The Ultimate Guide to Black Friday eCommerce

Now firmly established in the calendar, Black Friday is a big event for retailers but the results are not evenly shared, with a tiny minority of big online retailers grabbing the vast majority of the business using operating leverage and sophisticated retail systems.

Amazon, who took a whopping 45% of sales share last year, ran a scheme called Deals of the Day that began on November 17 last year. That’s a whole week before Black Friday itself, which meant some products were on sale for 10 days before the long weekend period.  

With this challenge retailers ask, how do we compete? Even worse, refuse to compete. This has been written for SME retailers that haven’t found success yet but want to.


Getting started. Read this first.

There will be no Black Friday if you can’t get owners and colleagues to agree. If people are not committed about the idea it will never happen. It’s critical you get everyone onboard, so set a meeting where all the objections can be expressed and motivate and inspire everyone so that you can make it a success.

I’ve made a list of the 16 most common objections when discussing Black Friday. Pick the ones you hear the most in your business and use them to change minds. There is no point in making a sales argument for things that are not a problem. Copy and paste the ideas into an email to yourself and use as an agenda in the meeting.

People in your organisation may not want to participate because of Fear and Loathing. Fear is uncertainty and risk, but fear is also False Expectations Appearing Real.  But fear must not stand in the way of profit especially when there are good people ready to buy.

Get prepared, focused and get the job done.

Loathing your customers won’t help either. You think they will steal a deal in the annual bun-fight and you’re held to ransom?

Stand tall friends, follow these steps and you’ll be the winner this year.

Below is a list of the most often quoted reasons why people don’t commit to Black Friday.

Read on for a free heads up on how to challenge your fears and loathing, smash those preconceived ideas and come out on top.


Making it pay

Black Friday started it and Cyber Monday came along for the ride, as a sales extension, and the sales period can now span up to a fortnight. I’ve (coined) Black Friday for speed. But also think BFCM as “Build a Fast Cash Mountain” from now. Most business owners have no problem visualising that.

These are the objections that I hear most regularly, in no particular order. Please pick the objections you relate to most.


What are the Black Friday Objections?

Chapter 1 – The 4 Key Objections

  1. Discounting is a race to the bottom
  2. Deals & bundles are too difficult to manage
  3. Impulse buys increase returns
  4. Trade & wholesale customers wait and bulk buy

Chapter 2 – And Another Thing…

  1. Getting parcels out the door is impossible
  2. Only buy once and never see them again
  3. I can’t predict what will sell
  4. Black Friday never works for my business

Chapter 3 – Final thoughts

  1. My customers will expect the ‘Deal Price’ all of the time
  2. They only want one thing. Single Low Margin Purchase (SLMP)
  3. Discounting will ruin my brand reputation
  4. I don’t have any promotions to offer

Chapter 4 – Final thoughts.. extended

  1. It will cost money and promotions will fail
  2. I can’t compete on competitor prices
  3. Team communication falls apart
  4. We’ll create technical faults

Picked your objections? Let’s look at these in more detail and don’t forget to cc yourself.


Discounting Is A Race To The Bottom

  1. You are in control of the discount levels, not the customer.

Let’s be clear on this. You are in control, not the customer. Customers do not dictate to you what products you choose, how long they are offered for and how deep to go on slashing prices. That’s your job. Here’s some pointers to get you started.
Repeat after me, I have only included deals that are profitable for the business.

  1. It doesn’t have to be a blanket offer.

Unless you have single product or flat margin across all items, a blanket offer is just plain lazy. It gives you virtually no control over what the customer is likely to purchase so planning for optimum margin & stock holding is impossible. Blackcurve give good ideas to help you choose your discounting offers wisely.  If you are selling just-in-time via a third party, don’t just assume that they have everything sorted and can supply an endless run of product. Run’s on stock can kill a sale so choose what you promote carefully, collaborate extensively with your buyers or suppliers and make sure the offers are remarkable.

  1. Know your sales and margin analysis mix.

Pareto’s 80/20 rule applies to most businesses, and yours will be no exception. Work out which products create the most business for you and which gives you the most margin. The rule is 80% of your profit from 20% of your lines. Find the optimum products to promote as your best mix. Provide staple and more unusual items so there is something for everyone. If you promote poor sellers then your bounce rate will suffer (& reputation) and your BFCM will fail.


