For ecommerce store owners, Black Friday is an opportunity for record-breaking revenue, website traffic, and engagement. But relying on the same-old marketing tactics is a losing strategy.
According to Shopify's 2023 commerce trends report, new laws and regulations around consumer privacy are posing challenges for online retailers. Specifically, paid ads are increasingly more expensive (and less effective). Since 2021, Facebook ad costs have increased by 89% and TikTok ad costs are up 92% — with worse performance than ever before.
In this article, we’ll guide you through the process of reimagining your Black Friday marketing strategy to be more affordable and effective. By embracing innovative promotion ideas — like influencer collaborations and chat commerce — you can stand out from the crowd and achieve your Black Friday — Cyber Monday revenue goals.
Black Friday website preparation checklist
While innovation is the theme of Black Friday 2023, some things will never change. And one of those everlasting truths is that your website has to work.
A poorly optimized website may result in slow loading times, crashes, or technical glitches that deter visitors from completing their purchases. To prevent these setbacks, and position your website for success, this section provides a Black Friday website preparation checklist.
Address technical website issues
A smooth and responsive website is essential to provide a seamless shopping experience and maximize your conversion rates. Slow loading times, broken links, or checkout errors can frustrate and deter customers. Prioritizing technical website improvements ensures a glitch-free Black Friday.
- Conduct a thorough website audit to identify and resolve performance issues
- Optimize images and code by compressing image files and eliminating unnecessary scripts for faster website loading.
- Test the website’s mobile responsiveness across different screen sizes and operating systems.
- Implement caching mechanisms, upgrade hosting plans, and stress-test your website to handle increased traffic.
- Create straightforward navigation by categorizing products intuitively and incorporating user-friendly menu layouts.
- Streamline the checkout process by minimizing steps, employing guest checkout options, and providing a variety of payment methods.
- Prominently display a helpdesk chat widget or contact information for customer support.
Focus on mobile performance
A significant portion of shoppers browse and purchase from their smartphones — as reported by Pew Research, 76% of U.S. adults indicate that they have made online purchases using a smartphone. As a result, a mobile-friendly website is paramount for ecommerce business owners.
By focusing on mobile optimization, you’ll enhance user satisfaction, reduce bounce rates, and maximize conversions on Black Friday.
- Ensure your website is responsive, loads quickly, and offers a seamless user experience across various mobile devices.
- Optimize images and code, implement mobile-specific design elements, and simplify navigation and checkout processes for smartphones and tablets.
- Test on different mobile devices, browsers, and screen sizes to find and fix any issues.
Triple-check promotions, discounts, and prices
Accurate promotions, discounts, and prices maintain customer trust and avoid legal issues. Ahead of Black Friday, be sure any active promotional materials and prices are up-to-date and accurate.
- Review and update all promotional materials to ensure accurate pricing.
- Test discount codes to verify their functionality.
- Prioritize quality checks across your online store, product listings, and checkout process to ensure consistency and accuracy.
- Provide clear terms and conditions for promotions and discounts.
Finetune your product descriptions
Craft compelling and persuasive product descriptions to help captivate shoppers and drive conversions. Thoughtful descriptions can tell a story about each product, highlighting key features and complementing your product photography and pricing.
- Check that your product descriptions are accurate, concise, and engaging.
- Incorporate persuasive language, emphasize unique selling points, and clearly communicate any Black Friday-specific offers or discounts.
- Complete an audit to address inconsistencies or errors, update outdated information, and ensure consistency across all product listings.
Start your SEO strategy early
Prioritizing your ecommerce SEO strategy months ahead of Black Friday will ensure your website ranks prominently in search engine results and attracts organic traffic. SEO results aren’t immediate, but the long-term payoff is substantial.
- Research keywords to identify relevant Black Friday-related terms and incorporate them strategically into your content, meta tags, and product descriptions.
- Improve your website’s technical SEO by increasing website speed and mobile responsiveness to enhance user experience.
- Leverage internal and external linking to boost visibility and authority.
- Optimize your site structure and URL hierarchy for better indexing.
Update your product images
Product images help your brand make a strong visual impact and entice customers to make purchases — especially during Black Friday, when customers see endless feeds of products. High-quality images can significantly enhance the appeal of your products, differentiate your brand, and increase trust among potential buyers.
