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Black Friday and Cyber Monday Survival Guide for Shopify Store Owners

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, Black Friday and Cyber Monday are obviously major shopping holidays here in the United States. For some of us, it’s an exciting time, for others, however, it is a hellscape of no sleep, freezing temperatures, stampeding crowds, and long lines just to get that new 70” OLED TV you’ve been eyeing all year long. For businesses, it is also an incredibly stressful time getting ready for two of the biggest retail shopping days of the entire year. If you’re of the latter group, you’ve either got your ducks in a row and just getting ready for the big holiday stretch … or you’re panicking a little trying to get your promotional ideas sorted out before all hell breaks loose. 

If you are reading this and find yourself in the camp of frantically getting your shop ready for the holidays, there are a few things you can do to right the ship so that you can go full-steam into the BFCM holiday and actually not lose any sleep over it. (Unless you plan on waiting in line for that TV too, then you know, that’s entirely up to you.)

At Slicedbread, we know all too well the stresses that come with this time of the year, and in the many years of being in this business, we have come up with a few key takeaways you can use to take (proper) advantage of this retail holiday without unwillingly losing any sleep over it. In conjunction with Shopify’s Breakthrough BFCM Campaign, we decided to write up a cheat sheet on the Black Friday and Cyber Monday Survival Guide for Shopify Store Owners

 

 

1. Create A Promotions Plan

Create A Promotions Plan

This may seem abundantly obvious, but it’s easy to not prioritize planning activities for your business when there are other seemingly more important things to do. However, for the sake of not losing any more sleep than you may already be losing (we’re going to run on this “sleep” theme quite a bit), do yourself a favor and put together a thorough promotions strategy and schedule. 

This doesn’t need to be a comprehensive business plan or a creative brief, unless your partner vendors actually need that, but simply write down the following for each promotion you plan on running:

  1. What promotion are you offering? (Percentage/fixed discounts, BOGO deals, guaranteed delivery, etc.)
  2. What assets (imagery) will you be using for each promotion?
  3. How long will the promotion(s) last?
  4. When will customers be able to start using your promotion(s)? 
  5. How is this promotion going to be broadcasted to your users? (Email, persistent dialog window, hero banner, promotional bar)
  6. What are your message(s) going to be? (ie. if you’re sending this out through both email and a hero banner, what will the message in the email be vs. the message on the hero banner?) 

This will not only help you formalize your ideas and place them into one organized area to refer back to, but will also help you tee-up your next promotion so that any new sales/deals will either be automatically delivered or require minimal work to setup at the end of the last offer. Trust us - this step helps tremendously even if you’re reading this literally the week of BFCM. 

Don’t feel the need to offer huge savings to entice BFCM customers. As long as you are offering some incentivized promotion, your customers will appreciate the savings.

 

 

2. Schedule Everything

Schedule Everything

One of the greatest things about the major shift from brick-and-mortar to online consumerism (especially for retail holidays like BFCM) is the evolution away from having to be physically present at your store the whole time. Rather than waiting until the clock strikes midnight on the 29th (or whichever day you decide to kickstart your promotions) to make your big announcement, take advantage of tools provided by Shopify and your email marketing service to schedule our collateral ahead of time. 

Have a private Collection only available starting the morning of Black Friday? No problem - set a Future Publish Date and let Shopify’s system turn that promotion on for you when you need it. 

Have discount codes that are meant to only last for a few hours? Also no problem - Create discount codes for both manual or automatic discount rules that are effective only for a limited time. 

Need to make sure your customers know all about your special offers? Don’t sit around waiting to hit the send button. Set your email sequences in your email marketing service and let them notify your customers when the time is right. Here are some helpful links for some of the more popular services we see: 

Don’t wait until the last moment for everything to go live to get your promotions going. Plan and stage as much of the work as you can so that you can enjoy both your Thanksgiving holiday as well as the sales that you’ll get from your promotions. 

 

 

3. Don’t Launch Anything Else Other Than Your Promotions

Don’t Launch Anything Else Other Than Your Promotions

With all of the pressure to capitalize on such a big retail time of the year, it’s easy to start thinking that you need to show up to your potential customers with a bang. Sure, there’s some validity to that notion, but for the sake of your sanity and SLEEP, don’t launch anything else that is otherwise not part of your actual promotions. 

What do we mean by this? Here are some examples of what to avoid launching during this period:

  1. A groundbreaking new website theme.
  2. A new landing page with a significant layout departure from the rest of the site.
  3. A website rebrand.
  4. A new business model you haven’t yet tested. 
  5. Additional third-party apps that affect the store’s usability. 

Why should you not launch these? Well, when it comes time to one of the biggest revenue days of the year for retail businesses, you want your store running as seamlessly as possible. All of the aforementioned examples introduce the possibility of something breaking or ultimately a poor user experience for many that may be their first time ever visiting your store. Consumers are more often than not just looking for a good deal during BFCM, and things like brand loyalty may not necessarily be something top of mind (yet). That doesn’t mean you should completely abstain from launching those features at all, but perhaps hold off on doing so until the quieter months of your business cycle. 



