How To Prepare Online Store for BFCM 2020 (Free Checklist Inside)

Black Friday Cyber Monday 2020 (BFCM 2020) is coming, and retailers are doing their best to attract as many customers as possible. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic around the world, most retail activity is happening online. Consumers are starting to get emails and are seeing ads on Facebook and Google for special offers promising the lowest price or the “best deal of all time”.

Your business needs to be ready to compete. The stakes are high. If a customer cannot open your website on a smartphone or you run out of inventory in the middle of Black Friday, you’ve lost sales.

We at Maven want to help your business to perform as effectively as possible during the holiday season, so we created our 8-point checklist to help you prepare your business for what could be the busiest BFCM in history. Even if you have already started your preparation, go through the checklist to ensure you are ready!

BFCM 2019: everything you should know

The 2019 BFCM season was crazy. According to Adobe Analytics, last year’s BFCM was another record-breaking year for retailers around the world. More and more consumers were either combining their shopping experience by shopping both online and offline or shopping online only (see Figure 1).

The BOPIS option (buy online, pick up in-store) increased as well. According to Adobe, BOPIS has grown over 40% YoY (year-over-year), with consumers 20% more likely to convert with retailers who offer BOPIS compared to those that don’t.

Smartphone buying is on the rise. As reported by TechCrunch, 40% of Black Friday online sales in 2019 occurred on smartphones. This number is growing faster than online-shopping overall, a sign that mobile shopping will ultimately overtake web-based shopping.

BCFM is a significant day for small eCommerce businesses in the U.S., with more than a 300% boost in sales over the average day.

 

BFCM 2019 for your business

As you start to think about 2020 BFCM planning, first analyze your business performance for the last year’s holiday season. Be diligent and thoroughly review the details as last year’s data could become your starting point for this year.

In addition, review everything that you know about your competitors’ activities both last year and currently. Have they already started to promote some products or even do some email marketing? Don’t be shy, subscribe to their email lists and learn from their campaigns. Remember, don’t copy! Your business is unique. Use their activities as а datapoint for your strategy development.

 

BFCM 2020: trends and predictions

The COVID-19 pandemic affected businesses and customer behavior in many ways, but what does it specifically mean for your business? Let’s review the major impacts that could affect your business during the 2020 BCFM:

 

People will avoid in-store shopping

The idea of online shopping during the pandemic was obvious and expected. As the pandemic continues through the holiday season, online shopping is even more important. Today, more than 80% of the consumers who used to shop offline will now shop online. So, options like BOPIS or free shipping will make a significant difference in your business this year.

 

Customers are spending the same but online

Consumers are planning to spend the same amount of money that they spent last year based on a Radial survey of 1000 plus U.S. customers. While a recent Dosh report showed that savings are still the number one priority, comparing April and July, spending behavior around the holidays is expected to be similar to the year’s past.

Compared to the start of the pandemic, there has been a decline in bulk purchases and an increase in luxury product purchases, typically with money that had been set aside for vacations that did not happen.

 

Consumers are looking for better offers

Consumers are expected to spend the same amount of money this year as in previous years, but how and where? According to Google, searches with “best affordable” in the query are up 60% YoY. This means that buyers want to spend the same amount of money but want more value for their dollar.

 

Even more mobile

Last year’s trend for mobile purchases will increase this holiday season. Sezzle reported that nearly 80% of shoppers found themselves shopping more on mobile devices since the start of the pandemic.

People are spending more and more time using a smartphone but mobile users continue to convert less than desktop users and are more likely to abandon carts.

 

Popular product categories of the Pandemic

Like all businesses, your goal is to sell as much as possible of your best-selling product during the BFCM period, but do not lose sight of additional product categories that have seen increased demand and popularity due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The best-selling categories since the beginning of the lockdown in March include the following:

  • Home-office furniture
  • Pet care, personal care and beauty products
  • Clothing and appeal
  • Exercise equipment
  • Books, board games, art & crafting

Inventory and fulfilment

 

Pick what to promote

Choose products for BFCM offers as early as possible and make your demand forecast as accurate as you are able. Don’t make your manufacturing process or source supplying the bottleneck of your sales.

