Conversion Optimization Best Practices to Help You Make the Most of Black Friday

Black Friday has firmly established itself as one of the busiest and most lucrative days of the year for ecommerce businesses. Falling the day after Thanksgiving and traditionally regarded as the curtain-raiser on the holiday shopping season, it has become something of a mini-shopping season in itself. Many retailers release a host of special offers in the days leading up to and following Black Friday, as well as slashing prices on the day itself, across the whole weekend, and on ‘Cyber Monday’ which follows.

Various ecommerce sectors can expect traffic to increase by 200% and more on Black Friday, so it’s essential to prepare for how you can capitalize on this spike. You can also expect your site visitors to behave differently at this time of year, as they are almost pre-programmed to buy if they can find a bargain.

While your window of opportunity might seem short, with only a few days around Black Friday to make the most of the high levels of buyer intent and swarms of card-carrying consumers flooding the internet, preparation is key if you want to take advantage. In fact, some businesses spend all year planning their Black Friday campaigns. You will want to ensure your site and your marketing efforts are optimized for this unique period, allowing you to match the expectations of bargain-hunting shoppers, and giving you the best chance of securing sales amongst a sea of competition.

One thing to bear in mind, as with any ‘best practice’ advice, is that these aren’t one-size-fits-all cookie-cutter tactics that you can simply roll out to your own site and watch your conversion rate soar.

But these are examples of proven principles that have underpinned many successful optimization efforts around one of the most important times of the year for retailers.

Think about how you can adapt these approaches to fit your audience and site. No two websites are the same, so what works for one site won’t necessarily work for others. But if you pay attention to your own audience, use the data you have at hand and test different approaches, it will only make your performance this year and in future years stronger than ever.

Urgency

This is a time limited deal, customers need to know it’s time to act NOW or they’ll miss out. Whether your run your discounts just for the day or for the whole weekend, shoppers are prepared to buy if they can secure a good deal, but you need to ram home that message and instill a sense of urgency when they visit your site or see your marketing messages.

Another emotional hook to use is scarcity. This creates a similar emotional response in shoppers – ‘Only 100 TVs offered at this crazy price!’ Fear of missing out is a strong clincher that can drive a customer to take action.

Think about how you can portray urgency in your value proposition, copy, imagery or other messaging on your store.

For example, countdown timers are a common sight – it’s a trusted tactic that works for many ecommerce stores. Timers can also be presented within emails (tools like Nifty Images and Sendtric allow you to do this for free). Don’t be afraid to show customers what they’ve already missed out on either, showing out-of-stock price-drop products can remind people that they will miss out if they don’t buy soon.

Prominence

If you want to keep a potential shopper on your site, then you need to make it clear to them that you offer what they want. And what they want on Black Friday are bargains.

Pretty much every shopper will be looking for deals on this day, so it needs to be immediately apparent how to find your special offers as soon as a visitor lands. If they don’t see any deals straight away, they’ll quickly bounce and find a retailer that is offering discounts.

Make sure you don’t just bury the price reductions on individual product pages, you have lots of site real estate available to signpost shoppers to the bargains. You’ll see sites using custom graphics for hero images on the homepage and category pages; pop-up boxes and banners; site takeovers and overlays. Some stores also create microsites or new menu categories just around Black Friday product offers, to make it as easy as possible for customers to find the discounts.

Trust and reassurance

Fire sale days like Black Friday could easily attract brand new visitors who’ve never been on your site before. That means you need to gain their trust quickly if they are to buy from you.

More people visit sites they’ve not been on before in search of the lowest of the low prices. Unfortunately, such a busy shopping day can also attract the lowest of the low operators, seeking to make a quick buck at the expense of bargain-hunting shoppers.

According to security watchdogs, nearly a third of people put themselves at greater risk of fraud on Black Friday and Cyber Monday compared to other times of the year, by using unfamiliar or non-secure sites in their desperation to bag a good deal.

But as shoppers become savvier and heed security warnings, you’ll want to ensure your site looks as trustworthy as possible, particularly since your marketing efforts in the build-up to the day will likely mean that you will attract more first-time visitors to your site than on a typical day.

Trust seals, badges and providing phone numbers or a live chat facility all help, as well as the basics of using HTTPS.

Value beyond price

Convincing first-time and returning visitors to stick with you on Black Friday is, of course, going to be down to more than just trust. You’ll be competing with dozens or other sites offering flash sales and rock-bottom pricing on the same products, while consumers will be price comparing like there’s no tomorrow. If price doesn’t differentiate you from a competitor, then you need to give them something that will – and make sure you communicate this message as quickly as possible.

That is where your value proposition becomes more important than ever. Think about what it is that your business can offer that helps you stand out and make sure you portray this in the most succinct and clear way possible.

Personalize your offering

While your value proposition can be a crucial step to helping convince customers to explore your store, what can be even more effective is to simply let the products do the talking. This is particularly powerful when you are able to showcase the items that are most likely to appeal to each different shopper, whether by targeting different content to different segments and cohorts of shoppers or using more advanced methods of individual personalization.

If you can personalize any of your content, then ensure you promote offers that are relevant to the person landing on your site. For example, if you have a previous male customer who sees a homepage hero banner boasting about 50% off all dresses and women’s shoes, then it’s not likely to appeal.

You can segment your audiences based on a whole host of signals, such as the PPC search terms they used, social media campaign they clicked on, previous purchases for returning visitors, or location and time zone. This allows you to promote the most relevant offers as soon as possible in the journey.

There are also increasingly effective tools available such as Sentient Aware, which uses AI and machine learning to deliver true one-on-one personalization from the moment a visitor lands on your site. This means that each version of your sale copy can be optimized to each user, presenting the most persuasive and enticing products that are most likely to appeal.

Plan ahead

This is a point that we’ve already made, but is worth repeating. Black Friday is about more than just one day. If you want to compete, you need to plan ahead and gear up to give yourselves the best chance of attracting and converting customers throughout this hectic sales frenzy. As well as deciding what discounts you offer, you need to plan out your marketing efforts, email campaigns, on-site copy, graphics, and images.

It’s also good to start softening up your audience in good time, reminding your existing customers that you exist. Drip email campaigns, regular marketing communications across multiple channels and teasers about what you might be offering around Black Friday to help build anticipation.

Familiarity breeds sales, so reminding existing customers that you’re there and alerting potential new customers to what you do in plenty of time ahead of the holiday season can help increase your chances of standing out among the crowded online retail world.

It’s also a good opportunity to utilize your existing customer base by encouraging them to become a tribe of brand ambassadors, for example, incentivizing them to share your products and deals, perhaps for an extra discount, free gifts or added benefits.

Social proof can be a key component of many optimization campaigns, both on and off site. Imagine seeing crowds gathering outside a big department store when the sales start, it only serves to fuel demand and encourages more shoppers to join the line. Social proof can serve a similar purpose for online stores, at a time of year when it is essential to build anticipation, instill a sense of urgency and make your store’s content appear more persuasive than ever.