Black Friday and Cyber Monday (BFCM) is one of the most anticipated weekends for retailers across the world, offering a chance for customers to grab last minute holiday deals and for companies to effectively get rid of their stock whilst still maintaining a profit.
But, despite its prevalence in the cultural zeitgeist, many businesses still aren’t completely confident in how they can handle BFCM.
It’s a hectic weekend, after all, where shop doors are practically being blown off their hinges by a battering ram of people. A failure to prepare can be a disaster; and, whilst online retailers don’t have a physical flood of people racing for their deals, there are alternative problems which arise in the virtual space.
At Patchworks, we deal with hundreds of ecommerce clients across dozens of industries all trying to make the most of their BFCM. And, through the lens of experience, we’ve seen pretty much everything that can go wrong.
That’s why we’ve put together this ultimate guide to BFCM. We’ll talk you through how to prepare in advance, what tech to adopt, and how good integrations can be the fine line between success and failure.
What is BFCM, and why is it important for businesses?
A question people often ask is: where does Black Friday end, and Cyber Monday begin?
Traditionally, Black Friday is the first Friday after Thanksgiving, and has been a popular event in the U.S. for decades before catching on in other countries.
In contrast, Cyber Monday has only been a concept since 2005 and was invented as an attempt to promote online shopping during the holiday sales period.
Recently, though, the lines have become increasingly blurred. Over half of consumers prefer to shop online than in store, which has resulted in a combination of the huge Black Friday sales and the lesser-known Cyber Monday. Now, many retailers operate fully online Black Friday sales which last over multiple days, giving consumers more opportunity than ever to grab exclusive deals.
That’s why BFCM is especially important for ecommerce businesses. The risks are technically higher, because you’re operating huge sales over a whole weekend; but the opportunity is also multiplied with more customers than ever before looking online for discounts.
So, if you’re planning a BFCM sale, you need to make sure you’ve made plenty of preparations.
How can you prepare for BFCM?
There’s a variety of ways you can prepare your store for the BFCM sales.
That includes making decisions about strategy, products, tech, and the channels you’re using.
Here’s some of the things you should consider in preparation.
Set a plan for what’s going on offer
It might sound obvious, but many companies don’t put enough thought into what they’re going to do for their sale.
A blanket 30% off on all items is fine, but it doesn’t appeal to specific segments of your audience.
Equally, if you only offer discounts on Summer clothing despite it nearly being Christmas, your customers might feel annoyed and find a competitor which is selling more appropriate stock at a lower price.
That’s why planning in advance has the potential to put you a step ahead of everyone else. Take a deep look at your consumers’ purchasing habits and see how to encourage them to spend money on your sale, and no one else’s.
Ensure your infrastructure is sturdy and scalable
We’re sure that, during the rest of the year, your website stands up firmly against the pressure of your regular traffic.
But don’t get complacent. Just because you can handle your orders normally, doesn’t mean your systems are guaranteed to stand up during peak sales periods such as BFCM.
You’re not even necessarily safe just because you had a successful operation last year; ecommerce sales in 2021 were over 50% higher than in 2019, an enormous increase in just two years. And BFCM plays an important role across the industry - so it’s not unrealistic to predict a rise in online sales over the Black Friday weekend, either.
Create an informed and targeted campaign
Everyone knows when Black Friday is. But what people don’t know is what you’re doing for it, and with so many companies fighting to be relevant during BFCM, you need to make a strong case for why customers should go with you.
First strategise by thinking about who your audience are, and what you think they’ll be looking for during sales. BFCM is close to Christmas, for example, and if your store sells a lot of good products for gifting you might want to build a marketing campaign around that.
You also need to justify why customers should look at your sales over your competitors. You probably sell similar products to someone else, and standing out is essential.
Think of reasons how you can elevate your sale to appeal to your audience, as mentioned in our first tip, then focus your marketing efforts on that so people know what they’re getting if they shop with you.
Build a bespoke and effective tech stack
To support your strategies and campaigns, you need to have the right technology backing you up.
But you can’t just rely on the standard tech everyone else is using because it’s the easiest way forward. You need to build a bespoke tech stack of best of breed solutions, which is perfectly tailored to your business’ needs and goals.
For example, if your research into demographics shows your customers are far more likely to look at SMS reminders over email, there’s no point investing all of your time into integrating an email marketing automation system.
What’s an effective tech stack for boosting your performance?
