A practical checklist to prepare your Shopify store for BFCM

read time.

 

Black Friday preparationPhoto by Jessica Lewis


Are you thinking about Black Friday and Cyber Monday yet? We’re running a three-part article series that shows you why you should be focusing on BFCM now, how you can prepare your website, and how this gifting season differs from those before. We’re all for useful and practical advice, so we’ve compiled a website preparation checklist to help you get your Shopify store ready for the upcoming holiday season. Black Friday and Cyber Monday have a habit of sneaking up on you and changes or tweaks to your website require time to do diagnostics, strategize and schedule changes with your development team.

By getting an early start on your preparations you will ease some of the pressure down the line, but you will also have your website performing exactly the way it needs to in order to maximize your sales conversion opportunities. For those merchants who use outsourced or external development teams for your websites, getting in early means you won’t face the possibility of ‘missing the bus’ as development houses fill up their schedules. 

There are a lot of aspects to being BFCM ready, which include marketing strategy, operations, and production side of things - but we’re focusing on enhancing your Shopify store so that it is ready for Black Friday well ahead of time. 

1. Implement infrastructure for sales and discounts

    Sales and discounts

    Photo by Markus Spiske


    Offering discounts is the crux of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, so it is important to make sure that your Shopify store is set up to support it. There are a number of ways you can offer discounts, including a specific monetary value, a percentage discount, sale prices, bundled discounts (eg. different products but in the same range or brand), bulk discounts, cart value threshold discounts (over a certain value for example gets free shipping), or straight up shipping discounts. These can be set up to be automatic, or you can set sale prices for individual products or ranges, or you can even create discount codes (such as using BFCM2020 at checkout to get a 50% discount off the entire cart). 

    There is a lot of flexibility here, and many generic discounts are easily set up on your Shopify platform. However if you are looking for something more complex or bespoke, you may need to get a developer to help customize some functionality for you or find a Shopify sales and discounts app with the functionality you need.

    2. Test server load capacity 

    Test server load capacity

    Image from K6.io


    The predictable surge in website traffic during the Black Friday/Cyber Monday weekend can feel like a blessing and a curse. All too often, popular ecommerce sites buckle under the immense weight of double or triple their usual simultaneous traffic. That is why it is recommended that you ensure that your server can handle a spike in requests. You can run diagnostics and test your server load capacity with tools like LoadImpact.com or Google’s Lighthouse Report Viewer. These will help you improve your website’s performance including speed, accessibility, best practices, and SEO, on both desktop and mobile. Testing server load capacity is more important for other platforms, because if your online store is on Shopify you don’t need to worry about this.

    Warning: it is best to test on your stage environment so as to avoid crashing your server on your live site. 

    3. Lower your cart abandonment rate

      Lower your cart abandonment rate

      Photo by Rupixen


      The average cart abandonment rate on Black Friday 2018 in the US was 82%! Keeping cart abandonment figures low needs to be a high priority for you, and it is something you will need to keep your finger on. There are a number of factors that affect the cart abandonment rate, the number one reason being extra costs such as shipping tax or fees. However, there are many more factors which include the user experience and usability of the shopping cart functionality and the checkout page. Consider a deep dive into what factors might be contributing to your low sales conversions and fix those immediately, then you can use the months running up to BFCM to monitor for any improvements. 

      An abandoned cart can also be seen as an opportunity to recover the sale. Make sure that your first step in your checkout process is getting a potential customer’s email address, that way if they abandon you can contact them. There are a number of ways that you can recover an abandoned cart, which include offering a discount, offering to save their cart for checking out another time, or offer free shipping if it’s within your budget. Shopify makes this easy with built-in abandoned checkout recovery and a wide selection of abandoned cart apps in the Shopify App Store.

