30 Oct 2015

Pointers for Online Retailers for the Countdown to Christmas

In 2014 the size and scale of Black Friday took everyone by surprise, having a significant impact on the complexion of the Christmas shopping period.

Analysis shows that around 1 in 5 (20%) of respondents shopped on Black Friday last year, with the majority (55%) heading online. The latest results suggest that retailers can expect a significant upturn in shopper volumes for this year’s event with 30% ‘likely’ or ‘very likely’ to shop on the day – with 85% of previous Black Friday shoppers likely to return. IMRG

Black Friday falls on the day after Thanksgiving, when Americans are typically not at work. Amazon brought the annual bonanza to the UK five years ago but it took off with full force in 2013 with deals from Asda, which is owned by US retail giant Walmart. It has now become more widely spread especially with ecommerce merchants. It unofficially or officially marks the start of holiday/Christmas shopping season. Almost all stores come out with low price special offers with early bird specials to attract consumers to their stores.

The holiday shopping period starting on Black Friday and ending at Christmas may represent  30 percent of an online retailer’s annual sales and could be double any comparable period in revenue, according to data from RJMetrics.

Last year, online retail in the six weeks before Christmas accounted for almost a quarter of all online spending, with Christmas sales rising from £14.93 billion in 2013 to £17.37 billion in 2014

In 2014 Debenhams reported a bumper Black Friday and record group sales in the week before Christmas. Online orders on the day of Black Friday grew by 125%, with sales across the November week 10.3% higher as British consumers latched on to the US-born promotional event. This did not detract from traditional holiday sales. Over the four weeks to 10 January, what the company referred to as “the key Christmas period”, like-for-like sales increased by 4.9% and online sales jumped by more than a quarter, or 28.9%. Telegraph Finance News

Black Friday 2015 (Friday, November 27th 2015) is forecast to be the UK’s first £1 billion online shopping day.  And with Christmas just around the corner, there’s no time to waste when it comes to planning on how to stand out from the crowd over the holiday shopping season. 

Are you ready?

Black Friday Starts in...


Christmas is in...


1. Plan Sales & Inventory Now

Planning your inventory purchases is really the secret to having exceptional Black Friday and Cyber Monday special offers.

Many manufacturers and distributors offer special buys throughout the year. Depending on the context, these special purchasing opportunities might have names like “buy ins,” “paddle buys,” “program buys,” or similar. These sales represent an opportunity to buy product below your normal wholesale cost or in packages that otherwise lower your cost of goods.

As an example, imagine an online retailer that sells men’s watches. It inventories a watch called the X1 that it pays £30 for wholesale and retails for £80. The distributor who sells to this online retailer might make a special offer on the X1 watch, say 10 percent below the usual wholesale price, if the retailer buys 1,000 units in July rather than waiting until October. The special offer means that the retailer is now paying £15 for the X1 watch and could offer it on Cyber Monday at £50 and still make a small profit, while offering a low sale price that at least some competitors will not be able to match.

Begin working with manufacturers and distributors now to find special buying opportunities that will make compelling Black Friday and Cyber Monday specials.

2. Get Product Pages Ready

Once you have selected the items that you’ll be offering over the holiday season, be certain to add those items to your site if they are not already part of your catalogue. Do this even if you have to state that the item will not be available for sale until October or November.

Ultimately, you want to establish three things with your product pages.

Give search engines ample time to index each product detail page.

Ensure that these products are included in your Google Products feed or similar.

Establish the regular retail price for your customers so that when you put the item on sale there is a clear discount.

3. Prepare Landing Page Content

John Lewis has its Black Friday Page up all year around (although edits and changes are made throughout the year). The page invites visitors who've missed out on the Black Friday deals to view current promotions and deals.

The page is already indexed in Google, so that when shoppers begin to research Black Friday sales — which according to Google might happen in August or earlier — John Lewis will already have a presence on search engine results pages.

You may want to prepare landing pages in three phases.

  • First create a basic Black Friday, Cyber Monday or Christmas landing page that includes:
    • Black Friday, Cyber Monday or Christmas in the Page title (depending on which one you are doing);
    • A call to action, such as inviting visitors to register for sale alerts, view special offers or view our Christmas gift range;
    • Or a hint or preview (think keywords) of the items you might feature.
  • Second, begin adding content as it becomes available (see 4., below).
  • Third, display your actual Cyber Monday and Black Friday special offers. This will probably be link to a product category page on your site.

Do the same with Christmas Gift Range pages - start setting up content pages talking about Christmas and gift ideas.

Here are some more example landing pages from Retailers:

Black Friday 


4. Start Content Marketing Early

Content marketing should play an important role in your promotions, since it may help you attract a significant amount of site traffic before and during the sales.

You should begin planning and creating Cyber Monday, Black Friday & Christmas content soon, publishing it regularly between now and the late third quarter.

