Now is the time to start preparing for Black Friday, Cyber Monday (BFCM).
Yes we know Prime Day is only just over and although we know you would love nothing more to put your feet up and toast the wild successes you have achieved, you can't! No no no.
Why? Because now is the perfect time to get cracking on preparations for the next seasonal rush and ensure the good times keep on rolling.
BFCM dates have been confirmed as 24th - 27th of November 2023. And while it would be easy to say ‘we have plenty of time’, the reality is BFCM will be with us before we know it.
And it isn’t just BFCM. The entirety of Q4 sees a, roughly, 30-50% jump in sales so preparedness is key.
So to get a leg up on the competition, now is the time to start preparing, get a leg up on the competition and ensure that we are doing everything in our power to end the year with an extraordinarily bang!!!
But how? It can be a daunting task to get all the ducks in a row for what can be a make or break moment in any ecommerce business’ calendar, but as luck would have it, we are here to put your mind at rest and provide a helping hand.
So in this article, we are providing an actionable checklist of steps that can be taken to set you up for success. We will cover actions including:
- Review and plan
- Market Research
- Supplier relationships and communication
- Tech stack for BFCM
- Additional support
- Pre-promotion and early marketing
- And of course, funding
So without further ado, let's get cracking.
1. Review and plan
Look at previous years to determine strategies for upcoming event
This is a hill we will die on forevermore because its importance cannot be understated.
Data is everything when it comes to planning appropriately for major sales events like BFCM and success can really be aided by understanding performance for large scale sales moments from your company’s past.
By looking at past sales metrics for your brand (and your competitors), product patterns, bundle information and more, you can make the best decisions that will result in the most profitable outcome for your brand.
You can identify top performers as well as those that didn't do well in order to adjust current stock levels, inform your supplier orders and ensure you don't suffer from overstocking or stockouts.
You likely have a selection of tools in your tech stack that you rely on to source and present this data but if you need help, flick to point 3 in this article to discover some additional ones.
You can then use this historical data to forecast the demand for your products during the Black Friday period helping you to determine the appropriate inventory levels to have on hand.
Looking at the past can help us a lot but we shouldn't neglect the present and that’s why data analysis should always be done in conjunction with up-to-date understanding of current trends and market conditions.
Which is funny because a big part of planning is…
2. Researching the market
Know what is going on culturally, societally, politically etc that could affect consumer habits
What is currently trending? What are consumers obsessed with at the moment? What did that particularly influential Kardashian tweet about recently and is it relevant to my product suite?
All these questions should be asked in the lead up to any major sales event as it can help dictate which of your products are likely to be in highest demand.
Social media and other such channels have become an influential tool in guiding impressionable shoppers and have a big say in what will be at the top of most online shopper’s wish lists.
With trends like #tiktokmademebuyit, Fit and house ‘checks’ and GRWM (which this millennial writer understands to mean Get Ready With Me), social media is proving to be an increasingly important player in dictating what will be, to use a footballing term, ‘in-form’ this sales season.
But research encompasses much more than what a blue-ticked tiktok star is currently shouting about.
It is important to keep your eyes on factors such as buyer behaviours, consumer focuses, politics and more to gain a big picture perspective of the influencing factors as well as insight into the likely high demand products in order to adjust inventory accordingly.
3. Put the ‘Sup in Suppliers
Create relationships and open/clear comms with suppliers ahead of the busy periods
You know that old phrase: Happy Suppliers, Happy Life.
Doesn’t quite have the same ring to it does it!
Anyway, although we may have got the saying wrong, the sentiment rings true and this is why saying ‘sup to your suppliers well in advance of when you order is key.
Maintaining a bond with your suppliers has huge benefit to you and your business. From priority communication to timely delivery to exemplary support, a good relationship with your suppliers can ensure you can focus on the other elements of your brand instead of worrying about this particular part of the chain.
Now that the open and transparent comms channels have been built and cultivated, it’s now time to think about the ordering.
So as you have conducted your research and analysed the data from BFCMs from yesteryear, you should have a pretty good idea of the inventory orders you will need to submit to have maximum positive impact this year.
Now is the time to over communicate these ideas, concerns and options to your supplier and ensure you are prepped for the season.
Advice varies when it comes to timings for ordering inventory for major sales events but it is generally accepted that ‘the earlier the better’ is the best option.
This way, if there is another Suez canal blockage, you have ample time to pull together a plan and won’t be left high and dry.
Key things to consider when ordering for BFCM are:
- Stock Up on Bestsellers: Ensure you have ample stock of your best-selling products to meet the increased demand. Consider placing larger orders with your suppliers well in advance to secure inventory
- Don’t just think about your owned ecomm site. Where else do you sell? Does this order cover you for the marketplaces, physical retail and other areas you sell items?
