How to Prepare Your Store for BFCM

BFCM (Black Friday Cyber Monday) gives online retail brands the opportunity to “clean house” in the most profitable way — if you prepare your store for BFCM the right way, that is.

Why?

Implementing the right strategies enables brands to maximize sales, optimize non-moving inventory, and get the most margin possible for each and every product. In short, moving as many products as possible while making the most profit possible.

And with online sales expected to exceed last year’s $204 billion, there’s no time to waste.

In this post, we will highlight precisely how to prepare your store for BFCM and the right way to achieve just that.

Let’s jump in!

1. Prepare for an Increased Peak Shopping Window

Black Friday Cyber Monday is no longer about one weekend. In fact, last year's peak holiday season had two distinct waves, one of which started as early as the first of November. According to the Adobe 2021 Holiday Shopping Report, peak season online sales growth occurred in two waves:

  • Pre-season: The month leading up to Cyber Week (Nov 1–24)
  • Late season: The tail end of peak season (Nov 30–Dec 31)

Thanks to earlier promotions that drove demand and the resulting increase in online shopping, 2021’s pre-season saw a whopping 19% year-on-year growth.

Holiday season growth

The bottom line?

In order to capitalize on peak shopping sales, your first step is to adjust your plan for extended shopping windows. This means having your inventory, promotions, and on- and off-site marketing strategies in place early and ensuring you factor in “early-bird” searchers and shoppers.

2. Optimize Your Inventory Selections for BFCM

The next step in ensuring your online retail brand is ready for BFCM involves on- and off-site inventory optimization. This is about more than choosing which products you want to include for specific promotions; you also must plan how you will optimize, organize, and manage your category pages.

Yes, BFCM can be used to “clean house” and help optimize any dead stock or slow-moving inventory. However, it is also necessary to ensure that you have enough inventory options to capitalize on increased traffic, while also guaranteeing you don’t run out of stock before the peak shopping days are over.

According to 2021 holiday shopping feedback, consumers reported a high number of out-of-stock notifications while holiday shopping. In fact, there was an increase of 253% over 2019 and 10% over 2020 of out-of-stock notifications.

out of stock notifications increases year on year

So how do you optimize inventory to maximize on BFCM? Here are some top tips:

  1. Make your inventory decisions early. This means doing your BC analysis as early as possible, factoring in last year's sales as well as current trends. Here’s a quick guide on optimizing your inventory planning to get you started.
  1. Implement and test advanced eCommerce merchandising. Upgrading your merchandising strategies well before the first of November will ensure you have time to tweak for maximum success. You can follow this How to Build a Winning Online Merchandising Strategy guide to get a head start.
  1. Use new AI tools to adapt in real time. No matter how prepared you are for BFCM, it is vital that you are able to pivot in real-time to changing internal and external metrics. While it is possible to do this manually, we recommend beefing up your merchandising team or opting for advanced tools such as our Kimonix app — an AI-powered, holistic eCommerce merchandising solution to keep up with increased inventory level changes and demands.
  1. Prevent stockouts while planning for them anyway. Even with the best planning, stockouts happen, especially when your product demand exceeds expectations. However, with the right tools and systems in place, you can sell on backorder instead, ensuring that you maximize sales potential.

3. Plan Discounts and Promotions That Maximize Profitability Potential

Once you have a clear idea of what inventory you would like to push, you will need to plan specific discounts and promotions. Although you want to ensure that you are able to pivot based on real-time results, you should still have a rough outline or planned sales map before the big shopping days kick in.

“Online store brands will want to choose the right promotions for the right products, based on each product’s margin. Why? So that they are still maximizing profit — at least at the beginning of peak shopping season. They can then increase discounts in order to clean house as the holidays progress.” — Daniel Gurevitch, online merchandising expert.

This means planning:

  • The types of discounts and promotions you want to run
  • When you want to run them
  • Where you will run them (on-site visual merchandising, mobile vs. desktop, PPC campaigns, etc.)

Ultimately, you’re looking for the perfect sweet spot to maximize sales without minimizing profits. To achieve this, you will want to tailor each specific promotion to the products you are selling, the platform your market prefers, the platform your brand uses, and much, much more.

For instance, Shopify says over 70% of 2021 Black Friday purchases were made through smartphones. Therefore, if you are running specific product ads for promotions on desktop only, you may be missing out. Instead, for BFCM, you may want to plan for more mobile promotions.

