If you’ve read an e-commerce or digital marketing blog in the last month or two, you’ve likely heard phrases like: “This will be a BFCM like none other” or “this unprecedented holiday season”–I’m guilty of both. 

While both of these statements are true and 2020 has rocked businesses and countries around the world, marketers need concrete advice to take control and prepare for what is unquestionably, an unpredictable Q4 to come.

So, we went to the experts: seven of our top agency partners let us in on what they’re telling their clients to do and how they think the season will play out. From paid ad spend, email marketing techniques, and promotional strategy–our partners have you covered. 

CodeCrew: BFCM Predictions & How to Use Email to Succeed

With so many customers venturing online during 2020 for obvious reasons, this year’s BFCM sale season has the potential to be bigger than ever. To make sure that you’re taking full advantage of your e-commerce arsenal, email marketing needs to be top of mind! Each year Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales rise by at least 20-30%, so combine that fact with the higher online sales volume 2020 has been seeing, and you’ll soon see that effective email marketing is a necessity. It’s never too early to start thinking about BFCM 2020 sales as it takes time to plan successful email marketing campaigns that’ll help you see sales skyrocket this year.

Are Mobile-responsive emails a necessity? 

I’m glad you asked! The short answer is a resounding YES. On BFCM 2019, above 80% of CodeCrew clients’ contacts opened emails on their mobile phones. Mobile is showing higher and higher figures year over year, and to be honest, this trend shows no signs of slowing down at all, which is why we expect 2020 to have even higher mobile engagement rates. That being said, mobile-responsive emails aren’t just a good-to-have, but a necessity. Sales from mobile devices were over 66% for Shopify stores for Black Friday 2019.

The last six months have caused a huge shift in consumer habits and expectations. They literally did for e-commerce what Apple did for mobile. 60% of consumers stated that they had made a purchase as the result of a marketing message they received by email, so this isn’t just hyperbole. During BFCM, contacts will be receiving up to 5X more emails than throughout the bulk of the year. What does that mean? Put plainly, if your email sucks and doesn’t tell them what they want to see immediately, then you’re (literally) trashed, my friend. 

Don’t rush to be the first in the inbox 

You’ve probably seen many folks advising you to start your BFCM campaigns as soon as humanly possible once the festivities start. Not true. Your emails will get buried under sends that arrive at more ‘normal’ times of the day quicker than you can say “Heck yes I want to save 30% on shoes!”. For instance, CodeCrew’s client Final had a 5 AM vs. 10 AM PST send-time test for Cyber Monday, and 10 AM brought us some really, really good engagement rates.

Is your online store ready for the 2020 BF/CM season?

Around 38% of shoppers stated that they’re much more comfortable with digital technology at the moment than they were before the pandemic, and over 43% of shoppers feel more positive about shopping online. What does this tell you? – It’s your time to shine!

In order to prepare for the 2020 BFCM season, you need to examine your online customer experience with a fine-toothed comb. What does this mean? Test, test, test, and retest your user experiences far in advance of any big holiday sales.

This is a huge opportunity for you to show your (old and new) customers that your brand is worth engaging with over the peak period. It’s time to play up to your brand experience and make shopping with you this BFCM season unforgettable!

Trellis: Data Based Planning & Delivery

With brick and mortar stores operating in a limited capacity, 2020 will be a competitive shopping year online. Unless you’re Amazon, the supply chain has been highly unstable since the COVID-19 outbreak and retailers are frantically trying to make up lost revenue online. Existing online retailers have seen massive spikes in customer traffic, and the supply chain has been trying its best to keep up. 

Black Friday and Cyber Monday retailers typically double if not triple their ad spend budgets because competition can be fierce. Trellis has been working with Facebook to predict how the 2020 shopping year will impact that number. Many retailers have budgeted a 25-50% increase in ad spend for this holiday season because most large online retailers (Target, Wal-Mart, etc.) have lost revenue from decreased foot traffic to their brick and mortar stores. 

Our advice is to trust your data; we cannot stress this enough in such an unstable environment. We mine data months in advance, so we have the advantage of delivering a highly strategic marketing plan for our clients. We advise our clients to take advantage of things like Facebook’s conversion API for optimized ad delivery, Google’s structured data for SEO, and building large prospecting audiences.

Facebook’s conversion API allows you to measure actions on your website better than a pixel, improve your events’ accuracy on-site, and fully control the data you share. Simply put, this will give you better visibility, results, and a cheaper cost per conversion.

