Holiday Season and Ecommerce Opportunities

So it begins – Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Boxing Day and the January Sales

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are the two biggest dates on the consumer calendar. In the States and Canada these two events need no explanation, with hoards of citizens calling in sick to take advantage of the shopping bonanza. However, the concept of Black Friday and Cyber Monday is still fairly new to us here in the UK.

Traditionally, the dates see stores across the US and Canada offer up crazy deals on consumer products – at the peak of the Christmas build-up. So it’s easy to see why the event causes a storm as people hustle for the best deals at an expensive time of the year. Even Apple gets in on the action with annual offers on its products and now the firesale is starting to gain motion on British soil.

What is Black Friday?

Black Friday is the first Friday after Thanksgiving – which may not mean much to UK residents.  Naturally this changes every year.  The name ‘Black Friday’ is thought to originate from the connection between ‘black’ signally a profit (think of “being in the black”) versus ‘red’ which might be associated with financial or retailing loss.  In other words it is known traditionally as a day when retailers make a profit (and hopefully some consumers make great savings too).

What is Cyber Monday?

Cyber Monday is simply the following Monday after Black Friday.  Again, it falls on different dates each year (usually at the very end of November), and the two events are very similar – except one key difference.   Cyber Monday came about as a marketing initiative which was created by Scott Silverman and Ellen Davis back in 2005 and very quickly took off to become an annual event, and one of the largest shopping days in the online shopping calendar overall.  According to Wikipedia, “In 2017, Cyber Monday online sales grew to a record $6.59 billion, compared with $2.98 billion in 2015, and $2.65 billion in 2014.”

On Black Friday stores slash their prices for one day only and open their doors to a flood of bargain hunters. Meanwhile Cyber Monday takes a break from the hustle and bustle of the high street and gives shoppers a chance to snap up deals from the comfort of their own home. However, the line between Black Friday and Cyber Monday is a little blurred here in the UK and you could find big deals online across the entire weekend.  Some retailers, both online and offline have extended the Black Friday marketing initiative so that it extends across a full week.  This is largely for two reasons:

a) Prevents issues with capacity management which can lead to frenzied rushes and even accidents in retail outlets offline as well as issues with website slow downs and even server outages when there is too much traffic simultaneously to a site. 

b) Maximise on the opportunity and generate more sales.

Both of these issues are likely to be even bigger factors in a COVID and post COVID era since managing increased online capacity and social distancing are suck crucial factors for retailing nowadays. So, expect to see more and more ‘Black Friday Week’s which start on the Sunday, or Monday, including, preceeding and leading up to, the traditional Friday after Thanksgiving.

Why is Black Friday important for digital marketing?

All of this is great if you still have some Christmas shopping to take care, but what does it have to do with business?

The point is Black Friday and Cyber Monday are starting to take off in the UK and it’s another opportunity to create a buzz about your services and products.

Sure, it’s a little gimmicky, but what isn’t at this time of year? The most important thing is that people are starting to buy into it and that gives you a chance to build up a bit of pre-Christmas hype.

Naturally, this depends on your ability to drastically slash prices for a couple of days (although there are plenty of other ways you can jump on the bandwagon without having to give too much away (more on that later in our Black Friday campaign ideas section), but Black Friday, and Cyber Monday could be something worth considering in your holiday marketing strategy. Naturally, it depends on the nature of your business and the type of services you offer, but there is growing hype about these two days in the UK and that gives you an opportunity to take advantage.

While the whole event is still new to us here in the UK so you could make a bit of a name for yourself by getting in there early – and there’s no reason you have to go overboard with the discounts. Even an email campaign with “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday” could be enough to bring some customers in through the doors or add some vital online sales for the holiday period.

Black Friday campaign ideas

Don’t forget to get creative with your offers and artwork and really go to town with the ideation.  There are some great examples of creative campaigns out there and here are just a few ideas to get you started. 

  1. ‘A Deal and Hour’
  2. Holiday season gift guides
  3. Extend Black Friday into Cyber Monday
  4. Ensure you tie your channels together
  5. Start early with an ‘Early Black Friday Sale’

‘A Deal an Hour’

A deal an hour type campaign which doesn’t lay all the cards on the table has an element of surprise and also provides a great opportunity to keep prospective customers engaged across social channels as the deals are announced.  Of course, the bigger the brand, the bigger the impact this type of ‘reveal’ has so if you plan to implement something along these lines then you need to prepare for, plan and execute this well to avoid a damp squib campaign which gets little to no traction. 

