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Black Friday and Christmas shopping are right around the corner.

It’s the most wonderful time of year for eCommerce brands.

In fact, it’s so important, that many brands will generate 25% or more of their annual revenue in the two months of November and December.

It’s also possible to do 5% or more of your annual sales the week of Black Friday alone.

That means if you have $2,000,000 in annual sales, you can do at least $500,000 in November and December and $100,000 during the week of Black Friday.

As you can imagine, it’s really important to make sure you have the right Black Friday marketing strategies in place so you can have your best Black Friday sales ever in 2021.

The good news is that you’re in the right place. This post will explain everything you need to know to implement winning Black Friday marketing strategies for 2021.

Step 1: Understanding the Psychology of Winning Black Friday Marketing Strategies

The first thing you need to understand is the psychology of Black Friday marketing strategies and why they work.

The best way to describe it is that it’s like a shark-feeding frenzy.

When sharks sense blood and see a big meal, they get whipped into a feeding frenzy where they aggressively feed to eat as much as possible.

It’s exciting, it’s a frenzy, and the sharks are focused 100% on getting the best meal they can get.

This is exactly what it’s like during the week of Black Friday.

Your customers are now trained that the best deals of the year can always be found the last week of November.

So much so that people will hold off on making purchases in early November so they can wait and see if it will be on sale during the week of Black Friday.

Are you looking to buy a Roomba in October? Well, you might as well wait for Black Friday to see if you can get it on sale at the lowest price of the year.

This is the type of mentality that starts to kick in at the end of October and the beginning of November.

Then once the week of Black Friday arrives, people start shopping for a good deal like a shark who senses blood and is looking to eat as much as possible.

Caution and budgets get thrown out the window. Everywhere you look, products are marked down.

It creates a feeding frenzy where people are ready to buy now in order to lock in the best deals of the year. TVs, computers, blenders, clothes, you name it are all marked down to their lowest prices of the whole year.

It’s also a great time to knock out as much Christmas shopping as possible. It’s a buy, buy, buy time of the year.

The result is a feeding frenzy where people are looking to buy now so they can get the best deals possible.

This is the first thing you need to understand about the week of Black Friday, i.e. that the consumer psychology around Black Friday creates a feeding frenzy where people are looking to buy as much as they can at the best prices possible.

Step 2: Choose Your Offer

Now that you understand that Black Friday creates a psychological buying frenzy, the next step is to decide what offer you want to provide to maximize your sales and profit during this most important time of the year.

With that in mind, what are your options?

Here’s a list of offers you can consider:

  • No Sale
  • Sitewide Sale at X% OFF
  • Save Up to X%
  • Select Product Markdowns
  • Free Shipping
  • Free Gifts
  • Tiered Discounts
  • Buy X, Get Y

Common Thread Collective did some research and found that the following offers are the most popular according to their survey.

It’s great to know what’s popular, but more importantly, we want to know what’s best for your brand. What makes the most strategic sense and what will generate the most profit because profit is still the #1 goal even during Black Friday after all.

To figure this out, you need to consider the resources you have available for your brand. Do you have the resources to set up and monitor a tiered sale or a Buy X, Get Y Sale?

With that in mind, if you have an eCommerce store that’s doing less than $10,000,000 per year, I would consider doing something simple and straightforward that’s easy for your team to wrap their head around and effectively execute.

More specifically, I recommend doing either:

  • A Sitewide X% OFF Sale
  • Up to X% OFF

How to Execute a Sitewide X% OFF Sale

With a Sitewide X% OFF Sale, you simply decide how much of a discount you want to offer, and then you mark your site down X%. This is way better than using coupons where people have to put in the coupon, lose track of the coupon, etc. etc.

This is the easiest sale to execute and has been very successful for the Black Friday Sales we’ve run for eCommerce brands the last two years.

So how much should you discount? We recommend doing at least 25% OFF but not lower than 20%.

As mentioned before, the goal is to create a feeding frenzy. You want as many people as possible to buy so you can have your biggest sales week of the year. The best way to do this is to give people a deal that they are excited about, and the last thing you want is a deal that falls flat.

It’s also important to keep in mind that your conversion rates are going to go up. Your typical conversion rate may be 2.5% while your Black Friday conversion rate jumps up to 4.75% or higher.

As seen in this example, our clients typically see conversion rates go up 2X during the week of Black Friday.

The goal is to select an offer that gets your conversion rate 2X higher than your typical conversion rate.

The discount you choose also depends on other strategic factors like:

  • How much do you typically discount?
  • How much inventory do you have?
  • Are you in a growth stage or a profit stage for your store?
  • What’s your typical discounting strategy?

If you’ve offered 20% off during the year, for example, then you should do at least 25% to make it your best deal of the year. However, if you have limited inventory, then you may not want to discount as much because you’re not looking to blow out your current inventory and don’t need to max out Black Friday as much as you would if you had unlimited inventory.

It’s also important to know what stage your business is in. Are you looking to acquire as many customers as possible so you can scale and have more returning customers to sell to next year, or are you looking to be as profitable as possible going into the end of the year?

