How small business ecommerce can plan for a successful Black Friday

Black Friday for small business ecommerce

Love it or hate it, Black Friday is here to stay in the UK.  This year it falls on 25th November 2016 and encompasses the four-day period from Black Friday through to Cyber Monday on the 28th November.

How you view Black Friday may well depend on your business. Whilst some online retailers welcome it with open arms, others find it more problematic and not necessarily something they are eager to embrace. According to Tech Radar businesses selling electronics or gadgets are likely to fare better over the Black Friday weekend than other industries. This is why it is important to plan your approach carefully to ensure both you and your customers are happy.

Black Friday 2015 saw record-breaking online sales in the UK

Traditionally Black Friday – certainly in the US – was more of a bricks and mortar affair however over the last couple of years in the UK we’ve seen it move steadily towards a major online event. According to research last year UK shoppers spent a record £3.3 billion online over the Black Friday weekend – with Black Friday itself taking in a record-breaking £1.1 billion online sales. This was an uplift of 36% from 2014 sales.

So, it looks like the Black Friday phenomenon is here for the foreseeable future with firm expectations from customers that there are deals to be had. So, as a small business owner, how can you ensure you make it both successful and profitable?

Planning is key to a successful Black Friday

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Planning your Black Friday promotions is central to ensuring success. Probably the worst thing you can do is leave it to the last-minute, panic and whack out something like a 40% discount across the board. Not taking the time to work out your profit margins is likely to make your bottom line go pear-shaped very quickly.

Don’t plan in isolation – view Black Friday weekend as an element of your overall holiday planning and sales strategy. For many online retailers, the run up to Christmas is probably the biggest sale period of the year, so planning your sales and promotion strategy well in advance is essential.

Carefully consider your offers your promotional offers

Most importantly do your sums before you run any promotion. You should be confident that any discount you offer won’t adversely effect your profit margin. Of course you want to attract customers and show an uplift in sales, but this shouldn’t be to the detriment on your bottom line. Spend time working out what will numbers will keep both you and your customers happy.

Planning your Black Friday promotions in light of your overall Christmas sales strategy will help you implement the most appropriate and effective offers. Try and choose a promotion specific to Black Friday that stands out from the general seasonal promotions you have planned.

For example if you are running a regular general promotion over the Christmas sales period such as 10% offer with free delivery, then choose something else for Black Friday. If customers know that they can get the same offer from you in a week or two’s time there is little incentive for them to make a purchase. You want to create a sense of urgency amongst your customers – if they don’t take the offer up now they will miss out completely. Keep the promotion limited to a specific time frame such as the four days over black Friday.

What products do you intend to discount?

In the same way you look at the promotions you intend to run, think about which products you will include. For example to you intend to run a blanket sales promotion across all your products or are you going to be selective about what products are promoted and discounted.

If you decide to be selective then it can be a good idea to choose products, perhaps seasonal ones, that you think you are likely to find you have excess stock of in January.

Promote your black Friday deals in advance

Promoting your offers is essential to ensure customers are aware that you are running a specific, time-limited promotion over Black Friday. It’s about making sure that you generate awareness amongst customers and prospective customers that you have some special deals going on. Plan you promotions in advance – so you are ready to go on the day. This is far better (and likely to be far more effective) than trying to hastily put together some poorly thought-out promotions last-minute. Review last year’s activities – what worked well and what fell flat?

It can also be a good idea to give you customers some advance warning that you will be doing something for Black Friday. Some of the bigger retailers have holding pages on their website months in advance – for example here is Argos’ Black Friday holding page.

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Email: Email is a great way to promote your black Friday deals. Indeed, according to Forbes, email accounted for 27% of Christmas sales in 2014. Consider flagging up Black Friday in your newsletters or running  teaser emails beforehand so customers know that your business will be holding a special promotion.  Then ensure you alert customers on the actual day to any special offers you are doing. Create a sense of urgency by being very clear this is for Black Friday / Cyber Monday only and that offer is for a limited period.

Here is an example of 2015’s Black Friday email offering from Gap.

Black friday email promotions

Social Media: Don’t forget social media is a great place to promote your special black friday offers. Share you promotions across all your social media platforms. Use eye-catching images to help increase engagement and don’t forget to include relevant hashtags such as #blackfriday or #cybermonday.

 

PPC advertising: Competition is likely to be higher at this time of year but PPC can still offer you an additional channel to get your promotion in front of your audience. You may have to spend a bit more time crafting the right keywords  –  try looking at long-tail search terms and implementing some negative keywords to help make your search more relevant.

Other considerations…

Potential sales uplifts can have a knock on effect of other areas of your business. More traffic may mean more customer service queries, a surge in sales may result in longer delivery and fulfillment times so take a moment to consider any potential impact.

For example do you intend to entice people in with free delivery? If so you will need to factor this into your costs and your profit margin.

Equally if, due to the costs associated with the promotion, you decide to only offer a standard delivery service then make sure this is clearly stated during the checkout process. Customer may well be content with longer delivery because of the saving they have made on your Black Friday promotions but only if you have made this clear upfront.

And, be realistic – are you likely to need to help to ensure your delivery and fulfillment runs smoothly? If you think demand will be high, then you may have to accept that you and your staff will need  to work longer hours or you’ll need to consider bringing on temporary help to ensure you products are fulfilled and delivered when promised.