The best tech stack isn't one size fits all; what works for you might not work for another company. And during BFCM, you need to make sure you have a bespoke stack which supports and compliments your increased traffic.
But that doesn’t mean some solutions aren’t worth considering regardless of your individual needs.
Here’s some tech solutions which may come in handy during BFCM.
Buy now, pay later
Buy now, pay later (BNPL) systems are becoming increasingly popular amongst the public. In fact, whilst they make up just 2.1% of ecommerce transactions currently, that figure is expected to double by 2024.
Due to the pandemic, and an increased cost of living, people appreciate when companies offer them ways to reduce the financial blow when buying an expensive product whilst still being able to treat themselves.
For BFCM, when prices are already slashed, this is a huge opportunity. Consumers will jump at the chance to separate an already cheap item into multiple payments to have more disposable income each month.
Email and SMS automation
You probably already have some form of SMS or email marketing, whether it be one-off purpose built messages for campaigns or an automated system which triggers based on events.
But there’s a good reason why you should invest even more time and resources into the types of messages you send to customers. 28% of consumers go on to purchase a product when they click on a push notification, so it’s important to set up a system which takes advantage of that. Not many people have push notifications activated for email, for example, so for reminders and other automated messages you might want to look at other options.
On BFCM, having a strong system for customer reminders is especially important. If someone forgets to checkout during a very limited sale, once they realise it might be too late, and it’s unlikely they’ll go through with their purchase when there’s no discount.
Returns management system
We’ve all been there during a sale. The excitement of a huge discount sometimes takes precedent in our heads over whether we actually need, or will suit, a product. No, you don’t need that toastie maker just because it’s half price. You don’t even like toasties.
That’s why you should have a returns system ready to go in preparation for BFCM, because you won’t just be busy on that one weekend; you’ll also have a lot of customer support inquiries to resolve in the weeks following.
Make sure it’s a system capable of rapid scaling, too. Your returns are normally spread out across a manageable period of time, but with everyone purchasing on the same day, they’ll be returning items during similar times.
Loyalty programme and rewards
If you run a successful BFCM campaign, you’ll be getting an influx of customers who have never shopped with you before.
And without incentive, many of those customers might just take advantage of your deals and never think to shop with you again.
Integrating a loyalty or rewards system with your platform is a great way to increase customer retention. In fact, 3 in 4 customers will switch brands for a better loyalty program, so if you invest in time for BFCM you could make huge strides at gaining new loyal consumers.
Where do integrations factor in?
Powerful integrations are extremely important when planning your BFCM strategy.
Think about how much data you deal with on a regular day; now think about how much more will be travelling through your systems during the busiest weekend of the year.
Here’s why it’s essential to spend time on your integrations in time for Black Friday.
They support your order processing
The most critical thing to get right on BFCM is making sure your orders actually go through with accuracy and reliability.
Your systems might be fine during the rest of the year, but Black Friday sees thousands more orders going through in just a few hours. That can easily overwhelm your storefront if it’s not built for resilience and scalability.
By fortifying your integrations, you build up your business’ foundations so they’re capable of bulk processing. That means, no matter how many orders go through in a second, they’ll always make it to your fulfilment system and, ultimately, your customers’ doorsteps.
They ensure a connected tech stack
We’ve offered some suggestions of ecommerce tech you can implement for BFCM. But what we haven’t touched upon is the importance of making sure those solutions are properly integrated.
Just like when someone places an order, data is transferred every time your tech solutions perform an action. So, with more visitors than normal, you’re going to need some sturdy integrations to make sure the data flows from point to end with no hitch.
That goes for all of your solutions, apps, and systems. From your ERP and WMS to your more directly customer facing tech, such as BNPL and loyalty programmes.
They can help website speeds
One of the key differences between poor integrations and strong integrations is efficiency. A poor connection could result in multiple attempts to transfer data, various errors, and duplicated or missing data.
And the more attempts those connectors make to get from point to end, the more strain it puts on your systems.
For solutions directly connected to your website and front-end, poor efficiency can actually slow your website. This is a problem regardless of the time of year, but during BFCM, people want to get their shopping done ASAP - so a sluggish website can be a dealbreaker. In fact, 1 in 4 visitors will abandon a website if it takes more than 4 seconds to load; so imagine the loss on your busiest weekend.
They help with legal and GDPR compliance
A good integration platform doesn’t just deal with data connections. They also deal with how that data is stored and kept safe - something that, if you handle your own integrations, is an extra thought you’ll need to consider which can be a complicated process.