You also want to consider your typical discounting strategy. If your brand never offers discounts, then you may be able to get away with a 15% to 20% off sitewide sale, but if you typically offer 15% to 20% off during the year, then you’ll want to go lower for Black Friday.

As you can see, the final discount you choose depends on a number of strategic factors, but the goal remains the same which is to create a feeding frenzy where 2X as many people who visit your site decide to pull the trigger and make a purchase.

How to Execute an Up to X% OFF Sale

Sitewide sales are great because of how simple they are and how easy they are to execute.

But if you’re able to do it, an Up to X% OFF Sale can perform even better. Here’s how it works…

Instead of just offering a single sitewide discount, you choose to mark some products down as much as 33% to 50%, and then you mark the rest of your products down 15% to 25%.

Let’s use an apparel store that sells hats, t-shirts, and hoodies as an example.

In our thriving apparel store example, the owner decides to do an X% OFF Sale where they mark down their products as follows:

  • Clearance Items: 50% OFF
  • T-Shirts: 25% OFF (best margins)
  • Hats: 20% OFF (most popular product)
  • Hoodies: 15% OFF (lowest margins)

The beauty of this type of sale is that all of your ads will include the phrase “50% OFF.”

Even though it’s technically, “Up to 50% OFF,” seeing “50% OFF” will trigger a response in your customers that makes them think they’re about to get a really good deal.

Then, once people get to your site, they’ll begin shopping, but they won’t pull out their calculator to see how much everything is marked down.

They’re on your site, they’re ready to buy, and they’re hungry for a good deal.

They’ll buy some stuff at 50% off, some at 25%, and some at 20%, and they won’t think twice about it.

As you can see, the goal here is to get people’s attention with “50% OFF” in your ads (or “33% OFF” if you decide to make that your high number) while not having to mark all of your products down 50% which will kill your profit margins.

Here at ConversionEngine, we’re big fans of the “Up to X% OFF” sales where you show a great deal in your ad but still make a profit by not marking everything down 33% to 50%.

But you do need to make sure that you mark down the greater majority of your products so that customers see all of your products marked down which will create a feeding frenzy.

Here’s a sale ad from 2019 that offered up to 30% OFF sitewide.

Step 3: Decide How Long to Run Your Sale

The next step is to decide how long you want to run your sale.

Previously, people would start their sales on Black Friday, run them through the weekend, and then do a new deal on Cyber Monday.

You can do your sale this way if you’d like, but we recommend starting your sale the Monday before Black Friday, and then running your sale through Black Friday if you have a small team.

If you have a bigger team and more resources, you can consider ending your Black Friday sale on Sunday, and then running new offers on Monday in order to change things up.

When you end your sale is up to you, but we recommend starting the sale on the Monday before Thanksgiving for a few reasons.

The first is to give your ads time to kick in and warm up.

The closer you get to Black Friday, the more expensive (and competitive) ad inventory is going to be.

Average CPMs (cost per 1000 impressions) will go up the closer you get to Black Friday.

By starting your ads earlier, you give them a chance to be seen, to build momentum, and to start taking off going into Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

The other reason is that people will start pulling their credit card out as early as the Monday before Black Friday. There’s no reason to wait until Friday if the deal you are looking for is available on Monday. People are primed and ready to buy the week of Black Friday, not just the day of Black Friday.

By starting your sale earlier, you increase the chance that people will buy from you while they still have money to spend. If you wait until Black Friday, it’s possible they’ve already made other purchases and are starting to slow down on how much they want to spend.

Another reason is that once your conversion rate doubles, you want to generate as many sales as possible. This means in most cases you want to run your sale for a week, not just a few days.

Black Friday is the busiest time of year for brands and a chance to generate as much revenue in a week as you sometimes do in a whole month. If you narrow your window down to Black Friday and Cyber Monday, then you aren’t as likely to generate a month’s worth of revenue during your Black Friday Sale.

Step 4: Design Ads That Trigger a Feeding Frenzy

The next step is to design ads that trigger a Black Friday feeding frenzy.

As mentioned before, people are ready to buy once the week of Black Friday comes around.

They’ve been holding off on making purchases for at least a month.

They’re primed, ready, and hungry.

So you need ads that trigger a buying response.

The main way to do that is to:

  • Design ads that clearly feature your products.
  • Include the words “Black Friday Sale.”
  • Make it super obvious what your amazing offer is.

That’s pretty much what it takes. Once people see “Black Friday Sale” and “Up to 50% OFF,” they’re interested and ready to engage.

You don’t need complicated video ads, slideshows, carousels, etc.

Instead, you need to make sure it’s super clear what you sell and that you’re running a Black Friday Sale where people can get the best deal of the whole year.

Here are examples of the type of ads that have worked well for our clients over the past couple of years. They are simple, straightforward, beautiful, and highly effective.

Step 5: Prep Your Black Friday Email + SMS Marketing

Now that we’ve discussed Black Friday ad creative strategies, we need to spend some time to consider our Black Friday email + SMS marketing strategies.

#1: Start by Growing Your Email List

The first thing to mention is that your email + SMS marketing success starts the 12 months leading up to Black Friday.

Our goal with our clients is to capture at least 5%-10% of website visitors as email + SMS subscribers.