- Refresh your product images to represent your current offerings, showcase key features, and highlight any Black Friday-specific details or discounts.
- Invest in professional ecommerce product photography or consider using UGC lifestyle images that showcase products in real-world contexts.
- Optimize image sizes for fast loading speeds and to ensure mobile responsiveness.
Optimize your product categorization
Great categorization improves the experience of navigating your website. Well-organized and intuitive product categories enable shoppers to find what they’re looking for quickly, reducing frustration and increasing the likelihood of conversions.
- Review your current ecommerce product categorization structure to ensure it aligns with the needs and preferences of your target audience.
- Streamline categories, eliminate duplicates, and create clear hierarchies.
- Incorporate relevant filters and sorting options to allow customers to refine their search results.
18 Black Friday marketing ideas (with examples)
Diverse marketing tactics are key to unlocking unprecedented success for your online business this holiday season. Black Friday can be a make-or-break affair for brands. It’s tempting to stick with what’s tried and true. But without innovating on your marketing strategy, outsized growth remains a distant reality.
Lean into the challenge, pay attention to Black Friday trends, experiment with strategies that might feel daunting, and seize the chance to redefine what’s possible for your brand this year.
1) Embrace social commerce selling
Rather than relying solely on websites, businesses can expand their reach and sell products directly on platforms like Instagram and TikTok. From the simplicity of shoppable social posts to the interactive environment of live selling events, meet customers where they are on Black Friday.
Tips for embracing social commerce selling:
- Explore different social commerce platforms. While Instagram and TikTok are go-to social commerce for brands, branch out to platforms like Pinterest, Snapchat, and Twitch.
- Create engaging content. Go beyond hashtags and typical social media marketing. Leverage the content-driven nature of these platforms to develop engaging videos, images, and live streams.
- Lean into omnichannel ecommerce. Provide a unified and consistent Black Friday shopping experience. Whether the customer is on your website or social media, they should feel a sense of continuity.
2) Use SMS marketing to create urgency
SMS marketing is a unique opportunity for ecommerce companies to instill urgency and excitement in their Black Friday promotions. A 2023 survey of 1,400 consumers, business owners, and digital marketers found that 80.5% of consumers check their text notifications within five minutes of receiving a text. The immediacy of SMS allows for real-time notifications about flash sales or limited-time offers.
Jaxxon, a men’s jewelry brand, encourages website visitors to sign-up for SMS updates ahead of Black Friday, incentivizing sign-ups with the promise of upcoming deals and discounts. Their dedicated landing page for SMS sign-ups is also SEO-friendly, surfacing as a top search result for “Jaxxon Black Friday.”
Tips for using SMS marketing to create urgency:
- Use promo codes and dedicated landing pages. Send unique promo codes or links to dedicated landing pages via SMS. This gives customers an easy, direct route to redeem their Black Friday — Cyber Monday offer.
- Send pre-purchase and post-purchase real-time updates. Leverage the immediacy of SMS to provide customers with updates about your promotion and their purchases after the fact. That includes order confirmations, shipping updates, and delivery notifications.
- Adhere to legal compliance and consent. Before launching your SMS campaign, ensure you have obtained proper consent from customers. Your strategy should comply with all applicable laws and regulations.
3) Partner with influencers and creators
Influencer marketing is a powerful tool for ecommerce companies to leverage large existing audiences to find new customers. A survey of 500 millennial and Gen Z consumers found that 71% of shoppers are likely to purchase a product because of influencers.
Glossier, a cosmetics and skincare brand, partnered with the creator Pamyla Cummings on BlackFriday to share her Glossier holiday gift guide. They simultaneously pointed social media users to their 30% off sale, complementing her recommendations with their deal.
Tips for partnering with influencers and creators:
- Choose the right influencers. Ecommerce influencers with a household name may be too expensive for most brands. However, micro-influencers often have a loyal following and high engagement, offering affordable and effective partnerships for small businesses.
- Trust the creator. Rather than being prescriptive, allow the creators you partner with to guide the development of promotional content. They know their audience best and will understand how to get them interested in your product or brand.
