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eCommerce Black Friday Strategy: How to run BFCM sales like an 8-figure business

This is a guest post from Darius Kunca, Co-founder of www.AdKings.Agency, a Specialized eCommerce Facebook Ads Growth Agency is presenting their eCommerce growth roadmap they have used to transform over a dozen of eCommerce brands into high 7 and multiple 8-figure powerhouses.

Did you know that 30% of sales for eCommerce companies occur in the period between Black Friday to Christmas?

And that the average customer aims to spend around $400-$600 during this period?

In other words, getting your offer right for Black Friday/Cyber Monday (BFCM) might be the thing that makes or breaks your eCommerce business.

If you’re a business owner looking to grow your eCommerce site, read further, and you will learn our strategy that we’ve polished over the years.

So here’s how to rock up your BFCM sales and maximize the potential of your business with our 7 Stage Holidays Strategy.

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Making decisions based on last years data

Often in marketing, when someone tries a new strategy, and it happens to work, other businesses start copying it. The danger in relying on hearsay and single anecdotes is that it is easy to overlook the unique circumstances for why the idea worked for a specific business (assuming it worked at all and you’re not being misinformed).

As such, we take a data-driven approach to discover new solutions to problems.

We tested over 40 different types of Black Friday offers

We have tested everything from flat discounts to stacked discounts, bundle offers, etc.

By compiling the results of these millions of sales across a range of clients, we have identified very consistent and predictable trends.

Our trial and error methodology gives us an edge over other agencies, as we are not guessing, we know for a fact which marketing tactics give best results.

Armed with this information, we can then create optimized marketing strategies that utilize data to form a positive feedback loop and create a data driven BFCM plan.

By now, we’ve tested pretty much every BF strategy out there: from running flat remarketing emails and pre-buying traffic to running giveaways.

For example, our data shows that instead of fighting for traffic on BFCM, you can match the sales of that day by simply running “pre-BFCM” sales. But you have to know when to start, as CPC (cost per click) increases in the weeks prior to BFCM. Our data shows that the ideal time to start your BF campaign is four weeks before.

In other words, with the small change of starting slightly earlier than your competition you can almost double your sales potential without fundamentally changing your marketing strategy or budget.

That’s the cornerstone of the AdKings methodology – by understanding the data, you can make small changes that yield disproportionately positive effects for your sales.

We will be discussing the marketing strategy we have designed based on the data we collected over the next few sections. 

Creating a Master Plan

In life and in business, you can’t be successful without having a clear plan.

And for the plan to be feasible and realistic, it has to consider the environment and the present circumstances you find yourself in.

BFCM is a hard topic for a lot of businesses to tackle because there are so many factors that need to work to succeed.

On average, it takes about three months of preparation to pull it off. Nothing can be left to chance, every stage ought to be accounted for and optimized so that the business can cope under the load of new customers.

As such, you need to prepare the marketing strategy months in advance, as well as talk to your suppliers and the logistics department to get the best results.

In this chapter we will be talking about the key data you need to know to prepare a successful master plan to dominate BFCM this year.

So first things first. You need a way to plan all the activities that will need to happen before and during the BFCM.

Our recommendation for that is using Gantt Charts project planning framework that allows a visual representation of the project. This is what we’re using internally to manage complex, deadline driven projects like this.

How it works is that you’re creating each core task that needs to be done, then you create subtasks for it, assign responsible people and assign timeframes for each of the task in a visual way.

This way distributing the work equally and making sure that tracking the work progress is easy.

To do this we’re using project management software called ClickUp, but there are many other softwares that does the same and to be honest, even a simple Google Sheet can get the job done.

Getting Your Timing Right

Given the fact that a sizable percentage of eCommerce and brick and mortar sales happen during this period, the end of the year distorts the regular rules of the marketplace.

You have to learn how to navigate the landscape, but here are some of the more important trends:

  • Three weeks before BFCM, you can already see an increase in Cost-Per-Mille impressions (CPM) starting to increase.
  • CPM will reach a peak increase of between 71-157% (based on our clients data) in the US depending on the niche and other markets, in Europe between 30-52%. 
  • Link click prices will increase by 38-82% (based on our clients data); and Conversion rates will drop by about 47% (based on our clients data) for the last 1-2 weeks before Black Friday.

It’s worth mentioning that the ranges for these price hikes vary wildly depending on the market saturation and competition of the products you are selling. For example, the makeup industry will exhibit a higher price variability in advertising than car parts shops.

Prices are also bound to change regionally, so look out for untapped opportunities in EU and Asia as it can be more profitable to focus on undersaturated markets where BFCM offers are not as popular.

