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How To Stand Out In The Biggest Black Friday Ever

August 3, 2020
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How do you stand out in the biggest Black Friday ever?… (hint: you start planning now so you can react faster than ever before).

If you thought Black Friday couldn’t get much crazier, well welcome to 2020… this Black Friday is poised to be THE most iconic Black Friday in centuries. Why may you ask? Well, let me tell you. 

We’re sure COVID-19 has impacted your business in one way or another. To put it bluntly, COVID-19 has quite literally flipped the world on its head, but for some industries, it has been a blessing in disguise. One of these industries, in particular, is E-Commerce:

The New Consumers’ report from Rakuten Intelligence found US ecommerce spending up ~36% YoY, “almost twice the growth rate it had been generating this year.” Similarly, The New York Times’ reported online sales rose ~38% YoY in April while ShipHero and Klaviyo put MoM sales up between 88% and 26-34%, respectively.” – Common Thread Co 

If you aren’t a big numbers person, here is a graph that will paint the picture for you. 

E-Commerce is BOOMING! Many ask themselves, “Is this just while COVID-19 is still around or is this the beginning of a fundamental shift to the future?” If you are interested in our take on that, stay tuned, but for now let’s get back to Black Friday. 

So yes, E-Commerce is booming, but why? Well, in general, people are scared to go into stores and are practicing social distancing. So E-Commerce for most is the only option, and while there is uncertainty around how long this will last, there are already telling indicators that this will 100% continue into Q4. For example, Walmart just announced that it would close stores on Thanksgiving, ending a Black Friday tradition that drew huge crowds. As of right now, it’s only closed for Thanksgiving, but we are still months away with these types of decisions to be made. I would not be surprised if it continues. This means that this spike in E-Commerce sales could even be more drastic in this Q4 Season. 

Another element that we cannot look over is that this is also a presidential election year. Last go around, between June and November 2016, Trump spent over $44 million on the social network, and Clinton spent $28 million. Given the heated debate around the platform and how many believe it could have helped President Trump win the election, there will be no shying away from investment on the platform this time. What does that mean for you? Well, it means a perfect storm. CPM’s, or cost per 1,000 impressions, will be higher than ever for two reasons. On the one hand, a good majority of brands that traditionally haven’t spent on ad platforms will be migrating spend over to help bolster their E-Commerce sales due to the shift in shopping behavior from in-store to online. On the other hand, political campaigns will be injecting massive amounts of spend as well. These high CPM’s are going to make it very difficult for brands to turn a profit. 

So what can you do? How can you make sure you don’t miss out on quite possibly one of the most significant online buying events we have ever seen? Well, we are glad you asked because below we have compiled our blueprint for your success and some helpful holiday E-commerce tips along the way. 

Preparing Your Website & Messaging for Optimal Conversion

Plan Ahead but Be Prepared to Pivot

One of the best things a brand can do in advance of their Black Friday and Cyber Monday promotions is to get ahead of your promotion calendar now. Think through the offers that will be most compelling to your customers and make sure you prepare a large bank of creative assets you can leverage throughout the week. This may mean mocking up ads with various levels of discounts in case you need to change up your strategy mid-week. 

If you are competing with other price brands, it’s essential to research the deals they ran last year and what you anticipate they will do this year. Whether you match them on price or throw in something else to sweeten the deal, you should keep in mind that shoppers will be more price-sensitive than ever this year. They will likely be quick to bounce if they feel your offer is simply not good enough compared to the competition. 

Nail Down Your Messaging to Drive a Higher CVR 

With more brands than ever scaling up their online advertising nailing, your messaging is extremely important. Put yourself in the shoes of the consumer and ask yourself what questions might you have if you were doing the majority of your holiday shopping online. You’d probably be curious about shipping times and return policies. Can your brand guarantee set shipping, or should shoppers expect a slight delay with COVID? Are you extending your return and exchange policy through the holiday due to the nature of gift-giving? These are all good questions to ask yourself now to get ahead of how to best message this to your customers. 

Once you’ve nailed down what that messaging is, make sure it is accurately displayed on your website, in email communication, on Black Friday landing pages, and within ads when relevant. The more you can reduce shopper’s uncertainty, the more likely they are to convert. It’s also crucial that while you message this externally, you make sure that your customer support is equipped to address any questions shoppers may have.

Creating the Strongest Shopping Experience Possible

Audit Your Site’s Speed and Capacity for New Traffic

It’s important to make sure your site is ready for a new wave of traffic during Q4 and the holiday season. Websites using WordPress as their CMS should conduct a full audit of all plugins being used, monitor their site’s health, and run performance scores around speed and accessibility. Site’s utilizing Shopify or other Ecommerce platforms should audit their checkout system and place test orders ahead of time. Any issues with checkout, speed, or security should be resolved immediately, prior to running any new campaigns.

Ensuring your website can technically stand up to new traffic will provide peace of mind and allow customers to navigate and shop freely.

