For ecommerce retailers, November is the most wonderful time of the year. Black Friday and Cyber Monday are just two days out of the month, but they have a huge impact on retail businesses. Both days are hotly anticipated on either side of the retail equation: customers are looking for deals and retailers are looking for a huge bump in revenue. According to Adobe Analytics, Black Friday sales surpassed $9 billion in 2022. And three days later, on Cyber Monday, ecommerce sales went beyond that, raking in more than $11 billion. That whole week, known as Cyber Week, saw record-breaking revenue of more than $35.2 billion—a number that has online retailers putting a lot of thought into their Black Friday ecommerce strategy for 2023.
Despite 2022’s record-breaking numbers for Black Friday/Cyber Monday, ecommerce growth as a whole has slowed. Sales still increased by 7.7% YOY for 2022, but that is the slowest rate of growth for ecommerce since 2009. Between this fact of slowing growth and the heavy competition retailers face every year during this time, the idea of coming out ahead during Cyber Week might seem like a daunting prospect.
For many, it’s just a matter of slashing prices in order to win business away from competitors. But is that the best approach? In an effort to drive revenue, you may leave behind a bunch of profit that was there for the taking. As the old saying goes, “The past is prologue.” By examining past performance and current trends, you can craft a winning BFCM ecommerce strategy.
While you’re going to focus most of your energy on Cyber Week specifically, it’s important to recognize that—while the shopping might be concentrated in a single week—Black Friday is very much on the minds of consumers all month long. This doesn’t mean you need to run sales all month long, but you will have to work a little harder to stay visible/top of mind. By looking at a few of the trends of the last few years, you can start to focus your efforts in ways that will pay off.
You can see that, increasingly, shoppers want to spend their Black Friday in the comfort of their own home. Within the month-long window of November, lean on a paid-ad approach to drive traffic and sales. You don’t have to offer discounts all month long; the ads can just tease your Black Friday/Cyber Monday promotions and build up suspense to the event.
Think multichannel, too, when it comes to where to spend your advertising budget. Google ads are great, especially if you’re trying to get people to your own website. But if you’re an Amazon seller, keep your ads local to the platform. The same holds true on eBay: promoting your listings can make a huge impact, increasing views by as much as 36%.
The image most people get for the Black Friday retail experience is of stampeding hordes at big-box stores trying to score big deals on the items with mass appeal. Online shopping lets store owners do things a little differently. The instinct is to just apply blanket discounts (or, if you’re a bedding shop, to discount blankets), and history tells us that works—if the discount is steep enough. Taking it on the chin might not be the best way to stand out from the crowd, though. One way to get noticed is to let customers know you’re noticing them, too.
Email marketing is one of the best ways to personalize experiences for your shoppers. Your audience is one that’s opted in and so is predisposed to actually read what you send. This is an ideal place to personalize, by segmenting your customers and sending them communications regarding topics/categories they’re interested in. Use your email in a drip campaign leading up to Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
If you’re an Amazon or Walmart merchant (or, really, any merchant with a primary presence on another company’s marketplace), there’s an administrative layer between you and your customers that makes personalization more difficult. Other marketplaces encourage a more direct relationship with customers, or do more to point users to sellers. Etsy, for example, has a sophisticated recommendation engine that points shoppers to specific products and sellers. The site has also gone beyond its original niche of handmade/crafty items, and your own products might fit perfectly there. If your own inventory matches the site’s biggest selling items, you could very well end up as a personalized recommendation for one of Etsy’s customers. Even if you don’t, it doesn’t hurt to have another “storefront” out there, especially when it’s so easy to list on multiple marketplaces at once.
Because of its origins as a day-after-Thanksgiving ritual, Black Friday has long been an American phenomenon. This is no longer the case, however, as the day has become something of a global observance. This is good news for online retailers, who are unrestrained by the limits of geography. But even the globally capable could benefit from a more targeted approach to Black Friday ecommerce.