- Implement Safety Stock: To mitigate unexpected fluctuations in demand, consider having safety stock on hand for high-demand items. This additional buffer can help you meet customer demand during peak periods
- Market expansion: Could this be a good time to expand into international markets or alternative trade routes? If so, you will need to consider the additional pressures this could inflict on stock ordering
Here is a little equation that we think is vital when thinking about suppliers
So get ordering.
4. Tools glorious tools
What tech could have a positive impact on sales and revenue
There are some excellent tools out there that can help to provide the smoothest possible BFCM experience for you, your team and your customers.
Instead of chewing your ear off about all of the ones available, below is a table of the types of tools we think are worth looking into and why.
It is easy to get lost out there and end up with a wildly expensive and expansive tech stack.
Be sure to prioritise and use what you learned in years gone by to inform your tool purchases.
5. Power is the people
Additional resource to help make the engine run smoother
As is known, BFCM and the entirety of Q4, is quite a stressful period for any ecommerce brand and can often mean more moving parts, more admin and overall, more pressure.
In addition to tools, it can often be a good idea to assess where you could bolster your current operations to ensure you have enough resources to handle the increased workload.
One of the biggest strains put on the ecommerce brand when approaching, as well as during the BFCM madness, is people power.
A lack of people can have a real negative impact on the effectiveness, timeliness and of course the success of your brand’s BFCM and therefore it is vital to ensure that the most vital parts of your operations are well manned.
Now a lot can be outsourced, and, these days, AI (have you heard of it?) can be of assistance in certain areas, as noted above. But there are places that require an actual person.
Common places brands bolster their people operations are in places like warehouse, marketing, retail staff and a smattering of others.
It is vitally important, however, to remember that the person/people you bring in aren’t just bodies. Instead they need to encapsulate your ethos, be positive advocates for your brand and have the appropriate training to turn BFCm shoppers into return customers.
So don’t skimp on the training, onboarding and knowledge provision as if you do, it could be a costly mistake.
6. Promote promote promote
Marketing the hell out of your brand in the lead up to, and during, Black Friday
Promoting your involvement in BFCM is key to drumming up excitement ahead of the big weekend and beyond.
It is important to have your plans in place across the marketing matrix. For the purposes of this blog, we are going to focus on 4 main areas: PPC, email, social and brand.
Regardless of where you are selling, PPC should be on your priority list for marketing optimisation.
Whether it be the usual ecommerce PPC channels or for your Amazon store, it is important to review, optimise and implement hard hitting PPC strategies that could prove to be game changers in standing out from the competition.
All in all, PPC is starting earlier and earlier allowing ecommerce brands the chance to test and learn on platforms like Facebook and Instagram so that when BFCM comes around, they can hit the ground running.
They have also had a chance to make some vital noise ahead of the sales event itself.
DTC expert Nik Shamra suggests:
- Buy traffic early (before costs soar) to build awareness and engaged audiences
- Remarket frequently in order to stay at the forefront of shoppers minds
- Target high intent keywords through phrases like “buy [product]” or “best deal on [product]”
You can learn more about Amazon PPC in one of our recent blog articles.
Your email subscriber list is a ready made leads list so be sure to tap them up in the lead up to BFCM.
But all subscribers are not made equal.
It is worth segmenting your audience to personalise email marketing as much as possible. Segments can include: VIPs, recent openers, ignorers, hasn’t purchased, ICP segmentation and more. This way you can tailor offers, messaging and approaches depending on their likelihood to convert.
Other things to consider are:
- Subject lines that stand out from the crowd
- Anticipation builders
- Purchase stage emails: welcome/thank you notes
- Abandon cart sequences
- Ask for reviews
Email marketing in ecommerce can be such a vital tool so it is worth having some tips, tricks and tactics up your sleeve.
Similar to email, your followers are a ready made customer base who can be enticed ahead of the big day using emotional connection and the existing brand recognition.
Using a coordinated promotion strategy, you can share inspiring imagery, positive reviews and testimonials, developments and excitement generators to get the buzz going.
Stay engaged, stay hyped and find ways to keep driving them to the website, get them subscribing to email lists or sharing your promotions with their networks.
All of the above will contribute to creating a brand buzz ahead of the big weekend.
It is worth considering how you can compliment these digital marketing channels with additional marketing strategies and plays as well.
- OOH - get your brand image out there where your target audience are hanging out
- Content - address the problem your product aims to solve and convey that across your other channels. Educate on your product and help to provide understanding as well as contextualise it’s value
- Influencers - partner with relevant influencers in the lead up to BFCM to get the conversation moving about your products
- Partner with social causes - 70% of shoppers want brands to help create change socially, environmentally and politically so aligning yourself with a cause important to your customers or aligned with your brand can help with brand image ahead of time
Now marketing can be a pricey endeavour so, without any spoilers, if you are wondering how you might be able to afford all this, we recommend checking out point 8! ;)
7. Be the best version of you
Little things that you can do to put your best foot forward
During BFCM, the elbows are out. Knives are sharpened. What we are trying to say is competition is rife.
