December 22, 2015

6 Retail Lessons Learned from Black Friday


As you know, if you read my post pre-Black Friday, that Black Friday is the BIGGEST retail holiday of the year. 

This year, I put significant time into planning out the strategy for Black Friday/Cyber Monday for my fashion line. The past couple of years have been ok, and growth year over year, however I knew I could do more.

It's my pleasure to share with you today, the 6 key learnings from my Black Friday/Cyber Monday promo (herein referred to as Black Friday weekend).


1. Generate Excitement 

If you don't promote often or rarely promote a specific product, why not feature that product as part of your promotion?

Conventional eCommerce/merchandising wisdom would tell you to focus on clearing out slow moving inventory. I agree with this strategy, and at certain times of year, moving out slow SKUs or seasonal products works well.

Problem is, if you're trying to encourage existing customers to buy more, or bring in new customers, it's NOT the most exciting promotion.

This is why it's truly important to set a clear objective for your Black Friday weekend promotions. This is something I did for my business - my goal was clear, to get existing or tipping-point customers to try/buy additional products (i.e. not my hero product). 

And guess what? It worked.

I focused my promotions for Black Friday on a % off a collection of items, with a deep discount on 4 'door crashers' throughout the day.

For the door crashers, I chose 4 secondary products that have good reviews, but are a tougher sell online. I chose colours that were slower moving, and went out at a very aggressive price point (50% off). All items were final sale. 

The result? Excitement! We'd never done this type of promotion. The time sensitivity had people staying up until 12:01am to get that one door crasher.

Yes, it was aggressive but the channels I promoted it through were largely 'free'. We did virtually no paid advertising.

The Result? Our Black Friday weekend sales were up over 500% over last year.


2. Black Friday Customers are GOOD customers

In November, I attended an event hosted by Shopify in which Vantage Analytics presented compelling evidence that customers attained on Black Friday or Cyber Monday are NOT just deal seekers.

These are good, likely to repeat customers that will most likely match your current customer profile. They just maybe needed that extra little 'push' to make their first (or repeat) purchase.

During my Black Friday weekend promotions, I saw customers not just buying one item. They were buying multiples, including non-promoted items mixed with promoted to build their baskets to past the free shipping levels. 

The Result? Many of these customers have repurchased since the sale. Win-win.


3. Less is the new More - Be Strategic with Email

Email sending frequency goes up exponentially during the holiday season, starting with Black Friday weekend.

I wanted to use my mailing list strategically.

First, I sent out an email Wednesday night to my mailing list letting them know about the sale early. I directed them to a separate collection on my website (that you'd need to know the address to get to!) and added a bonus accessory if they ordered before end of day Thursday. 

Second, I created a separate mailing list in mailchimp (and asked in my Wednesday email), for people who wanted an email reminder of each door crasher going live (they were time sensitive). I didn't want to annoy people on the main list and increase unsubscribes by bombarding their inboxes on Black Friday.

Third, I sent two reminder emails. One on Friday at midnight to notify the door crasher #1 going live to the entire list. The last email was only to those who didn't open the first Friday email. I created a segment in Mailchimp to do this (directions here). 

The result? Our open rates/clicks were decent. Our unsubscribes low. 


4. Promotions can have a healthy margin

Don't be afraid to promote. Seriously.

Unless you're making the worlds most coveted ear muffs from rare silk worms, you'll likely benefit from the added exposure particularly on days when consumers are seeking deals. Nothing is worse than getting traffic on your site, only to have it bounce off onto your competitor's site on a key retail holiday.

Promotions CAN have a healthy margin but you NEED to know your numbers.  

As a baseline you should know your gross margin by product, shipping costs, and what effect that has on your gross margin at what level (i.e. free ship over X$). Also, knowing your AOV (average order value) is important. If you know that most people tend to order over $X, then you can feel more confident planning promotions. 

Lastly, if you have insight into your LTV (lifetime value) of a customer that would be splendid :). The Build my Online Store podcast has a couple of episodes that touch on this metric, as does the eCommerce fuel podcast.  

For example, if your LTV is on the higher end, you know that a well targeted, well timed and aggressive promotion can lead to acquisition of a customer that is likely to spend with you again, and spend well.

{I highly recommend you listen to this episode on 'hunting and catching whales' from the eCommerce fuel podcast for more info on this!}

The result? Investing margin now, if you're confident in your product + know your numbers can result in high repeat sales of regular priced product later.


5. You don't need to invest money to promote - boost not ad

When I said in point #1 that I did virtually no paid advertising, it's true. The only thing we did on Black Friday was boost our 4 door crashers to those who already liked our page + their friends.

Our target was existing and tipping point customers, and spending $5 per boost was well worth it.

The result? We achieved decent reach, and saw a fairly high conversion rate from Facebook that day.  


6. Leverage your network - affiliates

My fashion line has an affiliate program that we don't use very often. It's an area of our business that I'd like to grow our focus on in 2016. 

For Black Friday weekend though, we reached out. Not only to our Affiliate network, but also to bloggers we'd worked with in the past who potentially might be doing roundups, and who's audience would love to know about a deal in the travel clothing space. 

I developed banner ads/creative, provided a refresher of how to login to the site, and the offers.

We even added an element of a contest (a free item of clothing for any Affiliate that drove more than $X in sales). I'd like to use this contesting more in the future as we expand our affiliate program. 

The result? Significant affiliate traffic and back links to our site for BF weekend!

What's your favourite takeaway from this blog post on learnings from Black Friday? I'd love to hear. Post your comments below.

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Wishing you much abundance + retail bliss,