The Black Friday Cyber Monday (BFCM) weekend presents an incredible opportunity for eCommerce brands.
With millions more shoppers spending billions of dollars online, it’s a chance to:
- Generate a significant spike in revenue to fund new products
- Grab extra market share from less-proactive competitors
- Acquire more lifelong customers at a rapid frequency
But the so-called ‘Cyber Weekend’ isn’t a walk in the park.
With more brands than ever fighting for more consumer attention, you need to be at the top of your game to dominate this potentially lucrative sales event.
So, in this guide, we’ll break down the 30 crucial steps you need to take to ensure your BFCM success this year.
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When is BFCM?
The Black Friday Cyber Monday (BFCM) weekend takes place every year directly after Thanksgiving.
Here are the key dates for BFCM 2023:
- Thanksgiving: Thursday, 23 November
- Black Friday: Friday, 24 November
- Cyber Monday: Monday, 27 November
BFCM 2023 starts in:
The TL;DR BFCM Checklist
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Screenshot or download (right click, save image as) the quick reference BFCM checklist:
Ready to dive deeper and make sure you dominate BFCM this year?
Here are the 30 steps to take broken down into four key stages:
Let’s start from the top.
Planning: Getting your BFCM ducks in a row
As the old saying goes: If you fail to prepare, then prepare to fail.
Here are the key things to consider in the months leading up to BFCM:
1. Start planning early
A successful BFCM sale event starts a long time before the event itself.
Ideally, you’ll start getting the big blocks in place months ahead, not weeks or days ahead.
By mapping out a full BFCM calendar in the months leading up to the event you can make sure you don’t miss out on any easy wins.
What are the big blocks to get in place? Coming right up.
2. Prepare inventory
Inventory management is one of the most challenging yet critical aspects of building a successful eCommerce business.
Add BFCM to the mix and this only gets magnified.
Get it right and you’re set up for a big boost, but get it wrong and you could find yourself in a hole.
The key is accurate forecasting which is based on data-driven projections from sources like:
- Last year’s BFCM: If you’ve already got a Cyber Weekend in the books, looking back at traffic increase as a percentage will help project the increase you’re likely to see this year.
- Organic traffic trends: Use sources like Google Trends or Helium 10’s Chrome extension to see what kind of lift your niche gets over the event in comparison to non-event periods.
- Ad budgets allocated: Consider the ad spend you’re planning and how much traffic this is likely to generate.
Once you can accurately project the kind of traffic volumes you’re likely to see, you can run some conversion rate maths to calculate how many units of inventory you’ll need.
It’s never going to be an exact science and you should instead look to prepare as best as you possibly can.
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3. Build your email list
An owned marketing channel like email is crucial for big events like the Black Friday Cyber Monday weekend.
During these busy periods, it’s easy for:
- Ads to underperform
- Accounts to get limited or even shut down
- Organic social media posts to get lost in a sea of competition
This makes email marketing campaigns all the more important.
While you should be working hard to build your list all year round, in the run-up to BFCM you should consider bulking up your list by:
- Generating traffic to blog article content
- Offering targeted lead magnets via popups with a tool like Privy
- Running lead ads alongside your conversion-focused ads
4. Clean your email list
Getting as many emails into the inbox of your potential customers during the BFCM weekend is crucial.
With so much competition for attention over the event, landing up in the ‘Promotions’ tab—or worse yet, in the spam folder—will drastically reduce the effectiveness of your email marketing campaigns.
So in the run-up to BFCM, carry out some basic list hygiene steps like:
- Removing emails that are bouncing
- Creating an inactive subscriber sequence to either re-engage subs or remove them from your list
- Send more good-quality emails encouraging subscribers to reply and click on links (sending good signals to your Email Service Provider (ESP) which will help with deliverability)
5. Grow social engagement
Social media platforms reward content creators for consistency and engagement, so if you try and come into Cyber Weekend cold, your social media efforts will be seriously hampered.
Instead, create a bulked-up content calendar for the weeks leading into BFCM to lift engagement metrics across your social accounts.
Here are some quick tips for your pre-BFCM content calendar:
- Keep it engaging: Content that encourages users to stay on your posts, reply with comments, and hit the like button will get algorithms promoting your content higher in news feeds.