Deals & Bundles Are Too Difficult To Manage

  1. Create easy to bundle, deals.

List products in a bundle that has virtually no cost to you, but a high perceived value to a specific type of buyer. Kids for example may like stickers, pads, VIP online access, personal letter from the owner, competition entry… keep adding the value until you run out of ideas. Aim to create a bundle with even better margin than before, and keep that baby running. Skubana give good ideas on bundling and the psychology behind why they work.

  1. Start early, understand your system limitation.

Brilliant ideas can be snuffed out too early because it’s considered unimplementable with your systems. Call this a ‘technical issue’ for the moment. When you have decided on the best ideas, then start asking, “How will we do this?” Stay true to the best ideas and implement what you can in the time you have. Amazon’s Bundle Policy gives some guidelines on what works well at scale and Bold give bundling insight on the Shopify platform.

  1. Don’t over complicate it.

You do not need a bundles feature. Create an awesome landing page on and include everything down you’ll get in the bundle, then just link to one product on the site. If the sales hit the high notes then write a business case justification together when you’re done and invest in more sophisticated systems next year.


Impulse Buys Increase Returns

  1. Avoid boomerang sales

If products go out and come straight back again it will be cost you money so take the time to write great product descriptions that are detailed and accurate. Return rates can increase from 5-10% to as high as 40% over peak season so make sure you are totally clear about your returns policy and promote bullet-points on product level pages.

  1. Excessive returns are a fear, rather than a fact.

You might consider customers who return items non-ideal. In the long term, however, Science Daily reveals that satisfactory product return experiences can actually create a valuable long-term customer whose contributions far outweigh the associated costs.

  1. Sizing, fitment and specification inaccuracy.

Incorrect product and sizing was the biggest reason for returns. If the fitting/sizing information is poor, use video, diagrams, databases and techsheets to ensure returns are minimal and work with your suppliers to make sure their information is accurate.  As Bustle explains, Here’s why most online clothing size calculators don’t work.


Trade & Wholesale Customers Wait and Bulk Buy

  1. Don’t allow people to think that a deal is guaranteed on the day.

People may wait to bulk buy, but you must keep these type of buyers guessing and there should be no guarantees. As mentioned before, don’t offer a blanket offer if your business doesn’t suit it.  Use WIGIG  (when it’s gone, it’s gone)

  1. Cap the volume of items if you think people will abuse your offers.

If you sell high volume repeat orders on a trade basis, BFCM may irritate you, when customers could defer a purchase or hoard discount stock from a big sale. Get around this by capping volumes so it doesn’t get silly. Crazy Egg gives 5 ways to Get Your Audience to Act on Limited time Offers

  1. Don’t include any sales lines which cause you concern.

Be selective on the items that people can buy. If you know that a large proportion of your customers buy a key line of business for you, leave it out of the sale or make the buy-in big enough to make it worth your while. Don’t let fear rule your decision making.


Getting Parcels Out The Door Is Impossible

  1. Ask the customer to wait.

Wait. What? Customers are human too and understand that getting the deal may come with terms such as extended delivery. Stellapulse’s have some great suggestions on communicating shipping delays. Ask them to wait and they will if the deal is good.

  1. Prepack items ready for delivery and choose a reliable courier.

Most orders can have an element of the delivery process completed ahead of time. Get extra hands to help if you need it. Write a process or shoot a short video to show the team how to do it so it goes out smoothly. Also carefully consider courier lessons to be learned from Cyber weekend.

  1. Consider 3PL.

Look at what takes time and if it could be better served by a 3PL (third-party logistics) company. James and James provide great advice on planning for peak season and say you need to ask yourself: ‘Can we manage?’ 3PL providers are super helpful, can be remarkably flexible in the way they operate.

  1. Ask around who wants some overtime.

If your team are engaged and aware of the effort you are putting into the BFCM deals many respond positively to your request for help and the chance of extra hours. Work out a fair figure and you could scale resource quickly.


Only Buy Once and Never See Them Again

  1. The first sale allows permission to present a second offer.

Deal hunters are fickle, so it might be the first & last order. However, you have permission to introduce all the other ways you can help them. Use an inbound marketing system to find out what they like and make offers contextual.  Review analytics to see who came from where and bought what

  1. Promote shares and offer codes so buyers can pass on to friends.

People love to share good news, and a fantastic offer can run and ring amongst small groups of friends. Ok, they all may only buy once, but they will also think collectively as a tribe. Forbes reminds us that people share to connect with each other, not businesses. Effective ways to promote the right promo code is also vital. Activetrail suggest targeting the right customer with a personalised offer as a success strategy.