Checking your SKUs and Discount Codes

Many website owners will enter the Q4 season ready to run campaigns, but forget to check their inventory and how their site functions. It’s crucial to run a check around product SKUs, inventory stock, and product pricing. It’s not uncommon to run out of inventory during a peak season or forget to add stock where stock is available (if not utilizing an ERP or inventory management system).

Furthermore, discount codes are a big deal during the holiday season. There are configuration questions that need to be answered and implemented, like:

  1. How much is the discount?
  2. Does the discount apply to an entire order or specific products?
  3. How many times can a user apply this discount?
  4. How long should the discount campaign run?
  5. How does this discount apply to shipping?

These are all things to run as a checklist when setting up your discount codes.

Shipping and Order Notifications

Another key to peak season shopping is shipping to customers. Customers want their products fast, and any hiccups in the process can leave a bad impression. 

Before running any discounts or campaigns (and in general throughout the year), make sure you have advanced shipping rules set up directly to your carrier. Doing this helps make sure the right price is paid, the shipping label is accurate, and the customer has an accurate estimate on when their order will arrive.

In order to provide the right estimate, order notifications should also be top of mind when preparing your website. Make sure they are branded to you, accurately displaying order value, and connected to tracking codes. You can also test this when running orders yourself before the launch of a new campaign.

The fact of the matter is that this year’s Black Friday/Cyber Monday will be the most competitive than we have ever seen. With stores like Walmart announcing they will be moving solely to digital this year for Black Friday / Cyber Monday, the real estate for ad inventory will be more expensive than ever. 

…And for that reason, your brand will need to think more outside the box than traditional online advertising channels such as Google Search or Facebook Ads. Since Google and Facebook are the most “proven” of the bunch, brands of all sizes will flock to those channels “because the competition is there.” And they’ll be paying a steeper price due to the increased competition.

Key Digital Channels You Should be Leveraging to Maximize Revenue

So what are the “slept on” advertising channels that will make brands rich this year?

If your brand is not looking for an online retail component for whatever reason, I would suggest exploring TikTok Ads, Pinterest Ads, and YouTube Ads.

TikTok

Tik Tok Advertising can be a monster of a platform with its rise in popularity this year. What’s most exciting is that the channel is already performing extremely well for brands that are jumping on and taking advantage of the decreased competition than you would see from a counterpart like Facebook Ads. And speaking of Facebook Ads, if you didn’t know, TikTok’s ad engine looks 95% the same as the Facebook Advertising engines and shares the majority of the same features that Facebook ads offer. Thus, the learning curve to drive revenue has been lower than expanding into platforms that look and operate completely differently. If your brand performs well on Facebook ads, you should 100% be advertising on TikTok. 

YouTube and Pinterest

The final two channels I would call out are YouTube Ads and Pinterest Ads. What’s exciting about these channels is that they are a perfect blend between “Search and Social Ads” and have proven to be tremendous revenue drivers. 

What I mean by that is, each engine has an element of “intent,” meaning that both users on YouTube and Pinterest can “search” for content that they want to see. If the advertisement solves their problem, the likelihood of a conversion on the first visit is much higher than an ad that doesn’t trigger off search intent. YouTube and Pinterest are very similar to how Google or Bing Paid Search works. 

On the other hand, each of the channels ALSO have a feed component for users that are looking to kill time and browse through their respective platforms which can create intent if your brand advertises creatively enough. If there’s no awareness around the problem your product solves, you must raise awareness in the users’ feeds or else they won’t know to research and eventually purchase. 

Public Relations

PR is a top of funnel, brand-building channel, but one of the most transactional times of the year for PR is during the holiday, which comes down to one main reason: gift guides. You’ve seen them, you’ve read them, and you’ve probably purchased something from your dad or sibling from a gift guide in the past. Gift guide pitching starts in August as that is when editors are starting to collect gift ideas for their guides that include anything from the basics like “Top 25 Tech Gifts for Dad this Year” to niche gift guides like “10 Must-Have Gifts for the Couple That Loves Hiking.” The key benefits of getting placed in a gift guide include:

  1. Tapping into high intent to purchase audiences, meaning people are actively seeking out gift guides for ideas and will convert through the press placement and purchase something from your website or Amazon
  2. A mention and backlink from a highly authoritative online media outlet – virtually ALL top tier publications have numerous gift guides published between October-December
  3. An evergreen piece of content that even after 2020 concludes, will continue to rank and be relevant in future years and can continue to drive conversions and revenue

Email & SMS

Preparation for holiday with extensive prospecting is critical because it means driving existing customers who are already familiar with your brand to purchase again at a low cost. Two huge opportunities to retain your customers and drive topline revenue over holiday is through Email and SMS (texting). Something to prepare for now is launching an email and SMS growth campaign, so you have a robust list of customers to share your promotions with come holiday. If you start growing your email and SMS list in October, it’s too late. Starting now gives you enough runway to have a meaty list ready to hear about your Black Friday/Cyber Monday promotions when the time comes. Keep in mind that Email and SMS marketing involves $0 of ad spend and is the most cost-effective way to drive revenue quickly. Three things to consider when it comes to Email and SMS:

