How to Prepare Your Shopify Store for BF/CM 2020 (A Beginner's Guide)

October 21, 2020
Swathi Bhaskaran

How to Prepare Your Shopify Store for BF/CM 2020 (A Beginner's Guide)

October 21, 2020
Swathi Bhaskaran
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Holiday shopping is going to happen this year. But, it will look different due to the COVID-19 pandemic

During the 2019 Black Friday/Cyber Monday (BF/CM), Shopify merchants across the world sold $2.9+ billion. This year, despite the financial hardships from the pandemic, sales are expected to match or exceed this number. 

No one knows for sure just yet how BF/CM will play out in reality. But retailers who prepare in advance can bring in desired sales during this season. 

Here are three major pieces — from beginning to middle to end — to help you prepare and launch a successful BF/CM campaign for your Shopify store. Also, we’ve included over 10 apps that can help you streamline your processes along the way.

1. Laying the Groundwork

abstract purple, maroon and teal image of a seedling in the ground

Craft the Offer

After months of shelter-in-place, consumers have become more than comfortable with the idea of online shopping. And experts expect this trend to continue through BF/CM. 

But before you can map out your campaigns and projections this holiday shopping season, you need to get clear on your offer. It must be both appealing to your customer and your business. (Also, make sure to account for your ecommerce fulfillment strategy since we’re still in a pandemic.)

Then, get organized: 

  • Download the information of all your products into a CSV file,
  • Mark the ones going on sale, and
  • Include the discounts and dates for when they’re active.

Remember, having too many offers complicates the shopping experience for consumers. For example, you’ll want to promote '25% off sitewide' throughout BF/CM instead of having a different offer for every day of the week. 

That said, effective BF/CM campaigns aim at specific customer segments to deliver targeted and relevant offers. Some potential segments you can look for are last year’s buyers, shoppers looking for deals and website visitors who haven’t made a purchase yet.

Design Marketing Assets

Your creatives must be original and eye-catching as you compete for customer attention. You’ll want to:

  • Hire an agency or professional to help design the collaterals. Or, if that doesn’t fit within your budget, use tools like Canva to design your own creatives. 
  • Write solid copy for ads. It’s not just an exercise in creative thinking — you need research-backed psychology. Also, ensure the copy is consistent with the messaging on your site. 
  • Design and organize marketing assets depending on your campaign. You’ll need creatives in different formats and sizes for social media and your blog. If you plan to leverage influencer marketing, keep their assets ready as well.

Retargeting and paid advertising are expensive during the holiday season, so set aside a sizable budget for the purpose. Instead of bidding on generic terms like “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday,” focus ad spends on keywords with high purchase intent, like “buy XYZ product.” 

Promo Banner is a free Shopify app you can use to increase conversions by creating a sense of urgency with a flash sale timer in the banner space of your site. 

Create a Landing Page

Often, businesses use their website home page to promote campaigns. This leads to confusion and distracts customers, as your home page already has a lot of information on it.

A BF/CM-specific landing page narrows those choices and directs customers to only one given action, which simplifies their decision-making process. Optimizing this landing page for SEO also helps drive organic traffic to your store over the busiest shopping weekend of the year.

Landing pages not only increase the click-through rate (CTR), they also provide data and insights for merchants to improve the effectiveness of their overall campaign by monitoring factors such as conversion rate and incoming leads. You can use a no-code plug-and-play tool like Shogun to create a landing page for your BF/CM page in less than a few minutes. 

Focus on Emails

Customers anticipate Black Friday promotional emails from brands they love. And, they're likely to spend 138% more than those who didn’t receive them.

Promotional emails help customers get excited — and prepared. 

You want to create different emails for different customer segments. Shopify users can access Klaviyo or Shopify Email to send segmented messages. (Also, offer subscribers an opt-out from BF/CM emails so certain users won't unsubscribe from your email list altogether.)

While you’re getting email scripts ready, pay special attention to abandoned cart emails as well. In 2019, the global cart abandonment rate was 68.05% and 73.78% for Cyber Monday and Black Friday, respectively.

Customers, especially around BF/CM, have shiny object syndrome and are prone to abandoning their carts. This is where an email from your brand can inspire action and nudge them to continue with the checkout process. 

Keep email templates ready for stock-outs and back-in-stock scenarios. Also, think about post-BF/CM customer communication — engage with them and offer more value to keep them hooked on your store.

Personalize Offers and the Experience

Ninety-one percent of shoppers are likely to buy from you if you offer what they want. While personalization based on customer segmentation, past purchases and browsing history are solid options, you can also offer something “holidays 2020”-centric.

The novel coronavirus will affect the number of consumers who choose to shop in-person this year. And this Black Friday, some shoppers are going to miss the in-store experiences and accompanying energy of the crowds. 

You can make it worth their while by recreating the excitement for them. For example, you can introduce a cool unboxing experience of a new product on your YouTube channel (and maybe start one altogether to talk directly to buyers). Or, you can incorporate digital wish and shopping lists on your site that consumers can send to family and friends — you can even create a marketing campaign to encourage people to use these lists to virtually shop together!

