How to Prepare Your eCommerce Store for Black Friday
With one of the biggest online sales events of the year around the corner, it’s imperative to prepare your online store for some of the biggest revenue days of the year. 2020 saw a massive shift to living, shopping, and working online; thus we anticipate that many people who previously did their holiday shopping in-store will be moving online this Black Friday weekend.
This means that there is an incredible opportunity for your business to drive more sales and revenue this year. With a little preparation, you can take every opportunity and smash your sales targets. But it’s best to get started sooner rather than later – before you know it, the Thanksgiving weekend will be upon us. We love SMS (of course we do 😉) because it’s quick and easy to get messages sent, perfect if you’ve left your holiday messaging to the last minute! However, ensuring that your online store is ready for the extra influx of traffic can be a bit more complex so it’s best not to leave that to the last minute. We hope we can help.
So here goes, our guide to ensuring that your online business is ready for the madness that is the Black Friday/Cyber Monday (BFCM) weekend.
TL:DR; how to ensure your eCommerce store is ready for Black Friday/Cyber Monday:
1. PREP YOUR WEBSITE FROR AN INFLUX OF TRAFFIC
- Check your hosting package to make sure it can handle increased traffic, do you have load balancing?
- Make sure your site loads quickly, a simple way to help with this is to reduce the size of images throughout the site by using something like TinyPNG.
- Make it easy for customers to see how amazing your Black Friday promotion is. Promote the value, promote the savings – and promote it out on header banners throughout your site!
2. KNOW YOUR INVENTORY INTIMATELY
- If you’re shifting old or overstocked inventory do a stock check beforehand so you know the exact levels and display real-time sales and stock levels on your website to drive urgency.
- If deciding how much stock to order you could review last year’s performance, seasonal trends from last year vs this year, and even month-on-month growth to determine how much to order.
- Set up automated SMS alerts to notify you, or your suppliers or both when stock levels are getting low (it’s very easy).
- Have some kind of pricing strategy in place like heavily discounting older stock, while bestsellers receive a more modest discount.
3. NAIL YOUR COMMUNICATIONS
- Have automated, transactional messages ready; Thank You For Your Order, Your Order Is On Its Way etc.
- Use SMS within your Black Friday/Cyber Monday marketing and promoting with its 98% open rate it gets cut through that other channels like email just don’t.
1. Is My Website Black Friday Ready?
Two main priorities here are to ensure that your website is equipped to handle a huge traffic increase, as well as to make sure that customers can navigate and place orders with minimal friction.
Is My Website Capable of Handling Traffic Spikes?
A huge increase in traffic to your website is every business owner’s dream. But if your website cannot cope with large traffic surges, it could lead to:
- Technical issues
Slow load times, shopping cart or checkout issues, or worst case scenario your whole site goes down 😱
- Reputation damage
Site performance issues simply are a bad look. And if your customers think you’re making it difficult for them to gain access to your BFCM promotions, this will compound the issue. Or they may simply give up and look elsewhere.
- A bad day in the office
It’s not fun when your site goes down during peak sale times – panicked calls to your techies, whilst fielding customer complaints all the while being acutely aware of the sales that are being lost.
Trust us, we’ve been there.
Fortunately, you can save yourself the headache (and opportunity cost!), with a little preparation. Here are a few considerations for your site, or questions you should be asking your technical team.
Check Your Website Hosting Package
If you’re on a shared hosting plan, there may be resource limits that throttle a surge in traffic. If you’re unsure, check with your hosting company. Some of the more common and popular hosting companies are Bluehost, Hostgator, and GoDaddy. If you’re unsure check with the person/company that built your website.
Look into Load Balancing
Without load balancing, a surge in traffic may cause your server to crash. Load balancing helps to distribute this traffic through a network to avoid such a situation. Your hosting company should offer this so double-check.