  1. Make sure you connect with them after the sale.

Stay in touch via your post sale communication, promote your social channels and give reasons for people to follow. Use remarketing and programmatic where relevant. This is a critical time to create the connections of the future. Have a automated content plan scheduled. Use this time to shape perceptions of who you are and the breadth of what you can offer.

  1. Promote your loyalty programme.

Give people a reason to come back. Promote your ideas so they learn about the company values. They may resonate with them and retain attention after the sale. Give them a reason to care. Hubspot provide a beginners guide to building loyalty here.


I Can’t Predict What Will Sell

  1. Use Analytics, site data & accounting systems.

You have a huge amount of data available through tools like Google Trends & Google Analytics at no cost. Look for signs of what people are looking to buy with high traffic product pages. Use low-cost paid for tools like SemRush for spotting good ideas. Look at your stock-movement in software like Xero that can show positive trends over time.

  1. Follow trend news.

Subscribe to marketing podcasts and news feeds in your sector to get ideas. Trade shows and awards give an indicator and follow groups on places like LinkedIn and Facebook. For a completely fresh insight try trendhunter.

  1. Ask your customers what they would love to see in a sale.

Your customers have bought from you before and statistically are most likely to buy again, or share with a friend and recommend. Alex Mitchell has shared 41 ideas on how to get feedback. Think about what they want. They may ask for unreasonable deals, but if you can engage them in a conversation then it may result in a sale after negotiation. Marketing Donut gives 4 golden rules to a sale. The best thing is you create some rules that apply so they know what is and isn’t realistic.


Black Friday Never Works For My Business

  1. Get your target, offer and copy clear.

Check that the message for Black Friday is right for your audience and that the offer is actually something they want. Martina Stricak gives a guide to target audience analysis. Don’t over complicate it, make your copy clear. If it’s a visual item, keep the copy short, if it technical, add lots of detail.

  1. Check your pricing.

If your pricing isn’t remarkable, then you’ll do more damage than good in PR terms and you won’t have a good sale. Pricing tools like Sardio and Boardfy ensure you are kept up to date. If you are re selling a brand, your margin will already be tight, so look at ways to add value without cost to you, such as own brand supplementary gifts. Hubspot give some ideas for pricing page examples and Bigcommerce promote the virtues of value based pricing.

  1. Merchandise the hell out of it.

Price is critical. Merchandising is probably equal or even more important as it can change the perception of value, especially on own brand goods. Features, Advantages and Benefits (FAB) of each offer has to be clear and remember to sell on the benefits.

  1. Promote it properly.

Great targeting, pricing and merchandising are a waste of time if you don’t promote the hell out of the offer. The best audience for BFCM is your existing customer, who will make an annual pilgrimage to your site if you keep giving. They’ll also be your best marketing if you look after them.  

  1. Influencers can 10x your sales

Influencer marketing has hit the headlines. It makes shopping really easy and more people use social media platforms to find the best deals online. Instagram Instagram Stories is a smart feature to implement for peak events as discount codes will disappear after 24 hours which aligns perfectly with Black Friday. The “swipe up” function makes quick sales even easier.


My customers Will Expect the Deal-Price all the Time

  1. Create rules of the game so it’s a win win.

Set rules that make it difficult to match like-for-like on recurring customer orders. Create requirements so the sale is profitable for you. Give them a great deal, but don’t get caught short on offers that you later realise are loss making. Make sure everyone’s a winner.

  1. Run sales without killing your profits.

Discounts can be a double-edged sword. While slashing prices certainly attracts customers, executing discounts the wrong way could end up killing your profits or enticing the wrong types of shoppers (i.e. those who’ll only buy from you when you lower your prices.) Vend give ideas on why it’s important to plan your promotions well and craft thoughtful offers to meet your objectives.

  1. Use Black Friday to sell a price increase after the sale.

Even the most sales savvy among us have had to fight back the nerves that materialise whenever we are faced with telling a customer about a price increase, but Black Friday could be the perfect opportunity for a buy-in if prices must go up. Mark Hunter explains how to sell a price increase to your customers.