During BFCM, you’re handling data from multiple times more people than usual. That means the risk of something going wrong is high, and you want to make sure your customers are comfortable and trust you with their personal data.
A trusted integration platform eliminates that risk. It’s always worth checking with your provider what their policy is; they should be transparent about how they handle the data you give them, and how they comply with the law.
What can Patchworks do to help?
At Patchworks, we offer a variety of ways for businesses to get themselves prepared for Black Friday. That ranges from our flagship integration platform, to some of our other software solutions.
A self-serve, no-code/low-code platform
Our integration platform has been carefully designed to put our clients at the forefront. With a self-serve dashboard, there’s no coding or technical experience required to set up your store with best-of-breed integrations.
That means you can quickly and easily implement and adapt your strategy for BFCM. Need to integrate a best-of-breed system with only a few weeks to go until Black Friday, but your IT team is occupied? Don’t worry - everyone can understand and use the platform, and we have a wiki purpose built for ease of understanding.
Our custom dashboard lets you view all of your active integrations, as well as important information such as errors and support.
The Patchworks platform is specifically built by experts with years of experience in ecommerce, so we understand the importance of powerful order processing.
With reliable and accurate data connections, you can rest assured that your storefront won’t collapse under the pressure of BFCM. Our integrations are infinitely scalable which allows you to be prepared for unexpected growth.
A new way of controlling your stock
With Patchworks’ Stockr solution, you can eliminate overselling and vastly reduce underselling. On a peak sales period like BFCM, this is extremely important for reducing customer support tickets and avoiding wasted stock.
It works by unifying all of your stores, so that they all draw from a single pool of stock. That means that, when one store runs out of stock, it can draw from the shared pile to make sure customers don’t end up paying for something which has run out.
That also means less popular stores divert stock to ones with more traffic; ensuring their stock doesn’t go to waste.
Bespoke ecommerce business intelligence
The run up to BFCM should involve lots of strategising, however we believe that strategy should be built on existing data.
That includes things such as cart abandonment rates, customer lifetime value (CLV), load speeds, and other key metrics.
With Patchworks BI, you’re equipped to collect all of that information and use it to create a powerful BFCM experience for your customers. Analyse your current flaws, and optimise your website so you’re running at peak performance.
Plus, with the real-time insights BI offers, you can make adjustments to your campaigns and marketing based on immediate feedback. That way, you can change the direction of strategies which don’t seem to be working.
Some examples of ecommerce integrations
ERP / NetSuite: Smooth, hands-off operations
Have your front and back ends constantly talking and keeping numbers up to date by integrating Shopify with an ERP system like NetSuite. Keep the sales and fulfilment process smooth, effective, and faster than it’s ever been while resting assured that stock numbers and customer data are up to date for the easiest purchasing process possible.
Finance / QuickBooks: Futureproof your growing business by the books
Money makes the world go round and you need your books dynamic, up to date, and accurate to help you strategise and grow your business. By integrating Shopify with a finance system like QuickBooks, you’re constantly on top of your latest sales data, as well as income and outgoings. Help plan for the future and minimise risk while thriving by understanding the trends in your finances. Just follow the money!
Marketplace / Amazon: All your sales data collated, accurate, and looking great
Check you out, selling your wares all over the place – someone’s been busy! Your business is expanding and you’re getting customers from other Marketplaces apart from your Shopify online store, so let’s keep that data collated, updated, and ready to use. By integrating Shopify with Marketplaces such as Amazon, all your sales information is constantly synced and presented in a way that’s easy for you to understand and use. Stock numbers are reflected across your online presence and customer data is consistent, regardless of where they came from.
Marketing / Emarsys: Keep those sales coming with intelligent, data driven advertising
If you get your eCommerce and Marketing systems integrated, you’re not just helping to draw in new business, you’re increasing your chances of getting your existing ones spending with you again and again.
As your Marketing system helps target the right user with the right message, Magento is busy making sense of their consumer data and creating bespoke profiles. These can be fed back to the marketing, improving the right message and helping retain customers. The more they work together, the stronger the relationship!
POS / Sitoo: Make sales count for data AND money
Cha-ching! That’s the sound of exponential growth and a healthy business. By integrating Magento with a POS system like Sitoo, your payment, refund, and sales data is fed right to your shopfront to keep numbers flowing. This beautiful friendship helps you track customer sales behaviours and grow custom profiles to feed into your wider business strategy – help your business grow with every sale.