Optimise Your Site Speed
Increasing your website’s speed and reducing the number of resources it uses can help to ensure your website performs strongly even during peak traffic periods. Furthermore, if pages take too long to load, 39% of users will give up.
There are several things you can do to improve your site’s speed, including:
- Using a Content Delivery Network (CDN)
- Reducing the size of images on your website (we like TinyPNG to do this)
- Removing any plugins that aren’t in use
- Website caching
You can test your page speed with Google’s PageSpeed Insights Tool.
Bonus: page speed is a factor that influences your search engine visibility, thus may give your SEO efforts a boost.
If you’re a confident coder or are still concerned about your traffic volume on Black Friday, you can perform a stress test, also known as a load test, to mimic traffic to your website and check how it performs.
Is My eCommerce Store User Friendly?
Customer expectations for the online shopping experience are only getting higher – so to maximise your sales opportunities, ensure that you are providing the best experience possible. Here are some considerations.
Ensure your promotion is prominently displayed on your home page
The home page banner is prime real estate; use it to show bargain-hungry visitors what’s in it for them.
Organise products logically and make it easy to search
Optimise your products so that the descriptions are enticing and make them easy to find by using clear product categories, filters, and search functionality. Note if you have a store where sizes or colours sell out, the ability to filter products by size/colour availability will reduce customer frustration.
Tip: including related products on the page will help you to maximise the order size. For example, if someone is looking at a party dress, showing them other sale dresses may encourage them to put another item in their cart. Or showing them shoes and accessories that will match, can help you cross-sell items. ASOS does this well.
If using promotional codes, ensure they are working and that the promo code field is not hidden. And don’t forget to be upfront with shipping costs – if you offer free shipping or free for a minimum spend, it’s a great idea to mention it on each page banner.
How is the checkout process?
Make sure this is a seamless experience (on desktop and mobile) with minimal distractions. The checkout is the most important part of an e-commerce website – we recommend taking the time to give this guide on checkout best practices a read.
2. Inventory: What, How, and How Much?
Not only does the prime shopping season mean you can offload older/end-of-line inventory at discounted prices, but you may need to stock up on inventory that generally sells well and perhaps even some new items. Think about how you will not only inform people of stock levels *Only 4 left!* but how you’ll order replacement stock if not end-of-line, and of course how you’ll move the goods once they are sold. Tying into your inventory strategy is pricing and promotion – balancing bargains with margins.
Do I Have Enough Stock?
Black Friday provides a great opportunity to shift end-of-line or overstocked inventory to clear the way to replenish with fresh new stock in time for Christmas. You should know the stock levels of these items, if not definitely do a stock take before your sale kicks off because what you really don’t want is people putting to cart items that have sold out. You don’t want customers to be seriously disappointed at checkout or even worse you having to contact them after the sale, apologising, and crediting back their payment.
We recommend displaying real-time sales and stock levels on your website. This means you’re tracking your stock properly and it’s proven to drive purchase as creates urgency and FOMO.
On the other hand, you may have stock that you know will fly out the door at discount and you want to shift as much as possible, as much as you can hold. So you may place a big order prior to the event with the intention of shifting it all. This is where forecasting comes in.
It’s no trivial task forecasting the increase in demand to expect this BF/CM weekend in this year we call 2020. However, you may be able to reach an approximation based on data from:
- last year’s performance
- seasonal trends from last year vs this year
- month-on-month growth
It might be worthwhile to factor in coronavirus-related trends from this year also, for example, you may want to positively skew your forecast to account for greater demand for online shopping over physical retailers.
Think about what activities you are doing to drive traffic to your website and whether you’ll be increasing this push – do you use search ads? SMS marketing? Paid social media? Email blasts? Using your analytics you should be able to see how many people received and engaged with your ads, which will help to make more informed decisions around stock levels.
Black Friday for Dropshippers
If you’re in the business of dropshipping, it’s a good idea to coordinate with your suppliers:
- What are their plans for the increase in sales volume?
