Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and all the holiday sales that go on around the end of the year are approaching soon! Here’s what you can do now to get your website ready for the influx of traffic and activity during the holiday shopping season.
The National Retail Federation noted a major increase year-over-year in holiday sales for 2021. Overall sales were up 14.1%, bringing the total revenue generated during this period to $886.7 billion. eCommerce and other non-store sales made up $218.9 billion of that total.
The important question to ask yourself is if your store is prepared to get in front of shoppers looking to capitalize on these sales days?
Preparing for Black Friday and Cyber Week requires more than just adding a pop-up or notification bar to announce your promotions. Below we’re going to take a look at what eCommerce brands should do to prepare their websites for the sales event and put shoppers in the holiday (and spending) spirit in the process.
When is Black Friday? When is Cyber Monday? And When is Cyber Week?!
Black Friday in 2022 is on November 25. It immediately follows Thanksgiving in the United States and has become an internationally recognized day of sales and discounts (and chaos!) for retail stores.
Cyber Monday in 2022 falls on Monday, November 28. It always follows Black Friday, so takes place between November 26 and December 2, depending on the year.
Cyber Monday was devised to encourage people to shop online—and nowadays eCommerce retailers have stretched it out further, giving shoppers a “Cyber Week” of discounts and sales.
Preparing Your Website for Black Friday and Cyber Week Sales Events
From your ecommerce website to the channels you use to promote it, here are 8 things you can do to ensure your store is ready for the November and December sales:
1.Come Up With a Strategy
Having a strategy laid out ahead of time will be useful. This way, you’ll know what needs to get updated and when.
For instance, you might decide to make different graphics for your site or marketing channels depending on when they’ll run and for what purpose.
You could create a hero banner announcing your Black Friday sale and run that (and maybe a few different versions of it) up until a few days beforehand. Then, you’d need a different hero banner for the actual sales days. You might want another for post-sale reminders to ensure that shoppers get all their purchases before the holidays.
In addition to updating your graphics, also consider if your home page needs to be reorganized or if other kinds of products need to be prioritized. For example, instead of “Top Sellers” getting its own section, “Best Gifts” would replace it throughout the month of November.
The more you can plot out ahead of time, the easier it will be to implement all of it when the time comes.
2. Design Promotional Graphics for Your Marketing Channels
Even if you’re running a huge Black Friday or Cyber Monday blowout sale, you don’t need to reskin your entire site with a new theme. Instead what you should do is customize the most critical areas (i.e. the ones with the highest traffic and engagement). For instance:
- Pop-up or notification bar
- Hero section
- Home page product promo sections
- Product search page banners
- Call-to-action banners
By the way, you don’t need to run a sale in order to participate in the Black Friday or Cyber Week festivities. Summersalt, for instance, ran this updated hero image on its website in 2021 in the lead-up to Thanksgiving:
While there are no active promotions going on, the festive imagery (and the promise of a free tote in the notification bar) could be enough to inspire shoppers to buy something anyway.
When creating your promotional graphics, don’t forget about your promotional channels like social media, email, as well as your blog. They’re going to need updated graphics, too. Better yet, if you can create matching graphics for all your channels and to run throughout the holidays, it’ll create a better experience for your shoppers.
If you need some help coming up with promotional graphics or you’re running short on time, check out Envato Elements.
You’ll find a whole host of templates for Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and other festive designs that can be used for your marketing channels.
3. Create a Landing Page for Your Sale
The search engines (especially Google) can help you with some of the promotional legwork during Black Friday and Cyber Week. You’ll still have to go out there and actively promote your sales. However, getting the search engines to organically direct shoppers to your store and products will be a huge help.
You shouldn’t rely on your home page for this though. When you update the hero imagery and other promotional banners on your home page, this will help a little bit with SEO, but not much.
As far as your home page’s metadata goes, it’s not a good idea to mess around with it. Web pages that send a consistent signal to search engines with regards to what they’re about will perform better in search results. Changing up your SEO data even temporarily could disrupt that signal.
What you can do, however, is create a separate landing page. For example, Cabela’s has one that stays up all year long. Here’s what the page looks like while the sales are active:
Here’s what the page looks like a couple months before Black Friday:
There are no specific promotions or featured deals mentioned until the sale is active. However, this permanent landing page is useful for building up Cabela’s link juice when it comes to “Black Friday” searches.
4. Reconfigure the Navigation
The navigation is an important website component for shoppers. While its primary purpose is to help them move around the site with ease, it can also tell them about special events going on within the website.
Take Soma, for example. This is what the website navigation currently looks like:
The navigation includes top-level categories for:
- Best Sellers
- Ultimate Bra Menu
Compare that to the navigation that appeared at the top of the site during last year’s Black Friday sale:
There are two key differences. The first is that a “Gifts” link has replaced “Ultimate Bra Menu”. It also has a small animated GIF depicting two red gift boxes beside it. In addition, the “Sale” link is now in red.