 

Be ready for a high load

 
a. Warehouse ready

Conduct a layout review for each area in your warehouse and make sure that you have enough space to hold all the inventory. If needed, rent an extra, overflow warehouse for the holiday season. Ensure the warehouse equipment is well maintained. Nobody wants to struggle with a non-functioning forklift or broken bay door in the middle of Cyber Monday busy.

 
b. Fulfillment ready

Will your fulfillment process be ready for 1000 orders per day? 10 000? Probably, but you need to do a thorough review to be sure. First, double-check that you have the appropriate manpower to fulfill orders. Next, make sure you have enough shipping supplies (corrugated, packing materials, etc) and a ready-to-scale logistics department. If you are using a 3rd party solution for delivery expand to a few more delivery options for the high season to ensure the best customer experience. Use last year’s data to review your pick numbers to develop your plan for this year.

 
c. OOS (Out of Stock)

While this may not be an issue during the year, it can be overlooked as the holiday season approaches. You want to have the confidence that you have enough product to meet demand. Consider the following:

  • What will you do if you run out of inventory, but orders continue to be accepted?
  • Do you need to modify OOS functionality on your website for the holiday season?
  • How will you handle a scenario where a customer purchases 100 of an item, but you only have 10 left in stock?

A risk analysis of your business can help uncover and mitigate these potential issues. If you are struggling to optimize your processes, you can always contact us, and we will help your business ensure available inventory!

 

Optimize checkout process

 
a. Examine your checkout process

One of the biggest contributors to shopping cart abandonment is a long or complicated checkout process. Walk a mile in your customer’s shoes! Step through the entire purchasing process from a consumer’s perspective and look for opportunities to simplify, especially on mobile.

One option is to establish a one-step checkout process extension. This will help your internet-store reduce cart abandonment and increase sales because it streamlines checkout and eliminates customers’ frustrations from having to continuously click the “Continue” button.

You can also incorporate some of the most common techniques like auto-filled fields, guest checkout, or a progress bar.

The checkout process is complicated. We are ready to make it easy for your customers. Contact us and our eCommerce specialist will review your existing checkout process and offer strategies for your business to convert better than ever!

 
b. Payment options

Do you have enough payment options to make it convenient and easy for your customer to buy your products? Ensure that the payment process suits your buyers. For example, add Apple Pay or Google Pay as an option for consumers buying via smartphone. Additional payment options may be needed if you are selling to a new market or different types of customers.

During BFCM, expect increased sales, but also expect increased returns. The high volume of credits and debits to your account may harm your relationship with your financial institution. To avoid this, communicate with your bank beforehand and prepare your payment gateway so there are no surprises or unexpected banking issues.

 

Be mobile-friendly

As previously highlighted, purchases from smartphones are on the rise. Make sure that your website is mobile-enabled. While you may not have a separate mobile version, web-app, or even adaptive website design, it is important to understand how the UX will appear when accessed from a smartphone.

Check out how we helped Fun & Functions increase mobile traffic by developing the mobile version of their website.

 

Bring traffic

It can be difficult to attract customers to your website during the year, and as the holidays approach, it becomes both more difficult and more important. It is a critical priority to analyze your audience and review your budget to drive traffic to your site.

If online advertising is part of your plan, expect to see much higher prices for any type of ads. At some point, the cost to advertise will be more than the expected return. Try to review your budget and if you decide to invest, be cognizant of the ROI (return of investment).

Remember that the holidays are when consumers are looking for the best deal. Your most powerful tool is your ability to offer the best price, rebate, BOGO, or other offers to entice customers to your site. Trust your expertise and experience with your customers and market to create the best pricing strategy and it will pay off.

