Blog
Black Friday–Cyber Monday: Automation

BFCM Automation: Insights from Top Ecommerce Partners

19.0
min
-
Alexa Hertel
-
Oct 4, 2023

Table of contents

Blog
Black Friday–Cyber Monday: Automation

BFCM Automation: Insights from Top Ecommerce Partners

min
-
Alexa Hertel
-
Oct 4, 2023

Yotpo, Loop Returns, ShipBob, TalentPop, Onepilot, Dedication Agents, and C(x)atalyze by Brolly Labs share the strategies and tools that can revolutionize your brand’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday approach.

We’ll share some of their success stories, helpful tips, and checklists for BFCM that will help you plan and optimize tasks that traditionally demand extensive time and resources. 

Explore how to harness automation to enhance marketing efforts, simplify returns management, and elevate customer support interactions.

BFCM Loyalty & retention automation tips from Yotpo

In 2023, the tools that brands use for loyalty and retention marketing automation have gotten more sophisticated and effective, allowing for deeper integrations between them. 

This gives brands the ability to create personalized, timely engagement at every touchpoint, creating a fully connected journey across channels — while building retention strategies that keep customers coming back long after BFCM and the holiday shopping season.

Key elements to automate for BFCM

Automating loyalty program updates, like points earned and progress to the next loyalty tier, keeps customers engaged between purchases and gives them a reason to come back. 

One thing brands shouldn’t automate is blasting out tons of generic offers to their entire customer base. Leverage advanced segmentation and predictive analytics to send targeted campaigns around what — and when — your customers are likely to purchase next.

BFCM retention marketing automation checklist

Nailing your post-purchase flows is essential for BFCM and beyond. Automated transactional messages with order and delivery updates are crucial for giving customers peace of mind and building trust — and if you can integrate your shopping info to time review requests at the right time, even better. 

Here are all the flows that you should automate:

  • Welcome flows. Set up these flows before BFCM to send when a customer subscribes to email and SMS or joins your loyalty program. 
  • Browse and cart abandonment flows. Activate before BFCM to bring customers who abandon the shopper journey back with a reminder or discount.
  • Upsell and cross-sell flows. Boost the average order value of your store and promote repeat purchases. Map out complementary products for promotion well in advance of BFCM so your flows are ready to go on Black Friday. 
  • Winback flows. Deploy these flows for pre-BFCM offers based on their past purchases to bring lapsed back to your brand and prime them for your BFCM promotions. 
  • Transactional flows. Have these set up and tested in advance of BFCM so customers can receive accurate updates on order and delivery status.
  • Review requests. Integrate your reviews with your shipping software to ensure that you’re sending requests at the right time, i.e. after the customer has received the item and had a chance to use it. 
  • Loyalty flows. Ensure that loyalty flows are set up before BFCM so you can extend exclusive offers to rewards program members. Keep members updated on points and spending status and any exclusive perks.
  • VIP flows. A week or two before BFCM, segment your most loyal customers and offer them early access to your BFCM sales. 
DIME 7 Summers product

DIME Beauty’s approach to automation & retention marketing

DIME Beauty is a brand that thinks about retention marketing year-round by finding unique ways to use automation to engage and retain their customers. 

Since launching with the Yotpo Platform, DIME has seen an impressive 15% increase in their repeat purchase rate — now it’s consistently above 55%. When you look closer, it’s because DIME engages customers in every channel. Here’s everything else they accomplished:

  • Personalized communications on post-purchase upsell flows consistently produce 130x ROI
  • +300x ROI on abandoned cart flows tailored to loyalty members eligible for redemption
  • 70% of DIME’s loyalty members are subscribed to SMS, and when they engage a loyalty member via that channel, these customers are twice as likely to redeem loyalty points
  • Members subscribed to SMS purchase 3x more a year than loyalty members not subscribed to SMS

DIME will be going into BFCM 2023 with their marketing automation strategies already in place and tested, giving them the ability to turn their influx of new shoppers into repeat buyers and loyal customers. 

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Loop’s tips for automating returns and exchanges in 2023

This year, there are plenty of new automation tools that you can use to help improve your returns and exchanges. 