- Keep it relevant: While you want to engage, don’t go overboard posting irrelevant content farming for engagement. Keep your content relevant to keep building the right audience.
- Keep it top-of-mind: Most social media users open their apps a shockingly high number of times per day. By posting at regular intervals throughout the day you keep your content top-of-mind.
6. Plan staffing
Depending on your operational setup, you may need to consider bringing in extra help over the BFCM weekend for areas such as:
- Customer Service: An increase in ads, traffic, and orders will all result in an increase in inbound customer queries. If there’s a chance you’ll be flooded, consider bringing in customer service support to free you up to focus on other more important areas.
- Advertising: Running ad campaigns across multiple channels at any time is hard work, but over BFCM weekend? It can get a little crazy. You might not need marketing staff all year round, or maybe you just need to add some extra help – planning this aspect early is essential.
- Fulfillment: If you’re fulfilling orders in-house, you should definitely look at bulking out this team over BFCM weekend, and the days and weeks following.
Platforms: Optimizing your website and marketplace presence
Ideally, over BFCM you’ll be sending a boatload of extra traffic to your website and product listings on platforms like Amazon.
To get the most out of this extra traffic, there are some crucial steps you need to take.
7. Check surge capacity
If you’re selling on Amazon or hosting your brand’s online store on Shopify, you can pretty much skip this one.
But if you’re hosting your store on another platform that may be less prepared for the surge of BFCM traffic, it’s well worth checking in with them to see what kind of capacity limits you might have in place.
If your projections suggest you’ll max out any capacity limits, contact your hosting platform and see what can be done to make sure there’s no downtime over this crucial sales period.
8. Prioritize your channels
Selling on multiple marketplaces like Amazon, Walmart, eBay, Etsy, etc.?
Be sure to prioritize those that drive the majority of your revenue. For most, this will be your own online store and Amazon, but be sure to run the numbers and apply the 80/20 rule:
Focus on the 20% of activity that drives 80% of results.
9. Optimize conversion rates
Sending extra traffic to product pages and Amazon listings that convert poorly is like pouring water into a leaky bucket.
If you’re paying for that traffic—even worse.
So before BFCM rolls around, work hard at improving your conversion rate by optimizing pages with:
- Engaging images and infographics
- Benefit-driven copy
- Punchy product videos
- Social proof like reviews and UGC
Remember, even a small lift in conversion rate can have a big boost to your online sales over the BFCM event.
So be sure to test as much as you can in the weeks leading up to the event to maximize sales as much as possible.
10. Optimize click-through rates
If you’re selling on Amazon, optimizing your listings to attract more clicks from search results is crucial.
To boost your CTR and get maximum value from your organic ranking, work on the following aspects:
- Main image: Get creative (with Amazon TOS) to display your product in a scroll-stopping way.
- Pricing: Assess your competitors and create an effective pricing strategy accordingly.
- Promotions: Use coupons and deals to attract eyes and encourage shoppers to click through.
- Reviews: Generate as many positive reviews as you can. If you haven’t yet, enroll key SKUs in the Vine program to get a pre-holiday season boost.
- Shipping times: Make sure you have stock at an FBA warehouse (or operate Seller Fulfilled Prime) to activate Prime shipping on your listing.
11. Optimize order bumps and upsells
Increasing your average order value will help your Black Friday ad budgets go a lot further.
The best way to do this is by offering order bumps at checkout and upsells post-purchase.
You can easily split-test bumps and upsells with an app like One Click Upsell.
12. Optimize the customer checkout experience
Speaking of checkout, the lead-up to the holiday season is the perfect time to optimize this experience too.
Depending on your eCommerce platform’s capability, you should include as many trust elements as you can at checkout.
Things like trusted payment processors, customer reviews, guarantees, and return policies will help give shoppers the confidence to hit the buy button and in turn, improve your overall conversion rates (and ad efficiency!).
13. Optimize for mobile devices
Finally, ensure your website and marketing campaigns are all optimized for mobile consumption.
With mobile commerce set to top $500bn it’s more important than ever to make sure you’re taking a mobile-first approach to avoid pushing over half of your potential customers away.
A few mobile-first thoughts to keep in mind:
- Use a responsive theme (very easy with Shopify) so key elements resize with a user’s screen.
