From the Experts: 10 Black Friday & Cyber Monday Marketing Strategies

Marketing on Black Friday and Cyber Monday has never been easier. Get the top ten strategies proven to drive sales, straight from the experts.
With insights from:
With insights from: With insights from: With insights from: With insights from:
INTRO
It’s time to think bigger about Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Compared to last year, this holiday season is going to look a little different. According to a recent Yotpo poll, over 44% of shoppers are expecting the 2021 BFCM marketing strategies to be a combination of 2019 and 2020 trends — both a continuance of online shopping and a return to stores on the rise. 

Together with our partners and customers, we’ve compiled the top marketing strategies to help eCommerce brands to get the most out of BFCM this year. You don’t want to miss these.

Table of Contents
01
Create a sense of urgency and incentivize immediate action
02
Build a loyalty program now to earn long-term retention post-holiday
03
Capitalize on shifting in-store experiences
04
Get creative on social media (and increase your ad budget)
05
Use AI to drive discovery commerce
06
Optimize your site in advance for search result shoppers
07
Maximize the value of subscription customers
08
Optimize your messaging strategy to respond to real-time behavior
09
Try new personalization tactics, and vary them across channels
10
Use visual content to increase awareness early
01
Create a sense of urgency and incentivize immediate action
02
Build a loyalty program now to earn long-term retention post-holiday
03
Capitalize on shifting in-store experiences
04
Get creative on social media (and increase your ad budget)
05
Use AI to drive discovery commerce
06
Optimize your site in advance for search result shoppers
07
Maximize the value of subscription customers
08
Optimize your messaging strategy to respond to real-time behavior
09
Try new personalization tactics, and vary them across channels
10
Use visual content to increase awareness early
Create a sense of urgency and incentivize immediate action
Chapter 01
Create a sense of urgency and incentivize immediate action

When exactly should brands start announcing their sales? We’re seeing October for bigger retailers, and smaller brands start rolling out their promotions in early November. But, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. Make sure you assess the holiday with your business’ financial and inventory management capabilities in mind.

Getting a head start on communicating discounts, promotions, and events to your audiences is key to building anticipation and maximizing engagement throughout your Black Friday marketing strategy. “eCommerce Black Friday/Cyber Monday preparation needs to begin earlier than ever in 2021 in order to remain competitive in today’s digital landscape amidst the predicted “return to stores” trend,” says Courtney Messerli, Director of eCommerce and Search, goop.

In addition, there’s also no one-size-fits-all when it comes to the right channels for these urgent campaigns. According to Salesforce, over 76% of consumers prefer different channels depending on context, whether they’re browsing, seeking advice, or making purchases. Do your homework and ensure you’ve segmented your audiences based on their channel preferences prior to sending out your BFCM comms. 

When your brand does decide to start sending out time-sensitive campaigns, it’s essential to do so on the channels shoppers prefer. “Even though BFCM promotions are inherently time-sensitive, it’s crucial for brands to incorporate urgency into their on-site messaging,” says Michael Wadsworth, Partner Marketing Associate, Justuno. “With more choices than ever to choose from, consumers are more likely to window shop and leave your site without converting.”

SMS marketing is the preferred channel for the majority of eCommerce shoppers. In a recent Yotpo survey, the majority of shoppers (34%) are most likely to sign up to receive texts from your brand before their first purchase. Why? Consumers are motivated by a sense of urgency, like time-sensitive offers and perks. Over 57% reported the top incentive to sign up for SMS being a one-time discount code, 53% said the prospect of getting early access to sales or new releases, and 45% said regular, text-only offers are their top incentive. That means a discount-heavy holiday, like BFCM, is the ideal time to engage shoppers via SMS (and keep them engaged post-holiday as well).

SMS makes it easy for shoppers to engage and purchase directly from the messages they receive. Globally since 2018, there’s been 1.3x growth in mobile purchasing. During Black Friday and Cyber Monday, “drops” and limited-time offers are proven marketing strategies, and they’re proven successful for SMS as well. The immediacy of a text message encourages shoppers to act right away, especially during the holiday season when they’re already primed to purchase.

Build a loyalty program now to earn long-term retention post-holiday
Chapter 02
Build a loyalty program now to earn long-term retention post-holiday

It’s hard to avoid the fact that a lot of holiday acquisition will be from one-time shoppers. You can’t just bring people in to purchase and cross your fingers they’ll come back. You have to go into the holiday with a built-in retention strategy — and at the core of that strategy is a loyalty program. 