Loop has built out real-time exchange and return tracking so that there’s no more wondering where the products are. They’ve also built Loop Point of Sale, which allows brands to unite their online ecommerce operations with their in-store operations. With Loop POS, brands can save up to an estimated 780 hours of labor every year. 

Key processes to automate for BFCM

While AI-driven return management systems can offer speedy inventory management and predictive analytics, if they aren’t seamlessly integrated into your returns process, they run the risk of depersonalizing the customer experience.

BFCM returns automation checklist 

⏱️ Three months before BFCM

Customize your return policies. With Loop’s Workflows, you can leverage automation to help determine which customers and which return reasons should get which return policies. This can take some time to figure out, so we recommend starting about 3 months out. 

Implement easy-to-use, automated processes. If you haven’t yet automated your returns management process, you’ll want to do so. Because onboarding times can vary, we recommend starting this process 3 months out. 

⏱️ One to two months before BFCM

Integrate your tech stack. Once your returns are automated, you’ll want to integrate the rest of your tech stack with your returns management solution so that all of your BFCM processes (marketing, customer support, and more) run as smoothly as your returns will. Depending on who your providers are, this might take about a month or two.

Seek negotiated rates and processing efficiencies.
Look into streamlining your reverse logistics processes. Many 3PLs offer automated warehouse processes, and Loop offers negotiated rates and rate shopping to help make your returns more cost-effective. 

Elevate your exchanges. Build sophisticated exchange automation options, like Loop’s Shop Now feature, which allows your customers to easily shop your entire catalog during an exchange.

Shipping and fulfillment: automation tips from ShipBob

As the first fulfillment solution to integrate with Gorgias, ShipBob has seen how more brands are enabling seamless customer support and shipping data in one place to streamline post-purchase order inquiries and actions. 

This relatively new integration allows brands to connect their customer support team directly to detailed fulfillment information, so they can answer tickets and kick off follow-up communications without having to leave Gorgias, giving a more detailed answer to "Where is my order?" 

They can even create automation when orders are in exception or on hold to proactively alert customers about delays as soon as they occur.

Processes to automate for BFCM

  • Establish fulfillment guidelines for recurring, automated processes. For instance, consider a scenario where each time an order is imported from your store, you want to insert marketing collateral into the order.   
  • Order processing and importing from your store to your 3PL or WMS, and pushing back shipment tracking. Implementing these fulfillment rules streamlines the order processing and shipment tracking stages.
  • Instructions for packers in the WMS. Consider using images of products on picklists and gifs/videos for pack-out processes, especially as you hire temp labor/outside help.
  • Auto-generated picking lists. Make sure to include SKUs, quantities, and information on where items are located in the warehouse.
  • Batch or zone picking via a WMS. This will increase efficiency as your order volume ramps up.
  • Order routing that automatically utilizes the most optimal fulfillment center location. Selecting the location closest to the order’s destination for the fastest allows for the most cost-effective delivery.

Keep these elements manual

  • Forecast volumes. Weekly isn't enough — know what you need to manage on a daily and sometimes hourly level to make sure you have the right capacity for not only the average but also the heaviest days.
  • Build a contingency for every scenario. What action will be taken when weather disrupts the supply chain? How will demand heaviness or lightness change the plan?  Having a playbook created in advance will save you time and customers.
  • Communications about order delays. You can even go above and beyond by offering a discount on a future order. Customers will appreciate the transparency.

Tasks to tackle in October 

  • Set automatic inventory reorder points at the SKU level. This is useful when inventory falls below a certain threshold, providing you with greater lead times.
  • Establish packaging preferences for each SKU. Whether that’s deciding between box and mailer, and attributes (fragile, HAZMAT, etc.) Automating which packaging materials to be used will increase your efficiency. 
  • Automate inventory placement, distribution, and replenishment. This is crucial if you store your products in more than one warehouse. You can reduce shipping costs, transit times, and risk if a fulfillment center or carrier gets overloaded during peak, or if carriers are unable to pick up due to severe weather.
  • Build carrier cutoff deadlines into workflows. In addition to proactively sharing deadlines with customers, tie them into your shipping methods schedule, automated cart abandonment emails, website banners, and other marketing promotions.
  • Weigh and get exact product dimensions for all SKUs. Doing this will help optimize for dimensional weight. If you work with a fulfillment provider like ShipBob, they should already do this for you via Cubiscan machines and box selection algorithms. 
  • Display estimated delivery dates and 2-day shipping badges on your product pages. These visual cues help customers make informed purchase decisions and set clear expectations for when their items will arrive.
  • Spice up your unboxing experience by creating rules. Some examples are automatically adding a marketing insert to every order or gift notes. 
Sharkbanz product

