Yes, 1,727% is a giant year over year increase. And yes, we didn’t do much in sales volume last year. However, we’re still talking about going from single digit thousands to doing many tens of thousands in orders over these important shopping days and we want to share our experiences in making this happen.
We started our prep work months in advance. I view Black Friday Cyber Monday (BF/CM) as any other major campaign, meaning the more you lay ground work far in advance the bigger the win.
As a brand, we’re also a little anti-consumer, which means we can’t go crazy deal-deal-deal on Black Friday, Cyber Monday like many brands do. We don’t want people buying things they are going to just throw out in short order. One of our most common lines (and best selling case) is “believe in better”. What does this have to do with Black Friday, Cyber Monday and why should you care?
It means you have to prepare for this once a year event in a way that makes sense for your business. Yes, there’s an opportunity to sell a lot of product because people go a little insane for this time of year. BUT, you can also do these events wrong.
What does this prep work look like? Here’s a screenshot of our steady growth over the 5 months leading up to BF/CM. During this time we really honed in our Facebook/Instagram audiences and built our email list. It compounds up nicely! (fairly obvious when BF/CM hit)
I’ve personally worked with merchants that destroy their brand value by discounting 50-70% every day for the week leading up to BF/CM and for a few days after. What value are you telling your customers they should place on your product? What kind of long term damage are you doing by only ever using the deep discount tactic?
Our overall offer strategy for BF/CM was to use it as another giving moment. Black Friday / Cyber Monday come before Giving Tuesday and for us, we wanted to turn the entire weekend into a giving weekend while using Tuesday as a recap of what we accomplished as a community. In short, can we use this really crazy shopping time of year to raise even more money for causes close to our hearts? This year we wanted to focus all of our energy on Save the Waves, a great cause and a great partner of Pela’s.
Our offer: Take $5 off, Give $5 to Save the Waves.
Bigger picture, Black Friday and Cyber Monday are mostly about the audience you already have that knows you.
This is why preparing for months in advance is so damn important. You’ll notice this common thread in all the sections of this post. Everything is about leveraging the assets we’ve been spending time and money building all year.
Here’s how we prepared, launched, monitored, and adjusted during the 2017 Black Friday, Cyber Monday weekend blitz:
I’ve broken this post up into categories so that you can digest what you’d like and leave the rest. I recommend you go through it all so that you get a complete picture for how we did things.
Tools & Technology Used During Campaign
While we have a bunch of different platforms and apps that power our business every day, during the campaign we focus all of our time on a handful and ignore the rest. It’s a game of focus.
– Monster shout out to Shopify and more specifically some of the Shopify PLUS features like Scripts. We leverage Scripts to build really specific promotions that a ton of customers took advantage of during the campaign.
Google Analytics– Duh?
Klaviyo – More on email below in this post.
Facebook Power Editor– I recommend everyone learn how to master this powerful platform.
ShipStation – We use Amazon FBA for fulfillment in the USA, Canada and the UK and ShipStation helps us keep orders flowing to the right warehouse.
ZenDesk– All of our communication channels funnel into ZenDesk so we can more efficiently respond and manage customer service.
Google Sheets – Critical Path / Plan(special mention of this one and some information below)
This is an odd one, but we prepared a “critical path” sheet that had all of our planned activities and actual activities in one place organized by day in a calendar like layout. We had a few surprise shares from some other influencers and we put those into the sheet as they happened. We also made some small adjustments to our email schedule as we went.
Since Black Friday / Cyber Monday is such a hectic time, having every single planned activity in one easy to reference document really helped keep our team focused and aware of what was happening.
Paid Media – Air Cover
We run a decent amount of Facebook and Instagram ads to generate top of funnel traffic and brand awareness throughout the year.
For BF/CM we decided to not just step up our overall ad budget, but also change up the ad funnel and the audiences to support the campaign in a more targeted way.
Put simply. This campaign was less about top of funnel brand awareness and more direct response conversion focused.
– Anybody who visited Pela Case in the last 60 days but didn’t buy.
– Anybody that watched more than 50% of one of our videos.
– All Klaviyo Profiles (basically, all of our subscribers)
All told we created close to 30 different ad variations for these audiences and began testing Thursday evening so we had an idea of what the winners would be. Our most successful ad was the following:
You can read more about our approach to Facebook / Instagram in this post.
Email – The Accelerator
We don’t want to be annoying, people get enough garbage on this weekend every year. However, we also need to use this big and growing email list we have been investing in nurturing for the last 5 months.
Building our email list was a priority this year. We see the list as foundational to any great ecommerce brand. A little visual of what this looks like from June 1 until end of November. This is what I mean by laying the foundation!
There’s a bunch of reasons why email is so critical to success during the holiday season and being able to email out your offers to these potential customers is just one of them.
We also look to our list to share our social content. More on this below.
Finally, we leverage our list to create even more targeted Facebook audiences for our paid media support.
Expecting to have blockbuster sales during BF/CM without a healthy list is like showing up to a gunfight with a toothbrush. You aren’t prepared.
Here was our (rough) email sequence for the campaign:
Friday – 3 Emails, each to a reductive list based on desired action (did they open, did they buy)
Saturday– 2 Emails, same rules as Friday
Sunday– 1 Emails, same rules as Friday
Monday– 3 Emails, same rules as Friday
We created a new abandoned cart flow that was also BFCM themed and had more urgency and scarcity copy.
We also setup a different order confirmation email that asked each new customer to share our campaign on their social channels to help us raise more money for Save the Waves.
Influencer Support – The Echo
All told we lined up influencer support to give us a combined reach of about ~2M people. The purpose here was a coordinated social blitz from as many influencers as we could get on board with our campaign.
Since we were giving $5 from every order to Save the Waves we also secured their help in getting the word out.
I won’t give you the exact list of influencers we use, since we’ve spent a ton of time nurturing these direct relationships (we don’t use platforms / agencies). I can tell you that their support was quite significant in helping echo our offer outside of our direct sphere of influence.
This isn’t a new strategy but I’m still surprised more brands don’t work with influencers during these important shopping days.
Social Media – Share It All
Our purpose and plan for posting on our social channels wasn’t a lot different than the rest of the year. You can read more about how we leverage Facebook and Instagram in this post.
One of the things we wanted to do with our BF/CM campaign was to make it shareable. Having a cause we believed in like Save the Waves definitely helped us create a more shareable experience.
We even setup our order confirmation email for BF/CM to specifically ask people to share our cause with their friends. The email had direct links to our Instagram and Facebook posts that we wanted them to share.
What would we do differently?
The sheer volume of coordinated activities required during large scale campaigns like Black Friday Cyber Monday makes for a busy time just juggling tasks. Next year we will leverage Shopify Plus Flow to automate more of the grunt work. This will allow us to prepare even more thoroughly.
Tighter email schedule with more segments and follow ups. It’s easy to get lost in the noise.
Better order routing and fulfillment system. We already knew that we’d be implementing Skubana in the new year but it would have been very valuable in helping us get orders over to the right fulfillment warehouse (we use fba in 3 regions), saving us a lot of work.
We left some asset creation (last minute ad changes) to the week before. While not a huge deal it would be nice to have one less thing to worry about once the weekend rolls around.