Therefore, it is important to be the best version of yourself and provide customers and potential customers with exactly what they want, what they need and what they expect.
While this doesn’t mean trying to be something you aren’t, it does mean turbocharging certain things in order to stand out.
Can you provide:
- Free and fast shipping: set yourself apart by offering a better and more desirable service post sale as this could be a deciding factor with shoppers searching for the best deals. Free shipping is a big one
- Bundles: provide more value at lower costs with complementary products that show the breadth of your product range. Also a good way to get rid of slow moving stock ;)
- Free gifts: An interesting way to increase Average Order Value (AOV) is by promoting an offer that entices a customer to spend more with the promise of a free addition to their basket. E.g. ‘Free X if you spend over £X”
- Better navigation: make it easier for customers to move through your website both on desktop but vitally on mobile. Better nav means more likely they are to checkout
- Smoother checkout: And when they get to checkout, ensure there are options and the quickest options. In a mobile first environment, things like Apple Pay can make all the difference, really lowering the barrier of purchase.
- Interactivity: Spin wheels, competitions, games, social media features etc are all great ways to make them feel like they are part of something bigger than a sale and make them feel valued
- Personalisation: personalising emails can increase open rates by as much as 30% and click rates by nearly 50%. Get familiar with your customers, make them feel like they are the only people in the room that matter, and watch the results pour in. The same goes for chatbots and any way that you are communicating with your customers
- Loyalty programmes: The selling doesn’t stop on Black Friday. At very least ensure that you leave with customer email addresses but try to enrol customers into a loyalty or subscription service that encourages repeat purchases.
- Anything else that enhances your chances of standing out while aligning with your brands mission and objectives
Once you have discovered ways in which to stand out, make sure you back them up with pinpoint delivery as nothing annoys shoppers more than over-promising and under-delivering.
You’ve got this!
But it can be costly. Which brings us to our final musing and one that is very close to our heart.
8. Funding can make your BFCM more successful
How an injection of capital can take you results from good to unbelievable
Now it wouldn’t be an Uncapped blog without talking a bit about funding. But to paraphrase our good friend Shakira, ‘the stats don’t lie’ and having some funding can make a huge amount of difference at various stages of preparation and delivery for the big occasion.
To help us validate our point, we are going to take two stellar businesses that Uncapped have been lucky enough to work with who perfectly help us to validate our point.
These two brands really help us to show how Uncapped capital can be used for inventory and marketing purposes to help ecomm brands smash BFCM.
So let’s dig in.
MORI is a leading UK kidswear brand who realised that the spend the opportunities they wanted to take advantage of in Q4 could be hindered by the cash intensity of the Q3 rush.
Founder, Akin Onal, was not prepared to lose out on valuable growth and sales opportunities and therefore identified Uncapped as a non-dilutive capital partner that could provide the cash relief needed to smash BFCM and the rest of the busy Q4 period.
As a result, MORI were able to increase stock levels by 20%, fully load up their European and US fulfilment centres and were able to capitalise on what was a vitally important quarter in the company’s growth plans.
Hēdoïne is an innovative fashion brand who were looking to scale their already successful marketing activity in the lead up to the Q4 madness to engage customers early and take advantage of the busy sales season.
Founders Alex and Anna took an initial advance of £50k to scale their Facebook and Instagram ads and the results were staggering.
As a result of the initial advance, they saw their revenues increase by a whopping 1106% compared to the previous year, surpassing the targets they had forecasted.
This success has led them to work with Uncapped across multiple other advances and continue to work with Uncapped to take advantage of major ecommerce calendar moments.
Without access to fast and flexible capital, MORI and Hēdoïne might not have been able to make the most of the opportunity BFCM and Q4 as a whole presents for ecommerce brands and we are grateful to have contributed to their subsequent success.
However, credit has to go to them for realising that capital could enhance impact and help to end the year on a high.
BFCM is a vital part of the ecommerce calendar and whether you like it or not, is coming up quickly.
We guarantee your competitors are getting cracking on all things inventory, processes and marketing and so to not be left behind, so should you be.
Now we won’t pretend that this guide addresses everything that needs doing ahead of BFCM but we hope it has got the cogs turning and provided some ideas for the upcoming season.
Worth noting that we come armed with an extensive partner network and would love nothing more than to point you in the right direction of those who can, additionally to Uncapped, help make this your best sales season yet.
So what are you waiting for?
Get in touch today and let’s see what we can do on the capital front and beyond to make your brand pop this BFCM.