Seed the idea well and early in the minds of your audience and tell them from the beginning of November you’ll be launching this type of campaign to build up some FOMO impact. Tell the audience what time you’ll be revealing your ‘Deal an Hour’ deals and engage with influencers to spread the word far and wide beforehand. 

You don’t necessarily have to offer different products for each ‘Deal an Hour’ either.  You could simply switch up the discount levels depending on the particular deal, varying between 30% off to 70% off and anywhere in between for other hours.  You could throw in a ‘2 for 1’ offer or a ‘3 for 2’ offer, or specific discounts across whole brand ranges for just one hour.  Be prepared with plenty of different pre-determined voucher codes and remember you’ll need to stay organised and co-ordinated across your whole operation to pull this type of fast moving, and ever changing (albeit just for a short time), campaign. 

Make sure you are well on top of post scheduling too across social channels and have everything aligned well in advance.  Most of the social media planning and posting applications such as SEMRush, Hootsuite and Sproutsocial have excellent scheduling capabilities.  Again, make sure you plan this all well in advance and certainly by the end of October you should be starting to get things organised.  To stay on top of the whole changing discounts scenario you could look at using apps which schedule sales such as Bold Discounts or one of the many Shopify apps which you can utilise to schedule your discount drives if you are using Shopify as your ecommerce solution.

Holiday season gift guides are a solid go-to

Everyone loves a holiday season gift guide, and you can really go to town in making these really audience centric and tailored to specific hobby-enthusiasts or personas.  Try to stay away from the ‘too broad’ ‘Gifts for Mum and Dad’ (of course there will be plenty of search volume around terms like these) in a single post, and instead, if you have the capacity build strong hubs with collections of gift guides all curated and connected together to create a hub of ‘gifts for Mum and Dad’. 

Mum and Dad is too vague and you are very unlikely to be able to meet the true informational need with a vague collection of 10 or 20 items for Mum and Dad when there are so many different personalities across ‘Mums and Dads’.  How about curating a collection of Gifts for Dads who love golf, or Dads who love cooking, or Dads who love whisky-tasting?  Build out your strong hub of gift ideas, create tabs and filters or separate pages grouped strongly together.  Produce beautiful creative and social posts to reflect the same look and feel.  If you plan and execute this well then next year you can revive the Holiday Season gift guide section you created and turn this section into an annual showcase which will not only grow in popularity, but might well attract natural links and build trust and relevance over time.  Whilst this may seem like a huge amount of work, curated lists provide a great way for visitors to scan for ideas for their friends and family, particularly if you can cluster the lists in a very well categorised and compartmentalised manner.  Give your curated blog posts with ideas for gifts some extra visibility by featuring them on your home page and linking across from other relevant sections of your website using strong connections and user journeys.

Maximise campaign length by extending to Cyber Monday

Not only will extending the campaign length of your Black Friday promotions to Cyber Monday, you’ll be more efficient since you won’t need to create two separate campaigns.  You will likely find this particularly valuable if you do decide to carry out a heavy effort campaign such as the ‘Deal a Day’ mentioned earlier which has potential to go very wrong if not planned and executed well.  Better to make the most of a sterling effort than do twice as much work badly. 

Don’t forget to email your customer segments about the Black Friday initiatives

This may seem entirely obvious but far too often brands publish their offer pages on blog posts and then do not connect up their channels at all.  There are plenty of excellent email tools out there, not least Mailchimp and Mailerlite which are very cost effective, particularly for customer databases of fewer than 2000 mailouts.  The drag and drop functionalities on these email suites provide the perfect functionality to be able to pull in your holiday season ecommerce campaigns easily so get those scheduled well ahead of the season.  Simultaneously share to social channels using your favourite social scheduling platform.

Always ensure your data and email practices are compliant with relevant regulations, particularly around privacy and data protection, and particularly so if you are dealing with B2C markets.

Start early with an ‘Early Black Friday’ campaign

Maximise on traffic and sales potential by starting with an early Black Friday campaign, but be careful you don’t go too early with this or it will just begin to look ridiculous.  We all know stores which seem to have a continuous sale on and not only is this potentially borderline in breach of Advertising Standards Regulations (not so much the Black Friday specials but the ‘always on’ sale), it also begins to potentially devalue both the impact of the sale and discount itself, but could impact your brand.  So, be sensible.  Starting your Black Friday campaign on the Monday leading up to Black Friday is perfectly fine as long as you do this well.

January sales and ecommerce opportunities

You’re barely over the Christmas rush when the January sales hit. Then it’s all hands to the pump again. But this is the season to maximise your profits.

But there is a lot of competition, let’s not forget that. So how can you make sure your business start the New Year off as winners? Here are a few pointers!

