Ecommerce: Tips & tricks to get you ready for Black Friday and X-mas

Q3 and Q4 are often the most critical times of the year when it comes to ecommerce and retail sales due to the large amount of peak shopping periods where consumer shopping motivation increases dramatically. 
That’s why most retailers have already begun to prepare for phenomena such as Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Christmas shopping or even Singles day, which have all become increasingly popular in recent years.

With the incoming holiday shopping spree, what are some things ecommerce businesses should pay extra attention to in order to keep traffic and sales as high as possible?
In this article, I will share some strategies we are currently implementing for ecommerce brands we’re working with.

Start early with broad digital advertisement

Google has pointed out that the interest in Black Friday begins up to 6 weeks before the actual event. Also, a trend has shown patterns where Google searches increase during the weeks leading up to Black Friday, but decrease the day of the event!

Criteo’s (an ecommerce advertising platform) data highlights a similar point; buyers who shop for the first time from a retailer during the Black Friday weekend make their first online visit, regardless of the browsing environment, 41 days prior on average.
This demonstrates why it is highly important for retailers to capture interest some time prior to the peak shopping events.

Wanting to improve engagement before the actual events? Following are some examples that are worth putting your emphasis on:

  • Run campaigns that promote your brand and encourage people to sign up to your loyalty program well in advance. This means starting up to 6 weeks before your primary events.
    Think more upper funnel than lower funnel for this approach with the goal of increasing brand awareness and retargeting your audience lists.


  • You can also boost your subscription base dramatically through techniques such as Facebook lead ads, where the sign-up happens directly on the media platform without the need for customers to go to your shop first. This has proven to be a very cost effective way of generating high value leads for a lot of our ecommerce business.


  • Make sure to fine-tune your Google Shopping feed well before the holiday and be attentive to relevant generic searches. Clicks on shopping ads grew 38% between Black Friday 2018 and 2019 and I believe it is going to grow even more in 2020 Q3 & Q4! A rule of thumb is you should give your shopping campaigns equal amounts of attention as you give your standard search campaigns.


  • Your inactive customers are worth their weight in gold! The price of reactivating them through newsletters or remarketing ads is much lower than acquiring brand new customers. 
    If your CRM data is well structured it should be easy to spot and isolate inactive segments in order to do targeted marketing to reactivate them. 
    An idea could be to attract the recipients with special deals such as early access or exclusive service.


Cut the fat and gain performance power

When boxers prepare for a big fight they work hard at reducing their weight by starving themselves of food and water in the days leading up to a fight. Does that sound a bit dramatic and not very relevant to you? Well, you can choose to be inspired by their approach and cut fat in your webshop by temporarily removing all unnecessary elements before the peak days kick in.
Here are some ways your ecommerce business can be inspired by elite boxers without the need to starve yourself of delicious holiday foods!

  • As a digital marketer myself I love tracking and collecting customer data. I think the same can be said about most ecommerce brands. However, you need to be aware that all tracking comes with a price. The more tracking you add, the slower your webshop will load, which will negatively impact your conversion rate. An easy way to gain extra performance is to make an audit of your Tag Management setup and temporarily disable traciking that is not needed to be active all the time.
    This could be tracking scripts such as Hotjar, marketing scripts that you are currently not using or unused analytics tools. During the peak season every millisecond will count and the last thing you need is unused tracking that reduces your conversion rate.


  • Another highly useful thing is to run speed audits to identify the bottlenecks that are making your web site slow. Team up with your front-end & back-end developers, SEO expert, or whoever can chip in to reduce load time. For some of our customers, we are even working with performance budgets to set rules and standards for how fast their sites should render.
    This might sound boring, but it will provide a better experience for your visitors and positively impact business metrics.

Make sure your hosting & cloud infrastructure is ready to scale

With Covid-19 impacting consumer behavior and the general advice to avoid large crowds it is only natural that the holiday online shopping will see a large boost in traffic and sales compared to last year. This puts huge pressure on ecommerce businesses that have to be able to run smoothly in order to avoid losing sales because of traffic volumes that could double or even triple compared to last year. At the same time, supply chains need to keep up with the increased demand whilst warehouses work under the rule of keeping two meters distance - not easy!

Here is a list of some things you can consider in order to prepare the surge of online traffic and orders.

  • Proper stress testing is necessary. The load on the site from a large number of concurrent users can be simulated. The behaviour should reflect typical usage, and not just visits to the frontpage. Use this information and input from the regular speed tests to identify bottlenecks. Be aware that bottlenecks will always be present - therefore you need to  prioritise and rank them according to impact on your business and effort to remediate. 


  • Have a plan B. Depending on what you sell, a sale that fails because of a slow or offline site on Black Friday, can be lost. Plan for several worst case scenarios. Possible solutions can be to have a queue system ready to implement, disable elements of the site that are not strictly necessary. 


  • Look beyond your hosting infrastructure. Often all the effort is concentrated on the actual customer facing site. With a solid architecture and running on a cloud system, scaling is often quite good. However many other systems are part of the experience - be sure to look at the whole process. Often bottlenecks happen in systems communicating with the commerce site. Some examples could be limits on how fast orders can be sent to an ERP system, the time it takes to send order confirmations, a recommendation service or a third party tracking script that causes problems and ultimately hurts the shopping experience.


  • Do not implement big changes before critical days. Perhaps obvious, but we have often seen that small changes being deployed just before peak season turn out to have unintended effects. Even if it is marked as low-risk. Also make sure you have the necessary team and organisation ready to act if problems arise.


With these tips and tricks, we hope to have prepared you for the ecommerce Eldorado that is Q3 and Q4. If you have any questions or need help optimizing your platforms and preparing your business for a successful Black Friday, Christmas season or the like, we are right here to help.


Klaus Jespersen Colding
Ecommerce Director