How Retailers Can Prepare for Black Friday & Cyber Monday 2021: A Merchant’s Guide to BFCM

What will Black Friday and Cyber Monday look like this year? While no one has a retail crystal ball that can predict the future, we can always find clues in the data. 

This year, things are looking up for both online and offline retailers. Foot traffic data shows that mall traffic is on the rebound in 2021. In July, shopping centers saw a 55% rise in foot traffic, compared to earlier this year. 

Consumer spending is also on the rise. In fact, the National Retail Federation reports that shopper spending has surpassed pre-pandemic levels in September 2021, “thanks to unprecedented monetary and fiscal policies that have backstopped demand by putting money into wallets for nearly a year and a half.”

How to prepare for Black Friday and Cyber Monday 2021

There are certainly reasons to be optimistic as we approach the winter holidays. Black Friday and Cyber Monday — i.e., two of the biggest shopping events in the entire year — are fast approaching, so it’s high time to prepare. 

Let’s look at some steps on how to do just that. 

Start early

Over the past several years, Black Friday and Cyber Monday (BFCM) events have been starting much sooner. Last year, Walmart started its holiday sales five weeks before Thanksgiving and Target kicked things off two weeks later. 

As such, BFCM are no longer shopping “days”; they’ve turned into month-long consumer events. And in 2021, we can expect this trend to be much more pronounced. 

People are still keen to make holiday purchases, but most of them will start early and will do it online. 

Research by Shopkick found that in 2020, 34% of shoppers intended to complete their holiday purchases before Thanksgiving, while 27% planned to do it between Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Just 17% expect to shop on Black Friday.

All this to say that if you want to stay competitive, you need to get your BFCM ducks in a row ASAP.

Keep your online game strong

Ecommerce will continue to be a strong force this year, so you must have a compelling online presence.

See to it that your site can handle the extra traffic

“Online retailers should be prepared to scale in order to handle the spike in traffic and sales during BCFM, and after,” says Carol Tompkins, a business development consultant at AccountsPortal.

“This means continuously investing in scalable technology that can help your online store deal effectively with any spikes in traffic, and sales. This needs to be done weeks if not months before BCFM rolls in.”

If you haven’t done so yet, conduct a stress test on your ecommerce site. Gauge your online store’s speed, performance, and reliability, then find ways to cut down on load times without compromising on quality. 

Every second counts — literally. Industry data shows that a 1 second delay in page load time leads to a 7% reduction in conversions. 

Don’t forget about SEO

You want customers to find your online products and deals. A good tactic for accomplishing this is to boost your site’s presence on Google. 

A pro tip? Create pages specifically for attracting organic traffic. 

Daniel Lee, founder of Strategyst says, “one of the most cost effective ways is to create landing pages for Black Friday and Cyber Monday, targeting organic search traffic. They need to create these pages sooner rather than later and begin acquiring links to these pages to give themselves the best chances of ranking in search engines for BFCM keywords.”

As an example, check out Shoe Carnival, which has a page dedicated to Black Friday. When shoppers enter a query along the lines of “black friday shoes”, Shoe Carnival’s website is one of the first ones that come up.

The page is live all year round, and when visitors land on the page when Shoe Carnival isn’t holding any Black Friday sales yet, shoppers see a banner linking to the store’s daily deals. 

Showcase your in-store stock in Google

Speaking of improving your Google presence, you should connect your brick-and-mortar catalog to your Google Business profile and enable your customers to browse your in-store inventory. Research by the search giant found that 90% of shoppers conduct an internet search for a product before going to a physical retail location. Showcasing your inventory is a good way to get in front of shoppers and encourage them to visit your store. 

You can easily do this using a solution like Pointy from Google, which gets your products online, so customers can see what’s available before heading to your store. Pointy integrates with your POS system and displays your in-store inventory info directly on Google, with no data entry required.

An excellent example of a Business Profile on Google done right comes from Total Rush, a bicycle store in Richmond, Australia. 

Not only does Total Rush’s’ Business Profile contain all the important details about the business, it also has a handful of customer reviews and lots of photos showing the inside and outside of the shop. In addition, Total Rush’s Business Profile on Google lists the products they have in-store, so shoppers can verify their availability before heading out.

Vend Tip

Vend seamlessly connects with Pointy from Google. Setting up is easy and included free for all Vend POS users: once you’ve integrated Pointy with your Vend store, your products will appear automatically, with no work required.

Getting started is easy:

1. Connect Pointy to your Vend account.

2. Your products will appear automatically, as long as you’re using universal product codes (UPCs).

3. Once you’re set up, shoppers in your area will be able to see your in-store products right in Google Search, boosting your foot traffic and sales.

4. When you sign up, you’ll get free Google Ads credit to help get your products in front of even more people!

Learn More

Rethink the role of brick and mortar

The rise of ecommerce, particularly in this year’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping events doesn’t diminish the importance of brick-and-mortar retail.

People will still head to brick-and-mortar stores, either to shop or to pick up their online purchases. According to Shopkick, nearly half (44%) of shoppers “say they will be taking advantage of BOPIS [buy online pickup in-store] when available this year.”

For this reason, it’s essential that you integrate your ecommerce site with your brick-and-mortar store. To successfully create an omnichannel BFCM shopping experience your platform must:

  • Sync your inventory, sales, and customer data across all sales channels
  • Allow you to add and edit products from one platform without the need for double-entry
  • View online orders alongside in-store purchases
  • Enable you to fulfill online orders in-store through BOPIS (aka click-and-collect)

Online fulfillment and Click & Collect are now available in Vend.

