It may feel like summer just ended, but with Labor Day in the rear view mirror, we’re now in the express lane to the holiday season! And that means everyone from retailers to consumers to economists will be eagerly anticipating holiday sales.
This year’s Black Friday/Cyber Monday (aka BFCM) kicks off November 25, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the deals start then – in recent years, Black Friday deals have been inching closer and closer to Halloween – frightful, indeed! So what’s ahead for e-commerce?
It was a slow 2nd quarter, thanks in part to a leveling off after its growth spurt during the pandemic, inflation, and Amazon Prime Day’s shift from June to July. But according to data from LoyaltyLion, more customers are looking forward to (and even waiting for) BFCM to make big purchases. Experts predict this year’s BFCM to grow 12% over last year, which happened to be the biggest holiday shopping season in US history! But with changes in consumer spending habits, more people working from home, and a potential recession on the horizon, you can expect a different kind of holiday shopping experience this year.
In addition to earlier sales, experts are predicting steeper discounts, as nervous retailers anticipate supply chain shortages, while trying to move stock and recoup some missed sales from a sluggish summer. But while all of that is (educated) speculation, one thing is for sure: when it comes to Black Friday, there’s always a few surprises in store – anything can happen!, The best thing you can do? As e-commerce expert Ben Zettler advises, "Build your plan early and keep it simple. If you're offering discounts for BFCM, don't make it confusing to your customer. If you have limited-release products for the special shopping event, clearly demonstrate how your customers can participate."
So to get prepared, arm yourself with a few game plans – don’t worry, we’ve got you covered: your own community can be the key to a successful Black Friday! But first, here are a few trends you can expect to see this BFCM.
With consumers trained to expect earlier discounts, retailers are in a race to announce their deals first. This means you can expect Black Friday deals to hit as early as mid-October. And on the other end of the spectrum, you can expect them to last longer – through mid-December if not later – to capture the attention (and wallets) of last-minute holiday shoppers.
While a longer shopping season has its benefits (more time to capture sales), it also means you’ll be competing to hold your customers’ attention span for a longer period of time. So how do you do this? We’ve got the answers below.
Social media + e-commerce = social commerce! With social commerce, the entire sale (from discovery through checkout) happens directly through a social media platform such as Instagram, Facebook or TikTok – each of which boasts native commerce tools.
The convenience of shopping from your favorite social media platform has made social commerce a huge success with great potential: it’s expected to reach $45 billion in sales this year with over half the adults in the country making a purchase! So it’s no surprise it’s expected to be a big driver of revenue during the most significant shopping season of the year!
Mobile users are increasing, and not only that, they’re spending increasingly more time on their mobile devices. And what are they doing? Shopping! Last year, mobile sales accounted for 71% of all BFCM sales, and they currently account for nearly 73% of all e-commerce sales. At this rate, there is a tremendous opportunity for m-commerce. (Fun fact: Mobile commerce has been surpassing desktop commerce since 2014!)
Notice a trend? People are certainly spending a lot of time on their phones! So why not meet them where they already are? Not only are more BFCM shoppers expected to make purchases on mobile (see above), SMS marketing offers a unique advantage against traditional email marketing: a much higher open rate!
Consider: the average open rate for SMS e-commerce texts is a whopping 99%, compared with 33% for email! Put simply, customers are most likely to see your texts before they see your emails. As Digital Marketing Consultant Tara Dinoski advises, “SMS is a great channel for two-way, conversational strategy during BFCM and beyond. It’s another tool for new and returning customers to get answers to questions, first dibs on promotions and build rapport with your brand.”
It’s no wonder SMS marketing is expected to become a $12.6 billion business by 2025!
Thanks to the success of video-centric platforms like TikTok, more and more brands are turning to video marketing to bring their products to life. Not only is this type of content more engaging, it offers a way to educate and entertain – a surefire way to win the attention of prospective customers.
But before you worry about a budget for video production, you don’t have to have the most professionally produced or edited videos to capture your customers. In fact, something shot on your smartphone or UGC is really all it takes! Remember: authenticity before perfection.
Using Gatsby along with other tools in your tech stack, here are our best actionable plays to ensure you cover every base this BFCM!
While it’s easy to focus on all the acquisition opportunities during BFCM, it’s important not to forget the customers you already have – they hold tremendous growth potential! As Xander Karr, Sales Strategist at Tequila Sunrise puts it, "Imagine filling your home with plants and never watering them. E-commerce store owners do that every BFCM cycle when they spend inordinate amounts on the top of their funnel with no retention marketing system in place. Do your customer base a favor this year and invest in its growth, not just its acquisition."
One way to do that? Reward your most loyal customers by giving them early access to your BFCM sales. Using Gatsby with a loyalty platform like LoyaltyLion you can get social media data on the customers in your loyalty program, which you can use to quickly identify their level of influence. You can then automate an email and/or SMS campaign with your early BFCM offer delivered directly to their inbox, and a unique code (more on that below) they can use to share it with their friends. This is a great way to give back to your most loyal customers while also driving CLV.
