreneurial journey. To help you achieve yours, we’ve completely overhauled our annual BFCM Toolbox and checklist, resources built to address the biggest opportunities and thorniest issues you’ll encounter.

The goal is simple: more sales, happier customers, fewer headaches. As always, it’s the execution that’s hard. With this checklist, you'll have a plan that can survive contact with the real world. And throughout the rest of 2018, we’ll ship new products and features and share advice on how to make this holiday shopping season your best (and most profitable) yet.

Start planning now

Planning for BFCM 2018 will help you make the most of it

1. Prepare for customers who have already started researching

Prepare your holiday sales as early as you can and begin letting your customers and visitors know about your upcoming sale well in advance.

According to research from RetailMeNot, over half of US shoppers plan to start their holiday shopping before BFCM. Not only do you need to start preparing early, but you also need to ensure that customers looking for gift ideas and information on particular products find you.

2. Organize your upcoming sales

Look at all of your products and plan your deals and discounts ahead of time instead of putting on a sale last minute.

One idea is to create a “planned sales map” in Google Sheets or Excel, giving you a simple outline of all your upcoming sales. Here’s a pre-made Google Sheets template you can use to plan your sales this year. Just go to File > Make a copy to save it to your Drive.

A planning spreadsheet for your BFCM sales

Choose the products you want to run a holiday sale on and schedule their start dates and sale prices. This way, when the holiday sale rolls around, you can refer to your plans instead of scrambling at the last minute. You can find help in the Shopify App Store to make scheduling sales easy.

When you’re ready to implement your sales, make sure to leverage Shareable Discount Links to make redeeming your offer codes even easier for your customers—and boost your conversions while you’re at it.

Learn more about all of the different types of discounts you can set up in Shopify.

3. Create contingency plans

Do you have the proper backups in place in case anything goes awry? What happens if the shipping company you work with becomes too busy? How quickly can you restock inventory if you sell out earlier than expected?

We're not looking to stir up unfounded fears, but it's important to prepare for tough situations. Think about the worst case scenarios for your business and create contingency plans wherever possible. It’s much easier to handle the planning now, versus troubleshooting in the midst of the biggest sales weekend of the year.

Prepare for an uptick in demand

How to plan for demand during BFCM

4. Test or ensure your website can handle a surge in traffic

Sometimes, too many simultaneous requests to your website can bog it down and potentially crash your site. This kind of downtime usually takes an enormous amount of traffic to occur, but it’s still a good idea to ensure your host can handle a spike in traffic.

You can test the server load capacity of your store with tools like LoadImpact.com.

5. Ensure your store can handle increased demand

If you rely on a supplier for your inventory, or your product is created or manufactured by you or your team, consider the increased demand you’ll experience during the holiday season.

Work with your suppliers and ensure they’re prepared to handle your projected sales for the holiday season. One of the worst things that can happen during a sale is selling out faster than you wanted to and not meeting the demand of your customers.

Ready your campaigns and creative

Get your campaigns ready for BFCM

6. Create banners and hero images to advertise holiday sales

What better way to promote your holiday sales than with gorgeous graphics and visuals? Whether you’re planning to use banner ads to promote your holiday sales or changing the header/hero image on your homepage for Black Friday Cyber Monday, you don’t need to be a graphic designer to get things done.

If you lack graphic design chops, you could use a template from CreativeMarket, use online design tools like Canva, or hire a freelance designer to create your graphics.

7. Plan ads and ad copy

It’s always a good idea to plan the ads and ad copy you’re about to run for a sale or promotion ahead of time so you can put more thought into copy and ad placement.

If you need help planning your ads, here are some resources from our blog:

Just remember that bids can get more expensive during the competitive holiday season depending on your niche. You may need to increase your bid price on specific keywords or for certain audiences to increase the visibility of your ads during big holiday sales. If you plan to do paid advertising, it’s a good idea to prepare your holiday sale ad budgets as well.

Marketing in Shopify: Grow your business with Facebook and Google Ads

 

Marketing in Shopify is a new place to help you create, launch, and measure campaigns. We’ve streamlined the process to make running a successful ad campaign easier than ever, and you can start a Google Smart Shopping campaign and Facebook ads in Shopify today.

