Black Friday Marketing Strategy Tips for 2021
At Voucherify, we breathe promotions daily. Recently I have analysed over 200 past Black Friday campaigns to create a short overview of campaigns from 2020 for our blog. Based on the insights I learned, I wanted to share several key strategies and tips to optimize your 2021 Black Friday marketing strategy.
How to prepare for Black Friday in 2021?
Here are a couple of Black Friday tips to get you prepared for November 26th 2021:
1. Optimize your store before Black Friday comes
First of all, ensure your store is running smoothly and can handle the sales peak. With Black Friday and Cyber Monday around the corner, you need to ensure that your e-commerce site and sales processes are optimized beforehand. You need to take a closer look at every step of the user journey – from SEO and SEM to the checkout page and transparent return policies. Even a minor mistake could cost your brand a fortune. Finally, you need to prepare your Black Friday promotional strategy and get all the creatives in place.
In 2021, Black Friday will take place on November 26th. Many online stores do not reveal special promotions and discounted products until Friday afternoon. Nevertheless, traffic in e-stores increases as customers visit e-commerce websites, browse the available assortment, and prepare to hunt for discounted products.
2. Plan your promotions and discounts for Black Friday and Cyber Monday
You should plan your promotions and campaigns ahead of time. Create all the creative promotional materials together with the distribution strategy and the exact discounts you will offer. Prepare some pre-launch promotional creatives – even if your Black Friday discounts will only be revealed that day, you can tease your customers earlier to get their attention and to inform them that you are planning a promotional action. You should also test all your placements and promotions to ensure everything will be running smoothly on the big day.
3. Track your Black Friday promotions
You will want to know whether your strategy for 2021 paid off and what you can optimize in 2022. This is why you should implement tracking for your promotional campaigns.
Over the past few years, Black Friday shopping has started to shift more towards online sales channels. A US survey shows that physical stores are often perceived as too busy (37%), and online shopping is easier (27%).
How to plan your promotions for Black Friday?
1. Choose the type of promotion you want to use for Black Friday
There are various options you can use – discount coupons, automatically applied discounts, gift cards, product bundles, free shipping, extra products or services. If you use discounts, it can be a percentage or dollar off discount, or even a new, fixed price for a product or a bundle. You should choose what works best for your audience while maximizing your ROI. If you are not sure, you can launch a couple of different promotions and A/B test them or run small experiments prior to Black Friday to learn which promotion type performs best.
2. Choose what products you will discount on Black Friday
While many shops launch site-wide discounts on Black Friday (discounting virtually everything), you do not have to follow the herd. You can launch more narrowly targeted discounts, for example only discounting a certain product category or a certain product. Some companies launch a Black Friday sale on their flagship item, discounting it heavily (think 50% off or more) as a doorbuster deal to bring buzz and more visitors into their stores and to boost the sales of that particular product. Launching a site-wide discount can be a marketing budget burner as it will generate sales that would happen anyways, even without the discount. You could target your promotions more by discounting the slow-moving products or product categories or targeting specific customer segments (for example, new customers only) that would not buy from you without the discount.
3. Select your promotion limits
While most businesses do a simple site-wide promotion without any limitations, it is wise to add some limits to your Black Friday discounts to protect your budget. For example, you could discount only orders above a certain value or you could limit the number of the promotional products/bundles per customer to 10. You could also allow only one code use per customer, if you launch a unique codes campaign. There are plenty of options and you should choose what will meet your sales goal without overspending your budget.
4. Choose the discount level you want to offer
You may be asking yourself what is the average discount on Black Friday. Most companies offer discounts that are higher than 20%. The ideal discount level, however, depends on your general pricing strategy. If you never offer discounts, then offering even as little as a free shipping on Black Friday may seem like a bargain for your customers. If you often offer 20-30% promotions, prepare to discount even further on Black Friday. The baseline is – offer a bit more than you do throughout the year to get your customers' hearts' pounding faster.
5. Segment your Black Friday promotions
You can offer a Black Friday discount only to selected customer segments or offer different discount levels to different customer segments. For example, you could offer a bigger discount for your loyalty program members or newsletter subscribers.
6. A/B test your promotions
Keeping in mind that 40% of consumers start searching for deals with the arrival of November, you can leverage this spike in traffic for small A/B testing and final optimization of your Black Friday and Cyber Monday strategies.
What should you A/B test before Black Friday?
You should begin from standard tests verifying which incentives and program rules work best, for example:
- Incentive type – you should check what brings you the most interest and profit, whether it’s a promotion granting amount, percentage, credits, loyalty points, free items, or free shipping.