A loyalty program is the engine that drives retention. According to Salesforce, 78% of consumers are more likely to buy from a brand with a loyalty program, and according to Yotpo, nearly 70% of shoppers can be incentivized to buy directly from a brand with the promise of getting discounts, coupons, or points toward their next purchase. A loyalty program provides the experiences that will keep customers coming back, even after their holiday purchase. 

To get the most out of your Black Friday marketing strategy, focus on continuing to build loyalty across digital channels after a shoppers’ initial spend. Encourage shoppers to join your loyalty program for an additional, holiday-inspired incentive, then use the program to continue to communicate with the new members and maximize engagement in between purchases. 

“Learn customer shopping preferences to cater holiday sales, and then leverage the additional behavioral data you collect during BFCM to cater your post-holiday communications as well,” says Joshua Aven, CEO & Founder, CURIO. “Incorporate your loyalty program by rewarding for purchases or engaging with your brand in other ways to keep your brand top-of-mind throughout the entire year.”

Send them post-holiday follow-up messages via SMS or email (or both!), depending on which channel they prefer, and encourage them to engage across your social channels or in store to continue to rack up points. And, as a bonus: when shoppers are more engaged with your loyalty program, your brand can collect more first-party data, preparing you for the upcoming shifts in cookies and privacy.

Capitalize on shifting in-store experiences
Chapter 03
Capitalize on shifting in-store experiences

In-store shoppers are far more likely to walk around and browse than shoppers who happen upon your website. While they may have an idea of what they’re looking for, they’ll be presented with more options in person, making it extremely important that your brand cultivates superior customer experiences in store to expand their cart size in the moment.

Build anticipation by pairing new product releases or limited-time offers with in-store or in-person events. Give shoppers the opportunity to experience a “pop-up” or limited time experience to drive them to engage.

“Whether it be a ticket to an event where your brand is represented, or an invite to attend the next trunk show, the recent success of web 3.0 has shown that utility in purchases beyond just the physical goods drives greater demand and loyalty with your brand,” says Joe Tatarski, Co-Founder, Tomorrow.

Alongside in-person events, try offering checkout options that suit varying shopper comfort levels. Self checkout or contactless checkout and return options can help to provide a level of ease to shoppers who might not yet feel back to normal shopping in public.

In addition, make sure your POS systems are up-to-date with the latest payment options, including Apple Pay, tap cards, wearables, and more. Ensure your loyalty program is integrated into your POS system as well, so loyalty members can sign in via a QR code to be recognized as a VIP member, and shoppers can continue to earn points for their purchases while they purchase in store. According to Bond, over 66% of consumers will modify their brand spend to maximize loyalty benefits. 

We also predict a rise in shoppers choosing to take the buy-online-pick-up-in-store route (BOPIS) this year. Over the course of last year’s holiday season, BOPIS made up 25% of all orders, an increase of 40% from 2019. With more BOPIS options, including Shopify’s Click-and-Collect app, your brand can increase in-store pick-up and bridge the gap between online and offline channels. According to NRF, over 81% of consumers want to try curbside pickup, and this holiday may be the time they finally do it.

Get creative on social media (and increase your ad budget)
Chapter 04
Get creative on social media (and increase your ad budget)

The definition of going shopping has changed. Online shopping shifted the meaning of the word from a deliberate act — going to the mall or spending the day hopping from store to store — to the serendipitous moments that happen in between consuming other forms of content, like scrolling through Instagram or catching up on Youtube videos.

Social media is massively important all year, but especially during Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Shoppers are used to “always shopping” there, a.k.a. being shown ads while browsing platforms — 30% of internet users discover new brands or products via social media ads, and 51% of consumers surveyed in NPD’s fashion apparel report said the content they saw on their Facebook and Instagram feed resulted in a purchase.

Bolster conversion from social by ensuring your brand identity tells a unique story, one that shoppers recognize right away, even without excessive copy or slogans. Your look, feel, tone, and voice should all authentically represent you and your customer community. “Black Friday 2021 and the holiday shopping season this year are going to feel very different,” says Nik Sharma, CEO, Sharma Brands. “Last year, the world went through an incredible learning phase with eCommerce, and this year those practices, and more, are going to be expected by consumers.”

If you haven’t already, now is the time to try new things on social media in order to stand out from the crowd in a creative way. Your brand is probably already on Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Why not try TikTok? Snapchat? TikTok is still an untapped market for many brands, and now, before the holiday, is the time to start gaining traction on the platform.