- Track the partnership using promo codes and referral links. Monitor your sales, website traffic, and brand awareness during and after an influencer promotion. This will inform future influencer marketing strategies.
4) Rethink your promotional email campaign
With direct access to inboxes, ecommerce companies can establish a direct link to customers with email marketing. Aim to stand out in a sea of promotional emails during Black Friday. Find the delicate balance between intriguing subscribers with early promotion news and overwhelming their inboxes.
Magic Spoon, a brand creating high protein and no-sugar breakfast cereal, sent out three emails as part of their Black Friday email promotions: an early bird email on Wednesday, a 25% promotional offer on Black Friday, and a final reminder email on Sunday, ahead of Cyber Monday. They coupled their promotional discount with a gift, sharing all the details with their email subscribers and featuring a clear call to action.
Tips for planning a promotional email campaign:
- Craft a compelling email subject line. Make your subject line catchy, relevant, and intriguing enough to entice the reader to open it. Try A/B testing to discover what resonates. Review your analytics to see what headlines have performed well before.
- Segment your email list. Cater to individual needs by segmenting your email list based on customer behavior, preferences, and purchase history. This allows you to personalize messages, increasing engagement.
- Optimize for cross-platform reading. Ensure emails are responsive and mobile-friendly.
Use your support emails to drive Black Friday promotion
Your company sends more than just marketing emails. Your customer service emails — from issue resolution emails to product troubleshooting communication — are another opportunity to drive awareness of your upcoming Black Friday promotions.
5) Use chat campaigns to promote Black Friday offers
The old-school understanding of chat is reactive: You receive questions and respond with answers. You can also use your chat widget to proactively reach out to visitors with chat campaigns.
For example, Gorgias Chat Campaigns send prospective customers information about exclusive sales, bundles, or reminders — in the flow of shopping. This Black Friday, set up a chat campaign offering discounts or coupon codes to website visitors, converting browsers into buyers.
For example, bidet brand TUSHY programs a chat campaign on the homepage, which pops up to advertise their “Brown Friday” promotion. A similar campaign is set for each of their product collection pages, promoting the offer and boosting conversion.
Tips for using chat campaigns to promote Black Friday offers:
- Set specific campaign parameters. When building a chat campaign, choose when and where a campaign on your site is trigged. For instance, your message can pop up after a visitor spends more than 30 seconds in their online shopping cart or when a visitor is about to exit a page.
- Capture interest with a deal. Grab attention with a compelling offer — a secret sale, a meaningful discount, or a free shipping reminder.
- Set business hours. Automated chat campaigns can fire 24/7, but you don’t have to offer live chat 24/7 (or at all). With Offline Mode, you can deactivate the live chat function of your widget, so customers won’t respond to the campaign and get confused when nobody responds.
6) Share behind-the-scenes preparation on TikTok
As of 2022, TikTok has over 1.4 billion users but remains underutilized by brands who feel more at home on Facebook and Instagram. This holiday shopping season, create vertical videos that spotlight your employees preparing for Black Friday, sharing behind-the-scenes preparations on TikTok. The casual feeling of the platform offers an excellent opportunity to humanize your brand by providing a candid view of your team in action.
Kulani Kinis, a swimwear brand, leaned heavily into TikTok marketing for Black Friday 2022, creating nearly half a dozen videos to promote their sale. Amongst them was a video from their Ecommerce Coordinator, JJ, who provided details about discounts and showcased some of her favorite picks from their Fever Dream collection.
Tips for sharing behind-the-scenes preparation on TikTok:
- Get candid and embrace authenticity. Opt for real, raw content instead of polished, highly-produced videos. This authenticity resonates with TikTok users and enhances engagement.
- Pack orders on camera. Combine ASMR with personalized content by packing customer orders for TikTok content, giving viewers a glimpse into your ecommerce business.
- Leverage the platform’s potential. With TikTok’s lack of a social graph and emphasis on the “For You” page, TikTok’s algorithm and the platform’s high virality potential make it a fertile ground for reaching a wider audience. Lean into trends, using popular sounds or meme formats for your brand’s TikTok.