 

4. Focus Your Advertising on Prospecting 

Focus Your Advertising on Prospecting

For those of you that are digital advertisers (whether internally or as a vendor), often times you’ll hear suggestions to shift a heavier spend in your Facebook and Google Advertising campaigns toward retargeting as you approach closer to the actual BFCM dates. That’s definitely an excellent strategy — but it typically works best when you’ve already spent the last 2-3 months leading up to BFCM aggregating as many users as possible through your regular prospecting campaigns. If you’re reading this now and realizing you haven’t really done any of that up to this point, don’t fret, it doesn’t mean you’ve missed the boat. 

Instead, focus your campaigns primarily on prospecting. Continue driving those campaigns with more aggressive budgets and if budgets allow, perhaps allocate a small percentage toward retargeting. During this time of the year, we find that consumers are naturally in a shopping mentality already and there is much less of a need to incentivize consumers to spend. Rather than shifting your strategy toward a medium that is designed more to remind consumers to revisit your store and buy something, focus that effort on the vehicles that drive more exposure. Of course, set up your campaigns to still reflect the promotions you are running for this period, but overall your audience and customers will naturally convert with your prospecting campaigns if you increase the aggressiveness of your budgets for this stretch. 

 

 

5. Don’t Overthink Creative (Or Your Strategy in General)

Don’t Overthink Creative (Or Your Strategy in General)

With how obviously important this time of the year is for retail companies, it’s also easy to think that the best creative needs to be built out to really capture your audience’s attention and that would be your secret weapon for success through the BFCM period. Good creative is important, don’t get us wrong. Whether it’s being used for a promotional modal popup window, in your Facebook, Instagram, and/or Google Advertisements, or in your email blasts, you do want to have good creative as a general rule of thumb. 

BUT ... don’t stress over needing the best creative you can think of. 

As previously mentioned, consumers will already be in a shopping mentality as we approach closer to BFCM. During this period you just want quick blurbs and reminders to your target audience of what your promotional offerings are. As long as the most important meat of your promotions are captured in your communication channels, that’s all you would need to best position yourself. 

Similarly, don’t overthink your strategy either — especially if you’re an advertiser, whether internal or external. In the world of digital advertising, it’s important to also remember that the algorithms you are working with aren’t always designed to capture and process information in short and quick spurts. Typically, during off-seasons, you want to allow time for algorithms to properly process the information its given so that they know how to best deliver your ads to the right people. That same methodology is carried on continuously, regardless of whether or not it’s BFCM and in this case, you want to give them just enough information to do its job. An overwhelming amount of information to cover all of the varying degrees of complexity that may come with a promotional campaign could actually cause harm to your results. So in short, just keep it simple, and assess your spends accordingly to match your aggressiveness. 

 

 

6. Review Your Data After The Holidays

Review Your Data After The Holidays

So you’ve got your promotions plan in place, your emails and discount rules scheduled, online ads are optimally set, creative assets are on point, and you don’t have an ounce of new code being introduced to your seamlessly running Shopify store within miles. Awesome. Naturally, at this stage, we’d be pretty excited and want to watch our strategy blossom in real-time. 

As enticing (and frankly easy) as that may be, refrain from reviewing your analytics and sales reports until after the holiday run. Your BFCM push could be doing extremely well and beyond your wildest imagination, or it could also be not quite what you had hoped for. Either way, watching your data in real-time is a sure fire way to lose even more sleep, as no matter what, you’ll constantly be asking yourself what else you could have also done to make these numbers better. 

At this point, there truly isn’t much you can do to drive your sales even more (and even if there is, you run the risk of messing up a well-oiled system that thus going back to the fourth point of not introducing any other potential breaks). Trust your gut on how you built your promotions plan and review the results after the holiday stretch. Use that opportunity to see the full picture holistically and compare these results to the years prior (don’t look at month-over-month reports, as they are always unfairly skewed with holidays). We traditionally like using a combination of Google Analytics, Google Ads, and Facebook Business Manager to see how our campaigns performed. But also take advantage of Shopify’s native reporting tools if you don’t already in conjunction with all of your other tools to get a full picture of your results. 




There are of course a thousand other things you can do to ensure your BFCM push performs at its best. If you’ve already gotten a head start and done all of these things then by all means, go the extra mile and polish wherever you can. But if you’re among those that are maybe just a little behind the eight ball and don’t want to miss the boat, doing these 6 things can help make sure you can still catch a ride and without having to lose sleep at night. The most important thing is to just not panic and look at your strategy from the simplest approach you can make it. This will not only make your life easier, but may very well also yield the same results as with a more complex approach. 

Hugo Da Rosa
Director of Creative Accounts
In the same way that someone once realized that a stick, used as a lever, can lift heavy objects, I spend most of my day leveraging tools we already have to do things never thought possible, creating new methods to go beyond reality. I provide the technological expertise to all high-level decision making both internal and external to Slicedbread, along with planning and execution of all business development initiatives. I’m an inventor of digital solutions, I’m a leader of innovation, I’m an explorer of new and exciting technical horizons, so whatever it is that your business needs, my team of visual and development artists can make it a reality.
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