Fix mobile web performance

It doesn’t matter whether consumers are buying online, or in-store, the majority of shoppers use their mobile phones as part of their shopping routine (even if they are simply using mobile whilst actually in a retail store to compare the price of items they are physically inspecting (i.e. standing in front of and looking at in a store), with equivalent products from other brands or retail outlets. And that means hitting up your website with their handset, and an opportunity not to be missed to take a piece of competitor business if your brand happens to be in the comparison set.

Mobile users do not have the patience to wait for websites to load. If your webpage is too slow you risk losing potential  customers.

This is not only a problem you will have on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, or during the January sales, but all year round, so you may as well use the sales period to fix the lag. Make your New Years resolution a business solution.

Remove any unnecessary CSS or Javascript and make sure you compress images since unoptimised images tend to be one of the main causes of a slow delivery of content on mobile devices. You don’t need bells and whistles that slow down your website, you need a website that sells your products. A few tweaks here and there can go a long way to resolving the problem.

Beat price comparison

It has become the norm for consumers to use their mobile phones in-store to compare your prices with other retailers. But you do not have to lose your customers to your competitors.

Make it clear that you will offer a lower price than any competitor even if the price on your sales label is higher, with a ‘price match promise’ or ‘lowest price promise’. If customers can prove your competitor is selling the same merchandise for less, be flexible on the pricing.

However, you need to ensure you are compliant with Advertising Standards too when it comes to making lowest price promises. The Advertising Standards Authority have a good guideline brochure which should help you navigate through challenges with lowest price promise terms and conditions.

Use personalised marketing

Personalised marketing is a trend many online stores have not got their head round. Consumers will typically unsubscribe from misplaced emails that are not relevant to them.

The point of asking consumers to give you personal information is so that you use it to target them with offers they may have an interest in. Yet far too many online businesses do not use this data and scatter emails at random.

You will increase your chances of a higher success rate – and keep your existing customers – by targeting them with specific offers that marry with their interests.

Social Media and Christmas Campaigns

The holidays are a massive part of the year for many reasons and for marketers it’s a big opportunity to leverage social media success. A study from MarketLive says that half of holiday shoppers will be influenced by social media this year and this shouldn’t come as any surprise.

Holiday shoppers take part in a number of social activities over the festive period – from product reviews and recommendations to hunting for gift ideas on Pinterest. A strong social presence at this time of year could make a great start to 2015 so its time to get your holiday social campaign off the ground.

How to choose your holiday social media strategy

Just like any other marketing campaign your festive strategy needs to be planned out for success. The right approach depends on the type of business you are and the services you offer. A social media campaign for toys at this time of year will vary greatly from a triple-glazing company and its important you understand the role of your services or products.

If it’s hard to imagine your products or services as a Christmas present, offer your customers the gift of a discount or special offer. Even if you’re generally associated with the summer months (eg: a marquee hire firm) you can send out offers for those Christmas and New Year’s parties – as well as those Summer weddings, which will already be in the planning stages.

The question you need to answer is, what does your audience want at this time of year? It could be free shipping on their gifts or guaranteed delivery before Christmas Eve. They may be simply hunting for the best deal available or to buy online and collect from your store.

Turning it social

Special offers, deals and postage perks are not the key to social success this holiday season, however. It’s a great place to start, but to make a success of your social efforts this festive period you need to get out there and get involved with your audience. First of all you need to tell them what you have to offer and how they can take advantage. Then you need to make sure they like, share and comment on your social offers.

It’s a tense time for many online shoppers and you can use this to create a sense of urgency about your deals and offers. Set a time limit on your special deals to drum up the hype and make full use of the fact that Christmas is fast approaching.

Don’t make it all about the sales though and focus some time to include your audience in the festive build-up. Get them to post advice for the holiday seasons, their best decoration pictures or whatever best suits your campaign, brand and products. If you can get them to picture or video themselves using your products you’re on to a winner. Find a way to improve the holiday period for your target audience and whether your services are relevant to this time of year or not, you’ll have made an impression they won’t soon forget.

Being active on social media networks is a great way of directly communicating with your audience. You can make social media your most effective tool this holiday season and into January by posting content that creates a pathway to product landing pages and interacting with customers.

Offer long-term rewards

The January sales may offer great financial rewards for the short term, but how about the long-term? You could use the sales period to offer membership or discounts on future purchases in order to attract customers for now and lay the foundations for customer loyalty moving forward.

The sales season is a prime time to boost your online sales profits, but you can also use it to get the year off to a good start – and to start as you intend to continue.

If you are looking to maximise your sales online either through ecommerce SEO get in touch and we’ll provide an initial website analysis and suggest what you could realistically achieve.