For example Debenhams started publishing press releases and content about their Christmas Range in July.

Here are some content marketing ideas for your Black Friday, Cyber Monday & Christmas campaigns.
  • Create product demonstration videos for each of the products you’ll be offering during your sale.
  • Develop holiday gift guides or blog posts that feature your Cyber Monday, Black Friday specials and Christmas Gift Ideas to help your customers.
  • Put together a lookbook featuring your products.
  • Make a series of how-to videos or articles that include or involve the products you will be featuring.

For even more inspiration, here are some possible titles for your holiday gift guide and related holiday shopping posts on blogs or on your site.
“14 Common Misconceptions about Christmas Shopping for a Teenager”
“10 Quick Christmas Shopping Tips That Could Save You Thousands”
“Why We Love These 10 Christmas Gift Ideas for Mum (and You Should, Too)”
“7 Christmas Gifts Your Dad will Like Better Than a Tie”
“How Your Christmas Gifts Could Save the World”
“13 Horrible Christmas Gifts, and 7 You’ll Love”

Boots is an example of a site that has a section of Content Pages under “Christmas Inspiration” which include things like “Celebrities share their top five Christmas gifts”, “Guide to the best beauty gifts” etc. See their content ideas here Boots Christmas Inspiration

Rather than taking the pages down when the season is over, simply update them like the John Lewis Black Friday example and then start updating it again next year with new content nearer the season using the tips above.

This ensures the content can still be indexed and just updated again next year and redirects people to current offers.

5. Plan Your Email Campaign

Email marketing should be something you plan ahead of time and not just something you execute at the last moment.

Once you know which products you will offer during your Black Friday or Cyber Monday sale, plan and schedule your email marketing. You can even create artwork and write copy for those messages now.

Being prepared can save a lot of stress when holiday sales are coming in.

6. Plan Your Graphics

If you have a designer start planning your brief for them for graphics or start planning and getting graphics ready yourself.

Plan a range of supporting graphics and banners for the Black Friday, Cyber Monday & Christmas promotions to be used in various places. These may include a large homepage banner for the main website, banners for within the Product Categories itself and additional imagery for the Facebook page etc. Using the same branding and graphical style across all elements of the campaign really ties all of the strands together and helps with customer recognition.

Why not also decide to give your website a bit of Christmas cheer with a subtle makeover. Never mind the fact that people expect a holiday theme on your website, it’s also a good way to show that you’re prepared for Christmas purchases.  Not only that, but changing your design is a simple and effective way to get people in the mood to shop.

Whist you don’t want to cover your site in snowflakes, candy canes, and Santa Claus, a few tasteful touches can make a difference and inform your site visitors that you are thinking about them at Christmas.

A countdown calendar is an easy way to imply urgency and encourage people to get shopping.

Argos started their Christmas Graphics & content including a Gift Guide in November last year.

7. Create urgency

Don't forget to highlight your last shipping dates for Christmas on your website in December.
Adding an urgency statement can make careful buyers take action without any further delay. You can even tempt your customers with some offers that they can use only if they order within the limited time e.g “Order before 4pm today to receive next day delivery.”


Some leave Christmas shopping until the very last minute so for panic buyers using urgency may grab you a few extra orders.

Use site banners and notifications, email, and social media to help promote any Shipping info & offers.

8. Don't forget to promote on Social Media

Using social media is a great way to engage your brand and build a personal link with your customers. In addition to regular conversations, here are some other ways to use social media for marketing.

Run a Pinterest contest. As a major driver of retail and online sales, you can’t afford to ignore this social media site. Encourage customers to share holiday ideas, recipes if relevant, and more, and to tag you so that you can pin their suggestions to one of your Pinterest boards.

Create a holiday photo contest on Instagram, giving prizes for the best photos (perhaps of someone using your product to increase brand awareness). Encourage users to input locations and hashtags which you can use on other social media sites, too.

9. Last-minute Discounts

Some last minute shoppers may actually be holdouts, waiting for end-of-season sales to try and save money.

These savvy shoppers know that retailers don’t want to be left with too much inventory going into the first quarter of the year when sales are traditionally slow. This excess inventory can hurt cash flow, cause storage and warehousing issues, and, in the worst cases, linger all the way to next Christmas.

So give them what they want, look at items that have not been selling quickly (or that are not the kinds of items a store would re-buy) and offer those products at after-Christmas prices before the holiday actually arrives. Remember, if a retailer is hoping to sell out of an item, it is much easier to do so when last-minute Christmas shoppers are visiting in droves.

10. Have Your Site Ready

Test your site and make sure it is all set up and working as you planned.
In November of last year, Google estimated that half of 25-to-34 year olds used a mobile phone to look for holiday specials and shop online even while they were standing in line at a physical store.
In the past, having a mobile-optimized website was a competitive advantage. Now it is a competitive imperative.

So what have you done to get your site ready for the holiday season?