- Inventory – products or product categories that are discounted.
- Redemption limits – for instance, the minimum order value. You could launch a couple of promotions with different minimum order values and see which promotion performed best.
How to track Black Friday promotions?
There are various ways you can track Black Friday campaigns, from traffic tracking to pure ROI calculations. You can use plenty of different software solutions to do that, most common being your e-commerce platform, Google Analytics, Google Ads or social media built-in analytics. The most important, however, is tracking the performance of your promotions and that needs a powerful promotional software that provides you with built-in tracking for your promotional campaigns (that may or may not be an integral part of your e-commerce, depending on the provider). It should show you, for example, the number of promotion uses, the transactions to which the discounts were applied, customers that used the discount, any failed promotion redemptions and more. Here are some tips on how to implement Black Friday campaign tracking:
1. Use trackable coupons as your Black Friday incentive
Launching your promotion as a discount coupon campaign can be helpful to see how your Black Friday strategy is performing. Digital coupons have many attributes, which can be a goldmine of marketing knowledge when appropriately used. If you launch a unique coupons promotion, you can track the performance on a 1:1 level. If you launch various different Black Friday or Cyber Monday campaigns, you can use coupon prefixes, suffixes or add coupon categories to differentiate the coupon batches. After the sale is over, you'll be able to filter out coupons with a particular category and compare the performance of a specific discount against various parameters.
You can also use different types of promotions as long as you have proper tracking options in place.
2. Implement UTM tracking to your Black Friday campaigns
UTMs are unique parameters that can be added to the standard URL address. With UTMs, you can precisely monitor traffic coming from specified sources on your website.
In terms of a Black Friday strategy, UTM tracking allows you to see the direct link impact on generated traffic and sales results. They are a simple yet effective tool to measure digital traffic. Each channel, type of coupon, or a campaign can be tied to a different UTM. You can also append UTMs to corresponding landing pages to publish your coupons (e.g., coupon aggregate websites).
Traffic defined by UTMs can be quickly confronted with data from a coupon platform. For example, you can compare all visitors’ numbers with the total number of code redemptions to see your offers’ success rate.
What to track in your Black Friday promotions?
There are various things you can track to learn from your Black Friday marketing campaigns:
- Which marketing channels generate the most significant traffic and which ones generate the most profit?
- Which types of promotions performed best?
- Which customers (customer segments) spent the most on Black Friday.
- Average basket value on Black Friday as compared to the regular average basket value.
- ROI of your promotions, per promotion, per channel and per customer segment.
- Open rates and click-through rates of your email campaigns.
- Views of your promotional messages.
On Black Friday 2020, the peak hour for online sales was 21:00, significantly later than 2018, which saw peak times at 17:00.
Black Friday Tips and Tricks in 2021
As I have analysed various Black Friday promotions from 2020 (you can read my blog post with a couple of interesting ones here), I found some general trends that you can use to improve your Black Friday marketing strategy in 2021:
- Companies are launching more automatic discounts than coupons (unless they use personalized coupons. Public, standalone coupons like BlackFriday are slowly getting out of use, probably because they are harder to use for the customers and anyways, publicly available, so auto-applied promotions are a better choice in that case.
- I have not seen too many personalized promotions on Black Friday. Most of the sales were available to the general public and were very generic (percentage or dollar off sales prevailing). Launching personalized sales on Black Friday seems to be a niche and may be your winning strategy in 2021.
- There has been a big boom of CSR and charity-oriented Black Friday sales or actions. It may pay off to jump on that bandwagon.
- Some companies refused to do Black Friday whatsoever because they claim such shopping craze is not sustainable. One such company is Deciem which has even closed their stores (including website) on that day. They have, however, launched big sales one month leading up to the Black Friday, bringing sales when competitors were not heavily discounting and bringing even more media attention and coverage on the Black Friday itself. We can’t judge if this is the winning strategy, however, do keep in mind there are 365 days in a year when you can launch sales and you should consider what is most profitable for your business, not blindly copy other businesses' strategy.
- The same mindset has led to companies launching recurring “Black Friday” promotions or Black Fridays in July. I believe such naming may be confusing, although I like the idea of having flash sales more regularly than once per year and more targeted or personalized than the generic Black Friday promotions.
- You should launch some teasers prior to your Black Friday sales, to let your customers know you will be taking part in the discounting craze (yes, even if you do not want to disclose the exact deals you will offer).
- Make use of the new marketing channels (think livechat, Tiktok, geofencing) to advertise your promotions in new places and reach new audiences.