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Creating Your Irresistible Offers

Back when people went to brick and mortar stores, the whole point of BFCM was to have offers so good that some people even found it worth it to camp in front of the store overnight, or even for several days at a time.

While the sales primarily happen online now, the same logic still applies. There is no need to be fancy though, as we’ve discovered simple offers work the best, like a flat discount, some sort of bundle, or extra products thrown in.

Overcomplicated offers confuse customers and can stop them from buying entirely. By including if/then conditions, (“if you spend X amount then you get Y% discount”) or including bundles only for certain products, you make them second guess their decision and think that they’re not getting a good deal. For the same reason, you shouldn’t have non-BFCM discounts running at the same time, as it confuses people.

Remember that you’re not the only game in town, as people are getting few or more new offers every few minutes!

Simplify your messaging and make it seem like going for a discount option is a no-brainer.

Besides that, you should try to keep the average order amount high, as your cost per conversion obviously increases during this period. So you have to make every customer count to keep profitable margins.

The type of offer that we have found to be the most straightforward and that encourages the highest order values are “buy 2 get 1 free” deals.

It outperforms almost any other type of offer by 14-22%, as people know what they’re getting, but it also makes them buy more than they normally would.

Creating ‘bundles’ also boosts the average amount spent. By packaging items together, you can motivate people to buy a wider range of products. Furthermore, you can also segment your consumers by having different tiers of bundles.

Aim for the high-ticket bundle to contain all products with a discount. The majority of people won’t purchase it, but it’ll make the mid-tier bundles seem more attractive by comparison.

To conclude the best offers we would recommend would be a choice out of these:

  • Buy 2, Get 1 Free (our absolute winner AOV, conversion rate and profit wise)
  • Buy 3, Get 1 Free
  • Buy 1, Get 1 50% Off
  • Big Bundles With a Few Free Gifts or Discounts Simple Sitewide Discount of 20%

Pre-buying Traffic

As a rule of thumb, it’s very hard to get new customers during the BFCM window, as so many other advertisers are putting in resources to do the same.

So, regardless of what you offer, it’s difficult to stand out during “hottests” days of the year.

The logical way of tackling this is to start the customer acquisition process earlier. This is something called pre-buying traffic. A strategy widely used by better media buyers leading up to BFCM.

What it means that you’re lowering your ad spends.

Sometimes, you can even organize a “pre-BFCM sale” a month before.

It has the potential of rivalling your income on the actual date, as the cost per customer is lower.

Based on our last year data pre-BFCM sales were second best performing offer besides the Black Friday. It even beat Cyber Monday by a large margin.

Advertising Budget Management

The way the budget is spent should also change on the run-up to BFCM.

Normally you should be spending 75-90% on new customers acquisition, and left over on remarketing, but as you get closer to the date, you should start shifting your ad spend.

2-3 weeks before instead of allocating 75-90% to acquisition strategies, go down to 70%, with the rest of the budget being spent on remarketing strategies where you tease customers with offers and collect their data by offering something in return.

Then a week before BFCM, because CPM will go through the roof, only 50% of your budget ought to be spent on acquisition, or even lower as this type of advertising might no longer be profitable given expected earnings.

The remainder of the budget should be spent on remarketing and teasing your potential audience with the multiple offers that will be available.

Finally, by BFCM, only a fraction of your ad spend (10-30% at most in majority of cases) should be spent on acquisition, assuming the advertising cost hasn’t completely eroded any chance of profitability.

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Audiences Choice

Black Friday often also brings changes to the audiences that you should be targeting with your PPC campaigns in channels like Facebook.

For Cold Audiences, based on last year’s data, it’s best to focus mainly on the Lookalike audiences. Last year we had, on average 28% better performance from Lookalikes vs. Interests.

The best performers were consistently these 3 Lookalike Audiences:

  • 90 Day Purchase Lookalike
  • 90 Day Higher Value Purchases Lookalike
  • 30 Day Top 10% Visitors Lookalike

The purchase lookalikes are self-explanatory as they target the people who are the most similar to the ones that have brought from you in the past, but we’ve seen some fantastic data with 30-day top 10% website visitors LAL. Our guess’s because it targeted all the people who were browsing the website the most leading up to BFCM with the intent to buy during the Black Friday period.

For Remarketing Audiences you should be targeting these audiences.

