How you can optimize your website and prep with your suppliers ahead of the holiday.
Black Friday and its ecommerce equivalent, Cyber Monday — sometimes abbreviated together as “BFCM” — are two of the biggest events for digital retailers of any kind. Most ecommerce businesses see a major demand spike around these holidays, and that surge in sales typically continues to grow until after the year’s holiday season wraps up.
This makes the two shopping holidays a great opportunity for themed marketing campaigns as well as holiday deals and promotions.
At the same time, the spike in demand can be trouble if you’re not ready. The holiday demand surge can swamp smaller or underprepared businesses and strain the supply chain as retailers deal with the influx of orders and, a few weeks later, a surge in returns.
With this guide, any business, regardless of what they sell, can have an extremely successful Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Below, we’ll cover what some of the most successful ecommerce businesses do each year to handle the holiday, plus how you can optimize your website and prep with your suppliers ahead of the holiday.
1. Optimize Your Storefront and Branding for the Holidays
Subtle changes to your storefront can make a big difference when it comes to driving sales and answering customer questions.
Simple tweaks to existing language — like “this item makes a great holiday gift!” — can go a long way in encouraging a sale. Not only will this kind of copy make your site feel more up-to-date, but it can also remind customers about the upcoming holiday and encourage them to think about which items in your catalog would make good purchases for others.
You may also try new content, like holiday gift lists, that can help interested customers find the products in your catalog that make for great gifts. Special holiday offers — like gift bundles, holiday discounts and seasonal product variants — can also help here.
Some businesses also emulate the limited-time-only feel of in-store Black Friday deals with on-site countdown timers. These timers count down to Black Friday — or the beginning of a Black Friday event — and tick away as the event rolls on. Limiting deals to this timeframe makes them feel more exclusive and encourages customers to jump on a deal that won’t be around forever.
A quick update to your FAQs or shipping information may be a good idea if you expect delays. While you can’t anticipate all customer questions, a note about potentially longer shipping times, for example, may encourage some customers to wait a little longer for their item before getting in touch.
Now is also a great time to boost your branding wherever you can. For example, you may switch up the branding on shipping materials, like cardboard boxes, to add some distinctive flair and make your brand a little easier to recognize.
2. Plan for Demand to Outpace Time and Resources
Even a well-prepared business can be swamped by the sudden rise in orders they get around Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
Last year’s sales data can give you a good sense of what kind of demand spike you’ll be expecting. However, it isn’t always reliable. If you’re a new business, you probably won’t have that kind of data on hand. Also, if last year was particularly good or bad for the economy as a whole, you may not see the same patterns.
It’s generally a good idea to prepare ahead of time. Increasing your inventory of high-demand items, stocking up on packaging materials and performing quick tech checkups — like making sure the order button works and the shipping cost calculator returns the right numbers — will all help you handle the holiday.
If you don’t regularly communicate with your suppliers and shippers, now is also a great time to get into that habit.
A quick email asking how they anticipate handling the holiday season can give you a good sense of which business partners are taking proactive measures — and also what your business can do to prep for the holiday season.
For example, you might want to ask about the economic indicators your contacts are looking at, and how they’re planning to avoid stock-outs.
The more often you communicate with the people you rely on to keep your business running, the more advanced notice you’ll have if something goes wrong — like a shortage of a high-demand item or some kind of snag in the supply chain slows down fulfillment.
It’s also important that you start communicating well before BFCM actually starts. Demand tends to ramp up in the weeks ahead of the two holidays, meaning you may start to feel the strain of the event well before it actually begins.
3. Prepare for the Other Shopping Holidays
Outside of the major November-December holidays — like Diwali, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa — there’s also a growing number of “shopping holidays” and similar events during the season.
Examples include Small Business Saturday, Green Monday and Free Shipping Day. Each one exists to promote certain kinds of products or businesses.
These holidays aren’t big traffic-drivers in the same way that better-known shopping holidays — like Black Friday and Cyber Monday — tend to be. However, they can still be valuable for businesses that fall into the right niche.
Do you offer sustainable products or services related to renewables? A Green Monday promotion may draw in visitors who are interested in your business’s eco-friendly offerings. Do you run a small business? Creating promotional materials for Small Business Saturday may net you customers who are interested in supporting their local economy.
Ultimately, you want to make sure the bigger holidays are covered first. If you have limited time and resources, it’s best to focus on updating your site and offerings for Black Friday, Cyber Monday and the “holiday season” in general. If you have extra time, however, you can research other shopping holidays. You may find the perfect one for your business — and a Green Monday bundle, for example, may attract some customers you wouldn’t have had otherwise.
Your Ecommerce Business Can Be Ready for BFCM
Black Friday and Cyber Monday are a major opportunity for big sales — but they can also overwhelm businesses that aren’t fully prepared for the holiday season.
Communication with your suppliers and business contacts will be essential. You’ll also want to quickly make sure everything on your website or digital storefront is in good working order before Black Friday orders start rolling in.
If you have extra time, prepping some additional marketing materials, discounts or bundles for smaller shopping holidays — like Small Business Saturday — may net you some additional conversions.