With the rise of Cyber Monday and deals extending through the end of December into January, modern shoppers will be out in force much earlier and later in the season and into the new year. Check out the trend of sale prices over the years (by PriceStats via the New York Times):
Prices are staying lower for longer due to the continued consumer interest. So how can you make sure you’re poised to do well in the post-Black Friday glow? Here are 6 tips to help you make the most of the post-shopping shopping season.
1. Do a Post-Mortem on Black Friday (and Cyber Monday)
Many merchants will see the highest level of traffic to their online stores during this time, which means you’ll get a ton of shopper data IF you take the time to analyze it. While it will still be a busy time, build in some hours in that last week of November for your team to sift through the metrics.
Some questions you’ll want to try to answer:
What marketing campaigns/strategies worked? What didn’t?
It should be fairly simple to look at your analytics and see what sources sent the most traffic over Black Friday. Did your Instagram push lead to higher traffic? Which landing pages saw the highest conversion rates? What keywords led people to come to your homepage?
Gathering this data as soon as possible can help you pivot quickly not just for Cyber Monday, but the rest of the year. If one landing page performed gangbusters, you should immediately replicate that landing page for other campaigns and demographics. Or maybe the ad spend on Facebook turned enough ROI to justify doubling the spend.
What products sold? What didn’t?
A surge in sales for Black Friday weekend could be enough to show you what your “hot” product is this season. Once you glean that data point, you can quickly create a marketing campaign push around this product to take advantage of the trend. And for products that didn’t sell well, try slashing prices for Cyber Monday.
This data will also help you restock and plan for January (and the rest of Q1). Remember, people keep shopping into the new year, so what’s hot in your store in December will remain hot.
Which affiliate reps had the best numbers?
Last post, we wrote about keeping an eye on Average Order Value for each of your affiliate reps to see who is performing best. If you’re using Refersion, each rep will have unique tracking links making analytics a breeze, so your post-mortem should include identifying your top partners over the weekend.
Once you do, you can encourage them with a bump in commissions to do even more over the next week. You can also examine what tactics your top reps used to get their great conversions and suggest those tactics to other reps as well. It could be as simple as your best affiliate conversions coming from Instagram during the holiday; which you can impart to your other reps.
What were the bottlenecks to conversions?
Slow website loading times. Confusing check-out processes. Too many clicks to get to the product of choice. Many small issues can add up to lost sales and abandoned carts. Audit where the audience fell off (ie. pages with high bounce rates and low time-on-page) and see what you can do to fix these issues quickly.
What did your competitors do?
So many merchants are solely focused on their own business during this busy time (for good reason!), but it’s worth it to come up for air and see the types of marketing that others in your niche were/are pushing. Learning from your competitors can help you quickly pivot into new campaigns that can make the rest of your holiday season convert better.
2. Focus on Shoppers who Abandoned Carts
One of the best places to focus your limited energies after the shopping rush is to nurture the shoppers who abandoned their online shopping carts. Apps like Care Cart can help track and identify, and even market to would-be shoppers who didn’t seal the deal. For quick wins at the end of the year, marketing to these people can help push your conversions higher without too much effort. Here is when and how you should communicate to them:
On Black Friday: Be fairly aggressive on reminding them that their shopping cart has products waiting to be checked out. Send an email within the first hour of cart abandonment. Or if you have a chatbot like Intercom installed on your site, you can ping them within 5 to 10 minutes of inactivity.
Keep the content helpful, not insistent. In the email, you can include FAQs for checking out, as well as your returns policy (if it’s a good one, of course).
Day after Black Friday: About 24 hours later, send another email. Now you’re in the realm of luring them back for Cyber Monday. You can show similar items (perhaps they didn’t quite find what they wanted) in the email, and push a sense of urgency by showing that an item in their cart may be running low on inventory.
Morning of Cyber Monday: This third email can pull double duty as a reminder of their abandoned cart as well as the new Cyber Monday deals you are running. Now the urgency is very real: these discounts and deals are about to expire. If possible, you can even incentivize their return by offering, say, a 5% cart discount for coming back. You’ll have to do the math on this sort of incentive to make sure it will work for your business, but it’s a last-ditch effort to win them back.
Three emails are plenty. Of course, if they do come back and browse around on Cyber Monday, this nurture process can start all over again for the next few days.
3. Tout “Free Shipping Day”
Many e-commerce stores have a make-shift shopping day on December 14th known as “free shipping day.” There is even an entire website dedicated to it and the related deals from various retailers.