 

Use your offline presence

If you have brick and mortar locations or pick-up points, leverage that space for promotion. For example, put up banners with special offers and QR codes. People are still going out and this type of advertising costs less than paying to be in a publication.

 

Use email campaigns

Establish a predictable, engaging communication process with your customers. Email them regularly but avoid spamming, otherwise, your emails will be ignored, or you will see increased unsubscribes. Continue communication even after BFCM. You want to create a strong connection and make people who came to you during the holidays your customers for life.

Before BFCM, ensure you are emailing visitors who abandon their carts. The automatic email campaign is the best solution for the high load time of BFCM.

Your emails should be well written, concise and visually pleasing. (use effective headlines, colorful images, CTAs, etc.). Work on personalization of your email because in 2020 you are competing to stand out against a plethora of marketing emails. No one likes to receive 25 emails with the same automatically generated text.

Remember that this year will be more online-oriented than years past, so expect that your competitors have already started emailing their customers. Be creative, smart and effective. You don’t want to be marked as spam.

 

Use social media

 
a. Choose the right channel

Analyze which social platforms your prospects use most start with those platforms for your ad campaigns. Don’t advertise on every platform at once. The bid prices are high during the holiday season, so be sure that the chosen channel is affordable and effective.

 
b. Remember customer journey

While creating your ads consider your buyers’ journey and ensure your ads include more than just the conversion stage. Split your ads and budget between different stages, starting from awareness, consideration and decision. To understand more about the customer journey read the HubSpot article here.

 
c. Retarget your existing visitors and customers

It’s crucial to retarget your visitors and customers. All of the social media platforms allow you to set up retargeting. Typically, you need to add some pieces of code to your website page to start tracking. In the case of Facebook, for example, you would install Facebook Pixel or if you are using Twitter, install Twitter conversion tracking.

 

Use loyalty program

If your business has a loyalty program – start to use it immediately! First, communicate with your loyal customers and create some special offers for them. Next, establish a referral program. Offer a special price if your loyal customer brings a friend or a special gift or discount for each referral. Be creative and design a unique, easy to manage referral program.

 

Too late for SEO

With only one month left till the holiday season starts, even if you began aggressive SEO work right away you would not see results in time. Concentrate on other channels.

Now is the time to start to think about your SEO strategy for the next holiday season. To be successful, you need to start now and be strategic. To help you with SEO planning and execution, we created an E-book on how to build a successful SEO strategy for eCommerce.

At Maven, we are proven SEO experts. We can audit and boost the SEO of your website in a short period. Contact us to learn more about our SEO capabilities!

 

 Landing pages

You’ve analyzed your audience, set up an email campaign, posted a few ads on Facebook but where are you directing the traffic? Your homepage? Contact form? You need a landing page to help guide your customers. Landing pages help you to shepherd your potential customers into the sales pipeline in a natural way (see Figure 2).

For BFCM 2020 your landing page should consist of:

  • Your best deals with a clear price and conditions
  • Call to Action (CTA), for example, “Buy now” or “Limited time offer”
  • Terms, imagery, and an overall easy to read page view

You can use landing pages as a seasonal instrument to drive sales and direct your traffic from certain channels.

Be sure to maintain your messaging between your ads and landing page. The landing page should be for the same product or deal that you promoted in your ad.

 

Consider content marketing

Another technique to increase traffic could be content marketing. By writing articles, product reviews and gift guides you can build a strong relationship with your customers, not only as a merchant but as a friend or trusted advisor. Now is the perfect time to start publishing content for BFCM 2020. Based on its success, consider content creation for the rest of the season or the next year.

To understand how to create content that converts read our blog post: “6 Ways to Increase Conversion by Improving Your Content”.

 

Ensure performance under pressure

Consumers have grown to expect fast-working websites. Fast-working means that the average page load time is less than 3 seconds. It is fast! But, as discussed, BFCM is not an average season.