7) Partner with a brand-aligned charity or non-profit organization
A 2022 research study found that 82% of shoppers prefer a consumer brand’s value to align with their own. Furthermore, 66% of shoppers are seeking out eco-friendly brands and products. Partner with an aligned charity and donate a portion of Black Friday and Cyber Monday profits to appeal to conscious consumers and highlight what your brand stands for.
Poppy Barley, an ethically-made, sustainable footwear and accessories brand, set a donation goal of $20,000 and committed 100% of the proceeds from their 2023 Black Friday sale to KidSport. This amount went towards funding 100 girls in sports, helping them develop confidence and leadership skills for the future.
Tips for partnering with a brand-aligned charity or non-profit organization:
- Choose a relevant partner. Identify a charity or non-profit that aligns with your brand values and showcases your commitment to causes your customers care about.
- Communicate your intentions. Promote your partnership and donation plans on your platform to increase awareness.
- Share post-sale results. After Black Friday and Cyber Monday, share the impact of the donations. This transparency boosts your brand’s credibility and builds trust with your customers.
8) Provide customers with mobile app-exclusive deals
If you have a mobile app or plan on launching one this upcoming holiday sales season, consider integrating it into your Black Friday promotion. Offer an exclusive Black Friday discount code to app users, incentivizing app downloads. This also establishes a direct channel for sending in-app notifications about future products and sales.
Tips for providing customers with mobile app exclusive deals:
- Promote exclusive app discounts widely. Use your website, social media, and email newsletters to advertise the exclusive Black Friday deal available only to app users.
- Offer a unique discount code. If you plan on also providing a discount to website users, ensure that your app discount is unique to allow for tracking and analyzing results.
- Maximize in-app notifications. Use your app as a direct communication channel. Send in-app notifications about the exclusive deal, and later about new products and sales, to engage users continually.
9) Use your chat widget to automatically answer pre-sales questions
Customers abandon carts if they can’t find information about shipping and returns. Use your chat widget’s automation to answer pre-sales support questions for holiday shoppers browsing your website on Black Friday.
For example, Loop Earplugs proactively educates customers about the product with questions like, “Can I still have a conversation wearing Loops?” to instill buying confidence:
Consider FAQs that answer questions about your promotions this Black Friday, too:
- Do you offer Black Friday/Cyber Monday deals?
- Can I return or exchange items bought during the Black Friday/Cyber Monday sale?
- Do you offer free shipping for Black Friday/Cyber Monday?
- Can I use my Black Friday/Cyber Monday discount code for purchasing gift cards?
- Can I use Black Friday/Cyber Monday codes on sale items?
Tips for using your chat widget to automatically answer pre-sale questions:
- Make your chat widget visible and accessible. Ensure the chat widget is easily noticeable and accessible on every page of your website — especially if you’ve changed your website theme for Black Friday.
- Constantly update and refine your FAQ. As your Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales progress, keep updating your Quick Response Flows based on real-time feedback.
- Train your team for the big day. Chat is a complement to your customer support on Black Friday, not a replacement. Make sure your team is equipped to handle more complex inquiries.
10) Offer free or discounted shipping
According to a 2023 commerce trends report from Shopify, people order about 2.5 items with free shipping, compared to less than 2 items with paid shipping. Additionally, people buy over $22 more on the median order with free shipping compared to paid shipping. Ecommerce companies can leverage this tactic on Black Friday to reduce purchase barriers, increase perceived value, and attract customers who make larger order sizes.
Tips for offering free or discount shipping:
- Market your shipping offer. Promote your free or discounted shipping on your website, email campaigns, and social media. Make it a central part of your Black Friday messaging to attract deal-seeking customers.
- Set minimum order thresholds. Encourage larger order sizes by offering free shipping for orders above a certain amount to increase average order value.
- Highlight the savings. Feature the discounted amount at checkout to ensure customers are aware of the savings they are making on shipping.
11) Host a flash sale or hourly deals
Flash sales and hourly deals infuse a sense of urgency into your Black Friday marketing strategy, prompting customers to make quick purchase decisions. With each flash sale, showcase a carefully selected product or a curated collection, offering a significant discount or exclusive bundle. By limiting the availability of these deals to a short duration, you tap into customers’ fear of missing out, urging them to seize the opportunity before it expires.