WMS / Peoplevox: Instant, proactive stock management
When the shopfront and warehouse stop talking, you’re going to have problems. Integrating Magento with a WMS system like Peoplevox is the best way to keep on top of stock numbers in real time and cut down on embarrassing overselling. By constantly sharing data, you eliminate the risk of human error, inconsistent information, and time spent manually sifting through the numbers to fix problems.
ERP / Cegid: Keep the customer happy
One sure way to turn a customer away for good is to tell them that a product they were excited to buy is actually out of stock – guaranteed grumpiness. Make sure your orders, stock levels, and sales are fully synced by integrating BigCommerce with an ERP system like Cegid to give your customers a smooth, accurate shopping experience without the nasty shock of overselling. Fully automating your order processing and sales transactions also cuts down on operating costs and your own valuable time wasted, if you’re interested in that sort of thing…
POS / Opsuite: A data driven growth strategy
BigCommerce can handle a lot of the heavy lifting in your online shop, but integration to a POS system like Opsuite will give it that extra flow of data to strategically scale your business. Up to date sales data, customer behaviour profiles, and synchronised product categories across all your eCommerce platforms help give everyone on your site the easiest path to conversion possible. Data flows feed back to a single dashboard to give you a clear picture of sales trends to help you plan for the future and have your business reach its full potential.
WMS / SEKO: Fully and transparently automate your logistics
Your warehouse and logistics network are the backbone of your company; without it, your customers don’t get their product – and that’s just bad business! By integrating BigCommerce with a WMS like SEKO, you ensure that there are no more crossed wires when it comes to your relationship with the customers. Fully automated data flows mean accurate stock numbers across your eCommerce ecosystem, returns are handled cleanly, and you spend less time manually entering data across the purchasing process.
Marketplaces / eBay: One united shopfront
WooCommerce’s open source platform means you can easily create a shopfront for your business quickly and easily. If you’re doing this to support your existing online presence, you’ve now got multiple sources of online business. Fantastic, but don’t lose track! If you’re selling stock in other marketplaces like eBay, integrating that with your WooCommerce site will help you manage inventory across the multiple shopfronts, have one manageable dashboard to track sales data, and keep consistent customer profiles across your eCommerce ecosystem.
ERP / Microsoft Dynamics: Study purchasing patterns to never miss a sale
WooCommerce has made it easier than ever to set up an online store, but ease doesn’t equal compromise. Integrating your WooCommerce into your wider systems, specifically an ERP like Microsoft Dynamics, means that your stock numbers, sales data, buying patterns, customer profiles and more are instantly stored with your other data in one place. This means you can use the data from your WooCommerce store to feed back into your wider business strategy, helping you proactively make the right decision for your market.
WMS / SEKO: Cut down on boring and risky data entry
Keeping track of stock, especially when selling across multiple platforms, can be a headache at the best of times – that’s why we prefer to just let the technology get on with it. By integrating WooCommerce with SEKO or other WMS, you keep the data automatically flowing and stock numbers updating across your business in real time. Don’t worry about human error when working through the numbers anymore; now you can focus on growing your business!
ERP / Prima: Let the data do the talking
Take the guesswork and legwork out of the equation by integrating your Commercetools store to an ERP like Prima. By automating workflows across your business, not only can you cut down on time wasted with data entry, you can get a more comprehensive and clear look at your sales data to advise you as you grow your business. Improve profit margins, identify trends, and make decisions based on data you can trust.
Data platform / PowerBI: One dashboard to rule them all
All the sales data in the world won’t be of any use if you can’t make sense of it. PowerBI, being the wonderful hard working data platform it is, takes information from around your business and compiles it into a helpful dashboard for you. Integrating PowerBI with Commercetools means that your customer and sales data can be collated and presented alongside other information from around your organisation, in a way that you can easily use to strategise and report back on.
WMS / Peoplevox: The right to peaceful processing
Take the human limitations and error out of warehouse management and fulfilment of orders by linking Commercetools to Peoplevox. Automatically syncing product and order data to your warehouse system means your team can start processing orders immediately at the point of purchase. It’s not just about speed though – it’s about transparency and accuracy. Now you can send real time updates including tracking data straight to your customer as well as around your business, ensure displayed stock levels are accurate, and streamline your returns process automatically and with confidence.