- Do they anticipate delays in dispatching orders?
- Has their logistics provider communicated any delays in delivery?
- Are there cut-off dates for stock to be ordered to arrive in time for Christmas?
Should there be any major delays in dispatch or delivery, it’s best to communicate this to customers. This could be on the shipping/delivery page on your site, and on their order confirmation message.
eCommerce Stores with Physical Stock
If you physically hold stock, it’s time to stock up to ensure you can meet this increased demand. It’s a good idea to also ensure you have plenty of packaging – whether it’s for the presentation of the product (eg. display box, gift wrap, ribbon) or for dispatch (eg. boxes, parcels, packing tape).
Like with dropshippers, find out whether your logistics fulfillment partners are likely to experience delays and make sure you communicate this with your customer base.
Send Automated SMS Alerts for Low Stock
Did you know that you could automate checking your stock levels? As soon as inventory drops below a particular threshold, you can trigger an automated SMS alert. You can set this up to be sent to you, or straight to the supplier, or both. And you don’t even need to code!
Via Zapier, you can connect ClickSend with your stock management or e-commerce software to send SMS alerts whenever stock runs low. It takes a few minute to create a zap and saves you having to continually check your stock levels.
For example if you use 3dcart to manage your inventory, when you log in to Zapier, you simply choose to connect 3dcart and ClickSend using the dropdown list.
Follow the prompts to connect your 3dcart account to Zapier, then add a filter so that you only receive a message once stock reaches a particular level.
Then choose the action that occurs based on the trigger – with ClickSend you have the option to send SMS, MMS, letters, postcards, fax, or text-to-speech voice calls.
Once you have chosen your message content and tested the connection, the Zap should be complete and you’ll have automated your inventory alerts.
Cool right? We have more SMS automations below, for communicating order information to your customers.
How Do I Choose a Black Friday Pricing Strategy?
Another important consideration ahead of Black Friday is your pricing strategy; striking a balance between enticing customers with the discounts they expect while still maintaining margins. Don’t get sucked into discounting your products too heavily, or copying your competitors blindly, else your Black Friday may not be as profitable as anticipated.
Another trap is to “set and forget” or an oversimplified (aka lazy) strategy. Flat rate cuts, eg. 30% off, can be dangerous – especially when margins have huge variation. A common pricing strategy is to heavily discount older stock, while bestsellers receive a more modest discount. This is a slightly more thoughtful approach, however, it conditions your buyers into thinking that they can just wait for items to go on sale.
So how do you choose which items to discount and by how much?
Behaviour Based Pricing Strategy
A great way to optimise your Black Friday pricing strategy is to determine your promotions based on your customer behaviour. Many customers add items to their shopping cart ahead of Black Friday, waiting for them to be discounted.
For example, with winter approaching, I am looking for a new coat, and am open to ideas regarding brand, color, and style. Rather than 30% off everything, I would just as much appreciate being drawn to a small selection of items in the store.
The headphones, on the other hand, were carefully selected months ago… No amount of discounting could sway me to another option. If the chosen product is reduced by 30% I will be very satisfied, but if it is only reduced by 10%, I will still buy it anyway.
Once you have chosen your pricing strategy, ensure that your discounts are set up in your content management tool, or that you have a working coupon code that you can send to your customers.
Dynamic Pricing Tools
Get further insights and put your data to good use with a dynamic pricing tool like Prisync to determine the best prices for your eCommerce store. Most of these pricing tools also scrape pricing from competing stores online and feeds this into pricing considerations.
3. What Customer Communications Do I Need For Black Friday Sales?
When communicating with your customers, you will need messages that keep them informed of their orders and their delivery progress (transactional messages) as well as messaging to promote your BFCM sale, to entice them to buy and maximise revenue (marketing messages).
Automated Order Updates for eCommerce Stores
If you’re familiar with us here at ClickSend Towers you’ll know our love for automations and integrations so this part excites us.
