With Black Friday looming large on the horizon, Tim Johnson, chief sales officer, at e-commerce digital marketing agency Visualsoft discusses how to best use online marketing tactics such as targeted email alerts and on-site overlays to engage your customers well ahead of the Black Friday weekend.
Black Friday and the associated Cyber Monday are among the most popular internet shopping dates of the year, with billions spent online in the UK across these dates in 2016.
Because the Black Friday weekend is so popular, it’s all the more important for online businesses to be taking proactive steps to make customers aware of the savings they offer, and those who neglect this will not be able to take full advantage of the opportunities provided by one of the busiest retail weekends of the year.
Research shows that almost 40% of consumers start shopping for the Christmas holiday period in October, far before Black Friday, and online retailers need to target these savvy shoppers early if they want to profit from this.
Here, we’ll take a look at the key areas in which e-commerce retailers can make effective use of pre-sale engagement techniques in order to attract new customers ahead of the Black Friday weekend.
Preparing the online storefront for Black Friday
As physical retailers must set their stalls out early to attract customers, so too should e-retailers if they want to drive footfall to their virtual store.
There are a few ways e-retailers can ready their site for Black Friday ahead of time.
First, consider keeping a separate Black Friday landing page on the site all year round, reminding customers when exactly Black Friday is, as well as keeping the brand front of mind ahead of time.
A dedicated landing page can also be used for online retailers to tease the products they will be offering reductions on, and retailers could also increase engagement here by including a sign-up option on the landing page where potential customers can subscribe for updates regarding the upcoming sale.
A great example of a year-long dedicated landing page is that employed by Currys/PC World, which offers all of the above.
To attract prospective Black Friday shoppers, e-commerce sites need to be built around spurring customers into action. Countdown timers and on-site overlays can be used to great effect here. More than 90% of online shoppers will take time to “shop around” for the best deal before making a purchase, and a call to action such as a countdown timer can spur these indecisive shoppers into pushing the button on the final purchase, thus cutting down on shopping cart abandonment.
On-site overlays can also be used to engage casual site browsers, 97% of which are likely to leave the site without buying if there is no attempt made to grab their attention. As well as engaging these customers, overlays can be used to direct them to certain sections of the site – in this case, the section containing the best Black Friday deals.
Black Friday shoppers are likely to be actively searching for the best deals they can get, so retailers who take proactive steps to make this as easy for them as possible will reap the rewards. There’s no need for subtlety here – be upfront and give these customers a clear reason as to why they should be giving you their business when Black Friday rolls around.
Coping with spikes in demand
When Black Friday rolls around, the worst thing customers can see when they go to visit a retailer’s site is a blank screen. Unfortunately, this has been the case in the past, with online stores crashing after being unable to cope with the massive spikes in demand Black Friday tends to bring.
Customers tend not to be forgiving of sites which are not available for them during this crucial shopping period, with research from Dynatrace finding that three in four (75%) smartphone and tablet users claiming that they would abandon a retailer’s website or mobile app if it was slow or prone to crashes.
A number of big-name retailers have suffered from this in the past, with their website failures earning negative reactions from the media and customers alike.
While larger e-commerce businesses such as Amazon – who pioneered Black Friday in the UK – can afford to invest in extra servers, machinery and cloud-based solutions to cope with this, smaller brands may not have the resources to invest in this area.
In this case, these retailers could consider implementing an online queueing system, wherein users who exceed the websites capacity limits can be transported to a separate “virtual waiting room” and are allowed onto the site once there is capacity for them to browse. This means that the site is not being overloaded with traffic, and customers are still reassured that they can shop around for the best deals without the worry of their retailers of choice being unavailable.
Optimising email marketing tactics
Of course, a retailer can be offering the best deals in the world, but this is essentially useless if no customers see them. This is why brands need to be proactively reaching out to their customer base to raise awareness of their offerings ahead of Black Friday.
The average customer receives 88 emails a day, meaning to stand out retailers need to be persistent and present, but without spamming potential customers.
Most importantly, e-retailers need to ensure any marketing emails they send out are bespoke and personalised to each prospective customer. According to HubSpot, emails that include the first name of the recipient in their subject line have far higher click through rates than emails that don’t.
Retailers also need to find the right balance in terms of how frequently they are sending these marketing emails out. Too few and they could be missing out on key revenue opportunities, but too many and even the most loyal of customers are likely to become irritated and unsubscribe. While 86% of consumers would like to receive emails from their favourite retailers at least monthly, only 15% don’t mind getting them daily. (Statista, 2015)
While there is no “magic number” which will keep all of your customers happy, and the optimal number of emails to send out will depend on the business themselves, we would recommend at least once a week in the run up to Black Friday. This is backed up by recent research, which found that more than 60% of consumers surveyed would like to receive promotional emails at least once a week during the Black Friday period.
Harnessing the power of social media
Social media is everywhere, with 2.46 billion people – almost a third of the world’s population – estimated to be using some form of social media in April 2017.
If brands are not taking advantage of this potentially huge customer base in the run up to Black Friday, they are likely to be left behind by their competitors who are.
E-retailers can use their social media channels to share coupons, competitions, promotions, and their best Black Friday deals with their followers well ahead of time, in order to engage their existing user base and potentially attract new customers.
E-commerce retailers can also raise awareness of their Black Friday offering by using specific hashtags. Hashtags are not just there to help reach the 140 character limit – they are also a key aspect of the social media vocabulary, with hashtagged tweets getting more than 200% higher engagement than those without. The best one to use here – #blackfriday – is fairly obvious, but that makes it no less effective.
For maximum effectiveness, when using social media to send out offers, run promotions, hold competitions and build conversions, brands should consider combining the #blackfriday hashtag with another hashtag which is unique to their brand and/or sector. That way, this brand will show up in any Twitter and Instagram searches relating to Black Friday, while still remaining specific enough to effectively segment and target their desired customer base.
Online retailers should also bear in mind that many consumers buying over the Black Friday weekend may also be using the bargains on offer to do their Christmas shopping, and if so, will be looking for gifts they can snap up early. To take advantage of this, retailers could begin publicising their holiday gift guides over social media in the run up to Black Friday and highlighting key products.
With Black Friday fast approaching, now is the time for e-retailers to take action. Customers will be actively looking to spend, with many not only looking for an impulsive bargain, but also using the weekend to kick off their Christmas gift buying preparations.
Online retailers need to be matching this desire by taking proactive steps to engage these consumers well ahead of the Black Friday weekend, and those who do will reap the rewards in increased profits, stronger holiday sales, and more engaged, loyal customers, which in turn can translate into stronger sales figures in the months to come.
By Tim Johnson
Chief sales officer