Bonus: Two Main Types of BFCM Promotions

  • Discount-based sales promotions. These are promotions that offer a specific discount percentage, such as first-time visit on-site coupons.
  • Discount-free sales promotions. These promotions incentivize conversions without significant discounts, such as free shipping thresholds, loyalty programs, and bundles.
cyber-savings

[Source: Shopify]

Here are some tips and hacks on how you maximize the profitability potential with BFCM promotions and discounts:

  1. Prioritize average order values. When planning your BFCM promotions and discounts, try to maximize the value of each and every sale. You can do this with promotions that aim to increase cart values through upsell or combo promotions.
  1. Skip large blanket discounts. Significant discounts of 50% can actually tarnish your brand more than it helps. Additionally, you would need to guarantee huge sales volumes to try to recoup profits, or face losses. Instead, consider offering a “Buy One, Get One 50% Off” promotion.
  1. Consider previous holiday metrics and trends. Look to your own metrics as well as shopping trends from previous years to help tailor promotions more likely to compete. Here’s an example from 2020.
Black Friday trends and stats

[Source: Printful]

  1. Reward loyal customers. Consider VIP early-bird discounts and promotions designed specifically for your best customers. This is something that Beyond Yoga has a lot of success with when running their exclusive daily drop for loyal customers, which saw a 274% increase in campaign revenue.
beyond-yoga-cyber-Monday-deals

[Source: Klaviyo]

4. Do a Technical and User Experience Audit

If you want to be prepared for Black Friday Cyber Monday, now is the time you should be doing a full audit of your online retail store. In particular, you want to make sure it’s technically ready to receive the enormous influx of traffic and additional sales.

The first thing online retailers will want to check and fix before the peak shopping season is their store site speed. Long load times and time-outs, which are more likely to happen when your traffic suddenly and dramatically increases, can send all those shoppers you worked so hard to attract straight to your competitors.

Therefore, you should be doing a full technical audit now so that you can optimize and fix any issues before the big shopping days.

Pro Tip: Free tools like Benchmark Hero can do this in seconds while simultaneously reviewing other technical performance, shopping experience, and trustworthiness criteria.

However, technical performance and site speed are only part of the problem when it comes to bottlenecks.

Another big issue that can prevent BFCM from success is your store’s user experience. To prevent this, you should review and test small changes now to ensure you’re optimized in time for peak shopping days. Ultimately you want to enhance the shopping journey to peak performance, therefore increasing your chances of maximizing the additional traffic to boost conversions.

Here are some BFCM user experience tips to get you started:

  1. First, optimize is your checkout funnel. The more streamlined your checkout process is, the easier you will make your customer’s journey from interest to purchase.
  2. Ensure that you make your on-site deals easy to find and understand.
  3. Optimize your product categories to ensure customers are seeing the products you have aimed to push first.
  4. Adjust and clarify your holiday shopping policies. You also want to make sure your FAQs are super easy to find, or ensure your customer service reps are there to answer any buying questions in a timely manner.

5. Review Your Order and Fulfillment Workflows

The next step in preparing your store for BFCM is looking at your backend workflows.

Why?

When your sales volume suddenly increases in a very short timeframe, it puts massive pressure on your fulfillment and order management. If you haven’t tested and optimized your workflows ahead of time, you could do long-term damage to your retail brand, which will hurt growth long-term.

So, where to start? To prepare your online store for Black Friday and Cyber Monday, you will want to:

  • Have a strategy in place to prioritize and organize BFCM orders, based on key criteria such as shipping requirements, product type, or customer priority.
  • Make sure your fulfillment area is stocked and organized for the rush. Also, consider getting additional help over the holiday period.
  • Invest in automation and inventory optimization tools now, to ensure you can tweak to maximum performance before the holiday season hits.
  • Ensure you have communication strategies in place for customer feedback.

Also, check out our How Inventory Optimization Affects Profitability post to see how you can optimize your inventory management before the holiday shopping season to increase profit potential.

6. Upgrade Your Marketing Strategy to Fit Key BFCM Stages

Even if you and your marketing team have tweaked your current marketing strategy to peak performance throughout the year, it’s not enough. Reviewing and tweaking your marketing, both on- and off-site, is vital if you want to ensure you can move stock without sacrificing profit.

When building your marketing plan, it is vital that retailers consider BFCM eCommerce marketing as more than just one day. In fact, your marketing strategy should be starting right about now, with lead generation marketing.

Here are some key elements you should focus on when preparing your store and your marketing strategy for the various BFCM stages:

July — October BFCM Marketing

  1. SEO. Although SEO is generally considered a long-term strategy, there are a few things you should already be doing to boost results for BFCM. This includes monitoring and optimizing product page speeds, holiday keyword research for page and ad optimization, and boosting on-page optimization.
  1. Lead generation and awareness campaigns. From July until the end of October, online stores should invest even more in lead generation and awareness marketing. The idea is to grow your awareness as much as possible so that you can then retarget just before and during peak holiday shopping days.
  1. Value positioning. Yes, BFCM shoppers are looking for discounts over peak shopping days, but they want discounts on products they already perceive as valuable. So now is the time to drive home product value by highlighting the qualities that make them unique.
  1. Grow customer databases. You have greater chances of converting potential customers when they already know your store brand, especially when competition is at an all-time high. Therefore, you want to make sure you are doing everything you can now to grow your social and email lists. The best way to do that is to offer pre-BFCM incentives such as early discounts or big sale sneak peeks.