You don’t need to make major changes to your navigation structure in order for it to be effective. However, making sure that relevant categories are visible and have a way of standing out amongst the rest will help shoppers quickly find relevant Black Friday sales links.
5. Bulk Edit Your Inventory
Even if you’re running a smaller store, updating product sale pricing can be tedious and time-consuming. Rather than set time aside to tackle them one-by-one, find a bulk update tool ahead of time that will enable you to quickly discount your inventory on the days of your sale.
The WooCommerce Advanced Bulk Edit plugin, for instance, is my favorite way to do this in WordPress. This tool allows you to search through your entire inventory based on a wide range of factors. For instance:
- Product name
- Stock quantity
You use the filters to pull up a narrower list of products. Then, the advanced bulk edit tool will allow you to instantly apply a discount to all of the selected products:
This will be helpful if you plan on applying different discount percentages based on the product category. You can also program specific sales dates so that the discount will apply only when you want it to.
This tool is also going to be useful in December and January if you find that you have an excess of stock for certain products. Just return to this tool to set deep discounts for the inventory that you want to offload and run a big end-of-year blowout sale.
6. Enhance Product Search
The navigation is a helpful search component on ecommerce websites. However, the larger your inventory is, the more work your shoppers will have to do to navigate through relevant categories and apply filters to narrow down which products they see.
For many shoppers, the search bar is the best way to locate exactly what they’re looking for and quickly. If your search bar isn’t currently set up to provide instant, relevant results, then it’s time to start looking for a search plugin that will give it that power.
Ajax Search Pro is a great option as it gives you total control over how your search bar works and how it displays matching results. In addition, you can set up different search functions for different areas of your store — like one for the header and one for the product search page:
What’s more, you’ll have access to search analytics. These insights can be useful for improving how your search feature works. You can also use them to adjust how you promote your sale and which products or categories you prioritize on the home page or in search results.
7. Add Relevant Notices to Your Site
Shopping around the holidays can be stressful. The last thing you want is for your ecommerce site to add to that stress.
One way to help shoppers is by providing inventory notices on your product pages (and even on the product search page). For instance, this is what customers see on one of J.Crew’s product pages:
There are three color variants of this product. The red and green shorts are still available while the blue is not, as indicated by the cross-through mark over the variant swatch.
In addition, when a customer selects the green shorts and hovers over or selects the large size, a notice appears that says “Only a Few Left”. This is a good way to encourage shoppers to buy what they need while it’s still available. If no warning is provided, they might think it’s safe to stow the product away in their favorites or in the cart and then return to it later.
Another way to use notices during the November sales days — as well as after them — is to provide shipping-related information. With higher-than-normal purchases, that means that ecommerce companies and their supply chain partners have to deal with higher volumes of shipments, which can slow things down.
To ensure that your shoppers’ experiences remain positive after the sale, provide them with recommendations on when to complete their orders. This banner, for instance, appeared on the Buckle website in November of last year:
It lets customers know that their orders should be placed by Noon CST on December 14 if they want to receive them by the 25th. This same type of notice could also be placed in a sticky notification bar as well as on the shopping cart or checkout page.
8. Optimize the Checkout Experience
In order to maximize how many visitors end up becoming paying customers at the end of their shopping experience on Black Friday, don’t forget about the final step in their journey. Your checkout flow should feel fast, uncomplicated, and safe.
Take a look at the one on the Bath & Body Works website for an example of what works. It all starts with a fully detailed shopping cart page:
Not only do customers see a list of their items, but they’re provided with customization controls like:
- Home store selection
- Quantity adjustment
- Shipping vs. pick up in store options
- Auto-refresh selection and customization
- Product deletion
With all of these controls here, there’s less of a chance they’ll have to back out of the checkout process to make changes.
The checkout process is just as thoughtful and well put together. At the top of the checkout page, customers see three steps they need to complete.
The progress bar is then followed by a sign-in accordion. Existing customers can use this tool to bypass a lot of the steps in the checkout flow:
Below the shipping address form, Bath & Body Works provides another shortcut for customers. A checkbox that says “Use Address for Billing” makes it so that customers only have to fill out one form:
The rest of the checkout process is just as streamlined. Transparency is maintained throughout as well. Customers know when they’ll receive their purchases and never lose sight of what they’re buying.
NRF is predicting another big bump in shopping around the holidays for 2022. They’re anticipating that retail sales will reach $4.86 trillion, with $1.17 to $1.19 trillion of it coming from eCommerce alone.
The influx of traffic and sales activity can be a great opportunity for eCommerce companies during this time of year, but only if their website is ready for it. This applies to everyone — those of you planning to run big promotions over the Black Friday weekend as well as those who will dabble just a little bit in the festivities.