Run your first campaign on Shopify

8. Build suspense and buzz around your upcoming sale

It’s easy to announce a Black Friday Cyber Monday sale, but building suspense and buzz can help make it an outsized success.

Tease your customers with emails of what’s to come, post sneak peeks of upcoming sales on social media, and start piquing the curiosity of your customers. The sooner you begin doing this, the more momentum you will have during Black Friday Cyber Monday when you finally announce the sale.

Test and optimize for conversion

Optimize your store ahead of BFCM

9. Consider creating abandoned cart emails

According to Barilliance, the average cart abandonment rate on Black Friday 2017 was 74.5%. Of course, you’ll want to try and keep that number as low as possible.

One of the most effective ways of doing this is by setting up targeted abandoned cart emails. This way, when a customer adds a product to their cart but leaves your store, you can use a compelling email to bring them back to complete their purchase.

Shopify makes this easy with built-in abandoned checkout recovery and a wide selection of abandoned cart apps in the Shopify App Store.

10. Think mobile first

Last year, Shopify stores saw more mobile purchases than desktop purchases across all of BFCM for the first time.

We should expect this trend to continue and possibly increase. What this means for you as a store owner is that thinking mobile first is essential.

What's your store’s user experience like on mobile? Is it easy and intuitive to make purchases on your store? Is your website mobile responsive?

All of Shopify’s themes are responsive and mobile-friendly, but if you’re not using Shopify, test how your store looks on a mobile device.

While you’re looking at your store on mobile, make sure to examine your checkout process as well. Especially on mobile, filling in every field required to check out can be a conversion killer, which is why options like Shopify Pay and Google Pay can provide an added boost to your mobile conversions this year if you’re using Shopify Payments. They let customers autofill saved information, reducing the keystrokes or clicks required to make a purchase.

11. Test your site and get feedback

What if you could get inside the head of a potential customer and listen to their thoughts as they navigate your store for the first time? There could be issues you don't notice or areas of your store where you can make simple improvements—a fresh pair of eyes is the perfect way to surface these otherwise hidden opportunities.

There are many ways to get someone to go through your store and give you feedback, but one great option is UserTesting. UserTesting lets you set parameters about who you’d like to test your store. Then you can watch a random user fitting that description browse your website so you can listen to their feedback.

Feedback is valuable, but you also shouldn’t make unconsidered changes to your store based on a single source of negative feedback. Instead, look for common snags or areas where visitors are frequently confused or frustrated, and brainstorm solutions to make things easier or more explicit, or ways to remove the hurdle altogether.

12. Place tracking pixels

If you run paid campaigns such as Facebook Ads or Google Smart Shopping campaigns, both of which you can set up directly in Shopify, you should place retargeting pixels on your website so you can remarket to your holiday sale traffic. Here’s how to find and generate tracking pixel code for your website with Facebook Ads and Google AdWords:

For help on where and how to paste these code snippets using Shopify, read our documentation.

Market and promote your products

Market and promote your products for BFCM

In 2017, one ad agency found that on Black Friday, click-through rates more than doubled across all of their clients’ ads. Shoppers are generally more receptive to ads during the holiday season, but because this is an established trend, you’ll find the price of running ads during BFCM typically goes up as well.

But even with increased costs, your customers may be paying more attention to ads during this time. That means marketing can play a significant role in the success of your holiday sales. As mentioned, the first step to getting ready is to plan your ads and ad creative ahead of time. Here are a few other marketing preparations you should consider for the holiday season.

13. Retarget past visitors and customers

If you’ve already set up a Facebook Pixel on your store, now’s the time to use it. When you retarget past visitors, you’ll reach people who may have forgotten about your store and wouldn’t have checked out your sale otherwise.

Exclusive to Shopify merchants, Kit is a free virtual assistant app that helps you run Facebook and Instagram ads—including retargeting. If you’ve not had a chance to meet Kit, now is a great time to try it to take some marketing work off your plate.