Clothing brand Princess Polly used a broad discount alongside flash sales across Black Friday weekend, keeping website visitors informed about deals and creating urgency with a countdown timer. They also updated their homepage banner throughout the shopping weekend, having it read “FINAL HOURS!!” as the countdown neared the end of the sale.
Tips for hosting a flash sale or hourly deals:
- Set realistic discounts. Ensure that the discounts or promotions you offer during the event are attractive and meaningful to your customers while allowing your business to maintain profitability.
- Use Countdown timers. Implement countdown timers on your site to underscore the time-sensitive nature of the deals and increase urgency.
- Manage inventory Effectively. Prepare for the surge in demand by ensuring sufficient stock levels to prevent customer disappointment from sold-out items.
12) Delight buyers with a free gift per purchase
Include a gift with each purchase to enhance the customer experience during the Black Friday sales period. This marketing strategy distinguishes you from the competition while building brand loyalty and incentivizing larger purchases.
A gifting gesture also creates a moment of delight that leaves a lasting impression, increasing the chances of repeat purchases and word-of-mouth recommendations.
For Black Friday 2023, the skincare brand Topicals offered customers a free Faded Eye Deluxe sample on orders over $100. This promotional offer allowed customers to buy to buy their best-selling Faded cream, while also getting to try a newer complementary skin product offering for free.
Tips for sending off buyers with a gift per purchase:
- Choose the right gifts. Ensure the complimentary gifts align with your brand and are likely to be appreciated by your customers. Small branded items (e.g. a tote) or samples of other products work well. Avoid large or delicate items that complicate your shipping.
- Present the gift at checkout. Display the gift in the customer's cart at the point of checkout. This creates a positive surprise and reinforces the deal’s value to the customer.
- Package to perfection. Pay attention to the presentation of the gift, using attractive and branded packaging that reflects the quality of your brand.
13) Release a brand-new product
While your business likely has more than enough happening during the busiest sales season of the year, unveiling a new product is a powerful magnet. The allure of discovering something new and exclusive, combined with the limited-time deals and discounts of the sales period, creates a compelling proposition for both new customers and loyal advocates.
Tips for releasing a brand-new product:
- Launch a hotly anticipated product. Opt for an offering that has been highly requested and validated by looking through customer requests.
- Incentivize first buyers. Offer limited-time incentives for the first set of customers who purchase the new product. This could be an extra discount, free shipping, or a complimentary item.
- Use social media for showcasing your new product. Conduct a live unboxing or feature early customer testimonials to showcase what customers will receive.
14) Offer product bundles and loot boxes
Product bundles and loot boxes offer customers a value-packed deal, combining multiple products or exclusive items at a discounted rate. The appeal of this Black Friday marketing strategy lies in the perceived value they receive. The bundled price is often lower than the individual prices of the included items.
Bundles not only encourage customers to explore and try different products but also present an opportunity to showcase lesser-known items and drive sales for slower-moving inventory.
Casper, a mattress company, bundled together and discounted a set of pillows and sheets for their Black Friday product special. Dubbed their “Comfy Bundle”, this offering also complements the mattresses and larger-ticket items that were on sale, too.
Tips for offering product bundles and loot boxes:
- Bundle complementary products. Combine products that naturally go together or enhance each other’s use, creating a complete solution.
- Offer surprise loot boxes. Build excitement by offering a loot box with mystery items. These boxes incentivize purchases by playing on the element of surprise.
- Promote bundle savings. Communicate the savings customers gain from purchasing a bundle versus buying each product individually (e.g. “$50 value for $24.99”).
15) Sell gift cards at a discount
Most ecommerce promotional offers explicitly exclude the purchase of gift cards. However, offering gift cards as an option on Black Friday extends a convenient solution for shoppers unsure about what to purchase or who may be purchasing presents for the holidays.
Gift cards can lead to additional sales beyond the initial purchase amount, as recipients may spend more than the value of the gift card when redeeming it online or in-store.
Tips for including gift cards as a product option:
- Ensure prominent promotional placement. Ensure that gift cards are clearly displayed on your website, specifically highlighting them as a Black Friday offer.
