Black Friday 2021 Will Be Different. Here’s How to Prepare Your Online Store.

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There’s no shortage of advice out there for what ecommerce merchants should do to have a successful Black Friday and Cyber Monday. (We just did a quick Google search on the topic; it yielded almost four million results.) But this year’s BFCM will be different, and therefore requires a bit of special planning.

Last year, the annual holiday-shopping week was the most unusual in history because of the COVID-19 pandemic. That means any ecommerce seller who hopes to clean up during BFCM 2021 needs to understand those repercussions on online retail, and how they’ll be affecting consumer behavior this year.

What to expect for BFCM 2021, based on the stats

Flash back to BFCM 2020: People still shopped, but suffering economies and massive job layoffs prevented the YoY spending jump we usually see. Additionally, the threat of COVID-19 spread drove shoppers to their phones and computers in even greater numbers. With all this in mind, we predict that the Black Friday stats for 2021 will be record-breaking. Let’s take a look at three top BFCM stats and ecommerce trends from 2020, and what they suggest for 2021.

  1. Black Friday 2020 was the second-largest spending day in history, second only to Cyber Monday 2020. [Source] Despite all the economic repercussions of the pandemic, many consumers still prioritized their holiday shopping last year. And with millions having received their COVID-19 vaccinations this year, more in-person holiday celebrations will be happening this winter—which means consumers will be gift-shopping accordingly. Prepare your online shop’s infrastructure for the possibility of higher BFCM traffic than ever.

  2. Online BFCM shopping increased by almost 20% in 2020. [Source] Last year, many major retailers closed their physical doors in favor of multi-week online sales in an effort to protect shoppers and workers from COVID-19. In-person shopping dropped dramatically—by 37%. And now, after well over a year and a half of pandemic life, people are more used to shopping online than ever. Consider this your cue to get your mobile site optimized and to prepare for a potentially major sales influx come November.
  3. 52% of consumers took advantage of early deals in 2020. [Source] Because many brick-and-mortar stores closed their doors for part or all of the typical BFCM shopping window, lots of them opted to expand and extend the online deals they offered. Over half of consumers surveyed said they took advantage of early deals last year, which began well before the official Black Friday date. For BFCM 2021, that means you need to consider offering deals sooner, and creating sales that run longer.

3 crucial BFCM marketing strategies for 2021

Unless this is your first BFCM as an online merchant, you already know the basics. Build your email list, optimize your website, firm up your return policy, and plan your social media campaigns. But given the stats above, success on Black Friday and Cyber Monday this year will require a bit of extra prep. To help you get ready, here are a few additional tips to tack on to your Black Friday marketing strategy.

#1. Be prepared to be incredibly responsive on social media 💬

Considering the intense and widespread effects of the pandemic in 2020, there were surprisingly few times when the average western consumer couldn’t get what they wanted on demand. The digital age has made us all expect instant or nearly-instant results, and the past year has only intensified this. It doesn’t just apply to your website load time or your shipping times, either. Shoppers also expect immediate customer service from brands 24/7, or they’re likely to go elsewhere.

This BFCM, providing fast and high-quality customer service will be essential to the success of any ecommerce merchant. Just look at the numbers:

  • Forrester predicts that digital customer-service interactions will increase by 40% by the end of this year.
  • A HubSpot survey shows that 90% of customers say an “immediate” response—which 60% of them define as 10 minutes or less—is essential or very important when they have a customer service question.
  • A Facebook survey found that 40% of holiday shoppers say they’re more likely to consider buying from a brand they can message directly.

Fast, excellent customer service may well be the difference between a record-breaking BFCM 2021 for you, and a mediocre one. Start setting the stage now. Make an FAQs page for your website that answers questions about your holiday deals, your return policy, etc. Take advantage of shortcuts and automation by setting up a chatbot and Instagram Quick Replies that can respond to these same questions. Prep your customer-service team for the types of questions they’re likely to get, and schedule them for maximum availability to customers during the BFCM season.

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You can create saved replies on Instagram that make responding to FAQs in your direct messages quicker and easier.

#2. Make information about your BFCM sales easy to find 🔍

BFCM isn’t just one day or even a single week anymore. After the unusual and extended scheduling of these holiday shopping sales last year due to COVID-19, consumers can’t be sure when their favorite brands will be running deals this year. As soon as you decide what your shop will be offering and when, make that information available everywhere. You’ll send it to your email list and post about it on social media, of course. But it should also be front and center everywhere a consumer might look you up.

Create a header image with the basic info and upload it to your Twitter and Facebook pages. Create an Instagram Story highlight with all the past Stories you’ve posted about your upcoming deals and sales, and consider adding information and a specific link to your Instagram bio. Add a pop-up and perhaps even a countdown clock to your website to let all visitors know to come back when your deals start and to build hype in the meantime. Anyone who sees any of your online properties in the weeks leading up to BFCM should know exactly what you’ll be offering and when.

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A custom header image for your Twitter account can give shoppers all the information they need to know about your BFCM sales.

RELATED: 8 Ways to Promote Your Store’s Black Friday Cyber Monday Deals

#3. Offer extra incentives 🎁

It’s safe to assume that competition among retailers this Black Friday and Cyber Monday will be fiercer than any year in history. First, we know to expect that the online component of BFCM 2021 will be bigger than ever, since COVID-19 got consumers even more reliant on online shopping to buy what they want and need. Second, 2020 was a tough year for some retailers. Stores in certain verticals (like business wear, team-sport equipment, and many others) suffered from historically low sales last year. That means BFCM is their time to bounce back, so they’ll be pulling out all the stops. Plus, BFCM sales have been growing as much as 21% YoY in recent years. Even without the pandemic effects, this year would likely be the biggest to date.

In light of the stiff competition, 2021 is the year to beef up your holiday shopping deals and make your brand stand out from the rest. Consider adding extra incentives to encourage shoppers to choose you, such as:

  • Free-shipping thresholds
  • A free gift for the first 25, 50, or 100 customers
  • Double or triple loyalty-program points for purchases during your BFCM sales window

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Consider incentivizing shoppers to buy from your store this BFCM, like DSW did with this free tote for $39+ purchases on Thanksgiving 2019.

If it comes down to you and a competitor, use incentives to make your shop the obvious choice.

Start prepping for BFCM 2021 now

Black Friday and Cyber Monday 2021 promise to be big. This is the year to pull out all the stops to ensure success for your store, and the time to start preparing is now. Take the tips we’ve covered here into account—and if you don’t already have a BuySafe trustmark for your website, add one now to inspire confidence in shoppers and win more conversions for this year’s BFCM and beyond.

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