Black Friday looks like its here to stay – at least for the foreseeable future anyway. To make the most of the potential sales opportunities it can offer your business, ensure you plan it into your calendar and most importantly look at it as a key element of your overall sales strategy. By planning your promotions, carefully considering what products to discount, implementing an effective marketing campaign and taking into account areas such as delivery and fulfillment, you are far more likely to find the right balance – one that keeps your customers happy and your profit margins healthy!

We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences on Black Friday, so please do leave a comment.

 

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How to create great landing pages

 

create great landing pages

Landing pages are an essential marketing tool for small business ecommerce. They can play a key role in helping increase conversions.  Defined simply, a landing page is webpage built specifically for a particular purpose, such as to generate leads or bring about a purchase. It is the page people land on because they have been directed to it by your campaign channel.

“Specific page(s) on a web site created for visitors referred from marketing campaigns which are designed to achieve a marketing outcome.SmartInsights 

So what is the difference between a homepage and landing page? Unlike your ‘campaign specific’ landing page, your homepage is more of a hub for your whole website.  It usually caters to a number of different purposes, and therefore often has more than one objective and call to action.

Creating landing pages can help increase conversions

So why is it important to create a separate landing page for specific campaigns and what’s wrong with always directing people straight to your homepage ? The most compelling reason to create separate landing pages for each campaign is to increase conversions. A successful landing page makes it clear from the outset what it is you are asking your visitor to do, leading them firmly towards  a specific call to action. If visitors are sent to the homepage after receiving a specific campaign message,  they may get distracted by all the other messages and ‘call to actions’ that are going on the page. The key message of the campaign gets lost and the chances of a conversion are decreased.

How to create a great landing page

What makes a successful landing page? Great landing pages can help engage your visitor, lower your bounce rate and increase conversions. Creating a landing page in itself  won’t automatically increase your conversion rate. You need to craft your  pages so that they actively do all that they can to entice your visitor to perform a specific action. We’ve outlined some tips to ensure your landing pages are working as hard as they can.

Create a unique landing page for each separate campaign.

We talked earlier about the difference between your homepage and landing pages. Landing pages should reflect the campaign you are communicating to your customers. For example if you have sent out a special 25% offer email, then you should have a specific landing page focused on the 25% offer. Likewise, if you are trying to generate leads via a ppc advertisement for a  free e-book download , then you need to create a unique e-book landing page.

Here is an example of a Boden email about new clothes that are ‘New In’ and below is the specific landing page . Customer aren’t directed to the homepage rather they are taken straight through to a specific landing ‘New In’ landing page. By focuses solely on clothes that are new in it is reflecting the promise of the email message and meeting customers expectations.

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Landing page content should reinforce your campaign’s message

Whatever  message you have enticed your visitor to click-through with should be clearly reflected in the content of your landing page. When visitors arrive on your landing page they will have a clear idea if what they expect to find. If the content doesn’t match the promise then they may well leave without bothering to find out more. Make sure that the customers are given the information they are expecting.

Here is an example from HubSpot. The first image is an email I received about a free e-book download and the second is the landing page I was taken through to. Then landing page content clearly reflects the message in the email.

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Consider your goals and have a clear call to action

What is the key purpose of your  landing page – what is the main goal? Are you generating leads, building relationships , looking for sales conversions. For example when visitors arrive at you landing page do you want them to make a purchase, download an e-book, sign-up to a newsletter, refer a friend, complete an order, enter a competition or leave a testimonial? When you have determined your key goal you can then ensure that your content is focused clearly towards achieving that goal.

Visitors should be left in no doubt as to what it is you are wanting them to do. Have a very clear, standout call to actions buttons on both your original campaign channel and the landing page . For example; Add to basket, Buy now, Download now, Register here, Shop Now,  Open an account, Enter here. Here are a few examples of some strong call to action buttons.

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Choose campaign specific keywords 

As we mentioned earlier the relevance of your landing page is essential – your content needs to reflect the message of your campaign. No more so than if the channel is via PPC ads. Make sure that you include the same keywords that you have used in your ad campaign in the body of the landing page as well. Landing pages whose text is directly relevant to the ad text will score better ad rankings. The more relevant your page is,  the more helpful it will be to your rankings and the higher the likelihood of an end conversion. So if your ad is promoting your new line of christmas gifts, then ensure your landing page is solely focused on your new line of christmas gifts.

Plan your layout to optimise response

How you layout your landing page is also important. I well-designed page will support your key goal and help optimise response.  The purpose of a landing page is to convert your visitor as quickly as possible to your key objective – whether that is to download and e-book, make a purchase or enter a competition. So the when you design your page keep this in mind.

Headline: 

Your main headline should directly reflect the message of the campaign that your visitor clicked through with. So if they clicked off a PPC ad then your headline should closely reflect the wording you choose. Your headline should marry with your visitors expectations about what the page is about.

Landing page copy: 

The body copy of your landing page should reflect your headline and support your campaign message. You are looking to convince and encourage visitors to convert to your end goal. Use bullet points, sub headers and images to break up text.  People should be able to skim over the page and still understand the key message you are conveying.

Call to action: 

Your call to action, whether that’s a sign-up form or a button, needs to be clear and standout near the top of the page – certainly above the fold. Your call to action should leave the visitor in no doubt about what you are asking them to do.

Here are a few articles about optimal layout for landing pages which you may find helpful.

The anatomy of a perfect landing page

How to design a landing page that delivers customers

11 Great landing page examples

We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences of creating landing pages, so please do leave a comment