Black Friday Sales Ideas
Here are a couple of Black Friday promotion ideas:
Automatic discounts with percentage off
You can launch an automatic discount (cart promotion) that will grant all customers a certain percentage off their orders (for example, 20%) off. This is one of the most common Black Friday sales.
ABLE, a slow fashion brand, greeted visitors with a promo code and a site-wide sale.
Public discount codes
You can offer a general discount with a Black Friday promo code. This requires your customers to insert the promo code at the checkout to get the discount.
Alternative Apparel, a fashion brand, offered a site-wide sale with a promo code on the Cyber Weekend.
Tiered automatic discounts
You can differentiate the deal your customers can get based on how much they spend in your store. This is a great way to target different customer segments with different discounts, without actually having to have customer data in your CRM.
Kosas offered three levels of conditional discounts on Black Friday.
Free gift to every qualifying purchase made on Black Friday
You can offer a free product (or service) to every qualifying order (for example, an order above a certain value).
L’Occitane launched a Black Friday promotion offering a gift (Nature’s Present, $35 in value, mostly composed of sample-sized cosmetics and miniatures) for every purchase above $85 in value.
You can offer a site-wide BOGO deal, particular product BOGO deal or a product bundle as your Black Friday special promotion. It is a great way to upsell your products. If you were considering a discount ranging 40-50%, you can offer a BOGO sale instead and sell much more than if you were simply offering a discount.
Victoria Emerson, an accessible luxurious jewelry brand, has launched a Black Friday BOGO sale, targeted only at VIP customers. The promotion required using a discount code SUPERVIP.
Bath & Body Works invited shoppers to mix & match the whole store, offering a triple BOGO (buy 3 get 3) discount for 3 lower-priced products.
Dollar off discounts
You can offer a dollar off discount, for example -$5 off every $50+ order. This is similar to offering a percentage discount, but with a twist, because you can fix the maximum discount amount, ensuring you do not overspend your budget. Fixing the bottom order value to qualify for the discount helps you to avoid customers placing low-value orders and just taking advantage of your promotion.
Gift card campaigns
You do not have to grant the discount on the Black Friday day, you can also postpone the discount application and gain returning visitors. How? By granting gift cards (or cashback) to all customers who purchased from you on Black Friday. For example, you could offer a 10% cashback on all orders made on Black Friday that can be used on future purchases (not on the same day) and expires in 1 month (to ensure the repeat visit happens soon).
Apple offered a gift card that the shoppers could get for purchases over $150.
Double loyalty program points
You could focus your Black Friday campaign on the loyal customers by granting them double the loyalty points on all purchases done that day. Another benefit of such a campaign is that to use the discount, the customers will have to make another purchase with you.
Estee Lauder launched a Black Friday promotion offering double loyalty points for the loyalty club members and a limited edition product (lip gloss set) at a promotional fixed price.
Free (international) shipping
Companies who tend not to discount their products (for example, because they are already having a low margin on their products or the reverse, they offer luxury products and do not want to spoil the brand image) can still offer incentives, for example offering free shipping or free international shipping (which tends to be expensive). Discounting international shipping or making it free of charge can help to bring new customers to your business, too.
Small Business Black Friday Ideas
Start-ups and smaller companies can launch the same types of promotions as bigger companies. The only difference is their budget – smaller companies often cannot afford launching a 30% off site-wide discount because their margins are already low. They have to get more creative with either targeting their promotions or the types of promotions they offer.
Here are a couple of Black Friday campaign ideas for small businesses:
Free packing as gift (Christmas-themed)
Many people use Black Friday as an opportunity to shop for Christmas gifts. If you cannot or do not want to discount your products, you can offer free gift packing as a perk. It will cost you some resources, ribbon and paper but it can be way cheaper than offering a discount.
You can discount the shipping or make it free of charge. Check with the shipping companies if they offer any discounts for shipping made that day, maybe it does not have to be paid from your pocket.
You can add a free service to the orders made on Black Friday, for example, an extended warranty, extended customer service or extended returns period.
If you have a physical store, for example a cosmetics store, you could offer additional services that day, for example a trial make-up for all customers. If you do not have enough personnel to serve many customers on one day, you can make the offer limited, for example a trial make-up for the first 20 customers that day (by appointment made in the morning) or offer the service at a different time (for example, offer an occasion-specific makeup session free of charge to all Black Friday customers who spent over $100 in your store on Black Friday, the date can be booked any time depending on available slots throughout the full calendar year). Adding a service or a deferred service to the purchases can be motivating your customers to place more or higher orders with you and it does not need to cost you a ton.