Ecommerce might make you a global player, but it can also make you a local hero in any market. Earlier in this post, we pointed out the success of paid ads in 2022 as a driver of Black Friday ecommerce. 2023 is no different, and one clever way to buy ads is to localize them in multiple markets. This doesn’t mean to make false claims about your own location, just make the content of the ad something locally recognizable. An ad targeting New Yorkers with images of palm trees and swimming pools is a missed opportunity.
With Amazon Ads you can do the same kind of local targeting to have as global a reach as possible. With the right tool, you can leverage Amazon’s network of warehouses across 16 global marketplaces and sell cross-border into any market like you were a local yourself.
This basic tenet of economics kind of goes out the window on Black Friday. A more accurate version would say, “Buy low, sell high enough to make a profit while still being lower than your competitor.” But not everybody has the same wiggle room on price, especially a small-time Amazon seller competing against brands and Amazon directly. Still, low prices are going to win the day.
What an Amazon seller might lack in price flexibility is more than made up for by their product flexibility. An Amazon seller isn’t a brand—not for a product or a store. They are simply merchants, finding goods that can be sold for more than they paid for them. A new line of products wouldn’t require any kind of rebrand or announcement. They just quietly get listed and sold. Consider these two facts:
You don’t need to be an expert on toys to know which ones will make you money, discounts and all. Using our Tactical Arbitrage solution, you can rely on technology to find them selling on other websites for less than they’re going for on Amazon, giving you the info you need to get into the Buy Box.
Before you forge ahead with this, make sure you’re actually able to sell toys during the holiday season. Amazon has restrictions on who can sell certain products, and when. If you’re “gated” from this category, then you’ll need to get yourself ungated in toys (and put this whole toy plan in the “Black Friday 2024” pile).
Using ScoutIQ, you can do the same thing with used books. While used books might not be the first thing you think of as a holiday gift idea, you don’t have to go fully into the book business. Instead you can be selective, searching only for those books that are in the most profitable categories. This isn’t going to be a game-changing factor of your Black Friday strategy; more like a side-hustle where you’re grabbing every opportunity you discover. And here, you can offer steep/competitive discounts because … well, because you can.
That header seems to contradict itself: how can a week last for two months? Well, the leadup to Black Friday intensifies over the course of November. Pre-sale support requests—questions, clarifications, stock inquiries—are naturally on the rise. Then there’s the matter of the week itself. Your online presence is a store that’s open 24/7 and customers will need assistance.
Then there’s the fact that nearly everything that’s bought during BFCM is a gift—a gift that won’t be given for another month. In that month, sellers are going to be dealing with post-sale support of their Cyber Week customers and the pre-sales support for all the last-minute shoppers. The truth is: Black Friday 2023 will end in 2024.
AI is a hot topic this year, and people are looking to chatbots to handle frontline retail support during Black Friday/Cyber Monday. While they can be helpful, if these bots aren’t integrated with some kind of traditional helpdesk/ticketing system, they may cause more problems than they solve. Be sure to have a proven ticketing system to handle the influx of customer accounts. The idea is to keep everything centralized and accountable.
For multichannel sellers, it can be extra tricky to provide a good support experience across multiple marketplaces. You’ll want to funnel all your requests from each channel through your single helpdesk application. This can be done manually by your customer service team, or automatically with software like ChannelReply.
It’s no secret that social proof can be a big driver of sales, regardless of the season. One of the best ways to demonstrate that proof is through product reviews—especially for sellers on Amazon, where reputation is everything and word of mouth is hard to come by. As you think about ways to drive more sales this Black Friday, you should also be thinking of ways to drive more customer reviews. Good reviews are a literal feedback loop:
As you gear up for Black Friday, now is a good time to solicit feedback from existing satisfied customers. Use email marketing software to create an audience segment of repeat customers (if they came back, they probably had a good experience). You can kill two birds with one stone here by offering an incentive for reviews (an extra/“secret” Black Friday discount, for example). Just be careful not to break any rules like Amazon's customer product reviews policy, and don’t try and sway the reviews in any way: honest opinions only.
Make soliciting reviews a part of your Black Friday process. By adding a programmatic way to solicit feedback to a huge sales event, you can ride a wave of credibility into Christmas and beyond. Build up a repository of reviews now, because it’s never too early to start planning for Black Friday 2024.