You can also retarget customers that have previously purchased from your store. With existing customers being generally easier to reach and market to than brand new customers, shoppers you’ve already sold to in the past should be especially receptive to your latest Black Friday Cyber Monday sales.

14. Begin pitching to blogs and gift guides

Sometimes it can take weeks of back-and-forth with a website before you finalize a sponsorship or partnership agreement. That isn’t to say last-second sponsorships or partnerships aren’t possible, but it’s always better to contact blogs and gift guide websites earlier rather than later.

Find websites talking about Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals or running gift guides in your niche, and get in touch with them to feature your products and planned sales. If you need help with this, here’s a guide to securing press coverage in unconventional ways (with a $0 budget).

15. Start your email marketing campaigns

During last year’s BFCM, Shopify merchants saw their highest conversion rates from email marketing.

This year, email marketing will likely play an even more significant role in the success of most stores’ holiday sales. Every business owner should have a few email marketing campaigns planned to bring customers back to your website so they can act on your holiday sale offers.

Begin planning, creating, and scheduling the emails you’ll send out during your Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales. Here are some ideas for email campaigns you can put together:

  • Announcing Black Friday Cyber Monday sale: You can send details of the sale ahead of time to existing subscribers, and a reminder email when the sale officially begins.
  • Last reminder before the sale ends: With the volume of emails sent over BFCM, it can’t hurt to remind subscribers that your sale is almost over to make sure they’re aware. Plus, you’ll inevitably get some procrastinators jumping on the expiring deals.
  • Exclusive sale for email subscribers: One way to capture attention in a crowded BFCM inbox is to send a deal that’s only available to your list, on top of your publicly-posted deals. Make sure to tease it on other channels, like Instagram, and let people know when to expect the subscriber-only offer.
  • Sneak-peek of upcoming promotions: Whether your BFCM offer is a discount, an exclusive product, free shipping, donations to charity, or a totally-unique-to-you promotion, start teasing it early to your subscribers so they’re on the lookout for the announcement. Send emails in the weeks leading up to BFCM with hints and teasers.

Plan out your seasonal sales

    Plan out your seasonal BFCM sales

    16. Consider having at least one doorbuster sale

    A strategy many retailers use is to run a “jaw-dropping” sale on a popular item to attract customers to their store.

    Once customers come for the doorbuster, there’s a chance they’ll pick up a few other items on their way to the checkout. Occasionally this product serves as a loss leader, with the difference being made up by customers adding more to their cart than they would have without the flagship product’s deep discount.

    A BFCM door-crasher deal from BestBuyA BFCM example of a door-crasher deal from Best Buy

    What can’t-miss sale will draw people to your store? If you’re sending an email to your subscribers, consider focusing on the one sale product you feel is the most enticing, instead of promoting all of your Black Friday Cyber Monday sales at the same time.

    Once you’ve attracted new visitors to your store, employ a few proven approaches to boost your average order value, like offering free shipping above a certain threshold or offering seasonal product bundles. That way, you’ll nudge people to add more to their cart beyond just the initial offer that convinced them to visit your store.

    17. Reward loyal customers

    Black Friday Cyber Monday is an opportune time to build relationships with your previous customers and get them to come back.

    Customer marketing is an opportunity to email and retarget your previous customers with your best deals. Give existing customers the chance to access a sale earlier or offer exclusive sales just for being a subscriber on your email list. Exclusive deals also act as an incentive for shoppers to leave their email before potentially leaving your site.

    18. Build in scarcity where possible

    The holiday shopping season naturally attracts many frantic shoppers looking for the best last-second deals. Offers go fast and customers move even faster, so don’t be shy about letting shoppers know when a deal is about to end or when a particular product is going to sell out, working some scarcity into your store. Consider including countdown timers until or “left in stock” alerts when time or a specific offer is limited.

    Update your support process

    Get your customer support ready for BFCM

    19. Integrate live chat

    You should be easy to reach by customers (and potential customers) during Black Friday Cyber Monday. The last thing you want is to lose a sale because a potential customer couldn’t get an answer quickly enough.