Google’s structured data will significantly improve your conversion rate from organic traffic on your site. Google is great, but sometimes it needs an extra push. Having a properly structured data table (schema data) will help Google identify product names, descriptions, ratings, reviews, prices, and product availability. This will also help with new product launches indexing much faster on the web.

Prospecting new customers now is much cheaper than trying to gain a new customer closer to the holidays. Build a website traffic objective to drive cheap traffic to your website and keep building for the next 30 days. After the campaign builds enough traffic and data, take that same audience, and move them into a cheaper retargeting and remarketing campaign. This will maximize your return on investment come Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Using data tools like these is the number one way to prepare as we head into an unprecedented holiday season. 

Tinuiti: Digital Spend & Advertising Through the Funnel

Though 2020 has indeed been full of unexpected events and tumult, one thing I’m confident in predicting is the accelerated growth of e-commerce during the holidays this year. There are a few contributing factors at work here. 

Year over year we have seen a steady increase in e-commerce’s volume, which we would have expected to continue this year even without a pandemic in play. Combine this with the facts that many parts of the country are and may continue to be under some type of restrictions limiting the capacity of brick and mortar (B&M) retail with a significant portion of the population unwilling and/or unable to physically shop in person, and we have the recipe for a supercharged online shopping season. Also, while Black Friday began as primarily a B&M, we have certainly seen it pivot towards e-commerce in recent years. With the reasons mentioned above, I don’t think it’s a stretch at all to say this year will be one where digital outpaces B&M revenue on Black Friday and through the Cyber Five weekend.

To tie the two together, options like in-store pickup and local delivery can help to bridge the gap for retailers with strong B&M presences. According to a Salesforce survey, 30% of consumers are using store pickup more than usual.

Obviously this pivot bodes well for overall return on paid digital channels which will also dramatically increase YoY. This means you can expect ad competition to heat up in terms of cost and placement.  With mid-upper funnel channels like social, high impact display, and OTT playing an increasingly important role in performance marketers’ playbooks, the need to both be present for your audience and compelling with creative is more important than ever this year as advertisers are forced to fully embrace the digital realm.

Bottom of the funnel channels like search and shopping should also expect an increase in competition which may wipe out the CPC decreases we’ve seen to date this year.  As retailers who once relied on their B&M presence to carry the significant load of their holiday revenue will pivot their focus on e-commerce efforts. I’d expect the auction competitiveness to be at an all time high.

With more consumers than ever depending on e-commerce to fulfill their holiday shopping needs, and more retailers relying more heavily on it to carry their holiday success, I predict both a highly voluminous and competitive BFCM & holiday season this 2020.

The importance of a holistic omnichannel strategy has never been clearer–with more customers interacting across more touchpoints both online and off. Focus on optimizing your ad campaigns to maximize returns through compelling re-targeting efforts and onsite messaging.

Coalition Technologies: Consumer Behavior Trends Here to Stay

2020’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday will be completely different than years prior. As many customers will not be going to physical stores, or will be significantly dissuaded from doing so due to COVID19, we expect a dramatic increase in the number of online shoppers this holiday season with at least a 20% diversion of revenue from retail to online.  Several other history defining shifts will also play a role in the holiday shopping season for e-commerce:

  • The “Shop Small” / Shop Local trend, that’s already driving up the numbers of online shoppers for smaller businesses will continue to drive growth for smaller, independent e-commerce brands through the holidays eason. 35% of consumers say they’re actively shopping local to help businesses survive. 
  • Seasonal spikes in sales for other segments will be exaggerated further, especially in wellness, hobbyist or enthusiast categories like DIY, entertainment, fitness, and beauty. We anticipate “The New Normal” has motivated many to pursue their passion or hobbies in a more significant way and revisit their abandoned or held passions from earlier life phases. 

These trends are likely to persist even after life returns to a new normal post COVID-19.

Based on preliminary polling of our clients, most advertisers will double or triple their ad spend budgets for Google, Facebook, and Instagram ads due to municipality-ordered brick-and-mortar closures, reduction of in-person shopping demand, and increased paid media competition driving up bids. It wouldn’t surprise me if 2020’s Black Friday / Cyber Monday crushes previous year’s paid media performance in a big way. 