How ShipBob helped Sharkbanz save BFCM sales

Sharkbanz was able to save their Black Friday Cyber Monday sales by using ShipBob’s end-to-end freight solution, FreightBob, which automates the shipping of inventory from the manufacturer, to ShipBob’s fulfillment centers, to the end customer.

“The time-savings achieved on the shipment using the dedicated freight service were incredible. We not only cut down our shipping time from Hong Kong to LA significantly but even saved money doing it. Thanks to ShipBob’s freight program, we had no stress and were super well-stocked for the rest of the year, without any kind of inventory issues that have plagued us in the past. 

Once picked up from the port, ShipBob cross-docked it from California to Pennsylvania, while keeping some inventory in California too. As it turned out, our sales for BFCM exceeded expectations — so we were lucky that we had FreightBob to deliver extra inventory so quickly. We were in a tough spot, and I don’t think we would have been able to fulfill all of our retail orders across every single SKU throughout the entire BFCM holiday period without it. It came at a really clutch moment!”
––Nathan Garrison, Co-Founder and CEO of Sharkbanz

Customer service BFCM automation 

Automating customer service processes during the BFCM period is central to providing a solid customer experience while significantly lightening the load on your reps. We had several partners give us amazing advice on how to set up your BFCM customer support for success.

  • TalentPop
  • OnePilot
  • Dedication Agents 
  • C(x)atalyze by Brolly Labs 

TalentPop’s CS tips for BFCM automation

2023 made it clear that for brands to succeed, they have to start leveraging CX as a revenue-generating channel and not just using it as a channel for solving requests. 

At TalentPop, we see a lot of brands address simple requests like WISMO, return/exchange, and order status requests with automation through a chat widget. Many also use self-service options like an FAQ or Help Center to confidently direct customers to the correct answer on-site. 

However, brands need to ensure that there’s an easy way for customers to engage with a live support agent if their request can’t be handled through automation. For example, tickets related to pre-purchase questions, product suggestions, and escalated customer situations such as lost packages, damaged orders, and defects should be taken care of by a human as there is a need to establish brand loyalty while exercising sensitivity.

When live agents handle complex issues, simple requests can be resolved with automation and can turn into revenue-generating opportunities. 

⏱️ 3 months before BFCM, do the following:

  • Historical analysis. Review past BFCM data to anticipate ticket volume, ticket types, and Customer Service Metrics (FRT, Resolution Time, CSAT, Tickets Handled Per Hour) customer behavior.
  • Peak timing identification. Determine the busiest customer service hours from previous BFCM. 
  • Ensure mobile optimization. Ensure the website/app is fully functional and user-friendly on mobile devices.
  • Set up performance analytics. Monitor customer service metrics and adjust KPIs and SLAs accordingly.
  • Capacity planning. Ensure infrastructure and personnel can handle BFCM volume. Look to onboard more CS agents if needed.
  • AI-powered solution implementation. Establish AI in your helpdesk for smarter, faster customer service and problem prediction on simplified Customer Service Requests.

