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November 8, 2011

Ecommerce – Five Black Friday Tips

Atlantic Business Technology - Five Black Friday Ecommerce TipsBraced and ready you watch your average visits decrease. Life is scary and exciting in a unique Internet marketing way, a very fast way. Average visits the number of visits before traffic to your ecommerce site converts (does what you want them to do), count down. In the summer your e-commerce web site might have an average of 4 or even 6 visits before conversion. Thanks to the most magical deadline, December 25 (December 20th online due to shipping); conversions are coming every 2 visits now. Soon you site will convert every 1.5 visits. At this time of year LLBean.com is starting to sell a million dollars of merchandise in an hour. Amazon’s hundred million dollars days are around the corner. Ecommerce is crazy, cool and happening NOW.

Black Friday Online Ecommerce
Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, is about hype in the brick and mortar store world. How many people slept in Target’s parking lot? Who is going to get this year’s Elmo? The economy may be down, but Black Friday madness will never die. Black Friday shopping madness isn’t about economy or presents for the holidays. Black Friday is dinosaur brain, Darwinian survival of the fittest stuff, the kind of ancient genetic stuff that doesn’t go away.

We are humans. We shop therefor we are, and we shop on Black Friday in to tell ancient Hunter / Gather stories. Our Black Friday shopping stories highlight challenge, obstacles, creativity and triumph. “I’m alive,” these survival stories say, “I WON” Black Friday shoppers declare.

Here are five tips to increase your Black Friday sales (though if you are reading this and your email campaigns, site and product pages aren’t tuned nothing is likely to save you):

Black Friday Ecommerce Tip 1: WOOT-ize Your Ecommerce Site
Woot sells one thing daily. They start at midnight and go until they don’t have anymore (typically around noon, this time of year by much earlier depending on what is being sold and how good the discount). Woot knows the old direct mail adage – best deals, best time of year. They don’t kid around during the holidays.

On Black Friday your ecommerce site needs to create competition and a sense of scarcity. Scarcity, real or manufactured, heightens competition. Your ecommerce site has an advantage over Woot.com. You sell more than one thing. Selling more than one thing means your average cart may include lost leaders and very profitable products. Lost leaders are products sold below costs to create buzz and help sell everything else. Manage to profitable averages online remembering a little piece of a large number is a large number. Network dynamics favor the brave.

What is your most popular product? What is your cost? Cut your cost in half and sell your most popular product for one day only, in limited supply on a clearly stated FIRST COME FIRST GETS DEAL, at some amazing price. Be open and honest about what you’re up to. You are making headlines, you are breaking records, and you are going a little crazy for one day and only for a few hours. Starting shouting this idea NOW in teasers like, “Are we crazy? Meet here Black Friday (11.25) and you tell us.”

You can afford to be more fearless on 11.25 than you think. Every Free Shipping trigger we ever set was exceeded by at least 30%. If we set a buy $50 get free shipping trigger this time of year we bested by $50. Free shipping is the cost of poker. No one talks about “winning free shipping”, but without it you don’t get to have the other conversation – the, “OMG I got such a great deal on Black Friday at Martins.com, I got X for –Y”.

Black Friday was the day brick and mortar retailers traditionally moved from red ink to black (losing to making money), but ecommerce is different. Online LOSE as much money as you can on Black Friday. I say this comfortable knowing you WON’T LOSE MONEY if you play the game even half right because the PR and cart profitable combinations will make more money than playing it safe. Win Black Friday, win the season, win the season and win the year is how Internet marketers think, that simple and very complex progression defines all content network marketing.

Black Friday Ecommerce Tip 2: Social
The days when your team could take Friday off to shop with the family are gone. Your team must monitor your offer’s social reception now. Watch Search.Twitter.com, Topsy and Google Alerts. If you have the money hire a real time web watcher like Radian6, watch Facebook and your emails like hawks on wires watching a field for dinner (a favorite analogy).

If you have an ecommerce site you must be engaged in the conversations on Black Friday. Digest turkey, respond to Tweets, post great comments on your Facebook page and push what is happening NOW out to your site (as much as possible using feeds or snippets) to increase buzz, competition and sales. Almost out of that GREAT DEAL? Good since you are losing your shirt, but Tweet it, post it to Facebook and email it. Create an infinite number of second prizes. Say, “Missed the most crazy deal ever, but you are in luck because….”

Black Friday Ecommerce Tip 3: Lions, Tigers and Bears…Oh My
I HATE count downs, blinking anything and SCREAMING headlines 363 days a year. On Black Friday and Cyber Monday design is not even in the car. Designers please cover your ears. Use any blinking anything that gets and convert attention so you can wrap and pack a record breaking ecommerce sales season.

