What’s left to say about Black Friday that hasn’t been said already? Not much, if we’re talking about its crazy growth or the bizarre spectacle of watching people fight over discounted items. As a crucial date on the business calendar, Black Friday is equally well known as a time when businesses of every kind jump on the bandwagon with huge promotions even on things that aren’t traditionally seen as Christmas presents.
However, Black Friday has become well established as the Super Bowl of ecommerce. It’s a time when familiar online sales strategies show their worth and new ideas get a chance to prove themselves. And with so many sales and new customers to gain, the stakes get higher every holiday season.
But this year, as with so many other things, Black Friday will be different. The 2020 edition of the official start of holiday shopping will be unlike years past. COVID considerations mean that traditionally crowded stores can’t be crowded at all, calling into question if we’re even going to see a bump in brick-and-mortar sales. Add reasonable and widespread reservations about going out at all and you’ve got a recipe for a Black Friday like we’ve never seen before.
This is going to be the year when Black Friday becomes primarily known as an online event.
E-normous sales, traffic and opportunities
Black Friday 2020 is going to be an acceleration of a switch that was already very much underway. The explosion of online sales, particularly from mobile devices, is old news and the numbers become more impressive every year. Analysts expect 2020 online holiday season sales to reach nearly $200 billion in the U.S. alone.
This represents an incredible 33% year-on-year increase from 2019.
Part of this boost is a natural continuation of strong trends that were already well in place before the COVID outbreak but a significant part of this year’s expected increase is the result of adaptations made to deal with the pandemic. This year, with physical stores operating at limited capacity or even closed altogether, online traffic is expected to rise in early November, climb steadily and remain at impressive levels throughout the last two months of the year. In other words, instead of a high peak spread over four or five days, this year’s sales graph will look like a huge mountain spread over eight or nine weeks.
There’s a lot at stake here for any brand active in the online space. This unusual situation requires a new approach to reaching ecommerce customers. That’s where the quality of the tools in your digital marketing arsenal come into play.
A time for AI tools to shine
In addition to being a critical sales period for retailers, Black Friday events are also a showcase for online marketers and the optimized campaigns they create for the highest-traffic periods. In particular, digital strategies and AI-driven functionalities have a golden opportunity to demonstrate the power of a data-driven approach to customer engagement.
Of course, these marketing tools are available all year, but Black Friday is an ideal time to think about client communication from a new angle. It also represents the perfect time to benefit from integrating all available AI-driven solutions to automate key sales and marketing activities in a rather tight window of time. The possibilities for the implementation of the right tools are endless and adjusting them to the needs of your customers helps to create even more new opportunities.
Want to succeed on Black Friday and beyond (and keep up with competitors)? Be sure that you make the most of these capabilities made by possible by AI algorithms:
Customer Data Platform
This is where the success stories of your Black Friday campaigns begin. A comprehensive data platform that gathers all customer data from every touchpoint in real time is the foundation of optimal communication management at each stage of your Black Friday activities. Thanks to this knowledge, you will have insight into changes in customer behavior, which will enable you to build personalization scenarios with unprecedented precision.
Customer Loyalty Platform
Black Friday is a real test for your Loyalty Management Process. Even with higher than normal traffic flows and website activity, AI algorithms can let you predict your customers’ expectations by building effective engagement tactics, including custom promotions, gamification and more. This opens up unlimited possibilities in attracting new customers and reactivating existing ones, increasing the frequency of their purchases and building brand loyalty.
With marketing messages everywhere, getting customer attention during Black Friday can be a big challenge. Creating attractive promotions is not enough to stand out from the noise. The key move now is to provide the best offer for the right group of customers based on their unique purchasing preferences and needs in real-time to reach your customers with a persuasive offer before others do.
A unified, seamlessly integrated data management platform helps in more ways than you can count. Imagine one simple interface to manage each communication channel. Key tools such as dynamic content, email marketing, push notifications, mobile campaigns and more are now under your full control so you can engage in a precise and quick dialogue with your Black Friday audience.
Black Friday is also about the speed of operations. With automated workflows, it’s easier to take advantage of small windows of opportunity. With shoppers easily able to search from virtually unlimited options and find other offers, being able to respond quickly can make the difference between a conversion and a missed chance at expanding your customer base.
