preparing your marketing strategy for black friday

It’s almost that time again – when shoppers will set their alarm clocks for ungodly hours or leave the Thanksgiving table early to stand in line outside their favorite retailer, hoping to get their hands on the best deals in town. Black Friday has become a cultural staple, serving as the official kickoff to the holiday season. Every year it seems to get bigger and bigger, with businesses large and small summoning their troops (well, employees) to handle the massive crowds and checkout lines.

Some argue that Black Friday has gotten to be too much, taking all of the fun out of waking up early and hitting the stores. From retailers choosing to open on Thanksgiving Day to headlines of someone being trampled by a crowd or getting into a fight over the last TV, this “holiday” is starting to get a bad rap.

But regardless of whether you’re the first one in line once you finish your Thanksgiving feast or you’re more of a leisurely shopper, it’s impossible to argue that Black Friday isn’t effective. Last year’s sales were six times higher than a typical Friday in 2014, and one in three shoppers bought an item on their smartphone. 60% of online consumers checked out within 10 minutes of adding items to their shopping cart, meaning that most knew exactly what they were looking for before they even came to the website. This makes effective marketing leading up to the big day all the more important.

With online shopping playing a greater role in the Black Friday mania, especially on mobile, and consumers still lining up outside retail stores, it’s essential that your company’s marketing is on point. Black Friday 2015 is just a few weeks away, so save yourself the stress and start preparations now.

Focus on these three areas of your digital marketing strategy this month:


If you have an ecommerce website, you understand the importance of having a site that’s both easy-to-use and reliable. With the influx of traffic you may see on Black Friday and throughout the weekend (especially Cyber Monday), it’s important to ensure that your site can handle it. Nothing puts a damper on sales like a slow or malfunctioning website, so make sure that your servers are dependable and ready for the rush.

Aside from confirming that your website can manage the sudden increase in traffic, now is also the time to make sure your site is mobile-friendly. We will likely see more online shoppers coming from mobile devices than in previous years, and with the time-sensitive nature of Black Friday promotions, consumers are not going to be willing to stick around if a site isn’t compatible with their device. Consult Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test to see if your pages are optimized for mobile. While you may not be able to do a complete site redesign in time for Black Friday, you can still edit or update content so that it is more visually appealing to mobile users.

This is also a good opportunity for you to evaluate your current shopping and checkout experience. Does your website make it easy for customers to add something to their cart and ultimately make a purchase? Offering things such as guest checkout, accepting PayPal payments, and remembering account information for return customers can all set your ecommerce experience apart from your competitors.

Along with having a quick and simple purchase process, you need to make sure you have the products that your shoppers are looking for. In the coming weeks, research which items are most in-demand among your customer base to build up your inventory and offer deals for things that your target audience actually wants. If you don’t have the season’s most popular products, it is going to be almost impossible to be successful on Black Friday.

Social Media/Paid Advertising

Whether you’re an ecommerce or brick-and-mortar business, the importance of social media and paid advertising for any type of promotion is undeniable. To build hype leading up to Black Friday, give your social media followers a first look at upcoming sales. This will not only encourage shoppers to plan out their strategy early and put your business on their list, but it will make them feel valued and exclusive. It’s all about that VIP status.

To further capitalize on social media, start running paid ad campaigns at least a week or so before Black Friday to generate buzz and conversation. A great way to specifically target your followers is through social media-exclusive deals, enticing users to print out a coupon or cash in an online discount code when Black Friday arrives.

You may also want to consider running paid advertisements through Google. Featuring your business along relevant search results will help build awareness and excitement for Black Friday, while also driving qualified traffic directly to your website. Finally, make sure your Google My Business information is accurate and up-to-date so on-the-go shoppers can be sure to find your business’ location, phone number, and hours of operation.

Once Black Friday rolls around, it’s imperative that you have one or more employees keeping tabs on your social media accounts. Being responsive to any questions or concerns that consumers have while shopping will not only position you as a company that cares about its customers, but it will likely help boost sales in the process. Shoppers are going to appreciate the fact that you are attentive to their needs, even on the busiest shopping day of the year.

Email Marketing

If you have mixed emotions about email marketing, stick with me here. As a consumer, we are bombarded with emails every day from retailers trying to get you to take advantage of yet another promotion. Isn’t email a bit overdone?

In some ways: yes. Looking through my inbox, I sometimes feel like I receive the same emails every day, just with a different promotion thrown in. Whether it’s an identical design, layout, or message, this is where companies go wrong with email marketing. There’s no doubt that sales are great, but sending me an email that sweaters are 40% off for the third time this week? Thanks, but no thanks.

Where email marketing proves its worth is when companies find a way to mix in promotions with informational messages. The emails I receive that aren’t solely about a sale, but rather educate me on top trends, budgeting tips, or opportunities to give back to the community, help break up the salesy emails. Then when I do receive promotional messages, I actually want to pay attention. The best approach is to provide a healthy balance of promotional and non-promotional content all year long, so that when Black Friday rolls around, you can focus solely on sales and avoid annoying your recipients. So say what you will about email marketing, but the bottom line is that it works if done right. And it really works on Black Friday.

Last year, 40% more emails were opened on Black Friday than on Cyber Monday. And twice as many emails were opened on mobile devices rather than desktop, further indicating that the consumer experience is becoming more mobile-dominant. Thanksgiving had the greatest mobile open rate with 60% of emails opened, and Black Friday wasn’t far behind with a 57% open rate. So when your customers are winding down after that last slice of pumpkin pie or getting ready to hit the stores early Friday morning, there’s a good chance they’ll be checking your emails.

To take full advantage of these record-breaking statistics, you must design your emails with mobile in mind. If clickable icons or text are too small to see or read on a mobile device, you can say goodbye to any potential business from those recipients. On such a high-traffic day like Black Friday, shoppers’ patience is exceptionally low. They understand that businesses are vying for their dollars tooth and nail, so they’re not going to waste their time on a company that can’t immediately accommodate their shopping preferences.

Like your social and advertising strategies, it’s also important to begin establishing your email marketing plan several weeks out. In fact, start sending those emails now! Get your business in a consumer’s mind before their inbox is flooded, and then keep that momentum going throughout the month of November.

Are You Ready?

Black Friday tends to bring a lot of anxiety to both retailers and individual consumers. There are so many deals to try and take advantage of, crowds of people fighting for the same items, and exhausted employees trying to keep the peace. However, your marketing plan doesn’t have to be this way. It’s all about planning and preparation. The key is to stay in touch with what your customers are looking for and make sure you’re highly visible on the platforms they use. So if you can strategize early and put the consumer first, you’ll likely win big this Black Friday.