- Use legible fonts and ensure text size is large enough to read on smaller screens without zooming.
- Ensure buttons and links are large enough to tap with a finger. Spacing between interactive elements is also crucial to prevent accidental clicks.
- Simplify your website’s navigation menu for mobile users. Consider using a hamburger menu or other mobile-friendly navigation patterns.
- Create concise and scannable content. Break long paragraphs into shorter ones, and use headings and bullet points to improve readability.
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Promotions: Creating profitable marketing campaigns
Once solid foundations are in place, it’s time to work on the exciting aspects of Black Friday—money-making promotions!
Here’s what you should be working on:
14. Plan to launch promotions early
It feels like with every year that passes, the holiday season starts earlier.
Brands will rarely wait until the clock strikes midnight on Thanksgiving before sending out any promotions and instead start ramping up days and even weeks in advance.
So, if you don’t want to miss out on customers who are primed and ready to purchase ahead of the BFCM weekend, get your promotions set up to start early too.
15. Prioritize your marketing channels
You prioritized your selling platforms, now it’s time to prioritize the advertising channels that will drive traffic to those platforms.
The biggest brands will of course have dedicated teams for each channel, but scrappy startups—like those operated by most of our readers—will need to prioritize.
This isn’t the time to be testing new channels or creative strategies.
Instead, lean into the data you’ve gathered over recent months and years, and put the majority of your time and budget into the channels that give you the best return on investment.
16. Create a multi-channel promotional plan
While you want to prioritize channels and avoid spreading yourself too thin, you’ll also want to create a synergy between the channels you choose.
It’s no use to have one marketing strategy for email, only for your social media efforts to be pulling in a completely different direction.
Instead, you should create aligned objectives, messaging, and creative direction to maximize the impact of your campaigns.
Then, when your customers see your content in their email inbox, social media feed, and via SMS, they have the same campaign messaging reinforced.
Making influencer marketing a part of your BFCM strategy? Reach out to them as early as possible to secure space within your ideal influencer’s promotional capacity.
17. Create a full-funnel marketing plan
The most effective holiday season marketing campaigns will target your entire funnel:
- TOFU (Top Of Funnel): Create content and ad campaigns that drive awareness by targeting new customers and introducing them to your brand and products.
- MOFU (Middle Of Funnel): Re-engage shoppers who have visited your website or product pages and encourage them to consider the next step in purchasing.
- BOFU (Bottom Of Funnel): Re-engage existing customers—your most likely source of Black Friday Cyber Monday sales revenue—with special offers and campaigns to convert them into repeat buyers.
For maximum impact, each level of the funnel should be carefully considered and catered to.
18. Think beyond a standard discount
You don’t have to completely sacrifice your profit margins to have a successful Black Friday Cyber Monday weekend.
Of course, shoppers will be looking for good deals, but that doesn’t mean you have to offer a standard percentage discount.
Instead, you could try offers like:
- ‘Buy X Get X’: Increase average order value while still making an attractive offer by running promotions like buy 3 get 1 free.
- Free shipping: Offering free shipping on orders over a certain threshold can be effective for larger products that usually incur shipping fees.
- Bundles: Creating custom product bundles specifically for Black Friday Cyber Monday sales is another great way to pique interest and drive sales.
19. Crunch your numbers—then crunch them again
I’ve seen too many stories in my years in eCommerce of over-zealous eCommerce businesses that run juicy BFCM discount codes without first checking the viability of such offers.
Please, please, please, double and triple check your unit economics to make sure any promotions you offer won’t put you in a financial hole should the takeup rate surprise you.
20. Create design assets and copy
The last thing you want to be doing is opening up Photoshop or writing copy on Thanksgiving.
Get ahead of the curve by building out projects and tasks in your tool of choice (we use Asana, can’t fault it) way in advance.
Crunch out all the assets you need, organize them neatly, and that Thanksgiving feast will taste all the sweeter.
21. Warm up your Facebook pixel
If you’re not in the habit of running large-scale Facebook ad campaigns, your pixel might not quite be the asset it could be.
Your Facebook pixel should be installed on your website.
Then, when anyone interacts with your website (or Facebook/Instagram content), the pixel will track that activity giving you the option to serve ads to this warmer audience.