Long-term Set-up (to cast the net as wide as possible):

  • 180d Website Visitors
  • 365d Instagram + Facebook Engagers
  • Email List

Mid-term Set-up (to retarget all the people who have engaged with you leading up to Black Friday):

  • 30d Website Visitors
  • 30d Instagram + Facebook Engagers

Short-term Set-up (to retarget the hottest people who visited you website during the BFCM and increase frequency your ads are being displayed to them)

  • 3d Website Visitors
  • 3d Instagram + Facebook Engagers
  • 3d Website Visitors
  • 3d Buyers (we’ve found that a lot of people buy 2 times if presented the opportunity to do so).

The Best Creatives

BFCM seems like the perfect opportunity to roll out new advertisements that are bespoke to the occasion. But the fact of the matter is that you might be setting yourself up for failure.

Reality is, this is not the time to experiment with untested campaigns. There isn’t sufficient time to do A/B testing and refine comms.

So we have found that the best option is to repurpose the marketing material that you have already optimized in the months leading up to BFCM. This way, you can be certain that your creatives have the highest conversion rate possible without leaving it to chance.

It’s easy to repurpose material, just add a border around your creative where you mention the BFCM deal available.

Don’t Overthink Landing Pages

It’s often said that creating a BFCM landing page is a must. But we’ve run the data with over 40 different landing pages across various clients and haven’t found BFCM landing pages to add much value to a marketing strategy.

In fact, it’s often counterproductive, because the new pages not tested or conversion rate optimized.

In our testing out of 40 different landing pages, only 7 performed equally of better versus a standard landing page.

We suggest keeping your current landing page, and simply repurposing it to add simple BFCM elements on it like a banner mentioning BFCM Sale offer.

You Need to Be Everywhere

It’s important to understand that you can’t just send a couple of emails and hope to get good results. You have to be creative and engage people through multiple channels.

Reason being that people are being contacted over so many channels and different businesses that you need to cut through the noise.

In other words, you need to apply an omnichannel strategy: Facebook Remarketing, Emails, Text Messages, Facebook Messenger, YouTube Remarketing and everything else you have in your baggage.

It might seem spammy at first, but what needs to be kept in mind that there’s just so much noise in the 3 weeks leading up to BFCM that it’s necessary to do this to acquire potential customers, as well as ultimately sell anything at all.

Obviously, as we have suggested, the easiest period to stand out in is before any of the competition has even begun their advertising campaign.

As a rule of thumb frequency also should be high, you can send as many as 6-7 emails a day and 2 texts during the BFCM as only 30% of your emails are read normaly.

Download the full PDF here

The 7 stage Black Friday strategy roadmap

Now let’s put it all together into a strategy.

Now that we’ve covered the BFCM basic, it’s time to put everything into actionable strategy that you could implement for your business.

Here are the 7 Stages strategy that we will be applying with our own customers.

Stage 1. Pre-buying Traffic

You want to start somewhere around September, and increase your customer acquisition ad spend upfront, with the goal of breaking even, as the profit will come in BFCM.

Stage 2. Pre-BFCM Sale

Before the competition is able to start advertising to your pool of customers, run a sale that mimics BFCM.

  • We’ve seen that ROAS can be better than on CM, second best to BF.
  • You get people early before they spend their money and while you are not competing with anybody else.
  • Also, if they like the products, they often rebuy during BF.

Stage 3. Teasing Audience With Deals and Building Up the Contact List

You excite people by offering exclusive deals if they sign up, maybe even divulge their interests, and with that information, you can better retarget them on BFCM.

Stage 4. BFCM VIP Sale

An exclusive sale that is 5-7 days before BFCM, for the subscribers of a newsletter you’ve previously built. For this to be successful, you want to create an air of exclusivity and unique opportunity.

Stage 5. BFCM Sale

The main event. You want to entice excited shoppers into going to (and staying on) your store, instead of your competitors. Utilize ads, on-site promises, and UX to direct your shoppers to other items they may also find interesting to increase cart values.

Stage 6. Post BFCM Clearance Sale

The goal is to sell leftover stock at a profit, or break-even cost.

Aim to arrange this sale 3-5 days after Cyber Monday, as it’s a sweet spot that advertisers often overlook.

Stage 7. Transitioning into Christmas Sales

By now it is worth shifting towards a longer-term conversion strategy, and convincing people to purchase your products as Christmas gifts. It’s also worth having gifting options and offers available in the meantime.

Summary

In short, the trick to having a successful BFCM is to start acquisition of potential customers early, before ad prices spike.

And then look for potential gaps in the advertising market in your product niche that are being underutilized – sometimes it’s cheaper to advertise in a certain region, or to a certain audience or at an unusual time.

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