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28 October, 2020

Cyber Weekend Marketing in a post-COVID world

Black Friday Cyber Monday Marketing is essential to profit in the festive season. Here are the best practices for a solid Black Friday marketing strategy during COVID.

Cyber Weekend - Black Friday Marketing

2020 has thrown everything and the kitchen sink at us. Nothing has remained unchanged by the onslaught of COVID, ecological disasters, and political uncertainty. Not even the world of digital marketing.

Black Friday

Black Friday falls on Thanksgiving weekend and takes its namesake from the fact that it is traditionally the day that retailers go “in the black” – that is to say they show a profit on their balance sheets. More recently, it has become a day of hefty discounts and promotional events to try and drum up spending at the start of the festive period. And even more recently, Black Friday online sales have become more popular.

Cyber Monday

Cyber Monday is a newer shopping holiday than Black Friday. It falls on the Monday immediately following Black Friday and is named in recognition of the increasing market share of online retailers.

The term “Cyber Monday” was first coined based on a 2004 research showing “one of the biggest online shopping days of the year” was the Monday after Thanksgiving, according to the head of Shop.org, Scott Silverman.

Black Friday vs Cyber Monday

Black Friday, and more recently, Cyber Monday have become staple events in the calendar. Both consumers and the marketers trying to sell to them eagerly anticipate these days for all the unique deals, online-only offers, and profits they will bring, respectively. Typically, Black Friday and Cyber Monday constitute some of the biggest days of consumerist economic activity in the western world, and the numbers speak for themselves.

Cyber Monday statistics:

US Cyber Monday Online Sales

Black Friday statistics:

US Black Friday Online Sales

According to an analysis of 2019’s Cyber Monday by Forbes,

“With the busy holiday shopping season well underway, Cyber Monday raked in a new record of more than $9 billion in sales, marking the first day in history when consumers spent over $3 billion using their smartphones, the latest report from Adobe Analytics shows.”

It is unlikely that even the uncertain and downright surreal happenings of the last twelve months will make too much of a dent in the spending of the populace. What is likely to change, however, are the ways in which consumers spend their money, as well as the things they choose to spend that money on.

The question, then, is how should you approach your marketing for cyber weekend with everything that has been occurring?

Preparing for Black Friday Cyber Monday Marketing

COVID-19 has changed just about everything. Scenes that would have been entirely alien or ridiculous just 12 months ago are now commonplace, from the ever-present masks to the lack of social inter-mingling.

Common sense dictates that social distancing and a general fear of being in crowded spaces will have an effect on purchasing behavior during the 2020 festive season. There has been a steady trend towards online spending over the last decade, and we predict that this trend is going to increase dramatically during the 2020 holidays.

As well as a shift away from physical, brick-and-mortar stores, COVID has seen mobile spending on the rise. In fact, mobile is the fastest growing channel for spending money right now.

The shift towards a “cyber weekend”, where almost all trade is conducted online, will require some adaptation if you want to rise above competitor e-commerce brands. This section deals with how to approach marketing in the run-up to the shopping season.

Plan, plan and plan some more

Without a doubt, the most important factor to consider when aiming for Black Friday Cyber Monday (BFCM) strategy success is to plan. Plan what deals you will offer. Plan who you will target. Plan when the deals will appear and how long they will last for.

Exactly what promotions you decide to run are entirely up to you and should be based on your knowledge of your market niche and the buying behavior of your ideal customers. There are nearly limitless options for the kind of promotions you might offer beyond the traditional “X % off today!” model.

Some options for promotional variations include:

  • Raffles (free or paid)
  • Super time-limited offers (think Amazon’s flash sales)
  • Free gifts with certain purchases
  • Free postage and packaging
  • Buy-one-get-one-free deals
  • A percentage off of the total sale amount

On top of offers, discounts and coupons, you can keep your customers up-to-date with what products have arrived in store. Novelty drives interest, and new things will always grab your customers’ attention. You can even tease the arrival of new products days, or even weeks, before they arrive to drum up interest and suspense.

Black Friday is a big event for consumers because it comes with the promise of massive discounts, but the reason it is important for marketers is because of the raised brand awareness it can create. There’s nothing to be gained from selling at drastically lowered prices in the short term – the only thing discounts do in the short term is eat into profit margins.

With the above in mind, a marketing strategy for Black Friday/Cyber Monday/Cyber Weekend needs to be holistic – that is to say, it must take into account longer term goals.