⏱️ 2 months before BFCM, do the following:

  • Omnichannel support setup. Ensure all customer service channels are enabled and that your brand can establish a consistent support experience across all platforms.
  • Automate error notifications. Create instant alerts in Slack to report any outages to any major software or apps you are using and have established links you can visit to ensure you can track statuses.
  • Update Macros. Review existing macros and add a new Macros section to have responses for commonly asked questions and ensure you have new macros created for any questions related to BFCM.
  • Implement basic Gorgias automation. Set up Gorgias Quick Response Flows and Order Management Flows. Establish Chat Campaigns on Gorgias to proactively communicate with customers based on BFCM offers or anticipate questions they may have based on where on the site they are navigating. Set automated replies with expected wait times or common solutions.
  • Create BFCM-specific tags. Ensure you have tags related to all ticket types and add any tags specific to BFCM to categorize customer interactions. Implement Auto-Tagging to address all ticket types, and automate the process of tagging BFCM-related customer inquiries.
  • Customer segmentation. Define VIP criteria based on # of purchases, frequency of purchases, loyalty, etc.
  • Dedicated BFCM page creation. Design a specific page detailing all BFCM offers, terms, etc. Ensure it communicates all BFCM-related policies like returns, shipping, etc.
  • Agent training sessions. Update agents on BFCM deals, new product offerings, policies, and common BFCM queries. Develop internal knowledge base guides for your top customer service requests to ensure clarity across all team members.

⏱️ 1 month before BFCM, do the following:

  • Communicate loyalty benefits. Ensure VIPs are aware of and receive all their loyalty benefits.
  • Escalation procedures setup. Have a clear plan for escalating unresolved or complex customer issues.
  • Streamline returns & exchanges. Simplify the process for post-BFCM returns or exchanges to avoid unnecessary bottlenecks and delays.
  • Plan post-BFCM deals and communications. Strategize for post-sale communications and deals to retain customers.
  • Set up email and push notifications. Implement notifications to update users about deals, restocks, etc. Set emails to automatically update customers about orders, shipping, etc.
  • Fast-track ticket views for VIPs. Dedicate faster or exclusive support channels for VIP customers by ensuring proper ticket routing to VIP customers.
  • Set up automated post-purchase surveys and thank yous. Gather customer feedback on their BFCM shopping experience and send personalized appreciation messages to customers post-purchase.

⏱️ Implement the following ASAP:

  • Send exclusive VIP offers. Provide VIPs with special BFCM deals or early access.
  • Live chat activation. Enable a live chat on Gorgias to allow for real-time assistance on the website/app.

⏱️ Tasks to do on an ongoing basis:

  • Send exclusive VIP offers. Provide VIPs with special BFCM deals or early access.
  • Live chat activation. Enable a live chat on Gorgias to allow for real-time assistance on the website/app.
  • Send proactive notifications. Notify customers about order statuses or stock changes proactively.
  • Feedback loop implementation. Regularly update resources based on customer feedback.
  • Keep inventory updated. Ensure stock levels on the site/app are updated in real-time to prevent over-selling.
  • Provide seamless order tracking. Allow customers to easily track their BFCM orders in real time.
  • Integrate feedback for improvement. Use received feedback to better future BFCM strategies.
Brown Girl Jane product

Setting Brown Girl Jane up for BFCM Success

Women’s fragrance brand Brown Girl Jane came to TalentPop in October of 2022 searching for the perfect team to help them tackle their influx of tickets during the holiday season. 

After helping them crush their goals in 2022, TalentPop is setting them up for success this BFCM with automation. Using Gorgias’s Automation Add-On, TalentPop’s Implementation team was able to set up Rules and Flows to automatically respond to common inquiries that did not require agent oversight. 

The result? Brown Girl Jane is now seeing 70% of their tickets resolved through automation, freeing up agent time to focus on customer concerns that require more oversight and drive revenue through upselling and cross-selling opportunities. 

The Brown Girl Jane team is now prepared to head into 2023’s BFCM with the confidence that their Customer Service agent will be able to handle the influx of tickets, and more efficiently address customer concerns! 

OnePilot’s BFCM automation hacks for CS in 2023 

At OnePilot, a customer service outsourcing company, we keep up to date with all things CS and automation.  

In 2021 or 2022, mail and phone were still the main channels of communication for brands. The shift to chat and social media allowed brands to pivot to using more automation, especially with the rise in the popularity of AI. 

Automation and AI can pre-qualify customers' demands and help human agents to focus on answer quality. 