The basic idea is that orders made by December 14th will qualify for free shipping and guaranteed delivery by Christmas. Orders after this date will cost shoppers extra for shipping if they want it there on time. Thus, it’s sort of a final plea to shoppers who procrastinate.
And it’s a great excuse to reach out to your base to remind them of this coming date!
Once November is over, you can establish a countdown to December 14th (or your own “free shipping day” deadline) on your website and via your email communications. This can encourage “late” shoppers to act now to receive the benefit. And as your emails get closer to this date, they can also advertise your…
4. End of the Year Blow Out Sale
This is sort of a no-brainer because of course you’ll have holiday sales going on during December. What may not be a no-brainer is how you leverage your affiliate reps during your end of the year sale.
There are two opposing forces in December: the influx of shoppers and the busy lives of your reps. While affiliate marketing is key during this time (after all, referrals are hugely influential for making shopping decisions), your reps will be busy with holiday preparations themselves. So to fully mobilize your partners during your end of the year sale, try these tactics:
Create content for them. The more holiday content you can create for your reps to simply repost, the more mileage you’ll get. Taking the creation work off their shoulders during this time can be the different between having a post on their social feed, and not having any post at all in December.
Communicate the importance of the season. Some newer reps may not quite realize how lucrative this time of the year can be. By highlighting success stories (perhaps from last season) and showing off stats on how many shoppers are out there, it might be the push they need to put down the third plate of stuffing and get online to post a few referral links.
Incentivize! You guessed it: it’s time to bump up the commission rates to incentivize your reps into action. It’s common practice in affiliate marketing to increase rates by 5, 10, even 15% during the holiday season. If you haven’t yet already, now’s the time.
Your affiliate reps can spread the message of your blow out sale far and wide. Work with them to get more conversions before December is out.
5. Restock for Q1 with Insight
While products are flying off your shelves in November and December, you still need to make sure that you have enough inventory in January. Remember, the data shows that January isn’t a slow month for consumer spending these days at all. People keep shopping, either looking for new year’s deals or spending all that sweet loot (ie. gift cards) they received over Christmas.
Again, take note of what your hottest items were during Black Friday to Cyber Monday. That will show you what you should restock first as you head into January and the rest of Q1.
On the other hand, see what items didn’t sell much and use the surplus for a beginning of the year “overstock” sale. Position it as selling out “last season’s model” for clearance purposes.
While restocking should be a science that takes into account year-long metrics, smaller and newer SMBs can often fall into the mistake of restocking too much or too little after battling through the holiday season.
6. Handle Returns & Customer Complaints
Great customer service is key to great referral marketing, and how you handle returns and complaints right after Black Friday weekend is paramount to future success. While your shipping & returns policy should have been crystal clear from the get-go, know that customer complaints are just a part of doing business; not all shoppers read as carefully as they should, and some are just trying to game the system. Here are some tips on how to deal with them:
Make returns easy. A good customer interaction, even if it’s for returns, can translate to a future sale as long as the transaction is a positive experience. It is worth taking the restocking hit if you’re able to encourage loyalty, especially if it’s a new customer returning something that was gifted. Can you make returns free (ie. you pay the postage)? Can your business lead with a “no questions asked” returns policy? These elements can lead to amazing customer relationships.
Empower your staff for returns. It’s frustrating for customers to have to wait on the phone to speak to someone who can help them with returns and refunds. Ideally, you would train and empower your entire customer support staff to be able to handle returns, instead of having them get a manager. This cuts wait time, and more importantly makes the customer feel appreciated. Be sure to train your staff on how to handle returns in the right way: not being pedantic about your returns policy, and instead really listening and empathizing with the complaints.
Offer store credit. Once. While most people will want their cash back, your team should always offer store credit in a non-pushy way, just once. That way you won’t completely lose the sale if they opt for the credit. Let the shopper say no, then don’t bring it up again.
Gather insights from your returns. Train your staff to log these returns in a systematic way so you can measure the whys of the complaints. Patterns may emerge. According to a study by ReadyCloud, 65% of returns are the fault of the business:
Learn where your mistakes are and address them so there are less returns and complaints in the future.
Returned items can be refurbished and resold, so your losses from providing “easy returns” may not be as drastic as you may think. There is a huge market for used items at discounted prices, so you should have a process to restock returned items in an efficient way. Mitigating losses from returns hinges on this a bit, but the overwhelming benefit you’ll reap is the customer interactions that can turn a relationship positive, leading to a life-long shopper.
Happy post-Black Friday-ing!