Similarly to the example for low stock alerts, you can automate your customer communications by integrating your stock management system with ClickSend. We have a few examples to walkthrough so you can see just how easy it is to keep your customers informed, using set-and-forget, no-code automations.
Thank You For Your Order Message
We’ll use Zapier and 3dcart again to show you how easy it is to set up an automated Thank You message.
In Zapier use the trigger ‘New Order’ to send communications when a new order is placed. Again we’re using 3dcart as an example eCommerce platform – the mechanics of these integrations should be very similar across all eCommerce platforms. It’s as easy as selecting the trigger ‘New order’, selecting the action ‘Send SMS’, and customising the message.
1. Select the New Order trigger from your eCommerce platform and follow the prompts to link up your account, then test that the data is being pulled through as expected.
2. Choose your action – ClickSend SMS app and Send SMS event. If this is your first time integrating ClickSend, you’ll need to enter the API key found in your account.
3. Customise your SMS: link the ‘to’ field with the data being pulled in from your eCommerce platform for the customer’s mobile phone number. This connection is what ensures your message is sent to the correct number.
Note: a lot of people may be buying gifts, so ensure that you link up the billing phone number and not the shipping phone number – else you may alert gift recipients to the shipment and ruin someone’s surprise. You don’t want that.
In the message section, you can add any kind of personalisation – just search for the data point pulled in through the integration and add it as a placeholder. In the image below we’ve used the billing first name placeholder.
Tip: we know there are heaps of data points being pulled in. If you’re unsure which one is needed, check the sample data that’s included – in the image below, the sample billing name is John.
There are also options in this step to schedule the message to be sent at a particular time (however, there is a simpler way to add scheduling in Zapier).
In the ‘From’ section, you can leave it blank to be sent from a shared number, or include your dedicated number or business name here.
Then click continue to test your connection and voila. Your automation is complete!
Your Order Has Been Shipped Message
Ignite excitement for your customer by alerting them to their items being shipped, and providing them with the tracking information so they can track their order.
Similarly to the new order text message, we can automate the shipping update message via Zapier, just with an added step.
Using ‘Order Status Change’ as a trigger, you can configure your Zap to send an SMS whenever the order moves between statuses: new, processing, partial, shipped, canceled, held, or unpaid. In this example, we’re using the change to ‘shipped’ as the trigger.
Steps to Automate Your Shipment SMS via Zapier:
- Find your eCommerce platform and choose it as the trigger, then choose ‘order status change’ and test the connection.
Note: if your eCommerce platform has a trigger for order status changed to shipped, skip step 2.
- Add a filter to ensure that the status change trigger is only for status change to ‘shipped’. Choose action ‘filter’ and configure it only if the Order Status exactly matches shipped. In this case, 3dcart uses integers for each status and shipped status = 4. Once you test this and get a green message with “Your Zap would have continued” (unless you have cleared out all your shipped orders!), click done to move to the next step.
- Choose your action to happen once the shipping status has been updated. In this case, we’re hooking up 3dcart to send an SMS. Link up the ‘to’ field to the billing phone number.
- Craft your SMS message.
To include the tracking information included in your eCommerce platform, you will need to find the Shipment Tracking Code placeholder (or similar depending on your platform).
Then continue and test your message integration. When you’re happy, turn it on and watch your customers be delighted with your great customer communications.
Automating Your eCommerce Communication Journey
Using automations like the ones above you can automate all of your transactional messaging. Here are 6 important messages to get to your customers through their eCommerce journey:
1. The Welcome Email(s)
Arguably the most important email, as it sets the tone for all your store’s customer interactions. It may also be worthwhile setting up a series of welcome emails.
2. The Cart Abandonment Message
When customers add items to their cart and then leave your site, it could be for a number of reasons – scoping out competitors, issues with checkout, etc. Given 77% of carts get abandoned, sending cart abandonment messages gives you an opportunity to claw back some of those sales.
