Attention all Shopify store owners!
Take a look at those calendars. Thanksgiving is only nine weeks away. And with Thanksgiving come Black Friday and Cyber Monday – when retail businesses everywhere see the rush in sales that makes all the late nights and work worthwhile. And even though sixty-three days can seem like plenty of time, when it comes to running a business, it’s tomorrow. That means that you need to act today to get ready.
Santa has his list and he’s famous for checking it twice. Let’s find out if your Shopify Christmas will be naughty or nice.
Black Friday & Cyber Monday 2018 – A Shopify Website Survival Checklist
1. Have Stuff to Sell Online During the Holidays
This seems like a no-brainer. If you’ve been through a Christmas or two, you have learned – perhaps the hard way – about the financial consequences of running out of inventory when the sales a flying. But this year is a little bit different. Economic conditions are strong – especially in the US right now, which is experiencing record levels of GDP and low unemployment. Respected financial analysts at Kiplinger Report estimate that even with the solid growth of retail last year (+4.2%) that retail sales will be up an additional +5.1% in 2018.
The big question for retailers is figuring out which items will sell well, which will not, and how to get your share of the pie. It’s a delicate balance and – quite frankly – one of the perennial challenges of all retail. But what you CAN do is get ready by ensuring that you have something to sell even if you are low on inventory or your customers don’t know what to buy.
There are several great gift card apps available in the Shopify marketplace. Gift card apps are great because customers can buy gifts – you get the money now – and current inventory is irrelevant. Some redemptions occur within a few days, but many happen weeks after Christmas has passed when you have a chance to restock. But the best part is that virtual gift cards never run “out,” so you’ll always have something to sell.
2. Prepare for Email eCommerce Marketing Mania
Most of the time, if you send too many emails you run the risk of annoying customers to the point that they unsubscribe. Starting the week before Thanksgiving, all that changes. Customers a looking for great deals and preparing their shopping excursions in the real and virtual worlds. This is the time of the year that they WANT to see all those special deal emails.
Do not disappoint them.
Get your promotional emails set up now. Plan out your discounting and special deal strategies and get dozens of emails set to go so that you can schedule them well in advance or pull the trigger at a moment’s notice. It is not unusual for retail businesses to send two or three emails per week – sometimes more. And when those customers come to your site, they’ll be ready to buy.
3. Time Kills Deals – The Need for Website Speed
It’s an old adage, but when it comes to closing billion-dollar real estate deals or selling inexpensive Christmas gifts, when the deal is on the table it needs to close quickly. Your customers are more impatient than ever. During the holidays they are super-stressed and pressed for time. If your pages are loading slowly or you make them jump through too many hoops they will walk away.
Every page on your site needs to be optimized for performance. That means images need to be properly formatted and sized, old apps need to be removed, and analytics tools need to be streamlined. The faster your site snaps the more sales you will get. This is true all year long, but it is mission critical when the clock is ticking through December.
4. Retargeting Ads for the Shopify Win
If you haven’t used retargeting ads yet, now is the time.
Retargeting ads are extremely powerful. It is VERY common for a customer to do a little bit of shopping before they do any buying. With retargeting, your retargeting ad service will “remember” customers who have visited your site. Even better … you can set it up to remember the specific products they looked at. Then, when they are cruising the internet they will see ads for your site and even the specific product they looked at.
This is where the big online retailers make their money, and you can too.
5. Logistics Means Delivery, Delivery Means Success
Some businesses can provide free shipping. Others find it difficult to work that into their business model. If you can offer free shipping during the holidays … GREAT! But the most important thing during the holidays is getting it there on time. If you delight them with delivery, they will come back. If you guarantee delivery dates and communicate progress, you will get more sales.
There are several delivery and logistics providers. But you need to get them going and test your systems now. Communicate delivery options up front – loud and proud on your website. Tell them that if they order by a certain date that you guarantee delivery by the holidays. Reinforce that messaging on your shopping cart pages because seeing that reassurance cuts down on abandonment.
Of course, your customers should get an order confirmation via email. But even better if your systems notify them when an item ships (the last thing you need is a bunch of customer support emails clogging up your workflow this time of the year).
6. The Last-Minute Reminder
Set up your website and email systems to build a separate list of customers who purchase between Thanksgiving week and your shipping cut-off date (whenever that is). Send them an email reminding them of their previous purchase and tell them that you still have inventory available for immediate shipping and that – if they order their last-minute gifts by December XX – their gifts will arrive in time for the holidays. Offer them a special deal or discount as a returning shopper during the holiday period.
In retail parlance this is called a “bounce-back” offer and it works REALLY well. The customer already trusts you and everyone has last-minute gifting needs. If you treated them great and shipped on-time on their previous order, they will trust you to make them look good when time is running out.
The Time Is Now to Prepare for Black Friday & Cyber Monday
All of the checklist items listed above are solid, time-tested, and doable. But you want to do these things now because it is tricky to make changes during the frenzied holidays when even a few minutes of downtime or misfunctioning app can cost you sales. If you need help optimizing your Shopify eCommerce site or installing the apps we’ve recommended, just let us know. We help Shopify merchants with those kinds of tasks every day.
Thanks for reading! It’s going to be a great holiday season and we look forward to helping you all.
Notes and References
Kiplinger Retail Sales Forecast for 2018