Behavioral Intelligence & Analytics
You always have to be better than you were last year. No matter if you’re just starting your Black Friday activities or you are experienced in this field, constant measurement of the effectiveness of your actions informs decisions about how to improve. Build custom metrics that provide visibility into everything from sales statistics to fully automated personalization processes. Without statistical insights into where you are, you can’t effectively plan for where you want to go.
Fine tuning your Black Friday tactics
Although you probably already know what your customers like best and any Black Friday top tactics list will not surprise you much, think carefully of the real campaigns you can execute by having at your disposal AI-driven tools.
Take a look at proven methods that may still inspire you during this year's Black Friday sales and marketing activities. You can never stress the importance of the small things enough, so don’t overlook these building blocks of success!
Waiting all year round
- The biggest fans of Black Friday promotions wait for this time all year, so recognize this enthusiasm and do everything to make customers feel taken care of in a special way. Sales and promotions targeted at specific groups using segmentation is always a winning strategy. First time buyers? Second time? Seniors? Students? Mothers? Make people feel like part of a special group along with the discounts on products that respond to these unique requirements.
- Prepare a competitive offer beyond just providing well-discounted products at the right time. Use product recommendation solutions to present your offer in the form of set of products adapted to current pandemic lifestyles and restrictions.
- Create and deliver messages with mobile in mind. A sub-optimal loading time always translates into lost customers who don’t feel like waiting for more than three seconds so measure it constantly. Also, real estate is precious on small screens so keep fields to be filled in short and to a minimum while keeping content focused on where a customer is on their conversion path.
- Don’t ignore the role of email. Yes, social media has a cool factor that email never had but email is still the preferred communication channel for the clear majority of customers. Use it to get a head start by letting customers sign up in advance for alerts on Black Friday deals and details. Send out a campaign blast and be sure to follow up on clicks and opens to move recipients along a custom path you can create. Email is also the perfect medium for sharing discount codes in exchange for signing up for a newsletter or other message. Also, email can be a great way to engage customers through gamification and rewards - the expectation of a prize is just the thing that will drive your open rates through the roof.
- Encourage undecided shoppers and take control of abandoned carts and churn rates. Remember that saving even a modest fraction of abandoned carts can have a major impact on your sales. Set up email alerts to be sent, for example, thirty minutes after a product is left behind along with a link bringing them back to finish the transaction.
- Use the power of exit intent pop-ups or pop-overs. Although they are no one’s favorite thing to see on a site, they’re so common because they work. Use them to detect a user’s intent to leave your site to complete transactions, sign-up forms or anything else. Getting even a small response to “Are you sure you want to leave?” can provide big results.
- Implement the element of surprise and exceptional customer experience into to your Black Friday strategy. Everyone likes getting something extra, so extend your Black Friday offer by offering not only a discount but also other additional benefits. For each purchase, add an additional gift in the form of an online concert ticket or give the opportunity to donate part of the purchase income to charity. In this difficult time for everyone, there will surely be those who will gladly support others in need.
The first always wins
- Nobody likes to stand in line waiting to make a purchase. Transfer this dynamic to online shopping as well. Avoid the overload in traffic you expect during Black Friday and inform your clients this year that they have this unique opportunity to pre-order the same discounted products before the actual Black Friday. Of course, specify the time frame in which such an order will be possible to place.
- No list like this is complete without a reminder to create a sense of urgency. Countdown clocks, “limited time”, “only XXX left!”- it’s all about the fear of missing out and giving customers a reason to buy now. Classic strategies are classics because they get results. Always create a sense of urgency to boost sales.
- Upsell, cross-sell - just sell! Taking advantage of the opportunity to sell more items or a more expensive item is another classic must-have in any successful ecommerce operation. Both of these strategies work well through offering combinations of complementary items at a discount.
- We all know social media is a big deal and dedicated offers directed at your channels are a must. Reward your social media fans and convince them that loyalty always pays off. Offer limited-time discount codes, competitions or any other kind of engagement can get a great response when it’s clear that your page on this or that site is the only place brand fans will find it. Start a dialogue and keep it going through your social media team.
With Black Friday just around the corner, now’s the time to put the finishing touches on your strategy for riding the biggest retail wave of the year. Take a careful look at the tools you’re using and consider if have all the technical capabilities that next-level marketing requires.
On the other side, make sure all of your customer-facing content uses the material, language and strategies that are and will continue to be standard for Black Friday success, even in this strangest of years.