Pro Tip: Add personalized product discovery pages to your marketing strategy. This way, you are not only growing your lists but can better convert by showing potential customers specific products they are more likely to buy. You can read more about it in this quick guide: How to Use Personalized Product Discovery Landing Pages to Drive ROAS.

October — November BFCM Marketing

  1. PPC Campaigns. While September is when you build and test new Google Ads and other PPC campaigns, October is when you begin to ramp up and launch these additional campaigns.
  1. Influencer marketing. For those of you investing in influencer marketing over BFCM, you should ideally be securing your multichannel influencers and planning campaigns with them by the end of October.
  1. Ramp up on-site merchandising optimization. Now is when you should upgrade your online merchandising strategy to peak performance. This means ensuring your product displays are front and center and that your products are organized in a way that increases your chances of conversions and meets specific inventory movement needs.
  1. Email marketing. Email marketing is another marketing channel that you should be slowly increasing from October, until it reaches a peak just before and during BFCM.
quirky black Friday email gif

[Source: Stryde]

November BFCM Marketing

  1. Invest big in remarketing. Whether it’s email, personalized product sorting, or Google Shopping, you will want to increase your on- and off-site remarketing campaigns in a big way just before and during BFCM.
  1. Increase budgets. Competition is at full throttle during BFCM, and the last thing you want is for a successful campaign to stop in the middle of the biggest shopping weekend of the year. Therefore, to rise above the noise, expect to crank up your budgets in a big way.
  1. Build hype with sneak peeks. Building hype is another way to keep your audiences engaged until your big sale drops. Whether it’s a pop-up, email, or YouTube video showing a product sneak peek (with a countdown), teasers can help you create FOMO while simultaneously highlighting product value.
  1. Start early-bird promotions. As we mentioned earlier, BFCM trends suggest a longer shopping period. This is primarily due to extended or early promotional campaigns. This can be very fruitful when combined with VIP discounts for loyal customers.

[Source: Voucherify]

7. Implement Advanced Automation

The last step to answer the “how to prepare your store for BFCM” question is about tool investment. There is no denying that online traffic, competition, and the potential to maximize sales are all increasing year on year. And without the right technology, it is getting harder and harder to capitalize on this growing opportunity.

The secret is implementing advanced automation tools and technology to streamline your online retail business to its full potential. And the time to invest and test tools is now, well before the peak shopping days.

Generally speaking, the right automation will help you:

  • Maximize sales
  • Optimize non-moving inventory
  • Get the most margin out of each project

Here are three areas worth the automation investment, and examples of tools you can use:

1. Advanced Merchandising Automation and Optimization

To truly be able to make the most out of BFCM, you must be able to factor in marketing and retail KPIs when planning on-site merchandising and product ads and promotions. You also need to be able to adapt in real-time to shift promotions to other products or change product page hierarchy based on important metrics.

This is virtually impossible to do without harnessing the power of AI. Here’s a look at Kimonix's AI-powered, holistic eCommerce merchandising solution that helps merchants do just that.

2. Advanced SMS and Email Automation and Optimization

We know email marketing is vital for any time of year, but even more so during and after BFCM. Especially when it comes to automated transaction emails. Now may be the time to upgrade your provider to one that offers more task automation.

Klaviyo, for instance, will enable a host of automation tasks, including review collection, up- or cross-sell campaigns, cart abandonment personalization messages, and post-purchase tracking, to name a few.

Klaviyo automation example for ecommerce

3. Advanced Customer Review Automation and Optimization

With sales increasing in such a short period of time, it can be really difficult to keep up with eCommerce management tasks, such as review collection, without the right automation. Tools like Fera are designed to help you do just that.

Fera automation example for ecommerce

With Fera, merchants can customize initial and follow-up messages, offer incentives or rewards, print QR codes for in-person reviews, and more.

Wrap Up: There Is No One-Size-Fits-All When It Comes to Black Friday Cyber Monday

There you have it, everything you need to know about how to prepare your store for BFCM. To recap, merchants will want to:

  • Prepare thoroughly for an increased peak shopping window
  • Optimize your inventory selections for BFCM
  • Plan discounts and promotions that maximize the profitability potential
  • Do a technical and user experience audit
  • Review your order and fulfillment workflows
  • Upgrade your marketing strategy to fit key BFCM stages
  • Implement advanced automation

The trick is to tailor these suggestions and steps to your specific brand, niche, and market — and then test and tweak to reach peak performance.

Have BFCM marketing or merchandising questions? Our online retail experts are standing by to help. Get in touch here.

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