Usually, during the average season, your servers are not fully loaded. Traffic is growing slowly and constantly, so your website performs well. From time to time, you add 1 more CPU to your server to support the increasing traffic. Now, BFCM comes! What happens to the unprepared business whose server was not ready is a website, full of Black Friday banners, landing pages and special offers, goes down. The average load time increases to 10-12 or 20 seconds, buyers are unwilling to wait and go elsewhere.

Many companies will try to overcome this ahead of time by buying an extra plan from their server provider or work with a server-provider auto-scales to fit growing needs. This might help, but it also may not be enough, and the problem is the company is wasting money on technology or services that they are not using.

What to do? The answer is simple – you need a custom solution. A solution that could save you money, succeed during the holiday season, and ensure high overall performance.

At Maven, we are here to help. How? We review your website performance. First, we conduct a server storage utilization report, based on which we define the optimal hosting strategy. We will add extra server power, for high seasons, like BFCM, to support the higher volume of traffic. For the rest of the year, we provide a cost-effective solution that will meet your processing needs without unnecessary extra processing power.

This custom solution will save you money and help your business to successfully navigate the holiday season. Do it now! Book a meeting with our specialist.

 

Prepare your customer support

 

Fast refund and return

The downside of the high season is returns and refunds. Nobody likes to discuss this, but it is the reality of the season and comes at the worst possible time.

We have performed a deep analysis of both topics. Read “Return Merchandise Authorization: how to spoil nothing” and “Return & refund policies: underwater rocks” again to ensure that you are aware of all unforeseen issues and the underwater rocks associated with returns and refunds.

 

Use live chats

Expect a high volume of customer inquiries and consider adding live chat on your website. During BFCM, you will receive significantly more phone calls and emails from customers. Responding takes time for both you and for a customer. Live chat offers a quick and intuitive solution.

Also, during BCFM, providing 24/7 support may be the most efficient course of action. This extended support allows you to review as many requests as possible and perhaps flatten the spike in inquiries during the day.

Finally, adding a chatbot to automatically answer simple, common questions and to do basic segmentation of requests can streamline the customer service process.

 

Keep them up to date

What is the most important part of any internet-store? Products, of course! Make sure that your product cards are filled out completely and correctly.

Moreover, confirm that the following sections of the website up to date, functional and able to be found by customers:

  • Store policies (privacy, shipping, returns)
  • Contact and subscription forms
  • About Us page
  • FAQ page
 

Do analysis

BFCM and the broader holiday season are the best time to perform a deep analysis of your business. You will see more traffic than usual, and the increased data generated during this time presents an excellent analytical opportunity.

Experiment

With high traffic, you have an opportunity to experiment in real-time! You may have wanted to determine which banner converts better or what color of the “Add to cart” button works the best? With higher volumes of traffic, you can see the results immediately. Such actions will be applicable only for changes to the existing content. You want to have baseline data to which to compare.

If you have not experimented in this past – this is a good time to start.

 

Analyze UX

In 2020 it is no surprise that just about every company uses Google Analytics to analyze key KPIs like conversions or traffic. “Regular” Google Analytics collects only after purchase data, but what are customers doing before the purchase?

To answer this question, you need to set up Enhanced Ecommerce Analytics. This tool tracks additional rich data such as consumer coupon usage, customer website activity, refunds and much more. It is highly customizable, so you can track almost anything you need.

With the higher traffic volume of the holidays, you are able to see a wider range of customer behavior and how they are interacting on your website. With this tool, you can analyze and measure the efficiency of your marketing activities.

Moreover, you can use the insights you discover right away rather than waiting until the next holiday season.

The setup and configuration of enhanced analytics are complex. A developer is recommended to ensure the tool is properly implemented. Maven can help by not only setting up the desirable trackers but by educating your team on the tool’s use and how to interpret the data.

 

Conclusion

Congratulations! If you’ve completed the checklist, you can be confident that your business is ready to meet the challenges of BFCM 2020 season. What’s left? Nothing special, just continue to apply this checklist to your business, and you will see results immediately.

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