holiday shopping trends

21 Conversion Tips for Black Friday and Beyond

Holiday shopping, including Black Friday and Cyber Monday, is an exciting time for ecommerce sites. Get prepared with these 21 conversion tips.

If recent trends continue, the biggest shopping days we’ve ever seen are just ahead.

In 2016, Adobe predicted that Black Friday online sales would pass the $3 billion mark and Cyber Monday sales won’t cap out until they’ve hit almost $3.4 billion, an 11% increase over the previous year. This year, they are expected to increase another 10%.

Holiday shopping, including Black Friday and Cyber Monday, is an exciting time for ecommerce sites. Shoppers are more comfortable with ecommerce than ever before, and free shipping offers make it smarter to wait a few days for delivery rather than brave the traffic and wade through the crowds at the store.

The money is there, the excitement is there, and only one questions remains:

Will you be ready?

Let’s look at the three conversion-boosting areas of concern you must get right and consider conversion tips for each.

Careful consideration here will do much to ensure your ecommerce site participates fully in the sales frenzy this year, and for years to come.

Conversion Booster #1: Join the Party

Have you ever attended a costume party where not every guest is dressed for the occasion? If so, you know that the people who get into the mood of the event are the ones who have the most fun.

Being a spectator is fine, but taking part in the game is where the action is. Take a look at these sales projections for the 2016 holiday shopping season:

black friday adobe numbers

“Joining the party” means getting excited about the potential and dressing up for the occasion. It means special landing pages, holiday themed messaging, and deals. It means full participation in the season.

Shoppers are enthusiastic about the holidays, so you should be too.

Here’s a checklist of items you’ll want to consider before holiday shoppers arrive:

1. Get customer service ready to handle the increased traffic. Now is not the time to get stressed and irate. It’s the time to get relaxed and happy.

Every seller knows customers can sometimes be a lot to handle, but every seller also knows satisfied customers can make or break a business.

Get your team trained and prepared in advance. Conduct run-throughs of potential situations, and teach your team how to handle them to improve the customer service experience during this typically stressful time of the year.

2. Make sure your site looks like it’s participating in the party. Shoppers are looking for ecommerce stores offering holiday specials. Let them know immediately upon entering your online shop they’re in the right place.

Let your creative team be creative, just make sure the fundamentals of smart website management aren’t displaced. Banners can draw attention, for instance, but they should never threaten the speed or technical stability of the site.

Ecommerce performance trumps creativity every time. Click To Tweet

3. Celebrate Black Friday 365 days. You don’t have to abandon your holiday-oriented landing pages on Christmas Day.

By keeping them up year long, you can maintain the SEO benefit you’ve gained and use those pages to help build your mailing list.

Convert them into places where visitors can register for email notifications about sales and specials soon to come.

Note (below) how Cabela’s uses their Black Friday page for early specials. They even promote an “outdoor giveaway” sweepstakes. Once the season has past, they can change the dates and start all over again.

black friday cabelas
See how Cabela’s uses their Black Friday page for early specials and email signups. Once Black Friday is over, they can use the page to begin collecting similar information again for next year.

4. Generate excitement with a countdown timer. Part of the joy of New Year’s Eve is watching the clock get closer and closer to that magical minute when the ball drops in Times Square.

Including a deal countdown timer on your landing pages (whether counting down the time to Black Friday, how much time is left to grab the current special, or how long it will be before you announce your next offer), helps your visitors stay pumped up in anticipation of the joy soon to come.

5. Prepare a safe and secure location for the party. Have you ever visited a website and been greeted by a browser notification warning you the site may not be secure? That could be the best way possible to drive away business during the holidays.

Make absolutely sure your site certificates are up-to-date and that your site tests clear for compliance on all the major browsers.

This is also a good time to check for other trust-building features: money back guarantees, trust seals, your customer service phone number, testimonials… make sure visitors to your site feel protected and appreciated.

6. Make mobile a priority. The mobile revolution isn’t on the way; it’s here.

Most Cyber Monday shoppers will use mobile for browsing, then finalize the purchase from a larger device (see the chart below), but that’s only because ordering from mobile has often been more difficult.

The better your site performs for mobile users, the more sales you’re going to make. If you want your fair share of the holiday shopping pie, then optimize for mobile – including your shopping cart.

Want a piece of the #BlackFriday pie? Follow these 21 conversion boosting tips. Click To Tweet
black friday cyber monday

7. Ask them and they will come. Visit downtown Nashville on any given evening, and you’ll see hawkers outside the busiest nightspots. Their job is to invite guests to come on in, enjoy the sounds Music City is famous for, and relax a while.

You can do the same with your social media channels and email campaigns. Invite your audience to join you in the celebration.

8. Let them know what to expect. Not all deals have to be surprises. Get the word out early about some of the incredible bargains you’re going to offer during the holiday season.

Tell your prospective customers exactly when the virtual door will open and how long it will remain open. By mixing the known and the unknown, you can keep customer expectations abuzz.

Check our giant list of ecommerce promotion ideas for tons more ideas.

80 Ways to get more business: Click To Tweet

Conversion Booster #2: Get Ready to Receive a Ton of Guests

Study after study shows consumers are more comfortable with online shopping than ever before.

Ecommerce sites will see surges of traffic, and some of the spikes are likely to be overwhelming.