One viral video can lead to a cult following around a product, or your brand as a whole, so it’s worth it to start now. Think carefully about your brand identity and your customers’ experience, and find humor in it. You won’t always strike gold, but you’ll start gaining traction and your Black Friday marketing strategy will begin to stand out. Plus, ephemeral content, like Snapchat video, image, or gif content that lasts online 24 hours before disappearing, is a great way to leverage limited-time sales or promo codes. 

Use AI to drive discovery commerce
Chapter 05
Use AI to drive discovery commerce

A relatively new term on the scene, “discovery commerce” refers to the back-end automation that helps products find people, rather than leaving people to find products that suit them all on their own. So, it’s an engine that makes your team’s life — and acquisition strategy — easier, and it’s especially useful during the weeks leading up to (and during) BFCM. 

Holiday shoppers are increasingly open to purchasing from new brands — over 63% of global shoppers in a recent survey conducted by Facebook said they enjoyed discovering items they weren’t actively looking for. But, holiday shoppers are also busy. They can’t actually spend two entire days browsing online and in-store (even though they’d like to!). This year, discovery commerce can do that work for them. By reaching shoppers where they’re already spending their time, your brand can enable easier discovery at early touchpoints by connecting the right products to the right people. 

Discovery commerce is powered by artificial intelligence; the AI engine recognizes shopper preferences and buying behaviors, and delivers the best product sets accordingly. It works, too — shoppers who click on a personalized product recommendation have a 26% higher average order value (AOV).  

Optimize your site in advance for search result shoppers
Chapter 06
Optimize your site in advance for search result shoppers

Showing up in search results is one of the best ways for eCommerce brands to increase discovery during the BFCM holiday season. Over 34% of consumers browsed for ideas or inspiration for the holidays on search engines in 2020, compared to 24% in 2019. What does that mean for your eCommerce brand? 

The early touchpoints are increasingly important. 

Shoppers that haven’t yet chosen the brand they’d like to purchase a product from will likely type the product name into search, and it’s up to your brand to ensure you’re coming up first in results. Even if a shopper discovers a product on social media, they’ll still do their due diligence. They’ll window search online and comparison shop prior to committing to a purchase. 

Ensure you’ve optimized your site for search results leading up to the holiday to maximize your chance of showing up. Get your brand in front of audiences early to start generating anticipation, and to encourage shoppers to do their preliminary research on your site before the holiday. This will help your brand collect more first-party data, an essential strategy, as privacy guidelines continue to shift

“With the trend of ‘early holiday shopping’ creating shipping and inventory anxiety, your retail store can be prepared with first-party data for the holiday shopping chaos to come,” says Will Perkins, Director of Performance, Visiture, a Wpromote company. “This includes getting your brand’s most engaging creatives and highest priority products in front of consumers early in the holiday buying cycle. As a result, brands have the opportunity to capture the earlier demand and also create fresh first-party data to retarget potential consumers during peak periods of holiday shopping.”

Maximize the value of subscription customers
Chapter 07
Maximize the value of subscription customers

If your brand already has a large collection of subscription customers that will complete their typical purchase or receive their standard package during the holiday season, don’t fret. You can still engage those subscribers with special limited-time perks and add-ons during the holidays to build emotional loyalty.

In addition, try incentivizing referrals. If subscribers refer a friend during the holiday season, tack on an extra sample or a bonus box. With this strategy your brand not only increases awareness with word-of-mouth marketing beyond the holiday, but you also encourage shoppers to expand their preferences beyond the hero products.

“During key sales periods such as BFCM, everyone is fighting for customer attention and driving up costs of paid acquisition,” says Daniel Kouchnir, VP Commercial Strategy, Vayner Commerce. “If you want to bring costs down in a scalable way, start early, and think about how to leverage network effects and organic attention to your advantage.”

“By adding value in an authentic way to your brand, your community, customers, or other stakeholders will be happy to help you build your business,” says Kouchnir. Subscription customers are typically loyal to a select product they love and can’t go without. Use your Black Friday marketing strategy as an opportunity to introduce these brand advocates to additional products they may also like with a free sample size. For even deeper personalization, give them a few sample options to choose from so you can learn what other products they’re most interested in, and you can tailor cross-sell communications accordingly.

Optimize your messaging strategy to respond to real-time behavior
Chapter 08
Optimize your messaging strategy to respond to real-time behavior

During the holidays, the most impactful messages a brand can send are messages personalized based on an actual action recently taken by a shopper. Consumers may have multiple tabs open at once, and they may be shifting between them to compare products prior to committing. Ensure your email marketing strategy is set in place to send timely emails (or SMS messages!) if a shopper has taken a revenue-lost action, like abandoning their cart or bouncing after clicking a promo. 