Cartier, a luxury brand, offered extended returns on Black Friday shopping.
You can create a special product bundle for Black Friday, offering it at a new, fixed price (or offering a discount on it). This is a great way to discount only certain products but still keep the basket value higher (as opposed to discounting just one product and risking customers purchasing only that one product).
Orangewood, a DTC guitar store, has launched a Black Friday promotion offering a product bundle as a discount code promotion. To use the offer, customers had to add to their carts Orangewood Guitar, an Accessory Kit and Ernie Ball strings as well as use a coupon code Bundleup20 to claim the offer. The Accessory Kit and Ernie Ball strings were offered free of charge, if the purchase qualified for the offer.
Heavily discount a high-margin product
Birdies, a DTC shoe brand, has launched a Black Friday promotion offering a special, fixed price on their Starling flats ($95 instead of $140).
Narrowly target your offer
You could offer what bigger companies offer (site-wide automatic discount or discount coupons) but make it narrowly targeted. For example, you could offer a -20% off a specific product category but only for new customers to promote these products and get a bigger customer base for them.
Offer double loyalty points
Offering double or extra loyalty points for the purchases made on Black Friday differs the payout of the discount and still gives something to your customers. Moreover, it brings repeat purchases.
Create a gift guide
Gift guides are a fantastic free opportunity to help customers find the perfect gifts for their loved ones and pay tribute to the idea behind BF – it’s the start of the holiday shopping season!
Some 59% of women and 48% of men say they start shopping before Black Friday.
Ideas for Creative Black Friday Campaigns
Here are some ideas for creative Black Friday campaigns:
You could send offers targeted at those customers who happen to be close to your physical store location on Black Friday. You have more chances to sell to these people, as they are anyway in proximity and probably on a Black Friday shopping spree. You could send them a unique coupon code expiring the same day to motivate them to visit your store, too.
CSR Black Friday campaign
You can launch a Black Friday campaign that supports a charity.
Allbirds, a New Zealand-American company that designs and sells sustainable footwear and apparel, has raised all prices by $1 and claimed they will contribute another $1 to make $2 donations for every product purchased on Black Friday.
Social media-focused campaign
You can run a Black Friday action on your social media, promoting your profile and incentivizing follows, shares, likes and comments. Kohl’s did that brilliantly. Kohl’s created Black Friday social media campaigns to engage with customers. The company offered a gift card or a sweepstakes entry to the customers in return for any response or retweet with a hashtag including the brand name.
You could make your Black Friday promotion fun by launching a couple of flash sales, for example changing which product is on discount every hour.
Influencer campaign with Black Friday codes
If you are afraid your offer gets lost in the flood of Black Friday offers, you could create various Black Friday discount codes and share them via your influencers. It will also help you to reach customers who are not in a shopping spree (yet) on Black Friday but just casually browsing social media.
This is a great strategy to bring customers’ attention to sales and make your offer stand out from the crowd. Who doesn’t like mystery?
Sears, a US retailer, advertised their Black Friday promotions announcing Mystery Deals, not specifying what exactly they will offer.
You can launch a giveaway where the winners will be chosen at random or an “instant win” campaign where every X customer gets a prize. You can also make your sweepstake more gamified, introducing a “spin to win” campaign where your customers have to spin the wheel and they get assigned (or not) a discount at random. It is a variation of a sweepstakes and a mystery deal and will definitely bring some thrill to the Black Friday campaign!
You can find more inspirations in our blog post with 10 campaign inspirations for Black Friday.
Black Friday is coming soon and you should do your best to prepare your marketing and communication strategy for that day. While I have given many campaigns as inspirations, the best strategy is to test your campaigns either prior to Black Friday or launch A/B tests on Black Friday to prepare even better for 2022. I recommend you to plan your campaigns according to your own sales goals, using your previous sales data and offering the incentives that speak best to your audience, within your budget. Adding personalization, creativity and gamification either to your creatives or to the promotion settings would be a great addition to your Black Friday marketing strategy.
To launch scalable, automatic, personalized promotions with built-in tracking on Black Friday, you need a powerful promotion engine. If you do not have the right infrastructure in place, I recommend our promotion and loyalty management software, Voucherify. Voucherify is API-based, fast to integrate (our client’s record being less than one day) and offers plenty of integrated distribution channels. If you need a promotion engine to power your Black Friday 2021 promotions, we are happy and ready to take that sales peak on your servers, guaranteeing 99,99% uptime and references from market leaders. We also offer a 30-day free trial.
Build an outstanding Black Friday campaign with a flexible promotion engine