Black Friday and Cyber Monday are right around the corner, and Shopify brands must prep and plan early for a successful holiday season.
To give brands a step up, we put together our first-ever live podcast with top DTC experts to discuss how brands can master BFCM prep and retention strategies pre and post-holidays. It was a pretty amazing event and you can listen to it here- part 1 & part 2.
If you prefer to read, we compiled 8 of the most important topics that Shopify brands need to know before the holiday rush begins.
When to start your BFCM promotions
5 years ago, BFCM promotions were strictly on Black Friday and Cyber Monday only. Today, some brands have BFCM discounts all November long (we’ve even seen some begin mid-October). So when is the best time to begin BFCM promos and specials?
Strategy: In a perfect world, your BFCM strategies would be set in stone by early October. But we don’t live in a perfect world. If your advertising, retention, inbound, and outbound campaigns are not ready to launch, do not go early with BFCM campaigns. You need time to build engaging and compelling content for all channels to have a successful holiday season.
Margins: Bigger brands can usually afford longer sales periods, but if your small or mid-size brand can’t accommodate a 2-month sale, don’t sweat it. A one-day 40% off sale that’s well planned and executed will perform better than a month-long 20% off campaign that’s been thrown together quickly.
BFCM without the discount: is it possible?
On the cusp of the 2022 holiday season, the inflation rate skyrocketed to a near 8% which left consumer spending at what seemed like a standstill. Then November came, along with the Black Friday Cyber Monday Deals, and consumer spending increased.
But what if your brand doesn’t participate in the BFCM frenzy with crazy deals and discounts? You’re not alone. Katy Eriks, Director of Customer Experience at SuitShop, has some thoughts on how to make BFCM work for Shopify brands that can’t do major sales:
“We don’t do discounts; no matter what time of the year it is, we want everyone to get the same price. During the holiday season however, we try to leverage our sale products. It’s really important for us to promote our sale section because all of the items are costing us money at the warehouse. So instead of offering sales on products that most of our customers have to buy because they're in a wedding and won't return to us for years down the line, we focus on the product we need to get rid of.”
Your messaging is exceptionally important during this time period. While other Shopify merchants send hundreds of sales emails, brands that don’t participate in BFCM need to alter their messaging. Gift guides are a great way to engage with your customers during the holiday season to give them inspiration and keep your brand top of mind.
Think beyond the red ticket discount
BFCM is all about sales—it’s what draws customers in, but sometimes you need a little extra perk to close the deal. That could be an exclusive holiday bundle of best-selling items at a discounted price or a bonus gift with purchase.
Max Conley, Director of Ecommerce at Raaka Chocolates, stresses the importance of being strategic with your bundles, “For holiday bundles, we use the flavors and packaging we have already and essentially rebrand that as holiday bundles at a discounted price. It’s a good way to move through some of that seasonal inventory you need to get rid of by December, while still providing additional value to the customer.”
Never underestimate the power of hype. If your brand has a limited edition item or is bringing a beloved product back from the graveyard, that can be your hook to bring customers in. Everyone loves a good sale, but sometimes the hype around a product can outweigh a 20% off discount.
Getting subscriptions during BFCM
The subscription business model has increasingly grown in popularity over the years, but how can brands gain new subscribers during the madness of BFCM? With all of the noise, it can be difficult to attract new customers who are willing to take a chance on a subscription.
Brands should consider two different approaches:
Allow customers to “gift” a subscription for 1, 3, 6, or 12 months. When a loyal customer gifts a subscription of products to a new potential customer, the odds of them converting and continuing that subscription is high.
Partner or collaborate with a brand that showcases your brand to a new audience. Raaka Chocolates did this with Momofuku to further incentivize people to sign up for subscriptions.
Max said what we were all thinking, “Once you're getting chocolate in your mailbox every month, it's very hard to stop.”
Stop, drop, and prepare your customer service teams
BFCM and the holidays are the busiest times for your customer service teams. To prepare for the massive influx of orders and support tickets, our panelists offered a few different ways customer support can stay up to date:
Katy Eriks, Suitshop, “We make sure everyone on our team is subscribed to our marketing emails so as soon as an update goes out to our customers, our team is receiving that as well. That’s definitely helpful in knowing what kind of questions might come in and how to respond to them.”
Colin Waters, former AD of Customer Experience at Brumate, “We’re trying something a bit different this year with Google Sites so we can really create a one-stop-shop. With everything in one place, it’s really going to streamline the process.”
It’s also important to get ahead of any potential issues before a team member even has to step in. That’s where SuitShop utilizes Malomo’s order tracking page, “We really get ahead of any CX issues with our Malomo tracking page. We’ve customized it to be as informative and self-service as possible. You can set up a return or exchange, find helpful blog articles, or go to the Help Center all from one page”.
Be proactive about returns
Returns are an inevitable part of the online shopping experience, and during the holiday season, returns tend to increase tenfold. In fact, many brands will experience 90% of their annual returns during the holiday season. So how can brands stay on top of returns and work to prevent them in the first place?
Loop’s Product Marketing Manager Viashali Ravi has some advice for Shopify brands when it comes to returns management, “Proactive ways that you can prevent returns is through accurate product descriptions and product imagery. For example, if you notice that a certain pair of jeans is always getting returned, you can see the return reasons are due to size, remeasure the product and update the size chart for that pair of jeans. Or if customers are returning a shirt because the color doesn’t look the same online as it does in person, take a few new photos.”
During the holiday season especially, brands should consider extending their return window so people have time to try out the products and make sure it’s the right fit for them. There’s nothing worse than getting a gift, having it not fit, and then being unable to return it for the right size. Guess what the chance is of that person shopping with you again….(hint: it’s low).
No brand seeks out returns, but if brands can reduce them proactively from the get-go, it’s a win for everyone.
The overlooked retention strategy: personalization
Everyone loves a good deal, but an individualized touch puts the experience over the top. The data doesn’t lie, 65% of ecommerce stores report an increase in conversion rates after implementing a personalization strategy.
Colin reiterates the importance of individualization, “Pre and post-purchase, I want to feel like I’m interacting with a real brand. So whether your brand has encountered a really difficult customer or an amazing one, drop them a note. It’s really simple to whip up a quick ‘thanks for your patience’ email or note. It can be the deciding factor in whether that customer leaves a positive or negative review and decides to shop with you again.”
Communicate, communicate, and then communicate some more
84% of consumers won’t return to a brand after just one bad shipping experience. And with an influx of orders and inevitable shipping delays, the holidays are prone to bad shipping experiences. While your brand may not be able to control the UPS trucks, you can control how often you communicate with your customers.
Ryan Powell, Group Director of Marketing & Partnerships at Ryder E-Commerce, stresses the importance of staying in constant contact with your customers, “We connect regularly with customer advisory boards, and the number one thing customers care about isn’t shipping costs or time in transit; it’s proactive communication. More important than anything. When a brand proactively communicates with customers, they feel looked after—like they are part of the brand itself.”
Want to capitalize on the post-purchase experience this BFCM?
It's not too late! Chat with our team today to impress & retain holiday shoppers.