Prepare your email list in advance by collecting as much data as possible. “Work with your email partner to understand the zero and first-party data being captured and how to use that information to target and personalize your messages,” says Cory Whitefield, GM Strategic Solutions, Listrak. “Identity resolution allows marketers to recognize the traffic they should know and get opt-ins from the traffic they don’t. Identifying more users scales the send pool for behavioral triggered campaigns like browse and cart abandonment.”

Try developing a lead generation landing page and promoting it before and during BFCM  to make it easy for shoppers to join your mailing list. With a page dedicated to collection, your brand can acquire key zero-party data that shoppers willingly submit, like their name, address, email, phone number, and even preferences or product interests. 

Leverage the information you collect during the holiday to respond to shopper behavior to win them back, or remind them of upcoming drops.

Try new personalization tactics, and vary them across channels
Chapter 09
Try new personalization tactics, and vary them across channels

Personalization is table stakes when it comes to what we’re used to: your name in an email, mentions of your preferences, comms via your preferred channel. It’s up to eCommerce brands to take personalized experiences to the next level.

To take your personalization efforts a step further, try personalizing the deals themselves. Show shoppers that you recognize them and their preferences by offering a one-time promo code (maybe it’s their name, like JOHN20) for them to use during the holiday only, or for them to use on a product they’ve clicked multiple times. This is exciting for shoppers, and it also helps your brand with inventory management.

“Because customers expect the best deal during BFCM, communicate clearly when you’re in fact offering the best deal available / ever (e.g., homepage banner, call outs in emails),” recommends Yoon-Ji Nam, Head of Growth, Magic Spoon.

Or, try something completely new, like augmented reality. According to Forbes, the market value of AR and VR systems is set to reach a staggering $97 billion by 2025, meaning now is the perfect time to get started. 

There’s nothing more personalized for a consumer than seeing their actual face, self, or home in or around a product they’re considering purchasing. And, AR is a great way to show shoppers that you care about their comfort levels during a time when in-store shopping and trying on products is more difficult. Virtual dressing rooms or AR-based displays help holiday shoppers visualize a product in their own space — the ultimate form of personalization.

Use visual content to increase awareness early
Chapter 10
Use visual content to increase awareness early

Building a unique, recognizable brand identity is essential for eCommerce brands. But, it’s more than just storytelling that creates a personality for the brand — it’s the visuals, too, that bring that brand identity to life. To increase awareness prior to the holiday, your business needs to promote visual content that keeps your brand top-of-mind. Invest in influencers — 17% of consumers have browsed for ideas or inspiration for holiday shopping from influencers in 2020, compared to 8% in 2019 — but invest in your customers for user-generated content, too.

“Especially given the lingering death of third-party cookies and the impact of iOS updates, now is the time to begin experimenting with different channels that you haven’t considered before in order to meet your buyers where they are,” says Tom Logan, Co-founder, Cohley. “And the key to success there? Channel-specific content.”

Optimizing the right content for the right channel is especially important when it comes to building up your brand authenticity.  eCommerce businesses as a whole are shifting away from the same generic, stock images on every channel, and instead they’re moving toward imagery that’s authentic, real, and varies based on channel to provide a better experience, no matter where a shopper discovers your brand.

Leverage your real community of customers as the consistent focal point of your brand’s visual identity and marketing strategy, like using real customer-generated photos and videos in your marketing content. When shoppers see themselves reflected in content, your brand becomes more authentic, relatable, familiar, and trustworthy — qualities that incentivize shoppers to make quick decisions, especially during the holidays.

“Shoppers are inundated with offers and deals, so creating urgency and giving shoppers all of the information they need to make the purchase right then and there is vital to your success,” says Jake Chatt, Head of Brand Marketing, Nosto.

“We’ve seen brands showcase FOMO language, such as a timer or stock countdown, and user-generated content in their product recommendations, to create trust, on product detail pages,” recommends Chatt. “Personalized social proof does wonders for conversion rates during the peak sales season.”

Conclusion

As shopping continues to shift in the wake of the ever-changing pandemic, one thing is certain: Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and, well, eCommerce as a whole, aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. 

To learn more about how Yotpo can enable your brand to build better customer experiences with reviews, loyalty programs, SMS marketing, user-generated content, and more, click here.

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