OnePilot’s BFCM customer service checklist

  • Train your agents with new tools and processes specific to BFCM
  • Prepare alternative channels of communication. Some customers will still prefer the human touch, so make sure that they can easily connect with an agent if they need further support. 
  • Plan to add additional agents to manage additional BFCM volume. 
  • Ensure you have key metrics like First Resolution Time, First Response Time, CSAT, and NPS set up to monitor BFCM results. 
Dr. BRANDT Micro Derma Brasion product

Dr. BRANDT x Onepilot

A few years ago, Dr. BRANDT was using Zendesk as their ticketing tool, but it required too much time and training for a small brand. With a backlog of tickets and slower shipping times than normal during the BFCM period, there was a real risk of losing revenue, losing customers, and getting negative reviews.

Dr. BRANDT was facing these challenges: 

  • A doubled ticket volume pre-, during, and post-BFCM across all channels
  • Increased customer expectations in terms of responsiveness, expertise, and coverage since many people are in a rush to get gifts on time. 
  • 5 to 10x more orders to handle

Their small team felt that the helpdesk was “not plug and play” and they needed something simpler to implement. That’s when they decided to use Gorgias which fully integrated with Shopify and other tools in their stack such as Klaviyo and Recharge.

Today, all their channels are connected in a single app, allowing them to streamline their customer support, keep track of their client history, and enhance their partnership with Onepilot.

Dr. BRANDT also automates simple tickets, like WISMO inquiries, to speed up their resolution times. “For these simple questions, customers don’t need a “human touch” — they need fast, helpful responses,” they said. 

By taking advantage of automation, their agents can focus on more complex customer demands that require human interaction during the stressful BFCM period.

Dedication Agents’ tips for BFCM automation, CS edition

The advent of generative AI becoming mainstream through ChatGPT has made consumers extremely familiar with automation and self-service options on ecommerce websites.

Dedication Agents sees this with all clients who are looking to empower customers to find information on their own. 

And it’s a good idea — arming consumers with self-service tools allows the merchant to scale sales volumes without having to dramatically adjust their store operations.

Automate these processes ahead of BFCM

A smooth-sailing BFCM means automating all answers to customer questions that can be answered from content on your site. The less time the customer spends finding an answer, the more likely they are to make a purchase.  

Things like order updates, product information, and shipping policies –– essentially all standard things a customer looks for — should all be automated.  More complex items like refunds, chargebacks, and fraud claims are best left for human agents as the user temperament with a dollar has a much higher sensitivity.

⏱️ One month before BFCM, plan to: 

Review customer interactions and feedback. Take into consideration what customers say about your products and services to help you streamline support through automation. 

Ensure that automated Flows do not sound robotic by using language that caters to what a customer is looking for. This should be done a month before to give you ample time to fine-tune and test messaging to ensure it reflects your brand voice.

Set up automated post-purchase surveys and thank yous. Gather customer feedback on their BFCM shopping experience and send personalized appreciation messages to customers post-purchase.

⏱️ Two weeks before BFCM, you should: 

Update all site content. Make sure content is as fresh as possible to ensure customers know how to find what they need.  This should be done a couple of weeks before BFCM given customers will start to look at their favorite brands in advance.

Personalized chat flows specific to BFCM. Repurpose chat automations and Macros where necessary to ensure that communications have to do with BFCM.  Getting this done two weeks before the rush of BFCM will give you room to carry out tests and modifications.

⏱️ One week before BFCM, you should: 

Update and/or double-check store policies, specifically for refunds and exchanges. Maintaining messaging accuracy in emails and chat automations is key to a headache-free customer experience. Do this about a week before BFCM customers have clear expectations about returns and exchanges.

Test all automations. Given the various changes that will likely be made during the BFCM period, it’s best to test out all automations at least one week in advance to allow time to address glitches, unexpected problems, and more.

A Dedication Agents success story

Dedication Agents supports a global artist’s online store that sees heavy volumes of orders and inquiries. Originally,  the Dedicated Agents team answered all live chat and emails around order support, which became a very monotonous task since they were answering the same question over and over again.

They then realized they could use automation to free up the team to work on other higher-value tasks.

This became a huge time saver and value add to customer support. Responses became instantaneous which kept customers happy as they waited for their order. Once first response times were reduced, saw future sales increased by 45% with the customers who had originally interacted with the automations — a surprising win.

