With Black Friday and Cyber Monday just weeks away, is it too late to start preparing your store and strategy?
Short answer - No!
In fact, what you do in those final weeks can be so important to the success of your promotional strategy on BFCM weekend. Catching those much needed site optimizations, adding content, and tweaking your post-purchase experience. What you do now can make an impact, and you can keep preparing right up to the day before Black Friday…after you’ve finished off the Thanksgiving turkey, that is!
Why it’s never too late to prepare for Black Friday weekend
While it’s true that many retailers will start Black Friday prep earlier in the year, that doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do as BFCM draws closer. After all, the larger the retailer, the more resources they can dedicate to something like Black Friday earlier. However many if not most ecommerce merchants will likely start preparing in September/October. With the day to day running of your store, you need to allocate resources efficiently and that may not always allow for summertime BFCM prep.
There are a lot of tasks that merchants can do in the weeks leading up to Black Friday weekend that will make a real impact in the build up to and on the weekend itself. Customers will start looking for Black Friday/Cyber Monday deals in October, but won’t start seriously considering what purchases to make until around 2 weeks before. And of course, they won’t actually start buying until the weekend itself unless they find some early-access sales. That gives merchants plenty of time to finetune their store experience and find those easy wins right up till BFCM weekend. Even a week before, there are still things that can be done.
5 ways you can improve your store now before BFCM
#1 - Publish Black Friday content and use seasonal keywords
In the weeks before Black Friday, customers will be researching and scoping out brands they might want to shop with. To be ready for them, it helps to get started with some Black Friday related content in advance. By doing so and incorporating seasonal keywords, your content will be primed to appear higher in search results pages and capture those potential customers using search engines to find BFCM deals.
Content wise, you could publish a couple of Black Friday focussed blogs as well as creating or updating a Black Friday landing page. Blog topics might include buying guides - these are similar to gift guides, but may instead focus on the products that will be part of your BFCM promotion. These give you the opportunity to showcase products and deals ahead of Black Friday as a sort of sneak peek, while also taking advantage of seasonal keywords.
As for a landing page, these can provide customers with a good hub of information about BFCM and allow you to collect more meaningful data about how customers engage with your store and products over the weekend. If you’re not quite ready to announce your deals weeks in advance, it can still be valuable to have the page itself ready with some keywords and basic content. It could be as simple as a countdown with some text, or you could add some placeholder content such as current sale items.
Seasonal keywords can potentially give your store a boost in search results. These could be as simple as adding relevant modifiers to your existing target keywords, e.g. “Black Friday”, “Black Friday 2023”, “Cyber Monday deals 2023”, and so on. These help show search engines that your content is fresh and relevant, which they’ll prioritize showing to their users in the run up to Black Friday.
#2 - Review your site performance and identify easy wins
A big challenge faced by many merchants over Black Friday weekend is site performance. With increased traffic and lots of new customers to make a good impression on, you want to know your site is ready. Customers won’t hang around if your site isn’t at its peak performance - 79% of customers who experience poor site performance say they’re less likely to buy from a brand. 1 in 4 customers will leave a site if it takes more than 4 seconds to load, and 61% say they’d leave if they can’t find what they’re looking for right away on a mobile site.
Here are the top issues you can look at right now:
Customers want to be able to load and checkout fast over BFCM so they don’t miss out on any deals. If your site takes too long to load, then they may just switch to a competitor. And if they experience slow load speeds during their pre-Black Friday research then they might not come back on Black Friday itself! You can test page speed using tools like PageSpeed Insights, then making some simple changes such as reducing image file size, minifying code, and making use of browser caching.
404s and 404 management
404 errors, or broken links, can happen for a variety of reasons. Maybe it’s a mistyped link, or a page has been moved without a proper redirect. Whatever the case, they result in a lot of frustration for customers and you definitely don’t want them to show up over BFCM. Take the time now to find any 404s, and start fixing them. You can do this manually, or using tools like SEO Manager.
Did you know that in 2022, 73% of all sales made over BFCM through Shopify merchants were made on a mobile device? Mobile commerce allows customers to snap up those Black Friday deals no matter if they’re at home, in the office, or even at the beach. That means it’s vital to make sure your mobile experience is up to scratch. All Shopify themes from the Theme Store are mobile adaptive, but you should still take the time to review things like mobile navigation and page layout.
How easy it is to navigate your store will have an impact on how customers experience your store over BFCM weekend. They want to be able to find the products they want as fast as possible, and that will largely come down to how good your navigation is set up. Consider for example adding in some temporary collections or categories that are specifically for Black Friday deals - especially if your promotions won’t be sitewide.
