Is your e-commerce store ready for Black Friday?

Last year Black Friday sales broke $1 Billion and total holiday spending was over $89B.  If you haven’t already started to prep your online business for the upcoming holiday season, you should begin now… focusing first on Black Friday!  It’s time to prepare your website so you will be ready to take advantage the biggest shopping day of the year.

Here are 5 steps you can take to prepare for Black Friday and the rest of the holiday season:

1) Make a plan now

Consider crafting a calendar to organize your sales efforts. Checklists and target dates create a coordinated, professional approach and keep your business on track during the hectic weeks leading up to Black Friday. Your calendar can include:

  • Dates to have your blog post and email ready by
  • Date to check your infrastructure security
  • Date when ad campaigns should be designed and launched
  • Date to check site readiness for high traffic and sales
  • Dates when you’ll send out email newsletters
  • Dates for different promotions

Black Friday Deals2) Discounts and Sales

Black Friday, Cyber Monday and most end-of-year holidays are all about the sales.  Shoppers, especially online shoppers, look forward to incredible savings and plan ahead in order to take advantage of these great once-a-year savings.  Now is the time to set a schedule and plan when you are going to offer your customers savings. Black Friday shoppers come looking for the best-of-the-best deals, so offering sales for a limited time might lower your profit margin but it can increase your overall sales totals.

Decide which promotions will last throughout the Black Friday sales event and which offers will only run a portion of the day. Schedule when sales prices should be applied, shaping a plan that helps different pricing and sale lengths balance your desire to both increase traffic and sales throughout the shopping weekend. For each special offer, be sure to display a countdown to let customers know time is limited. Be sure to display both the sale price and standard price to your visitors so they can calculate how much of a bargain they are getting.

3) Set up Holiday Social Media

Now that you have decided what promotions you’re going to run, you need to get the word out. Offering the best deals on the internet can’t increase your sales if no one knows about them! Create holiday themed coupons and targeted ads and banners for your social media marketing campaigns. Think about your specific market and decide how you want to target customers. Consider the following options for your Black Friday sales promotions:

  • Email Marketing – Use your email list to send out early offers to your existing customers
  • Pay-Per-Click (Google Adwords) – Consider bidding for high demand keywords such as Free Shipping, Limited time offer, holiday sale, and so on
  • Pinterest – Display your products with buyable pins
  • Facebook Ads – Quick and easy, you can set up Facebook Ads in about 30 minutes

4) Update your SEO

Black Friday is all about holiday shopping. People are looking for great buys on gifts and related holiday merchandise. It’s time to update landing pages, product descriptions, email campaigns and SEO’s to reflect what potential customers will be searching for. Using keywords such as holiday, seasonal, savings, Christmas, gifts, and Black Friday will help attract visitors to your sales event. This may sound like a daunting task but if you run on a quality eCommerce platform, it should be a fairly straight-forward task.

5) Infrastructure

Once you’ve planned Black Friday sales to attract  shoppers, it’s time to get your website ready. E-commerce is extremely competitive, more so on Black Friday than any other time of the year.  It’s hard enough to get that first click to your website when online shoppers have so many choices, so you need to make every click count. Ensure your website is running at peak performance now to create an enjoyable shopping experience and will keep them browsing your entire online store. Pages that don’t display properly on mobile devices will not hold customer attention long enough to encourage sales. Here are a few things to double check as Black Friday draws near:

  • black Friday mobile-readyCheck your traffic capacity – Black Friday is not the day to have your website crash! By checking your traffic over the course of the year, you can form a rough idea of how much capacity you’ll need to handle the increase in site traffic Black Friday sales will bring.  Check with your hosting provider if you need to scale your servers up and down as demand fluctuates.
  • Clean up your cache – Landing pages and banners that load slow and navigating will lose customer attention, so do a little house cleaning to ensure your site is at optimal speed. Be sure to clean the log files and delete old entries and redirect any inactive links. Remove any unnecessary data that could slow your sites and keep those shoppers clicking.
  • Check your mobile compatibility – Now is the time to be sure your website and landing pages are mobile compatible. In 2014, on Black Friday in, mobile traffic had claimed 46.7% of all online traffic – an increase of 24.2% over last year and totals for  the entire Thanksgiving holiday saw traffic from mobile devices account for 52.11% of all online business. A good service provider, like Pinnacle Cart, can help you optimize your website and create apps for mobile devices.
  • Check your transaction security – You aren’t the only one gearing up for the biggest online shopping days of the year. Hackers will be working overtime trying to access holiday shopper’s private and financial data. Customers demand safe and secure transactions, so take this time to double check your website security with your hosting provider to ensure your shopping cart software complies with Payment Card Industry (PCI) standards. Being hacked is devastating to a company’s reputation, be sure your site is secure this holiday season.

Black Friday is on it’s way. Start gearing up today. By setting up your promotional plan, calendar, and website you can ensure a smooth and profitable holiday season for your customers and your e-store.

What are you doing to get ready for Black Friday?  We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!