They Only Want One Thing. Single Low Margin Purchase (SLMP)

  1. Think of Black Friday a marketing strategy, not just sales on the day.

If you don’t believe you can make a profitable BFCM sale, make it an expense line in the month and allocate it to marketing. McKinsey provide insight on how to reallocate marketing budgets to drive growth. Use this strategy if your customers repeat purchase or want to build a reputation annually and make more profit down the road. Work out the cost of customer acquisition (COA) and customer Lifetime Value (LTV) and check it’s profitability over time. Pull non-performing ads if you need to find budget and apply any losses incurred in intensive BFCM strategies to marketing nominal in the P&L in the November month end.

  1. Make that one thing remarkable so they tell all their friends.

Learn to love your customer. Give them praise and thank them for the business. Keep in touch with them during the sale with order progress reporting. Say thank you, multiple times. Invest in Gary Vaynerchuk’s book ‘The Thank you Economy’. Check customers are happy with the order and request a review. When they love you back, ask for a referral and they will be happy to give one.

  1. So they bought one heavily discounted item, get over it.

Don’t get emotional about low profit. It’s a annual marketing event, not a profit event. 10x your business by adding new customers to your list and nurturing them to repeat buy again. Think of your business in 5 years, not business today.


Discounting Will Ruin My Brand Reputation

  1. Discounting on Black Friday won’t ruin you

People have short memories. Mitigate your fear enough so you commit to a sale day, morning, hour or 5 minute flash sale. Use clever pricing and creative promotions. As Salescycle suggest, discounting won’t ruin you, so start small, promote hard and build it up.

  1. Your customers and suppliers will thank you for it if you include them

Sales co-creation with customers and suppliers can form a successful Black Friday programme. You have nothing to fear if they are on-board with it, and they will appreciate you making them part of the experience and will be your biggest supporters. Reciprocity works, as Shopify explain.

  1. Ruin your brand reputation? This is your chance to shine.

Drop the ego. Most small companies have no brand reputation. People simply need you to reduce pain or move them closer to pleasure through incredible service, product and experience on one of the most important sales days of the year.  Perivan give 4 key strategies on how to avoid the reputational banana skins.


I Don’t Have any Promotions to Offer

  1. Work with your best suppliers to craft unique deals

If suppliers have said no to discount, don’t discount. It’s unprofessional and foolish. Partner with them them to craft deals on products they want to promote. BCG gave a good insight into Buyer-Supplier collaboration with a roadmap for success back in 2103, and it’s still relevant today. Use Black Friday to build supplier relationships, not damage them.

  1. Overstock, Ex-stock, Demostock, Dusty-stock but not just any stock

Firesale product at cost that hasn’t hit it’s stock rotation targets. Create liquidity. Consider a low-ball best bid auction. Vend have 7 smart ways to liquidating surplus stock. Use BFCM as an opportunity to clear the attic and make space. Don’t hold out for the best price. Get it gone.

  1. Create an added value gift instead

Design Black Friday stocking-fillers that can supplement and make a special BFCM offer. Do something that can only be received during the event. Some clever people have made a high value business out of selling low cost samples. Make it remarkable to create a personal experience between the customer and the company. Include a free secret gift surprise too too.

  1. Run a BFCM contests

It can be any type of contest. Get creative. Share the parameters of the contest on social platforms. People love to compete and will share your contest post with others, expanding the reach of your brand.


It Will Cost Money and Promotions will Fail

  1. Mitigate risk with Plan B, C, D …

Your BFCM event may well flop the first few times. Make sure you have multiple strategies to find what people respond to.  Plan B.

  1. Double Check Product, Prices, Promotion (3P)

Double check your work. Give yourself time to get feedback and make edits to promotions and double check everything is ready for the big day. Make sure the merchandising is perfect, the prices have been checked in the last 24hrs and the promotion schedule is setup and ready to go.

  1. Think positive

You have around 60,000 thoughts a day and 80% of thoughts are negative. 98 are repetitive. A negative mindset kills any initiative and won’t allow you to go the distance.

Use these steps to think positive.

  1. Learn quickly what works for you

You owe it to yourself to commit to BFCM and lean into it.. Rejecting your instinctive fear of failure and replacing it with energy to find out if an idea really works in the shortest possible time frame.