So make sure the pixel is installed first, then move on to the next step.
22. Warm up your Facebook ad account
The Facebook ad account ban hammer has a habit of being somewhat trigger-happy around busy seasons like Black Friday Cyber Monday.
If you try and launch 10 campaigns with 10 ad sets each all at once, and each of the ads within them contains wording that is slightly against terms of service, that’s 100 rejections in your account… bad news for account health.
It’s good practice to slowly schedule campaigns, duplicating aspects like copy and creatives as they get approved to make sure your account has a high ad approval rate.
This of course takes a bit of time, so ideally you’d start scheduling campaigns a week or two in advance before gradually duplicating more ads each day.
23. Warm up your email list
While you won’t face a ban from your email list, you’ll still want to warm it up.
Creating a teaser sequence ahead of your BFCM sale can help let your most loyal customers—and those leads yet to buy—that something great is coming.
24. Set influencers up for success
If you’re running influencer campaigns to help drive eCommerce sales over the weekend, make sure they have everything they need to launch the campaign on their end.
- Gifted products
- Campaign details
- Active promo codes
- Promotional guidelines
And make sure they have clear lines of communication to reach out to you should they need to.
25. Prepare Amazon advertising campaigns
Like other areas, your Amazon advertising strategy will be most effective when planned and scheduled ahead of time.
- Amazon PPC: Get your keyword research completed and campaign structure created and scheduled ahead of time.
- Lightning Deals: Submit deals to Amazon within the timeframes they set – usually 6-8 weeks (or more) in advance.
- Coupons: Decide on a discount coupon strategy and schedule ahead of time.
26. Schedule marketing campaigns in advance
You’ve probably realized this by now, but in business, everything takes longer than you expect.
This absolutely carries through to marketing and big sales events like the Black Friday weekend.
Don’t leave the set-up of campaigns and flows until the eve of Black Friday, and instead get them scheduled in the days and weeks leading up to the event.
Rather than setting everything up frantically over the Black Friday weekend, try to instead be in observation mode, keeping a close eye on things and fine-tuning where necessary.
Post-Event: Maximizing the BFCM ripple effect
I know, you’re already dreaming of the post-Black Friday sales figures coming in, celebrating with a Brand Builder Show marathon, and taking a well-earned day off.
But there’s one last aspect to consider: making the most of the Black Friday event after it has come and go.
Here are some post-event aspects to get in place pre-event:
27. Optimize the post-purchase customer experience
Getting units sold and shipped is the number one focus for eCommerce brands, and rightly so.
But online sellers should give serious thought to the post-purchase customer experience too.
Creating a pleasing unboxing experience and going above and beyond to create that wow-factor first impression will go a long way to turning buyers into long-term, loyal customers.
28. Implement follow-up email campaigns
More orders mean more opportunities to:
- Collect reviews from happy customers, helping improve future conversion rates on product pages
- Make additional sales by upselling and cross-selling different items to the same customers
- Grow referrals by inviting happy customers to refer their friends and family using a referral program like Social Snowball
So it’s essential you have a post-purchase email flow set up with a tool like Klaviyo to help achieve these objectives and squeeze more value out of the Black Friday event.
29. Plan your retargeting strategy
The average conversion rate for an eCommerce store is 1.3%.
Let’s say your BFCM strategy crushes and you get that up 3%. That means 97 out of every 100 people who visited your store over the Black Friday weekend didn’t buy.
If you don’t do anything to retarget them, you may as well have set a portion of your ad budget on fire.
Make sure your Facebook pixel is installed so you can run some retargeting ads in the weeks and months following the event.
30. Debrief your BFCM performance
Whew, you made it.
BFCM is done for another year.
But you’ve got one final step on your checklist: a thorough debrief.
Learning what worked—and what didn’t— is essential for building on this year’s performance and coming back stronger next year.
So, grab some time with your team (or a nice cup of coffee for all my solopreneurs!), and create two lists:
- WWW: What Went Well. Start by celebrating the positives and thinking through what you need to double down on next year,
- EBI: Even Better If. Be honest about where you missed the mark and how you can improve next time.
Congratulations in advance for making it through your first holiday sale season!
BFCM Frequently Asked Questions
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