The Taproom: Start Early, Stay Later, and Differentiate

For the last few years we’ve seen BFCM sales start earlier and finish later, and this year we’ll see that trend accelerate. There’s a high likelihood that you’re going to see merchants begin their sales as early as the first week of November, and continue well into December. In fact, there’s even a chance it could start earlier than November, as Amazon has delayed Prime Week until the first week of October which, given how close this is to the holiday season, may mean other merchants start their sales campaigns even earlier. 

There are many unknown factors right now that we’ll see the impact of as we get closer to the holiday shopping season. For example, uncertainty around fulfillment and delivery costs, and having to compete with much larger retailers who are planning to close their doors for BFCM and focus entirely on online sales. We’ve already seen some of these come into play with Target choosing to focus on e-commerce from Thanksgiving through BFCM weekend.

The best way to set yourself apart from the noise lies in how you choose to run your sales over the holiday season. Run them over an extended period of time with a focus on the big ticket sales on BFCM weekend. Alternatively, you could choose not to focus on BFCM at all and run a longer sales campaign from November through December, an extended time frame means you won’t be clamoring for attention during the crowded weekend.

The best way to combat the pervasive uncertainty is offering extended campaigns like Kelly suggests. This extends the opportunity for engagement for those who may be waiting to buy for a variety of reasons. For some if the deal is right they’ll convert; whether it’s Prime Day in October or Cyber Monday; while others may not be ready or able to buy until later in the season. By running longer sales you can capture both ends of the spectrum, meeting customer needs throughout the season.

Blue Stout: Onsite Message Structure & User Experience

To compete with record BFCM volume this year, SMB brands should prepare by building a dynamic shopping experience that sets themselves apart from the competition.

With COVID reducing the volume of foot traffic in retailers, the competition online will be the highest it’s ever been. Meaning, to keep your customer engaged with your brand (and reduce bounce rates) in your online store, you will need to incentivize them at each step of the purchase journey.

Here are two recommendations from the Blue Stout team on how to structure onsite messaging:

1) Tiered Incentives:  As customers add products to their cart, incentivize them to add more with additional discounts or “Gifts With Purchase” via tiered threshold offers. For example:

– Buy $50: Get 20%

– Buy $75: Get  20% + Free Shipping

– Buy $100: Get 20% + Free Shipping + A Free Gift

Bonus: Shopify Plus Scripts are a great way to set this up. 

Not only are you piling on the savings for shoppers with offers like these, you’re boosting their average order value. Tiered incentives also allow you to address the gap between bargain hunters and top spenders, giving shoppers something to match their holiday budgets.

2) Dynamic Onsite Messaging: Most brands will offer incentives (like the above) but drop the ball when it comes to messaging. Simply adding a banner to your store or sending out an email will not cut it this year. At Blue Stout, we recommend brands build dynamic messaging into each stage and page of your store to remind customers of your incentives as they browse and work their way towards checkout.

For example, if you are offering a free gift for all purchases over $100, build in dynamic display messages at the following points on your store:

– Collection Page: Present the incentive

– Product Page: Tell them if this product qualifies for the free gift

– Cart Page: Tell them how many dollars way they are from earning the free gift and offer an upsell opportunity to reach the threshold

– Top of Site Notification Banner: Display a progress bar showing how many dollars away they are from the free gift

Both of these are compelling ways to incentivize your customers, you’re able to preserve your margins better with tiered incentives and dynamic onsite messaging personalizes each shopper’s user experience lets them know exactly what they need to do to earn the offer equaling huge returns for your bottom line.

Ben Zettler: Unlocking the Right Approach to BFCM

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are typically the “holy grail” for online retailers. A time of year that used to be dominated by traditional brick-and-mortar sales, “BFCM” was already expected to dominate in 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the penetration of e-commerce this year, which makes record-breaking holiday sales this year not just likely, but inevitable. Ten years of e-commerce growth was achieved just in Q1 of this year.

What Are You Good At?

An omnichannel approach to e-commerce marketing is typically the “best practice.” Meaning, promoting your business across various channels to make touchpoints with consumers at various times throughout the purchase process. Organic social content, SEM (Search Engine Marketing, i.e. Google Ads), social advertising, email marketing, SMS/Messenger marketing, SEO optimization and even traditional advertising methods all play a part. 

If you operate a business a bit on the smaller side in terms of manpower and financial resources successfully implementing strategies across each of those areas just may not be feasible. It’s important to take a realistic approach to how you market your business. 