I Can’t Compete With Competitor Prices

  1. We’ll lose money doing Black Friday Sales

Avoid falling into the trap of calculating ROI (return on investment) only for your BFCM marketing campaign. Tactical efforts are not executed in isolation.  They are a part of a larger effort. The primary objectives is to keep and grow the value of customers lifetime value (LTV or CLV) from customers acquired on the day. |Learn your LTV with Chart Mogul.

  1. Speak to suppliers about a one time special buying price for BFCM

If you can’t get to the price you need, speak with suppliers. Ask them to support the initiative. The chief executives of retailers Sainsbury’s, Argos and Dixons Carphone said it was a fantastic day where consumers were getting real deals because they are able to work with manufacturers to produce the goods they wanted at the prices they wanted.

  1. Offer to price match any other price.

When it comes to shopping, most consumers have an arsenal of tactics that they use to score the best deals on the devices they want. Adding a price match means customers trust you have done your homework and your prices are good. If someone asks you to price match, put any loss to your marketing line.

  1. Black Friday Product life cycle strategies

The product life cycle contains four distinct stages: introduction, growth, maturity and decline. Each stage is associated with changes in the product’s marketing position. Use various marketing strategies in each stage to try to prolong the life cycle of your products.

  1. Understand sale pricing rules and watch out for wary shoppers.

Pricing and sales law has legal implications so read this for pricing advice.  Shoppers are warned to be wary of Black Friday deals which are often not as good as they seem. Which? said 60% of all the items it tracked were cheaper or the same price on other days of the year.

Use the advice being given to consumers:

  • Look at the price, not the “saving”
  • Find out whether retailers will match prices
  • Sign up for online accounts with the biggest retailers a few days in advance so you can complete purchases more quickly
  • Research the products you want beforehand – make “wish lists,” sign up to retailers’ newsletters and follow them on social media to track prices and see what’s on offer
  • Research prices online before hitting the shops
  • Be wary of unusual brands
  • Make a list of retailers selling the same product so you don’t miss out if websites crash and stocks run out
  • Avoid crowds by checking if retailers will let you buy online and pick up later
  • Start early – some retailers begin promotions a week or so before Black Friday
  • Don’t forget about deals on offer during “Cyber Monday” – the Monday after Black Friday
  • Check retailers’ returns policy
  1. Have a post-event re-engagement strategy.

After the event, send Thank you for shopping with us emails, Offers on future discounts, Retargeting on social media and Event-specific offers (i.e., Valentine’s Day, Memorial Day, Fourth of July, etc.) Check these other 7 ideas. Remember the acquisition is only the start.


Team Communication Falls Apart

  1. Identify all key team members before Black Friday

Make a steering committee of all key personnel and give job responsibilities. Make sure everyone knows each others job. Include technical, warehouse, suppliers, agencies and delivery partners. Get people on standby plan for sickness or injury. gives 5 steps to Unleash the power of teams in your organization, and reap the benefits.

  1. Use WhatsApp, Slack or Facebook team messaging to keep reactive

When the heat is on you need to make sure that every stakeholder in the business and involved in the BFCM promotion knows what’s going on via team messaging. Everyone is collaborating and communication is faster than email. Leaders can give positive encouragement and keep everyone upbeat in the heat.


We’ll Create Technical faults

  1. Black Friday sales can break the site

Lengthy outages and slow load time will make shoppers move on to competitors, so get prepared. Run tests prior to the big event to make sure it can handle the load. Now is not the time to roll out your latest improvements, keep the code static to avoid unfortunate events.

  1. Look… I just don’t have the time or ideas to create a plan

This will be the best use of 30 minutes to ensure a good sale. Create a “planned sales map” in Google Sheets or Excel, giving you a simple outline of all your upcoming sale promotions. Shopify have made a pre-made Google Sheets template you can use to plan your sales this year. Make a copy and save it to your Drive.

Check out Shopify’s 27 Black Friday Cyber Monday ecommerce ideas, tips, and strategies to dominate 2018 for more great ideas.


Make it happen

I hope you have found this useful to trigger action and you can consider sale. Next steps:

  1. Copy and paste the key objections and ideas into an email.
  2. Send it to yourself and use it to create your proposal.


Author: Nick Morton

Co-Founder of Supplyant. He has 25 years of online business experience, loves family, sports and cars.

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