On Black Friday 2014, the Best Buy website couldn’t cope with server demand and collapsed under the strain. 2015 saw the Neiman Marcus site crash.

That’s really bad timing.

black friday best buy

Here are tips on how to make sure your guests find the store open and the shopping delightful:

9. Stock up on merchandise and supplies. No doubt, you’ve been building inventory and access to inventory in preparation for the holidays.

Purchasing has done its job, don’t allow a lack of internal equipment and supplies to slow you down.

Be prepared.

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10. Make peak performance a top priority. As mentioned in #2, you want to allow your designers plenty of latitude for creativity, but never at the expense of performance.

If your site lags on load, visitors won’t hang around long enough to see the amazing things your creatives have designed for them.

Aim for lightning fast load time, mobile included.

11. Send out those invitations. Your email marketing strategy can play a major part in getting people to your site on Black Friday and on through the holidays.

Let your list know exactly what’s going on and when. Send reminders to make sure they don’t miss your specials.

This is one time of the year when consumers aren’t likely to complain about getting too many sales notifications.

12. Test every aspect of your system in advance. Test hard before the season begins to lessen the chance of having to fix something on the fly.

Check everything from server load balancing, to security, to campaign flow, and beyond. Take nothing for granted. You’re getting ready for the World Series of marketing.

The bottom line here is to know exactly what your key functions are and make everything else subservient to those needs.

Above all, your store must be open and capable of processing orders.

Do this before #BlackFriday: Click To Tweet

Conversion Booster #3: Help Your Visitors Buy From You

It’s easy to get carried away with the excitement of Black Friday and the rest of the holiday shopping season, then end up taking your eye off the ball.

Not only do your technical functions need to work efficiently, your path to the sale must remain unimpeded.

Make sure the checkout process is plainly marked and easy to traverse. Standard operating procedure is to get rid of all possible friction. Holiday shopping fun should never make buying more difficult. Keep it simple.

Here are tips to help you secure the order.

13. Provide gift guides. Provide some inspiration for your visitors as they create their wish lists or try to buy for others.

Keep them simple and call them things like “20 Great Gifts for Woodworkers” or “12 Great Gifts for Your Teenager”. Tailor them to niches within your target market for greater conversions.

14. Know your numbers. How long does it take visitors to find what they’re looking for, place it in the cart, and pay for it on your ecommerce site?

How does that time compare to your competitors? What can you do to make the process easier and clearer?

Know your numbers, compare them with the norm, then make them better.

15. What’s your emergency plan? What will you do if, despite all your early testing, there’s a failure in the system? Who on your team will be on call to address the emergencies?

Get your game plan ready, and make sure it includes a contingency plan.

16. Combine your forces. Search, personalization, online chat, your FAQ page… every part of how the visitor is monitored and treated should work together to deliver the best possible user experience.

17. Make it urgent. Black Friday and beyond shopping can take on the aura of “get it now before it’s gone.” That’s a good thing. The supply/demand curve is working for you to send conversion rates the right direction.

Fuel that feeling with your countdown clock, your sales copy, your graphics, and in every other way you can. This is a special time of the year.

Leverage the time factor to get those orders NOW.

18. Make checkout dead simple. Give your customers plenty of latitude in how they pay, and make the payment procedure simple.

Never ask for more information than you need. Focus on getting the sale. After that, focus on the follow-up.

19. Show and tell. We’ve known the power of video in ecommerce for some time now, but few sites are using it effectively.

Make the experience of shopping with you as close to being there in person as you can. Videos can help build trust, build community, and build brand. A well-focused video can sell a product that might otherwise be tough to move.

As mentioned before, though, make sure you don’t inadvertently slow down your site while trying to improve it. Be smart with video, but use it.

20. Ship for free. If ever there was a time to offer (and brag about) free shipping, this is the season.

If you try to sneak in a shipping and handling charge at checkout, you’re drilling holes in your own boat. Don’t do it.

Here’s a must-read article on how to do free shipping the right way.

How to Offer Free Shipping the Right Way: Click To Tweet

Get Ready to Seize the Moments

Adobe projects through-the-roof spending this season, with spikes occurring on certains special days.

Here are the components:

  • $2 billion on Thanksgiving Day (November 24)
  • $3.05 billion on Black Friday (November 25)
  • $3.36 billion on Cyber Monday (November 28)
  • $2.12 billion on Giving Tuesday (November 29)
  • $2 billion on Green Monday (December 12)
black friday adobe season predictions

Of course, those won’t be the only days shoppers are visiting your store. All told, Adobe estimates daily sales of over $1 billion on 57 of the year’s shopping days for an online buying total of $91 billion.

But what are the reasons consumers give for choosing to buy online? We’ll close with that chart, and we’ll throw in one more tip:

21. Lock in on your value proposition and shout it from the rooftop. To find out how to do that, go here: Fuel Growth and Conversions with a Strong Value Proposition.

black friday reasons why

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Jon MacDonald smiling at the camera for The Good

About the Author

Jon MacDonald

Jon MacDonald is founder and President of The Good, a conversion rate optimization firm that has achieved results for some of the largest online brands including Adobe, Nike, Xerox, Verizon, Intel and more. Jon regularly contributes content on conversion optimization to publications like Entrepreneur and Inc. He knows how to get visitors to take action.