These are all easy wins for your store that will enhance site performance, and as a bonus will be good for SEO.
#3 - Encourage current customers to leave reviews
It’s safe to say that many of us understand the value and importance of reviews in ecommerce. Even thinking about when you’re the customer - how often do you read a review before making a purchase? Customers will typically get the information they need from your product pages, then they’ll use reviews to better inform their decisions. That vote of confidence from someone similar is a huge boost.
It will be important over BFCM for your store to not only have reviews visible and available, but fresh reviews. That’s why now is the time to really push your review gathering strategy and get some relevant, recent reviews ready for those Black Friday shoppers. This might mean adding more emails to, or changing up the schedule for emails in your review gathering email workflow. Or you may want to create an entirely new and tailored pre-BFCM workflow. You may want to consider segmenting your audience and asking some customers to review on sites like Google or Trustpilot - these third party reviews will give additional confidence to customers.
You also want to ensure that your team responds to negative reviews as well as positive ones. More than half of customers expect businesses to respond to negative reviews within a week, and 41% say that they’re more likely to engage with a business that responds to negative feedback. Customers know that not every sale is going to go smoothly. But seeing that a store is willing to engage with and resolve negative feedback instead of burying it demonstrates that proactivity and care in the customer experience.
#4 - Improve your post-purchase experience
We may currently be in that period before Black Friday, but you need to also think about what happens after. You’ve improved your site’s performance and loaded it with great content to complement your amazing products, so now it’s time to consider your post-purchase experience. This is everything that happens after the customer has completed checkout.
Black Friday weekend is unique to other sales periods as it leads directly into the very busy holiday shopping season. With that comes additional stress that customers may not typically experience when shopping during a promotional event. They know that Black Friday can often result in delayed dispatch times, and the holiday season in general frequently runs into issues with logistics. However if you can mitigate this and provide a reassuring, customer focussed post-purchase experience, it will lead to higher customer satisfaction and therefore a better chance at retention in the new year.
One of the easiest ways to improve your post-BFCM customer experience is to implement real-time tracking tools. The usual tracking process means that customers rely on third-party tools that can vary in the kind of information and detail they offer. These tools also won’t provide all the information about their order, and will take them away from your brand experience. This will all impact how they view their experience with your brand, rather than thinking of courier actions as a separate issue.
If your store is built with Shopify then you can install tools like Order Lookup - this is a fully customizable customer facing portal that offers real-time tracking. Customers can see exactly where their order is, along with the details of the order and any notes your team has added for their information. While it pulls information from your chosen courier partner, it keeps the entire experience under your brand’s control. The detailed info the customer has access to helps to alleviate those post-BFCM shipping anxieties and improves your post-purchase experience.
#5 - Prepare your post-BFCM retention strategy
As well as the post-purchase experience, you need to also consider how you’ll engage with and retain customers when the holiday season is over. How will you encourage Black Friday customers to come back and make another purchase? You’ll likely see a split of new vs returning customers, with both requiring their own approach to retention.
New customers can be tricky, as their first purchase made use of some kind of promotion. Whether it was a discount, a freebie, or something else, it sets a sort of precedent. They understand that Black Friday is a one-off, but they may still take a little bit of extra convincing. Returning customers are more likely to make another purchase, but there should still be a retention strategy in place to ensure they remain loyal to your brand.
Here are three ways you encourage retention in the new year with all of your Black Friday/Cyber Monday customers:
A strong loyalty program can be a great way to engage your customers and keep them around for longer. Let new customers know about your program soon after Black Friday, reminding them again in the new year about the perks and benefits they could take advantage of. For returning customers, perhaps remind them of how many points they’ve accrued or which tier they’re on and the benefits they’ve earned.
Rewards/incentives outside loyalty programs
If you want to offer more outside a loyalty program, or you don’t yet have one in place, you could also consider other rewards and incentives to encourage retention. That may include offers for free shipping, a discount on their next order, a freebie, a gift card, or something else. You can segment your customer base and scale the incentive/reward based on a number of factors. For example, you may want to offer a higher value reward to your most loyal customers who shopped over Black Friday weekend, and a small incentive to new customers.
Personalized email content
One of the best ways to encourage retention is simply to keep engaging with your customers through email. This is your direct line of communication, and is more effective than other methods like social media advertising. In the weeks following their BFCM purchase, keep up email communication - request feedback, product education, community information, loyalty programs etc. And most importantly, personalize the content they receive. It should be specific to the products they’re interested in, or ones they might like based on their purchase. Use the information you have about each customer to make it feel like they’re getting emails specifically for them and their interests.
Black Friday is right around the corner, and how you use the weeks leading up to it could result in bringing in extra customers and seeing even greater success.