While your loyalty program is great for engaging existing customers, it doesn’t preclude using it to acquire new ones!
As Beth Wells, Senior Partner Marketing Executive at LoyaltyLion suggests, your loyalty program can drive new customers even after the BFCM season has ended: "Who said your loyalty program just has to be a retention channel? Incentivizing referrals via your loyalty program is an opportunity not to be missed this BFCM. LoyaltyLion's recent consumer research shows that 78% of consumers are likely to refer a friend or family member following a positive Black Friday Cyber Monday experience. Make sure to share the love. Motivate your existing customers to refer your store by awarding them with loyalty points, and offer customers who are referred to you rewards that they immediately benefit from to ensure they convert into a new customer.”
Just like ordering off the hidden BFCM menu! Another way to reward your most loyal customers is by giving them special deals that not everyone else has access to. This could be a bigger discount, a special gift with purchase or even complimentary expedited shipping.
Vetting customers from a loyalty platform like Stamped, you can use Gatsby with an email service provider like Klaviyo or Attentive to automate a tiered campaign, segmenting your loyalty members by Instagram follower count or engagement level so that the greater their level of influence, the better their secret BFCM offer.
To increase conversions and AOV, our friends at SmartBug suggest recreating the nostalgia of a holiday retail shopping experience with a simple website redesign. Branding your website with holiday designs can be as easy as changing your logo to add some snowflakes or you can go all in to rebrand all promos, landing pages, and site architecture.
To spice things up even more, highlight your sales with banners and popups in seasonal themes with Justuno’s pre-built templates, and if you use the Gatsby/Justuno integration, you can also personalize them with form fields to capture Instagram or TikTok handles.
Lastly, make sure to automatically apply site-wide coupons to cart to make the shopping experience as seamless as possible.
Another turnkey tip from our friends at SmartBug: if your company leverages holiday season nostalgia for your November and December email marketing strategy, conversions nearly double! For new subscribers, build a welcome series mixing your brand and the holiday (BF, CM, Christmas, NY, etc). Let subscribers know when sales start and end.
One hack to reconvert buyers a second or third time is to use a personalized BFCM customer flow with a slightly higher discount than the site-wide promotion. You can also design your 2nd and 3rd abandoned cart emails to have a small extra incentive special for subscribers.
As we established earlier, SMS is going to be huge this holiday season! Using SMS to send first access BFCM offers to your most influential customers is a great way to nurture and personalize the relationship – both key for building loyalty. But SMS is also great for building brand engagement after a purchase.
Greg Bauman, Director of Ecosystem Partnerships at Attentive agrees: “The conversation doesn’t need to end after the customer clicks ‘buy’ – in fact the relationship has only just begun! You can use SMS to ask customers to leave a review or engage those who tag your brand on social media after their purchase.”
One way to leverage SMS with Gatsby is to initiate a flow triggered by purchases: using Gatsby with Attentive or Klaviyo, you can create a SMS flow triggered by a “placed order” event. Then, using key social data provided by Gatsby, you can automate SMS outreach to those customers who have over say 1,000 Instagram Followers, inviting them to post about their recent purchase for an additional incentive.
Taking it a step further, you can even leverage this activity to build your ambassador program.
While SMS may play a huge role this BFCM, it’s not to say that email is dead! In fact, Karly McFarland, author of “Email is Not Dead” would argue just the opposite: “SMS is the ‘new shiny object’ for DTC. Yes, it is AMAZING if used correctly, but it can never replace the power of email. Email is so much more than the direct ROI you see... you use email to build a customer journey that educates, builds trust and retains customers for the long term. Something that SMS will never be able to do on its own.”
Creating an impactful flow with both SMS and email is one way to ensure you’re top of mind when reaching your customers. Using Gatsby’s integrations with Klaviyo, you can combine SMS with traditional email marketing to make sure you’re delivering key information, while also providing a friendly, informal correspondence.
Nicole Booth, Strategic Partner Manager at Klaviyo advises, "Using SMS and email together is a powerful way to personalize your customer interaction and improve the customer experience, ultimately leading to better omnichannel engagement". For instance, you can announce your BFCM offers through email, but send special SMS messages to influential customers who purchase with an incentive to share on their Instagram or TikTok accounts.
Once they post, you can trigger an automated thank you SMS with a reward (such as a trackable discount code to send to their followers – more about that below!).
If the trending #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt (with 22.7 billion views and counting) hashtag isn’t proof enough, TikTok offers a world of discovery for potential customers (whether they know it or not!). Leading up to your BFCM launch, create a branded hashtag to hype up your deals, and make sure to share these in highly visible places such as your emails, website banners and of course, your social media!