Some other ideas:

  • Incorporate SMS into your marketing channels. SMS is great for sending personalized updates, and 75% of consumers are interested in receiving texts with special offers. You can use SMSBump, Postscript and Privy for your Shopify store for SMS marketing and automation.  
  • Create shareable discount links that eliminate the need for shoppers to find or enter a code — 2020 has been tough enough, so eliminate the guesswork.

Now that you’ve laid the groundwork for BF/CM, it is time to work out the next steps.

2. Optimizing for Best Results

abstract purple, maroon and teal image of watering the seed in the ground

Prime Your Shopify Store 

Many big box stores continue to face crashes on their ecommerce site during the BF/CM sales — and these downtimes can affect revenue goals. Avoid this by ensuring your website can handle unprecedented traffic. 

Take up usability testing to determine if your website is user-friendly. While it’s not advisable to implement major site design changes just in time for the BF/CM sale, you can use tools like UserTesting to test audience reaction before implementing a new feature or functionality on your website.

Black Friday 2019 saw 2.9 billion in sales materialize from smartphones: So, ensure your site is mobile-optimized to increase your conversion rate

And remember, no one likes slow page speeds, least of all online shoppers — when the page speed increased by just one second, conversions boosted by 7%. Remove dormant Shopify apps that slow down your site.

Finally, the checkout page makes or breaks the sale. Twenty-one percent of U.S. online shoppers abandoned a purchase midway because of a lengthy checkout process. Accelerated checkout buttons like Shop Pay or Apple Pay help returning customers quickly complete payment options for their orders, thereby eliminating any friction in the process.

Manage Your Inventory

Nothing irks holiday shoppers like finding an item is out of stock. In one study, 80% of shoppers defected to a competitor’s site to purchase a product when it wasn’t available at the original retailer.

Some actions to take ahead of time:

  • Forecast the demand — Inventory Planner can help you do so — and expect it to peak during BF/CM. 
  • Order enough supplies and work out the reorder point
  • Pull shopping trends from the past to understand the products that customers liked the most. 

While thinking about inventory management, you can’t afford to miss planning for fulfillment and last-mile delivery. Shopify apps like Shippo and AfterShip reduce the hassles involved in shipping, especially during the busiest time of the year for ecommerce businesses.

On that note, have an action plan to deal with the returns. Solicit feedback actively for the return merchandise using a tool like Return Magic. The customer feels heard and you can identify areas of improvement in your business from the returns feedback.

Have a Plan B Ready

Even the best laid plans can fail. You want to put a contingency plan in place so you don't have to do last-minute damage control amid the busiest time of the year.

Shopify Analytics gives insights into your store’s activity and helps plan for worst-case scenarios. Consider what you might do when faced with website crashes, shipping issues, budget restrictions or inventory shortage.

In the event of a crisis, effective customer communication provides you with an opportunity to stand out. Keep templates ready for potential mishaps to inform the customer and strengthen their confidence in your brand.

Finally, arrange a 24-hour trial sale prior to BF/CM to ensure the promotional codes, inventory, checkout and fulfillment are working fine.

The end of BF/CM isn’t the end of it all. Customers that had a good interaction with a brand during BF/CM will appreciate it when they see the brand pop up in their inbox after the sale

Speaking of, here’s how you can get customers to come back after BF/CM.

3. Engaging Customers to Keep Them Coming Back for More

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Strengthen Customer Relationships

You want to turn your BF/CM sales into loyal customers. But the grim reality is that BF/CM shoppers are unreliable and 70% of them won't return to your brand after their purchase.  

Retailers who can engage with their customers in a personalized way and create an experience with multiple layers of value will have loyal patrons who stick with them. You can do this by:

  • Sending a thank-you note and discounts they can use straight away along with their order. Or, send it a few weeks afterward, to jog their memory and stay on top of their mind — the idea is to keep customers inspired and coming for more.
  • Starting a rewards program to move one-time customers to loyal customers. Make rewards available after the first purchase and send reward reminder emails periodically. 

Bonus: Shoppers refer brands they appreciate to their family and friends when they feel fulfilled from a buying experience. 

Conduct a BF/CM Post-Mortem

What worked during this holiday campaign – and what didn’t?

What happens after the sale is just as important to go into the next year’s season with confidence. Review your efforts, and understand which marketing channels and campaigns worked best to produce the desired results and engagement. 

Request post-sale reviews by satisfied customers, which can be used as a trust builder for your community. Leverage these reviews to not only understand areas of improvement, but to connect with your customers and prospects better. The Shopify dashboard will give you insights into analytics, like average order value and conversion rate over this period, too. 

Also, make note of the product offerings, marketing techniques and price points of your competitors. This competitive analysis will help you retool for future campaigns as well.

Here’s to a Successful BF/CM 

If this is your first BF/CM, you have a challenge ahead of you to steer it to success in the middle of a pandemic. These tips will not just help you ace the Black Friday/Cyber Monday season, but will ensure customers come back to your online shop throughout the year.

No matter what, learn, iterate and come back stronger for the next season. Best of luck during the biggest sale period of the year!

Swathi Bhaskaran

Swathi Bhaskaran is a freelance marketing writer in the tech and ecommerce space. She has over six years of experience and has written for Freshworks and Twilio.