By-the-way, if you didn’t test blinking objects, motion, video, large Call-To-Actions and RED in your buttons before 11.25 DON’T TEST THEM NOW. You can’t afford to try untried things now. If you know RED BUTTONS work then make the red button on 11.25 25% bigger than normal (50% if you are brave and are making a CRAZY offer).

Black Friday is NOT a day to try new things.

“What about our brand,” I can hear the Tiffany brand manager saying. Seriously? Are you kidding? If your brand can’t stand a day of a little junky conversion then you are already junky and probably don’t convert. Tiffany can afford to be a tad less snotty on 11.25 if it means a 10% sales jump or probably something north of $10 million. I can be a LOT LESS snotty for $10m what aboutyou?  No matter what I tell you to do you will naturally self-select down so GO NASTY SHOUTING LARGE ON 11.25 and keep what works for Cyber Monday.

Black Friday Ecommerce Tip 3: The Three C’s
Ecommerce success depends on content, community and campaigns.

Black Friday seems to be all about campaigns and ecommerce conversion. Not the case. Community and Content are MORE important on Black Friday. Your campaigns are in the ground now, unchangeable, away from the dock. Social is the only way to change your ecommerce site’s needle now, so BE SOCIAL. If you haven’t built the right landing pages, told the right stories and made your offers special either by association or actual fact then Black Friday will be just another average retail day for your site.

The most important ecommerce idea is – THE RICH GET RICHER. Network marketing, and networks themselves, are set to heap a disproportionate reward on the few. What Venture Capitalist like to call an online “territory grab” is just a structure of what Notre Dame network researcher Albert-Laszlo Barabasi calls a “Scale Free” network in his book Linked:How Everything Is Connected To Everything Else.

Networks create hubs (the rich). Hubs get more traffic and links than any other nodes (web sites or clusters of sites). If your site is hub congratulation. I bet most reading this post aren’t Facebook, Twitter, Etsy.com or Amazon. If you aren’t one of these lucky few you must pay attention to Content, Community and Campaigns as if your online ecommerce life depends on them (because it does).

Black Friday Ecommerce Tip 4: Please No Testing on 11.25, Except….
May seem crazy to even THINK of testing on 11.25. Trust me, this statement is needed. Because you can test something doesn’t mean it is the right thing to do, a point often lost on my ecommerce brothers and sisters who get caught in an infinite testing loop. Q: What you should test on 11.25? A: NOTHING.

Play with the A team and test nothing on Black Friday or Cyber Monday. I write this knowing friends will call with reasons why tests they are dong are backend enough no one will see them anyway. Nope, that argument doesn’t hold because test, any test, is conditional and this is NOT the time of year to be conditional. Black Friday as a testing environment is so specialized what are you really learning anyway? Is next year’s Black Friday doing to be exactly like this one? Is Black Friday remotely like any other day?

One exception is testing offers for Cyber Monday. Cyber Monday, the Monday following Thanksgiving, can be as big as or bigger in online sales than Black Friday. Cyber Monday was created when work T1 high speed lines were more reliable than home dial up. Cyber Monday hangs around because we deal into it and who wants to be back at work on the Monday after Thanksgiving?

Black Friday Ecommerce Tip 5: Overload your Tech The Week Before
The week before Thanksgiving is slower than every day after. Use the week before to test your DNS server, your load balancer and a five other technical things I don’t understand. Get your Rich Kurnik’s (a friend who I would trust with my networked life) to create artificial demand, monitor response time and dress rehearse as much ecommerce as you can.

Every slow second at this time of year costs thousands or millions, so don’t be slow. Have more than enough technical horse power. Have horses sitting there waiting to run. Horsepower costs are going down as I write this. If you don’t or can’t get inside your technology “stack” find someone you trust to test everything as close to Black Friday and Cyber Monday as possible.

Last Black Friday Ecommerce Tip
Final Black Friday ecomerce tip is hang on, listen, respond and have fun.

You will look back on this year’s battle as the “good old days” no matter what happens on Black Friday in 2011 ecommerce sales. I used to give my team Friday off. Thanks to social those days are gone. Soon Thanksgiving will be a work day for ecommerce teams (if it isn’t already).

Q: Will the pace of ecommerce be slower or faster next year? “It can’t get faster,” you think and you are wrong, way off, not even close. Black Friday ecommerce is going to get much, much faster. Hope these tips help you make more money this Black Friday (or next).

Martin


Martin Smith
Marketing Director
Atlantic BT
Martin(dot)Smith(at)Atlanticbt(dot)com

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