If discounts, offers and coupons clash with your brand value, or are just not viable due to margins and sales figures, you should still approach the start of the festive season as a prime time to raise awareness of your brand.

Get there first

It may be a good idea to make your deals exclusively online to accommodate the shift towards digital in spending patterns. However, you should be aware that many marketers will be doing exactly the same, so if you want to be the first one consumers think of when the fateful day rolls around, announce your deals as early as it makes sense to. Get those Cyber Monday ads up and running to create the buzz!

Some retailers, such as Best Buy, even start certain Black Friday online sales well in advance. You may want to adopt this tactic to get ahead of the curve of your competitors.

Start Slaying on Social

With consumers spending less and less time both in physical stores and in the outside world where a lot of traditional marketing tactics are put into effect, your online brand and social media presence is only going to become more vital to your success. Cyber Weekend is fast approaching, but it isn’t too late to make a concerted effort to grow your followers. It should be noted, however, that followers aren’t the be-all and end-all of social. What is more important (and the factor that will determine whether people return to your content) is the level of engagement you have with your followers. Keep your content interesting, on-brand, and, most importantly, providing value to make sure that your list of followers is more than just a number on a screen and can convert into cold, hard sales.

Be honest and transparent

Consumers are savvier and more demanding of honesty than ever before. If the Covid-19 situation is likely to affect any part of your business, whether in stock, delivery times, or return policies, be upfront about this with your customers.

Make gift guides

Gift guides are a fantastic way of engaging with shoppers and getting them interested in your offerings. After all, who hasn’t had the frustrating experience of trying and failing to come up with gift ideas for that one impossible-to-buy-for person (or entire family in some cases).

The wonderful thing about gift guides is how versatile they are – you can print them for physical stores, send out digital versions for your email subscribers and even break them down into “micro lists” for distribution and consumption on various social media platforms (Instagram is especially good for this, in our experience).

How to Avoid an Electronic Disaster During Cyber Weekend

Every single year we hear about the websites of huge organizations such as Walmart, Lululemon, Game, and many more falling victim to profit-eating outages, crashes, and unscheduled downtime. Whether your business is large or small, you need to ensure that your technical systems are up to par to keep up with the potentially huge increase in traffic that Cyber Weekend can bring.

Fortunately, there are an abundance of different tools available for retailers to utilize to test their website’s load handling capabilities. Some of these include:

  • Blazemeter
  • Jmeter
  • Load Impact
  • Gatling

Online outages during this period can be disastrous, not only in terms of the immediate loss in sales, but also in terms of the long-lasting damage it can do to a brand’s image and public perception.

Making sure your website is capable of handling whatever Black Friday and Cyber Monday have to throw at it is just one part of a process that could be summed up simply as…

Don’t Make Buying Harder Than It Has to Be. Especially for Black Friday eCommerce!

In our convenience-obsessed world, even the slightest piece of unnecessary friction can cause huge frustration to prospective buyers. When you consider that 70% of shoppers haven’t made a firm decision to buy or abstain, frustration is the last thing you want them to experience.

With that in mind, and the knowledge that 58% of e-commerce traffic in 2019 came from mobile devices (a number that will surely increase in 2020), your priority should be in making your e-commerce site as fast, responsive, and mobile-friendly as possible.

Do a dummy run of your customers’ journey yourself and see if there are any sticking points, or areas that could be made more efficient. Some questions you may want to ask:

  • How quickly do my pages load?
  • Does the website look good in a mobile format? Is it mobile-friendly?
  • How many fields does checkout require to be filled?
  • Is the buy and checkout user experience smooth?
  • How are my competitors doing it?

A Note on Costs

As more and more businesses move online, you can expect the cost of access to prime digital real-estate to rise as well. The golden era of dirt-cheap PPC marketing and next-to-nothing Google AdWords is over, and the online space is only getting more crowded, and more expensive.

With the falling ROI of PPC and other forms of online marketing, being specific and targeted is more important than ever. Direct marketing through customer lists remains one of the highest performing methods of increasing sales, and should be a cornerstone of your marketing efforts.

Black Friday Marketing Strategy / Cyber Monday Marketing: A 5-Step Plan

Step 1) How do you announce a discount?

Attention is the number one currency in this digital age, and consumers are becoming more and more conservative with how they spend theirs. It isn’t enough to just announce a sale, offer or product launch once and be done with it – the savvy marketer knows that messages are more effective when repeated, and that the average consumer will need to hear your marketing message numerous times before they take action.