We do this by using a Postscript pop-up to capture email and SMS subscribers by offering 10% off your first purchase as seen below.

We use Postscript’s pop up form because we’ve found it to be the simplest and most effective way to capture emails and SMS numbers.

Postscript offers one of the easiest and most effective forms you can use to capture email + SMS subscribers for eCommerce brands.

#2: Warm Up for Black Friday Email + SMS Marketing

Now that you’re capturing 5%-10% of your website visitors as subscribers, you’ll want to start warming up your email + SMS marketing lists for Black Friday.

You’ll do this by:

  • Leading with email + SMS content that delights your audience to raise brand awareness, interest, and open rates heading into November. This includes things like sending a Holiday Gift Guide the first week of November, etc. The goal here is to get people thinking about buying your products for themselves and for other people before the week of Black Friday arrives.
  • Next, you want to re-engage unengaged audiences. You do this by sending emails to people who haven’t opened your emails or purchased for sometime. You’ll send something like, “Hey {{firstname}}, remember us? We’re {{brand}}. It’s been awhile! We wanted to reach out to let you know we’ll be offering a huge sale for Black Friday & Cyber Monday real soon. If you’re interested in getting some of our gear at the lowest price ever, here’s all you have to do. Click around at the end of this email and make a list of what you’re interested in. Then, keep an eye out for our Black Friday Sale announcement so you can grab your products at our lowest prices all year.”
  • After that, you’ll need to use the weeks leading up to Black Friday to build out Black Friday specific automated flows and subscription pop ups. Then, once you’re ready, you will replace your regular automated flows with your Black Friday specific email + SMS marketing flows. This will help you maximize revenue during the week of Black Friday.
  • The final step is to send Black Friday deal teasers the week before your sale starts in order to warm up your email + SMS lists so your customers put you at the top of the list of sites they want to check out once the feeding frenzy starts.

#3: Crush It During the Week of Black Friday

Once you’ve taken care of your Pre-Black Friday warm up emails + SMS marketing, you can focus your attention on the week of Black Friday itself.

This is the week when you’re going to lean harder on email + SMS marketing than you have all year.

During the week of Black Friday, you will want to…

Give your email + SMS subscribers early access to your deals. You’ll want to make sure you let them know you’re giving them early access for being a loyal subscriber so they can get everything they need while inventory levels are still high. The goal here is to use urgency and scarcity to get your warmest prospects to take action and buy now.

Next, you’re going to break all the email marketing rules. Your going to send to larger segments, send more often, and send over and over again. The play here is to send a campiagn nearly every day if not every single day.

Now we’re ready for the biggest moneymaker of them all. Not only do you want to send early, go big, and send often, but you always need to make sure you have a count-down series.

These are the emails you send the last 3 days of the sale to create more scarcity and urgency. This includes emails like:

  • Black Friday Inventory Levels Are Running Low (3-4 days before the sale ends)
  • Hurry, Our Black Friday Sale Ends Soon (2 days before the sale ends)
  • Hurry, Up to 50% OFF Sale Ends Tomorrow (1 day before the sale ends)
  • Last Chance: Black Friday Sale Ends Tonight (Last day of the sale)

We’ve found that the largest percentage of your Black Friday sales will come in the first day you let people know about the sale AND the last 3 days of the sale when time is running out, so you don’t want to miss out on sending a countdown sequence for your Black Friday Sale.

#4: Remember to Thank Your Customers after Black Friday

Last but certainly not least, you want to send a personalized text-only Thank You email from the owner to thank your customers after your Black Friday sale.

The goal with this email is to create a personal touch with your customers and subscribers and to thank them for supporting your business and for making X, Y, and Z possible for you and your employees.

This is also a great time to mention your mission if you have a mission that extends beyond selling just your products.

Final Thoughts on Winning Black Friday Marketing Strategies

As you might imagine, it’s entirely possible to come up with more complex Black Friday marketing strategies where you offer tiered discounts, give different discounts on different days of the week, etc., but we’ve found that simple Black Friday Sales typically deliver the same results (if not better) than a complicated strategy with much less work and a much higher ROI.

If you’re looking to have the biggest Black Friday Sale you’ve ever had, then we recommend sticking to the plan outlined above by:

  1. Doing a “Sitewide” or “Save Up to X%” Sale.
  2. Running your sale from the Monday before Black Friday through Cyber Monday (unless you have the capacity to do something different on Cyber Monday in which case that’s a great idea).
  3. Designing simple, beautiful, and effective ads that trigger a feeding frenzy.
  4. Maxxing out email + SMS marketing to generate as much sales as possible during the week of Black Friday.

Black Friday really is the most wonderful time of year for eCommmerce brands, so we wish you the best of luck!

If you have any questions about your Black Friday marketing strategy, feel free to send our team a message or to send me a message on Twitter or Instagram.

Good luck, and #letsGROW!

Joseph Putnam

Joseph Putnam

Joe Putnam is owner of ConversionEngine where he helps eCommerce brands use highly effective paid ads and email + SMS marketing to grow faster and more profitably than they ever thought possible. Follow him on Twitter @josephputnam.

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