- Offer e-gift cards and physical gift cards. Provide both options to accommodate customer preferences — e-gift cards for instant delivery and physical cards for a tangible gifting experience.
- Opt for attractive visuals. Create visually appealing graphics with custom imagery that showcase the gift cards.
16) Use a tiered discount model
Implement a tiered discount model for your Black Friday promotions. This approach offers different levels of discounts based on the total order value, encouraging customers to spend more to unlock higher savings. Leverage this strategy to increase average order value and maximize sales during the Black Friday shopping frenzy.
Hive, a sustainable online grocery store, used a tiered discount model on Black Friday, advertising the offering prominently on their website. They offered customers 10%. 15%, or 20% off, depending on how much they spent.
Tips for using a tiered discount model:
- Set clear discount thresholds. Communicate the savings customers can unlock at each level to incentivize them to reach the next threshold.
- Promote upgrades. Use banners, pop-ups, and email marketing to encourage customers to upgrade their carts and take advantage of higher discount tiers.
- Offer limited-time incentives. Create a sense of urgency by making the tiered discounts time-limited. Encourage customers to complete their purchases within a specific timeframe to qualify for the higher discount tiers.
17) Create a product quiz to provide personalized product recommendations
Creating a product quiz to provide personalized product recommendations is a compelling way to drive sales (as well as upsells and cross-sells). This approach engages customers in a unique and interactive experience while helping them discover products that align with their needs.
Additionally, it generates valuable data and insights on customer preferences, informing your future marketing efforts.
Dr. Squatch, an organic soap brand, offers a quiz year-round, including during Black Friday. The quiz is linked prominently in the top-bar navigation. And with just a few questions, the personalized quiz helps buyers choose the product with the best scent, exfoliation, and hair care for them.
Tips for creating a personalized product quiz:
- Design relevant quiz questions. Tailor the quiz questions to align with the different product categories or segments you offer.
- Link your quiz prominently. Brands like Dr. Squatch and Loop Earplugs understand the conversion power of personalized recommendations, and link quizzes in the top navigation.
- Capture customer data. Require customers to provide their email address or other contact information to access the quiz results. This lets you gather valuable data for future marketing efforts, such as email campaigns or targeted promotions.
Add a quiz to your chat widget, too
You can make your quiz even more discoverable by using Quick Response Flows in Gorgias, which build your product quiz into your Chat Widget or Help Center. Dr. Squatch adapted their quiz into a Quick Response Flow — check it out below (or on their website).
18) Keep the conversation going through to Cyber Monday (and beyond)
According to data from over 10,000 Gorgias merchants, repeat customers generate 300% more revenue than first-time customers.
While attracting new customers during Black Friday is undoubtedly valuable, retaining Black Friday customers for the long term holds even greater significance. Lean into strong customer service, strategic campaigns, personalized email marketing, and social media engagement to foster long-term customer relationships that build brand affinity and maximize sales.
Tips for keeping the conversation going through to Cyber Monday (and beyond):
- Plan a Cyber Monday campaign. Design a dedicated Cyber Monday campaign with exclusive deals and promotions. Build anticipation by teasing these offers during Black Friday and encourage customers to return for more special discounts.
- Leverage segmented email marketing. Use email marketing to reach out to different customer segments based on their Black Friday behavior. Tailor personalized emails offering recommendations and send out cart abandonment reminders.
- Double down on social media engagement. Encourage customers to share their Black Friday purchases, run a giveaway, and offer incentives to create a sense of community and excitement around your brand that extends beyond the sales event.
Remember: the purchase isn’t the finish line
During the hustle and bustle of Black Friday marketing, it’s crucial to zoom out and remember your long-term goals beyond the sales frenzy. While driving immediate sales and capturing new customers is key, it’s equally important to focus on the customer experience that improves retention, reduces BFCM returns, garners reviews, and turns first-time buyers into loyal customers.
Building strong relationships with your customers, and providing exceptional post-purchase experiences, will pave the way for long-term revenue growth for your ecommerce business.
Encourage customer feedback, engage with reviews, and implement strategies to foster loyalty. By nurturing these aspects, you turn Black Friday shoppers into loyal advocates who return all year round.