Online fulfillment simplifies the way you complete online orders from your store:

– Instantly mark an ecommerce order as complete from your Sales History, giving your staff a quick way to confirm a shipment has been sent.

– Enable click and collect for single outlet stores by allowing staff to complete orders that have been picked up in-person.

Online fulfillment is only available for retailers that have integrated BigCommerce, WooCommerce or Shopify with Vend.

Learn More

In addition to implementing click-and-collect, you may need to rethink the role of your brick and mortar location. Rather than just seeing it as a “store” it may behoove you to view it as a fulfillment center that lets you ship items faster. 

Instead of relying solely on warehouses (which aren’t always located close to your customers) consider shipping items directly from stores. Doing so may enable you to speed up order fulfillment so your customers can enjoy services such as same-day or next-day delivery. 

Encourage safe in-store shopping

If you are planning to hold in-store sales, see to it that you enforce strict health and safety measures. 

As Carol puts it, “Retailers should find ways to safely accommodate customers who wish to browse goods and make purchases in person. The retailers need to ensure that these in-store experiences are low risk, which can be achieved by setting up temporary open air suites, limiting the number of people allowed in the store, and ensuring that all customers wear masks while inside the store.” 

Another safety precaution to implement? Contactless shopping

“For Black Friday and Cyber Monday, retailers need to consider touchless checkout for in-person shopping,” says Ebony Vaz, the founder and CEO of Above Promotions.

“Many retailers (and restaurants) still do not have touchless checkout, something in which payment systems made available a couple of years ago. There is still time for retailers to update their POS for this change. Additionally, retailers cannot allow the lines to be as large and compact as before based on social distancing guidelines. This means utilizing better queues and being thoughtful with insider access and ticketing for Black Friday.”

Vend Tip

Vend integrates with virtually any payment processor, so it’s easy for you to accept all the ways that your customers want to pay.

Learn More

Discount intelligently

We can’t talk about BFCM without discussing discounts. Promotions are embedded in the very fabric of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and it’s practically mandatory to offer discounts if you’re participating in these shopping events.

And make no mistake: the thirst for deals will be much greater this year.

“Constrained budgets and limited ability to shop brick-and-mortar has led to a massive spike in searches for digital promo codes,” says Marc Mezzacca, founder at CouponFollow.

According to our research, consumers are becoming increasingly reliant on digital discounts. In fact, 60% of shoppers believe that shopping the sales are even more important since the onset of COVID-19.”

In order for your BFCM efforts to be successful, implementing compelling promotions (while staying profitable) is key. 

This is easier said than done, but there are some steps that you could take to make this happen:

Be specific about your objectives

The first question you should ask when considering promotions isn’t “What type of promotion should I offer?” Rather, it should be, “What do I want to achieve?” Start by identifying your objectives. Do you want to increase foot traffic? Boost your bottom line? Are you trying to make room for new inventory? 

The answer will help you decide on the right sales promotion to run. If you want to draw people into your store, for example, then an attractive discount might be the way to go. On the other hand, if your goal is to move inventory, then you should look into BOGO or multi-buy promotions.

Segment your customers

Dig into your customer data to determine the right offers to send. Some shoppers, for example, would have a higher likelihood of conversion when they’re offered free shipping, while others would prefer a percentage discount. Get to know the purchasing habits and price sensitivity of your customers and segment accordingly.  

Implement conditional offers

Purchase minimums and restrictions can help protect your margins during Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Consider running sales with conditions such as:

  • Item-specific offers – Discount specific products while selling others at full price
  • Spending minimums – Set a minimum spend amount for your offers. For instance, customers can unlock a 25% discount if they spend $100 or more. 
  • Shopper-specific offers – Extend a discount to a select customer segment (e.g., new customers, students, healthcare providers, etc.)

The skincare brand Paula’s Choice does this really well. The company regularly runs attractive (but conditional) promotions such as free shipping on orders $49 and above, as well as free gifts for shoppers who purchase items worth $65 and above. 

Consider a philanthropic initiative

With so many other brands offering discounts, it may help to run a BFCM event that supports a good cause. 

Yaniv Masjedi, CMO at Nextiva explains that “people are more inclined to support businesses that help advocacies close to their hearts. Consumers experience a different kind of happiness from altruism and giving back to the community.”

Yaniv’s advice? Run a BFCM campaign that’s in line with the values and causes that your target customer support. 

“When you incorporate a philanthropic crusade in your Cyber Monday promotions, it helps attract a broader audience range, particularly those who are die-hard advocates of such causes. It also becomes easier to target these people using paid advertising because it is easy to pinpoint their interests and create campaigns that target them.”

Plan your catalog

Compelling discounts are good, but they won’t work unless you have a compelling product selection. 

Pay close attention to the lifestyles and preferences of your customers and stock up on products they’re most likely to be interested in. 

Admittedly, demand forecasting is notoriously tricky, but it can be done with the right inventory data and consumer trends. Use your retail management system to uncover purchasing insights and combine that information with market trends resources such as Rising Retail Categories, an interactive tool by Google that surfaces fast-rising retail searches. You can filter the data by country and state, depending on your location. 

Ready for BFCM 2021?

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are approaching and it will be interesting to see how these shopping events play out. If you’re planning to run BFCM campaigns, take note of the insights and tips above and see how you can use them to forward your initiatives. 

About Francesca Nicasio

Francesca Nicasio is Vend's Retail Expert and Content Strategist. She writes about trends, tips, and other cool things that enable retailers to increase sales, serve customers better, and be more awesome overall. She's also the author of Retail Survival of the Fittest, a free eBook to help retailers future-proof their stores. Connect with her on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Google+.