Armed with the above knowledge, you should formulate how and when you are going to hit your prospects with your current marketing message.

The first step for any successful BFCM marketing campaign begins with your customer base lists. You should reward your previous customers and anyone who has taken the initiative to sign up for your email list by letting them be the first in-the-know regarding your upcoming discounts.

To sweeten the deal further, you could even offer those prospects on your mailing list a small additional discount by way of a discount code. People love being made to feel special!

There is no magic number for how many emails you should send to your list, but it’s a good idea to start your email campaign no less than a week and no more than a month before you launch your sales.

At the same time, let your social media followers know about the savings they could make too!

Step 2) Create great content. And test it!

In the age of content, value is king. It’s not enough to just be churning out reams and reams of material; you have to be sure that your marketing message is going to get read. Remember how the currency of the digital era is attention? Well, to spend their attention, consumers will have to get some sort of value back. This is why “gift guides” work so well – in return for exposing themselves to your marketing message, the reader gets help in picking out gifts for people who might otherwise be very difficult to buy for.

Fortunately, you don’t have to just create a single piece of content, hit publish, and then pray. Data analytics make it a relatively straightforward task to A/B test your content for any number of factors, so you can optimize and find the style and tone that works for your individual marketing needs.

Cyber Weekend serves as a “gateway” into the sales-driven shopping period of November and December, and can therefore be a great time to test which marketing messages work best for you. Use A/B testing to see what performs well. You could, for example, test a deal, but for half of the prospects, phrase it in a time-limited way. Or you could test the effectiveness of highlighting online exclusivity vs in-store deals.

Step 4) Optimize, Optimize, Optimize

If you want to have any hope of making sales, your only option is to make sure that all of your content, from your social media posts to your product descriptions, is optimized towards that end. That’s not to say that everything should be a hard sell – far from it. Rather you want to position yourself in such a way that your name is the first one a customer thinks of when they have a need you can solve.

Full optimization and SEO tactics are beyond the scope of this article, but the two main takeaways are to serve the customer with every piece of content, and make it easy for them to find what they want.

Value comes in two main forms – knowledge that can be used, and entertainment. If a piece of content (whether it’s a product description, social media post, or email) doesn’t hit at least one, but ideally both of those forms, then it won’t help you reach your customers.

Emails are still one of the most cost-effective investments you can make when it comes to marketing, with an estimated ROI of $42 on the dollar, so make sure your emails work for you. It is paramount that you have a catchy subject line. Also, you want to make sure your email is as “scannable” as possible, so that the recipients can pick out the pertinent information quickly and easily, in a visually pleasing format.

Step 5) Cross-sell like crazy

If you have managed to get a customer over the finish line and they have committed to a purchase, don’t waste a golden opportunity! The hard work is done, so you may as well try and maximize your profit out of each and every customer that comes through your e-commerce ecosystem.

If a customer is making a purchase, try and refer them to other products that go well with the thing they are buying. For inspiration, you only need to look to Amazon for a prime example of cross-selling done right.

There is a large number of AI-driven platforms that are designed specifically to recommend products that your customers are most likely to purchase. Alternatively, if your business is on the smaller side, or if your range isn’t that expansive, you can curate these recommendations yourself.

Use the Power of FOMO to Your Advantage

Nothing motivates people like the fear of loss, and savvy marketers use this knowledge to their advantage all the time.

There are many tried and tested tactics you can use to capitalize on the natural human fear of missing out, or FOMO. Some of these include:

  • Flash sales
  • Time-limited discount codes
  • Sales timers

Whenever you can, you should strive to create a sense of urgency in your marketing materials. However, it’s essential to strike the right balance. Now more than ever consumers are turned off by the hard sell.

Closing Thoughts on BFCM

COVID-19 will undoubtedly shift the focus of Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and the entirety of Cyber Weekend even further into the digital realm. Fortunately, there are many proven and reliable tactics you can employ to take advantage not only of the shift towards the digital space, but also the clamor and spending frenzy that accompany these consumer holidays.

The most critical points for any marketer to consider are how much friction exists in their buyers’ journey, and how to effectively run and publicize discounts. If you can get the word out, your discounts are good and it is easy for your prospects to capitalize on them, nothing will stand between you and big Cyber Weekend profits.

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