Next, you can automate a TikTok campaign using Gatsby and Klaviyo: when you add (up to 5) branded hashtags in your Gatsby account for tracking, you’ll be able to see anytime someone uses it. Not only will you get access to the content (hey, maybe you’ll want to use it as UGC?!) you’ll also get key social media stats such as number of hearts the post received and the user's number of followers. All of these stats get passed over to the user’s profile in Klaviyo, which allows you to automate a flow either thanking them, rewarding them, inviting them to join your ambassador program, or partnering for a campaign.
Rethink your traditional BFCM campaign with UGC content sourced from your own customers. An extremely powerful tool, UGC builds trust, feels more authentic and helps cultivate community.
As our friends (and UGC experts) at Foursixty agree, “UGC, whether it’s from creators or your own customers should be at the forefront of your digital storefront. Why? Studies show that 92% of consumers trust online content created by their peers above all other forms of advertising.”
Not to mention, new research suggests it gets 4x the click through as brand-produced content! Gatsby makes it super easy to source UGC without having to spend hours scrolling your tags on Instagram or TikTok. You can access any Instagram posts, Reels, Stories or TikTok videos directly through Gatsby, where you can also download the content in high-res. Just make sure to get permission before you post!
It’s the season of giving afterall! With Gatsby’s revenue tracking tool, you can give your most influential customers their own special personalized discount code to share.
As our Founder/CEO Brett says, “One of our newest features that came highly requested by customers is the ability to track ROI from social media posts. We built our revenue tracking tool to do just that! This takes out the guesswork so you know exactly who’s driving sales, and by how much.”
Here’s how you can leverage it during BFCM: First, decide on a special offer (or multiple offers, segmenting your customers by level of influence) then generate shareable Shopify coupon codes within Gatsby. These codes get assigned to each customer and can be automatically sent out by email or SMS as part of a Klaviyo flow.
The best part? You can track every single order and dollar driven by your customers!
More sales often means more customer service inquiries. And when it comes to customer service, time is of the essence! In fact, according to Gorgias, 95% of customers say that their customer service experience directly impacts their brand loyalty.
Using Gatsby with Gorgias, you can enhance the customer service experience to ensure that everyone, including your most influential customers receives the best possible service. Arming your support reps with customer insights, such as social media data from Instagram and TikTok allows them to further personalize their service. Not only will they know if you’re dealing with an influencer, they’ll also be able to see if the customer has mentioned the brand before on their social channels.
All of this enables reps to turn positive support experiences into influencer opportunities – happy customers are much more likely to share about their experience, which thanks to Gatsby, you can even track. Not to mention, this sets the stage for influencer partnerships – ask happy customers to share their experience on Instagram or TikTok and track the media, engagement and reach that come from those engagements.
Chris Lavoie, Senior Tech Partner Manager at Gorgias offers this scenario: “Let’s say an influencer posts a photo of your new line of winter coats, and a follower responds, ‘They’re so cute! Do they come in petite sizes?’ Gatsby will tell Gorgias about the original mention, which in turn will generate a ticket for your customer care team. One of your reps can check out the post, respond to the comment with sizing information either on Instagram or from within Gorgias and, to sweeten the deal, invite the user to DM them for a special coupon for first-time customers.”
A win all the way around!
An increase in sales is great, but an increase in new customers can pay dividends, especially when it comes to community growth! Why not leverage your BFCM traffic to expand your ambassador program for benefits that extend well past the holiday season?
To do this, take a page out of Kulani Kini’s book, who utilized our integrations with Klaviyo and Gorgias to successfully achieve a 17x ROI after only 6 months. Invite your influential new customers to become part of your ambassador community, where they can get special discounts, early access to product launches and much more.
Kulani Kinis found that Gatsby allowed them to grow their community at scale, which provided significant results: “Before we signed up to Gatsby, we were struggling to foster relationships with micro-influencers, who were providing us with valuable UGC. Gatsby provided us with a solution to automate this process at scale, allowing us to open up our ambassador program and get more customers involved, thereby increasing customer loyalty & LTV and driving in new business.”
You don’t have to wait until Giving Tuesday to give back during the BFCM season.
Offering your customers the chance to donate to a charity along with your BFCM offers is a super impactful way to capture the attention of Millennials and Gen-Zers, in particular. Much more so than their Boomer and Gen X parents, Millennial and Gen Z customers make purchase decisions that favor purpose-driven brands – to the point where they can justify a higher price point if there is a charitable cause. And while we are all for social conscience, it doesn’t hurt that giving back is proven to increase brand loyalty.
ShoppingGives shared with us the example of a women’s retailer who found that by “enabling donations on purchases made from their website, multiple time donors returned 21% faster than their other repeat customers. Additionally, these customers represented 18% higher Customer Lifetime Value amongst multiple time donors”.
So feel good about doing good and give your customers the chance to give back!
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See Gatsby in action.
In the end, this program launch and automation creation lead to: - 68.9% Instagram Opt-In - 24X Conversion Rate from Launch Email >> Onsite Opt-In
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