For decades, the peak of the holiday shopping season has occurred on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. Americans are typically off work, and many spend hours hunting down bargains and whittling down their shopping lists.
Black Friday is a retail bonanza both in-store and online. According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), nearly 180 million individual shoppers made purchases on Black Friday and the holiday weekend in 2021, despite the pandemic – only a slight dip from pre-pandemic levels.
If you think of your typical sales throughout the year as waves, think of Black Friday as a tsunami. Your brick-and-mortar store and your website are likely to be inundated with shoppers. If you fail to plan, you will run into problems like low inventory and out-of-stock items, frustrated customers, and more breakage than usual.
If you are a retailer, getting Black Friday right can make your bottom line for the entire year. Here are seven ways to capitalize on the Black Friday frenzy.
How to capitalize on Black Friday
Use these strategies to not only increase your Black Friday sales but also boost your brand.
Build your email list in anticipation.
Everyone knows that retailers offer great discounts on Black Friday. So, it’s a perfect reason to get people excited about subscribing to your email list. Tease potential subscribers with first notice of your amazing Black Friday discounts to get them signed up. Then, continue to email them up to the big day to build their excitement and anticipation.
Be sure to tag them in your email database as Black Friday sign-ups. People who will subscribe with a potential discount lead magnet are typically bargain hunters, so they will be likely to respond to promotions for flash sales, time-sensitive deals and clearance sales in the future.
Grow your email list by leveraging your social media accounts. Hold a giveaway event or contest where participants are asked to opt in. You can also use a pop-up on your website or include a link to a landing page from your paid digital advertising.
Decide on your promotions.
Carefully plan what promotions you are going to offer. On the one hand, you want to stand out from competitors, but you still need to make a profit. Here are some strategies to consider:
- Loss leader: Sell one product at less than your cost to lure shoppers to the store so they can fill up their cart with other (profitable) products.
- Existing/loyalty special deals: Reward your loyal customers with either a special deal like an extra 10% off or exclusive advance access to Black Friday pricing.
- New customer deal: Entice shoppers to buy from you for the first time by offering a discount incentive or gift with purchase when they join your mailing list or sign up for your customer loyalty program.
- Mystery savings: Encourage customers to satisfy their curiosity by revealing their savings once they are at your store.
- Charity donation: Donate a fixed amount or percentage to a charity that resonates with your target market with every purchase.
- Hourly deals: Change up your promotions hourly, on top of normal Black Friday deals, to keep customers coming back. Offer these hourly deals on specific categories or brands.
- Free gift: Delight customers with a small free product with every purchase.
- Shipping options: Offer free shipping if the order meets a minimum amount to encourage additional sales, or provide free or expedited shipping for larger orders or to loyalty members.
Extend Black Friday sales.
While Black Friday is an enormously busy shopping day, more and more Americans are shopping early. In fact, according to the NRF, in 2021, 49% of shoppers took advantage of early holiday sales before Thanksgiving. If you aren’t offering sales starting in late October, you will potentially lose out to competitors who are doing so. In addition, inflationary pressures this year are causing more shoppers to look for deals.
Did you know? In 2021, 186.4 million people shopped pre-holiday sales before Thanksgiving, according to the NRF.
Don’t think that the rush ends once Black Friday is over, either. Small Business Saturday is the following day, and Cyber Monday is two days later.
Up your social media game.
Social media has a huge impact on shopping behavior. In the months before Black Friday, put effort into building your social media presence, planning your Black Friday/Cyber Monday posts, and using the social shopping feature on Instagram and Facebook to connect your e-commerce store to your social media accounts. This allows followers to buy right from their feeds.
Use Black Friday posts to build anticipation, but don’t overdo it. Followers still want non-promotional content mixed in. Include hashtags, like #BlackFriday, where appropriate, and respond promptly to comments and messages on your social media accounts.
Order extra inventory.
Look at your sales data in your top POS software from previous years to find out how much more you have historically sold on Black Friday compared to normal sales levels. Did you run out of products or have too many left over?
With concerns about COVID-19 waning, Black Friday 2022 is likely to generate more demand than last year, so take that into account. It’s also a good idea to order your inventory a little earlier, so it’s available for any pre-Black Friday sales you decide to have, and in case there are any problems with the supply chain.
Tip: According to data from Bluecore, 41% of consumer electronics were out of stock during Black Friday 2021. In general, Adobe Analytics data shows out-of-stock messages were up 250% compared to the previous year.
Make sure you have enough employees working to handle not just checkouts but also helping customers and restocking (and straightening out) inventory. Black Friday is the day when you will see the most in-store foot traffic, but you will need more sales staff all weekend and throughout the rest of the holiday shopping season. You may also want additional security personnel to reduce theft.
In 2021, the busiest days for in-person shopping were, in order, Black Friday (66.5 million people), Saturday (51 million people), Sunday (24.6 million people), Cyber Monday (20.3 million people) and Thanksgiving (17.2 million people).
Even if you don’t have a brick-and-mortar store, you should probably increase your staffing for fulfillment so you can get products out to customers in a timely manner.
Prepare your website.
Since so many people shop online during this relatively short time period, your website needs to be in good shape.
- Test server capacity. To avoid website crashes during Black Friday and Cyber Monday, your web server needs to be able to handle the traffic. Check your load capacity with a load testing tool like k6 to see how well your site performs with an upsurge in traffic. If you need to, contact your website hosting service and increase your plan.
- Optimize for mobile. If your website isn’t optimized for mobile, it needs to be. Otherwise, you will lose a lot of web visitors and sales.
- Audit product pages. Go through your website’s product pages and ensure they are optimized. Are the descriptions exciting and sensory-based? Are keywords included? Are common questions addressed?
- Include personalization. On your product pages, include recommendations for similar or complementary products. You can also retarget by including “products you have recently viewed.”
- Create gift guides. Make it easy for shoppers to find the perfect gift with segmented gift guides (e.g., gifts for her/him, gifts for the adventurer/intellectual/foodie, home decor/apparel/electronics gifts).
- Create pop-ups on exit. If a customer has put items in the shopping cart but not completed the transaction, show them a pop-up (“Forgot something?”) with a small additional discount to get them to complete the purchase.
FYI: A good rule of thumb is to have between six and eight pictures for each product from different angles. Show use cases and specifications. Learn more about how to create effective imagery.
When to start planning for Black Friday
Use this calendar as a guideline for your Black Friday planning:
Put in your orders for extra inventory.
Buy holiday decorations and signage for the store and decide what promotions you will be offering. Get your website ready by optimizing for mobile and testing capacity.
Start running your Black Friday-related teaser ads, email list building and social posts. Review and tweak product pages and create gift guides. Mid-month, start your email campaigns teasing Black Friday deals and sending links to gift guides. Promote early Black Friday deals to select groups like loyalty program members or social media followers. Put up holiday decorations and signage, and add holiday graphics to your website.
Early in the month, hire additional workers. Seed your social media accounts with gift suggestions and holiday images. Send out emails and SMS promotions about upcoming deals. Start running your Black Friday/Cyber Monday promotions and rake in the cash!