Make the most of these opportunities by sending a text message, rather than risk an email getting lost in the sea of promotional emails in your customers’ inboxes.
3. The Order Confirmation
Following on from the example above, here are a couple of templates you can copy+paste (and tweak the placeholders!), or use for inspiration:
4. The Order Dispatch/Shipping Information Message
Here are some templates for SMS using our order shipped SMS automation above:
5. Delivery arriving today message:
If you’re happy to receive replies from your customers so you can have conversations then we recommend using a dedicated number for your business SMS. You can also create auto-response campaigns using SMS keywords.
6. Follow Up/Survey Email
Once an order has been fulfilled, gain insight into the customer experience through surveys. Incentivise customers to fill in the survey with freebies, discount codes, or a chance to win a prize and you’ll see greater engagement with your survey. For best results, let them know how long the survey is likely to take – if your recipient sees that the survey will only take 2 minutes they are far more likely to click through and engage.
You can also use these follow up messages to generate interest for December sales and the lead-up to Christmas, then keep the momentum going through boxing day to New Year.
Finalise Your Communications Journey
Once you have determined when your messaging is to be sent and the content in them, try placing a test order through your website. Move your test order through each stage – processing, shipped, finalised, etc – so you can see that your communications are triggered when you expect them to.
Another way to really capture the attention of your audience is through postcards. Why not send personalised postcards to customers thanking them for their order? It also gives you the opportunity to let them know about your Christmas promotions. Even better, you can personalise your postcards to show customers products they are more likely to buy, through our postcard integration with Hyperise.
Drive eCommerce Custom with Marketing Blasts
Get as much traffic to your site as possible; leverage the 98% open rate of text messages to really drive impact.
How to Write Black Friday/Cyber Monday Text Messages
When crafting your message, keep it simple and succinct. For best results, ensure your message has a desirable offer and a strong call to action. Here are a few more tips:
- personalise your message – bare minimum, include their first name. If you can segment your list and tailor messages by interest, even better!
- timing is everything – don’t annoy your customers by sending SMS early in the morning or late at night.
- promotion front and centre: clearly highlight the offer you’re promoting to your customers, don’t bury it in a lot of text. Keep it simple.
- call to action: tell customers exactly what you want them to do. Do you want them to click your link to your website? Tell them “check out our sale here” or “find out more here”. Do you want them to get their size before it sells out? “Stocks are limited, don’t miss out” or “get your size before it sells out” are good ways to drive customers to your site (with scarcity adding further incentive!).
Black Friday/Cyber Monday SMS Marketing Templates
Here are a few templates to get you started with your SMS marketing for the Black Friday/Cyber Monday promotional period.
Note – check that the placeholders with parentheses match up with the data in your contact list when you copy and paste it into your SMS campaign. Articles in square brackets should be changed to fit your business needs.
If you’re sending messages from your business name (rather than a number), customers already have an idea of who the message is from without you needing to reiterate it. However, you MUST include an opt-out link because sending from a business name does not support replies (so no Opt Out Reply Stop option).
You could even segment those with items in their cart (or wishlist), to further personalise their message:
If you are sending from a long code or shortcode – whether shared or dedicated – many companies like to put their name at the beginning of the message. You can also receive replies, so instead of using an opt-out link (which may accidentally get pressed instead of the sale link), you can say ‘opt out reply stop’.
Black Friday for eCommerce Businesses
We hope that this guide has helped to optimise your eCommerce store to empower you to get the most revenue out of the sales opportunities that arise this Black Friday/Cyber Monday promotional period.
If you would like more help on how to craft your SMS communications, how to automate your messaging, or want to know more about sending holiday postcards or MMS, our customer support team is happy to help. Simply open a live chat with us by clicking the image of a face in the bottom right corner of your screen.
Or if you’re ready to start testing out your communications strategy, sign up for your free trial with us. You’ll be amazed at how simple it is to get started!