Photo by Kevin Ku
As an ecommerce brand you probably have these auspicious dates circled in red on your calendar, those specific holidays or seasons that affect shopping behaviour in such a massive way that you plan your business strategies around it. We’re talking about Black Friday, Cyber Monday - and the festive season that follows shortly on after that. BFCM and the gifting season combined are the bread and butter of many online retailers, who refine their marketing campaigns and boost their production efforts to meet the demands.
Every year we have seen BFCM grow, with more and more brands being represented online; the ecommerce aspect of the gifting season has simply skyrocketed. Shopify merchants broke records in 2019, with $2.9+ billion in worldwide sales over Black Friday/Cyber Monday weekend. Online commerce has brought independent businesses and direct-to-consumer businesses to the fore, allowing them to compete with the multinational conglomerates who previously stole the show.
Even though the first notion of Black Friday sales were documented in Philadelphia, America, this sales holiday has now become a global phenomenon regardless of whether Thanksgiving is celebrated or not. But all this was before 2020; and so much has changed.
The pandemic inadvertently set off a global shutdown, retail has been limited - in many countries even for ecommerce. Yet ecommerce has also been the first to reopen due to the convenience and safety of shopping from home. Thousands of retailers who had never been online launched their stores during this time, and tens of thousands of online shoppers who had never shopped online now did so out of necessity. The global pandemic has accelerated nearly a decade of ecommerce evolution into just ninety days as businesses pivoted to thrive in this new environment.
This is our first of a three-part article series wherein we get you thinking about BFCM readiness and what you should be doing in the coming months running up to (hopefully) your busiest time of year. We will also share some valuable tips on how to adapt your business to thrive online.
Get an early start on BFCM
BFCM and the subsequent gifting season is the period when many merchants see the lion’s share of their annual sales in the year, and could be the much needed monetary relief that many are relying on. While we cannot predict how things will be for merchants during this holiday season, it does appear that it could be a favorable one for ecommerce again. Our best advice would be to get an early start on your BFCM strategy - and especially for ecommerce brands that will have a strong website focus.
Bear in mind that even a modest amount of custom functionality can take over a month to progress from specification to go-live, so focusing on making your website ready - with BFCM in mind - this early in the year allows you ample time to iron out the kinks and squash pesky bugs in time for the big day. You can even test your new functionality or processes in the market by using seasonal sales as a kind of pilot run. This will quickly expose any positives or negatives, in real-time, for you to revisit in retrospection. Also, it is inadvisable to put any extra pressure on yourself during BFCM if you’re worried about your website infrastructure not being thoroughly tested - because let’s face it, your attention will be pulled to putting out fires! Knowing that your platform is sound, and also optimized to convert the maximum sales, will allow you to divert your energies where they’re needed.
There are always things to be done that can drastically improve your online store, not just your conversion rate but also your search results, user experience and marketability. These will include bugs that you or customers have encountered, improvements to the User Interface (UI), new features that you would like to implement, improving website discoverability (SEO related), and other changes to boost upsell and conversions.
Review the current performance of your website using all the tools at your disposal, including performance measurement tools like Google Analytics, Google PageSpeed Insights, Google Mobile-Friendly Test, Backlink Checker, etc. Using real data from your users allows you to make more informed decisions when it comes to prioritizing your tasks. Obviously, pain points that directly affect your customers will be your most pressing issues to tackle (as opposed to backend issues that only affect you and your team) such as 1) things that affect your customer’s experience and 2) things that affect sales/conversions.
Compare the results to your goals as it will highlight any glaring issues and help you identify where you need to be focusing your improvements. These items will become your to-do list, and your next step is to determine the importance or urgency of each. If this is too much of an undertaking for your business right now, then ConversionBoost is far better suited to help you see exponential growth in your online store conversion. ConversionBoost is one of our specialised services, where we use an evidence-based approach, with data collection and analysis, to improve and enhance your store. It is designed for established stores that already have a baseline of performance, and stores that already have a certain level of traffic and sales will see the best results.
Digital Marketing forms a firm pillar in the model for successful ecommerce, and a well-thought out marketing plan for growing your audience in preparation for the gifting season is key. You will be competing against every other ecommerce store during this time, so try to grow your marketing base and social following as much as possible from now.
These are our top six marketing initiatives to channel your energies into:
- Organic - includes word-of-mouth, viral marketing, PR, social media, network marketing, direct sales, and anything else where customers come to you naturally over time.
- Content - these include blogs or articles, creating education media (about your product or the need thereof), useful pieces of content like free guides or infographics.
- Paid - online affords many places to pay for advertising including Google Ads and Facebook/Instagram Ads (this includes boosted or sponsored content).
- Social - all the social platforms that your market frequents, often includes Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Twitter.
- Email - keep in touch with your potential customers via email through newsletters and other email campaigns. Optimise your transactional emails to boost repeat sales using tools like Spently to automate it. Get to grips with a tool like this so that you can use it for your BFCM campaigns with full confidence.
- Automation - automated marketing campaigns can be ‘always-on’ lead generating channels. They can be set up once and run automatically, warming up leads and bringing in sales - if you start now you can have some hot leads by the time BFCM rolls in. Look into implementing an automation flow tool like Klaviyo to take full advantage.
- Reviews - customer reviews are new age, ‘word-of-mouth’ gold. Incorporate social proof into your completed sales follow up and your automated processes to ensure that most of your products have reviews on them.
Product/Stock Functionalities or Apps
Take a moment to go back to the basics - starting with your product. Make sure it is these 5 things:
- In demand
- Of high quality
- Well explained on your website
- Well presented
- Correctly priced
If even one of these don’t meet the criteria, then you still have time to tweak your product and website. Implement at least these three functionalities (listed below) now, so that you know they’re solid later because they will help you boost your sales conversions and have happier customers:
Stock level indication: Nothing gives a sense of urgency or touches on the consumer’s sense of FOMO (fear of missing out) like a stock level indication (only 6 items left in stock!). An app like While Supplies Last will enable you to implement this functionality.
Back-in-stock notification: Don’t lose out on sales simply because a product is temporarily out of stock, capture the consumer’s details and send them an automated reminder when the product is back-in-stock again with functionality like that of the BackInStock app.
Abandoned cart recovery: “The typical shopping cart abandonment rate for online retailers varies between 60% and 80%, with an average of 67.91%.” Abandoned carts are the ultimate low-hanging fruit for picking up on lost sales - consumers were literally selecting items for purchase and for some or other reason didn’t complete the sale. Provide an opportunity for them to pick up where they left off (or even offer a discount to tip them over the edge). If you're on Shopify Plus or higher, you already have abandoned checkouts available to you as a feature, otherwise for a lower plan there are still plenty of options in the form of apps.
Will you be able to keep up without compromising on something? Be smart about keeping track of your stock, look into implementing Shopify apps like Stock2Shop to monitor stock levels to ensure you don’t sell products you don’t have stock of. This helps you to avoid customer frustration and to keep to shipping deadlines. If the turnover for shipping is expected to be longer, due to greater demand such as over BFCM weekend, then strategise now how you will make your customers aware of changes to expected delivery times or find a way to optimise your fulfillment processes well ahead of time. Try as much as possible to keep your fulfillment fast and efficient, while keeping your customers in the loop as much as possible.
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.