      4. Be mobile-first

        Be mobile-first

        Photo by Meghan Schiereck


        In 2018, in the US, 66% of sales from Shopify merchants happened on mobile during BFCM versus 34% which occurred on a desktop. Ensure that your website is mobile responsive and that the user experience is easy and intuitive. Examine your checkout process to ensure that it is a painless experience, especially on mobile, as filling out long forms or using complicated payment methods can be a real conversion killer. Try and reduce keystrokes and clicks required to make a purchase. Use tools like Google’s Lighthouse Report Viewer to run diagnostics to uncover issues likely affecting your mobile user friendliness, such as ‘tap targets’ (eg. buttons) or font sizes being too small for mobile users.

        5. Consider implementing live-chat

          Live chat

          Image from Grip6.com


          Live-chat has enabled many online stores to boost their conversion rate by up to 45%. It allows the user to get real-time answers to questions that help them make a buying decision. If you’re not ready to commit to having live chat staffed and monitored at all times, you can still implement live-chat by only enabling it in strategic areas, like on products featuring Black Friday deals or anywhere during the checkout process.

          6. Do user experience testing

            User testing

            Photo by Daria Nepriakhina


            User feedback helps you to gauge how well your store is meeting the needs of your customers. It stands to reason that a store that meets their needs adequately will result in a sale, and also the return of the same customer. There are a number of apps and tools out there to help you find issues that could affect the user experience, such as Google Pagespeed Insights, which shows you real-world data of your site. You will be able to uncover issues or areas of your store where simple improvements can vastly improve your user experience. Remember to extend your UX testing to the mobile experience too.

            7. Add tracking pixels

              Tracking pixels

              Photo by Will Francis


              Most online retailers participating in BFCM will be making use of paid campaigns such as Facebook Ads or Google Smart Shopping campaigns, which can be set up in Shopify. You will need to place retargeting pixels on your website so that you can remarket ads to your BFCM sale traffic. Generate a tracking pixel code for your website with Facebook Ads and Google AdWords now so that you can use this valuable data to improve your conversion rate.

              8. Set up Google Analytics

                Google Analytics

                Photo by Myriam Jessier


                If you haven’t already got Google Analytics tracking on your website, you need to add it as soon as possible. Google Analytics tracks valuable user data to help you understand how your customers shop in your online store. You can use the insights you gain from it to optimize your cart, product, and checkout pages. You can also more easily track where your customers drop off and troubleshoot the issues. Shopify has a beginner's guide to Google Analytics if you need help setting it up or if you want to make sure you are using it correctly.

                9. Use heatmaps

                  Crazy Egg heat map

                  Image from crazyegg.com


                  If your ecommerce store has been up and running for a while with purchases neatly ticking over but you’re not seeing the surge you expected to see by now, heat mapping is certainly something you should be adding to your process of optimization. Heat maps could very well be one of the keys to understanding what problems your users are experiencing on your site and where they’re getting caught up instead of making purchases. There is a wealth of data available via your website’s analytics both on Google Analytics and Shopify’s analytics and reports that you could be using to pinpoint any issues or potential hurdles. However, heat mapping is arguably the easiest tool to use for this very purpose that almost anyone can understand. It’s visual and intuitive, making it a very popular tool for ecommerce optimisation amongst merchants. 

                  10. Use analytics from your Shopify Reports

                    Shopify dashboard

                    Just checking your dashboard alone will give you a good understanding of how your site is performing at a glance. 

                    We cannot stress how vital it is to track user behaviour on your website, including tracking how your marketing efforts are converting into sales. There is a lot that you can learn from your Shopify analytics; this is what you will be able see on your Overview dashboard: 

                    • check the value of your recent sales and compare them to a previous time period
                    • compare how well your sales channels are performing
                    • track your average order value
                    • see where your visitors are coming from - by region or by social media source
                    • monitor the trends over time

                      We hope that we’ve given you something to think about, and that you will take our advice and use this time wisely to get ahead and capitalise on the opportunities ahead for your ecommerce store. Sign up for our newsletter if you want to make sure that you don’t miss the last installment of our BFCM readiness article series.



                      Ross Allchorn
                      Ross Allchorn

                      Author

                      Hi, I'm Ross, an entrepreneur, author and a specialist in e-commerce. I'm always keen on hearing about new and interesting startups and projects, so feel free to contact me using our contact page.