  1. You should focus on tightening up your email automations now, including your abandoned cart sequence, so when there is a high volume of prospecting activity on your website, and new users are opting in to email marketing, you can remarket and better drive purchases through email
  2. Start building your email and SMS list NOW, having multiple opt-in points on your website so people can easily find where to subscribe. You can also include an SMS opt-in within each of your automations to grow your SMS list
  3. Make sure your email and SMS campaigns are speaking the same language. If you’re sending a broadcast email promotion out over holiday, it should be followed up with an SMS blast to help break through the noise of an email inbox

Maximizing Your Returns on Amazon

Amazon is a sales channel that is going to be even more important this holiday season than ever. With many shoppers expecting to shop online and the preference to buy from Amazon due to Prime shipping, brands that see the best success will be the brands that start optimizing their Amazon strategy now. 

Amazon Prime, however, will be more challenging to leverage as a conversion rate asset on Amazon this year. Due to the current Covid-19 pandemic, Amazon is currently only accepting stock of products in their warehouse that classifies as essential categories. That means that if you sell consumer goods such as electronics or apparel, you likely will not be able to send product inventory to Amazon’s warehouses to be able to leverage Prime orders that are fulfilled by Amazon.

Typically, this would not be as much of an issue because sellers can switch to seller fulfilled prime (you ship the product for delivery within two days). Still, Amazon is currently not accepting new sellers into the Seller Fulfilled Prime model. Amazon does plan on opening this back up, but you will need to be ahead of all other sellers in the line to get approval for this fulfillment method. NOW is the time to join the waitlist for seller fulfilled prime so that you are at the top of the list for consideration when they do open this program back up. You can apply here for Seller Fulfilled Prime and learn more, but the key is to join the waitlist now so you can be approved and leverage this fulfillment method for Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Given that Prime listings typically convert 2X higher than non-prime listings planning now for this will essentially allow you to double the Amazon sales that you would do without being in the seller fulfilled prime program.  

Inventory planning is also very important to focus on now. Given that more people plan to shop online for Black Friday and Cyber Monday than any year before, sales volumes will likely be higher than ever. The catch? If you don’t have an adequate stock of a product, you will sell out and not be able to fully leverage consumer shopping habits this year. Therefore, it’s essential to start planning your inventory and product procurement now so that you have enough product to sell during the holidays. Product manufacturing has been more challenging during the Covid-19 pandemic for many brands due to sources of manufacturing being closed or operating with reduced capacities. Planning for this now ensures that you have enough product and in time for Black Friday as many manufacturing operations cannot produce the same capacity or lead times for the same volume of products are longer. Start your inventory forecasting and product procurement now to protect against this. You can use the inventory planning tool that Amazon has or several third-party software that can be purchased to assist with inventory forecasting. 

Black Friday (and Cyber Monday) on Amazon will be more competitive than ever this year, so make sure you are planning and implementing strategies that are newer to keep a leg up on the competition. Some strategies to consider are:

  • Use Seller Tools to acquire more reviews on your products before the holiday. Reviews are one of the primary ranking and conversion factors for Amazon, so the more get reviews you have, the more you will stand out from the competition this year.
  • Use Amazon Post Ads – Amazon posts show up as social media type looking images and messaging on product listings within the Amazon app. Historically, Amazon’s algorithm has controlled which listings these posts will show up for. Amazon is launching betas to allow advertisers to target Amazon posts as ads on product listings of their choice. Therefore, this can allow you to show your products on competitor product listings, ultimately allowing you to potentially capture sales from people visiting competitor product listings.
  • Use Video Ads – Amazon video ads are newer and are a great way to get a TON of visibility on the home page or detail pages on Amazon. Given that most of the ads on Amazon historically are static images, video will stand out from the noise and allow you to generate more sales due to the engaging video content. Video, of course, takes time to produce, edit, and optimize so getting started on this now will allow you to leverage this advertising tactic come Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

We’ve gone in more detail on Amazon strategies to focus on in 2020 in this post. 

Start Now

Don’t be the brand that is left behind when the biggest buying event of the year, Black Friday, rolls around in a few months. Not only is it going to be the biggest Black Friday in history, but it’s also going to be more competitive than ever. You need to be ready to announce what’s coming for your brand and to deploy the strategic tactics, so you aren’t scrambling when the big day sneaks upon us. 

So what do you need to do? Start planning now! Follow our blueprint for success, have a plan in place to deploy Walmart & Amazon ads, put your promotion calendar together, get your creative and messaging dialed in, have shipping logistics in place, get email & SMS automation strategies set up, and get ready to hit the GO button come November. You will have the plan in place and be able to pivot and adapt quickly!

The more you plan, the more success you will have! If you don’t have a Black Friday strategy in place, you don’t have to worry because you are ahead of the game by reading this article. And if you don’t have the resources to plan and execute an attack, POWER DIGITAL CAN HELP! Reach out to us today to schedule a complimentary strategy session with one of our e-commerce marketing experts.

You will be ahead of the game, ahead of the competition, and the results will speak for themselves. 

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