    If you’re not ready or able to commit to having live chat staffed and monitored at all times, there are still ways to use live chat strategically as a small business. To get the most out of live chat during a rush hour, consider enabling it:

    • Right after sending emails or launching promotions, make sure you’re available when you know there will be people clicking through from their inbox
    • On product pages you feature in your BFCM deals, to address any questions customers have before they buy
    • During key purchasing moments, like when someone is viewing their shopping cart

    Your live chat tool should be able to give you the control you need to make sure you’re displaying the chat window to the right people, at the times that work best for you.

    20. Ensure you have quick and courteous responses

    The holidays are a potentially hectic time for customer support, whether it’s managed by you or your team. Part of providing a fantastic experience is having a quick response time—the other part is being courteous and respectful, even to uncourteous and impatient customers.

    Having a few standard phrases and replies already prepared will enable you to deliver more consistent, helpful service with minimal upfront effort.

    It’s also worth brushing up on how to handle upset customers effectively and empathetically, and what makes for genuinely delightful customer service—getting this information out of your head and written down somewhere makes it easy to share it with your team or any extra help you’ve hired for the holiday rush.

    Be memorable this year and customers will remember to come back next year.

    21. Offer easy and hassle-free returns

    The holidays aren’t just stressful for business owners; they’re also a frantic time for shoppers. Be the business that cares and goes above and beyond the call of duty for their customers.

    Make sure your return policy is clear, fair, and well-communicated on your store. It might just convince on-the-fence customers to pull the trigger since you're showing confidence in your product and removing potential risk.

    Track everything and analyze results

    Track your results during BFCM

    22. Set up Google Analytics

    Google Analytics is a powerful, free traffic tracking tool that every ecommerce business owner should be using. If you’re not set up with Google Analytics on your store, or you just want to ensure you’re using it correctly, check out our beginner's guide to Google Analytics.

    23. Get familiar with your Shopify Reports

    There’s a lot you can learn from your Shopify analytics, including tracking how your 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.

    24. Set up heatmaps or advanced user/traffic tracking services

    Where are visitors clicking? How do customers read your product pages? While Shopify’s Analytics tools are powerful enough for most businesses, you might want to consider using additional user-tracking tools to gather detailed data during Black Friday Cyber Monday.

    Woman working at computer
    Image credit: Lucky Orange

    You can check out heatmap apps in the Shopify App Store as well as looking at some advanced analytics tools in the Shopify App Store.

    25. Keep an eye on the competition

    Paying attention to your competition’s marketing efforts can help you gather ideas for your own Black Friday Cyber Monday deals. The easiest way to sleuth on your competitors is to subscribe to their email list. Study the types of emails they send, and how frequently they send them. But remember, don’t be “too inspired.”

    Additionally, keep tabs on competitors on social media and set up Google Alerts to see which websites are talking about them.

    Post-Black Friday Cyber Monday

    How to handle marketing post-BFCM

    26. Turn seasonal shoppers into year-round customers

    Why does your relationship with holiday shoppers need to end after the holidays? Instead, take steps to maintain and nurture your relationship with new customers you acquired during Black Friday Cyber Monday.

    Keep your customers engaged year-round by staying active on social media and sending out post-sale emails to your subscribers. If those 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.

    If you set up retargeting pixels, one-time shoppers can become customers you advertise to year-round. Bring them back to your website with enticing ad copy, and continue to expose them to your latest or most-relevant products.

    27. Reflect on what worked and what didn’t

    The holiday season is an excellent time for your business to learn from its mistakes 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 the outcomes. These records will give you a benchmark for next year’s holiday season, while also allowing you to see what’s working for your business so you can do more of it.

    Here's to a successful Black Friday Cyber Monday

    Preparation, planning, and starting earlier rather than later are the keys to a successful Black Friday and Cyber Monday. This checklist should cover most of what you need to know for this year’s upcoming sale events. Hopefully, it puts you in a better position to succeed this holiday season.

    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.

    Thank you to Desirae Odjick for her contributions to this post!

    More resources for making the most of BFCM:

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