BFCM customer service tips from C(x)atalyze by Brolly Labs

If you think ticket count will double during BFCM, it will likely quadruple. If you think it will triple, it could end up being 5x. 

C(x)atalyze highly recommends using the Gorgias Automation Add-On to manage chat.

The Automation Add-On enables customers to answer their questions in the most efficient way possible. Adding several Help Center articles for BFCM will also enable customers to access specific questions via the Automation Add-On.

In addition, use Gorgias Flows to supplement the chat widget to serve customers even during offline hours.

SF Bicycles using Gorgias Flows in their chat widget

Putting in the effort to set up automation thoroughly will make things easier for you in the future. A few hours of work on your Help Center and Flows will decrease your work by hundreds of hours during the holidays.

The CS elements C(x)atalyze recommends automating for BFCM

There are two certainties with BFCM: 

  • There will be operations issues, and tickets will pile up.
  • There will be questions. So many questions. Many from new customers.

BFCM is an opportunity that brands must optimize for future growth. This means being proactive with customers when they have sales questions. 

Never automate sales questions. C(x)atalyze, recommends adding the live chat function and ensuring that FRT is less than 2 minutes. Then make sure to set up urgent views in Gorgias to categorize “sales leads” based on email and chat so you never miss these opportunities — don’t let them get lost in the inbox shuffle!

Try to automate operational questions as much as possible. Have an auto-reply set up letting customers know you are busy, but will get back to them. Automate all tracking requests, change of address requests, and other questions that can be solved with dynamic variables. 

Set up automated responses to these questions

Where is my order?

C(x)atalyze recommends adding the dynamic Gorgias tag for tracking information. You can also dynamically input the customer’s address into the response to provide further peace of mind. 

Shipping and delivery questions

These can all more or less be maintained by automation. Nuances include questions about expedited shipping (especially during the holiday season) and shipping speed.

Note: Change of address can be tricky. Make sure you change the address within both Shopify and your subscription management tool if you use one. 
  • Use a Gorgias rule and Macro to enable the Gorgias change address in Shopify action which will automatically perform this task for you.
  • Tag all of these using rules and tags so an agent can review and verify that the process was performed correctly. In this manner, your customers receive an update right away and increase your CSAT score, while your agent can double-check to verify it was done correctly.

Order cancellations 

C(x)atalyze recommends automating order cancellations for new orders and non-subscriptions. If a customer places an order by mistake, this automation makes it easy for them to cancel. 

Pro Tip: Save subscriptions from cancellations — retaining customers is more cost-effective than acquiring new customers. 

Questions about BFCM / holiday season discounts 

  • Many customers will email inquiring about discounts knowing that most brands provide discounts. C(x)atalyze recommends automating this response by using Gorgias’ “contains” rule feature. Include words such as “discount” AND “BFCM”, “holiday”, “Thanksgiving”, “Black Friday”, “Christmas”, etc.
  • In the response, make sure you provide the method by which to receive a discount (e.g. signing up for SMS). 

For example, one of C(x)atalyze’s customers in the food space gets tons of questions about when the food will be delivered. This company ran a “lifetime discount” campaign last BFCM, so they set up two key automations that reduced ticket responses by 50%:

  • An auto-response rule that automatically responds to customers asking about the discount. Any tickets containing the word “discount” and a “discount/request” intent condition were targeted to generate the lifetime discount for customers.
View your Rules in Gorgias
  • An auto-response to WISMO tickets. Using Gorgias Intent and Rules, tickets that included certain keywords (e.g. “where is my order”, “order status”, etc.).   received auto-responses that included a tracking URL.

Give your ecommerce strategy a boost this holiday shopping season

The name of the game this Black Friday - Cyber Monday isn’t just to get a ton of online sales, it’s to set up your ecommerce site for a successful holiday shopping season. 

If you want to move the meter, focus on setting up strong BFCM automation now. 

Gorgias is designed with ecommerce merchants in mind. Find out how Gorgias’s time-saving automations and convenient platform can help you create successful customer experiences.

Claim your demo today, or sign up to try Gorgias.

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Alexa Hertel
Senior Editor at Gorgias
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