Do you have an engaged Instagram following? Make sure that you plan for the content that you’ll be posting throughout BFCM ahead of time. Use tools like Later.com, or Facebook’s in-built Creator Studio to schedule content. 

Do you have a lot of customers that tend to make repeat purchases? Build segments in your email marketing program based on purchase history, so that you email users that are more active more often. 

Do you have great customer reviews on your website? Showcase them! Create content that you post on social media based on the reviews that you have received.

Create An “EARLY ACCESS” Email List

Regardless of the size of your owned list (your opted-in email users) or the frequency that you currently send out messaging, making email a core part of your strategy for marketing during the holiday season can help provide a nice jumpstart to your BFCM sales. 

A great way to make customers feel like they are “in the club” is to create a list of users that have opted-in to receive early access to BFCM deals and promotions. 

Start that today. Some initial steps:

  • Create pop-ups in Justuno that serve both desktop and mobile users prompting them to sign up for “early access to BFCM deals.”
  • Sync that popup with your email marketing tool (Klaviyo is recommended for businesses on Shopify) and a BFCM list.
  • Serve a specialized welcome flow to that list that gives users a surprise discount to use. Regardless of the discount amount, make it available only for a limited time (2 days for example) as a way to generate some sales well ahead of BFCM.

Then, as you are mapping out your promotional plan for the big weekend, make sure to include special email communications that go out to this ahead of everything else. I typically recommend Wednesday evening prior to Thanksgiving. Include special discounts or offers available only to users on that list and even consider including an exclusive product just for those users. 

Worth eCommerce: Quick Wins For The Season

Look, I don’t want to be the guy raving about silver linings during a tragic pandemic, but COVID-19 has caused a seismic shift in consumer behavior, and for once, it actually benefits the little guys. And when small businesses leverage opportunities, more folks stay employed, more people get jobs and our communities get that much stronger.

Sustained quarantine and pre-pandemic surges for e-commerce, coupled with the fear of shopping brick and mortar and hopes for a vaccine, WILL make this the biggest BFCM in history. 

What can you do to succeed during 2020 BFCM?

Fashionably Late: Outsmart the competition and send your emails at unusual times to get to the top of the inbox. For example, instead of sending at 6 AM, send at 6:15 or 6:05 AM.

Roll Out the Red Carpet: Start Cyber week off strong with extremely high open rate campaigns sending emails to VIPs and most engaged lists, so that when you send to a broader newsletter, you’ve established a solid sender reputation. Aim for above 35% open rates with this VIP-branded messaging. 

KISS: Keep it super simple. Pair precise messaging with simple promotions. One solid core offer will often outperform a bunch of random deals.

The Text Big Thing: Use SMS; this BFCM will be the breakout year for text! Get people on your SMS list ASAP. Send out 2-4 email campaigns letting people know they can sign up for an extra holiday perk, then deliver. Cast a wide capture net too: SMS sign-up should appear everywhere: your checkout page, your mobile pop-up, even your flow campaigns!

Pro Tip: Many consumers would prefer to get updates on their orders via text than email. Offer this as an option during checkout to grow your SMS database and follow it with relevant, helpful messaging to keep them engaged.

Ask for Help: If you’re not an email expert, hire an agency that can help with this golden opportunity.  And do it early; several of the leading agencies (us included) won’t accept BFCM clients after October!

What this means

Not all of this is uncharted territory; in fact, many of the strategies that have worked in previous years will work again with a few tweaks. Paid ad competition and inbox fatigue are routine holiday concerns–the stakes are just higher this year with many retailers hoping to recover from lost sales earlier in the year.

The good news is that despite market fluctuations, many consumers report that they’re planning on spending the same if not more than last year. That said, the economic uncertainty of the present and future will still make price the number one factor in purchasing decisions this coming holiday season. In essence, consumers are planning on spending as much as before, but they’re going to want the absolute best bang for their buck. It’s crucial then to develop campaigns that balance this mindset with your profit margins while differentiating your brand through creative copy and delivery for the most effective campaigns.

Whether you’ve planned your marketing through the end of the year or are just getting started with your Black Friday campaigns–we’re here for you. Download our 2020 holiday paid ad guide or watch Justuno’s Holiday Hustle webinar series on-demand for inspiration.

Need even more? Sign up for Justuno Plus where we combine strategic support with access to AI-powered features and unlimited visitors, perfect for holiday season traffic spike. Book a demo today to learn more.