Peak Season Prep: Tips from ecommerce experts on prepping for BFCM

We’re ramping up into the peak shopping season, the Black Friday – Cyber Monday period, when nearly 200 million shoppers spent an average of $325.44—with more than half of those shoppers making their purchases online. 

Access even more Peak Season resources on our Peak Season Hub.

For ecommerce merchants, there are two key challenges for making the most of the BFCM shopping season: Customer acquisition, and customer loyalty.

In this webinar, moderator Drew Bear, Agency Partner Manager at Loop, was joined by three leaders in the ecommerce space:

  • Sabrina Harb, Head of Customer Experience at ASRV
  • Blake Imperl, VP of Marketing at Carro
  • Emily Fontana, Head of Digital Marketing at 1R

Our experts shared some of the pain points they’ve seen in planning for and executing on the BFCM shopping season, as well as a variety of tactics for optimizing their plans to both drive more shoppers to their promotional deals, and to ensure that they can convert these customers to develop long-term relationships that bring in ongoing revenue.

Here are some of our key takeaways from the roundtable.

Learn from your mistakes from last year’s BFCM 

In October, the focus should be on aligning all departments to ensure that they are well prepared for the demands of the BFCM season. By building a collaborative effort to make the most of BFCM, your brand can successfully navigate peak season, and leverage it to increase your customer loyalty and lifetime customer value. By studying what’s gone wrong in the past and working to optimize it, you’ll be able to have a smooth send-off to peak shopping season.

Analyze your data from past BFCM seasons and pay attention to what you should do differently. Make sure that all departments and teams are aware of their responsibilities, to avoid disconnects that can negatively impact the customer experience.

“During Black Friday, there was really no communication between each department about everybody’s goals and what’s happening on the front end versus the backend versus branding versus marketing versus email campaigns,” says Harb.

“CX was unaware about what was going out when certain drops were happening. We sent out an email blast saying guaranteed delivery if you order by a certain date, but that was never relayed to CX. So then CX was getting emails from customers, ‘I thought you said we have guaranteed delivery,’ and we were like, ‘Who said that?’”

Harb also notes that ASRV, a sportswear brand, had failed to forecast inventory demands properly last year. 

“I think we were really focused on the front end of Black Friday and the sales and the consumers’ perspective, so we didn’t have all of our ducks in a row internally in terms of inventory management. We oversold by 450 items and we actually had to reach out to each customer individually.” 

At the same time, Herb says, ASRV had recently introduced globaility – a system that enables the brand to instantly calculate tax and duty fees in the checkout for each country.

However, during the roll-out of the new system, their customers made them aware of some issues with the system, creating a high volume of emails. Because of the concurrent demands of BFCM preparation, they were only able to respond to a portion of the messages per day, causing a poor CX for many of their customers that may have been avoided if they’d delayed launching a new system until after BFCM shopping season.

Define your BFCM strategy

“Things change, challenges come, but if you have an initial plan, you’re going to really be able to figure out all the little bits and pieces around that plan,” says Fontana.

“So at the very beginning, answer the question of ‘what is the sale that we’re going to run, what’s the promotion, and then how long is that promotion going to run for?’ I don’t think that there’s any cookie cutter equation for Black Friday Cyber Monday anymore. It’s really different for every brand depending on what works for them.”

Fontana notes that some brands may only run their promotion for a week, while others may expand it through the entire month, and there’s no right answer – that said, “the longer your sale is running, the more time you have to convince that customer to buy your product, the more time you’re giving them to come back to the site and continue that consideration process,” she adds.

Fontana says that it’s crucial to focus on customer acquisition in the weeks and months leading up to BFCM, as many of the shoppers who are likely to convert on Black Friday are people who were already in your marketing funnel. 

“That being said, it’s also a really great time for acquisition, because people are in that buying mindset and they know that there’s an urgency,” adds Fontana. “Look at BFCM as a time to get as much first party data as possible about existing customers, but also new potential customers leading into holiday and going into post-BFCM December holiday period.”

Leverage collaborative commerce

“When you partner with brands, whether you’re creating a bundle, whether you’re adding products to their store or you’re adding your own products to their stores, when it makes sense and there’s a fit, you’re really getting in front of the ultimate audience in a lot of ways,” says Imperl.

He cites the example of Blendjet, a company that manufactures and sells blenders: “Typically, you’re not buying five blenders a year,” says Imperl.

So how does Blendjet keep customers coming back? They’ve created a marketplace with complementary partner brands that produce food products that can be used in the Blendjet, including Oatley, Soylent, and Tenzo. 

“They’re creating custom bundles. It’s great for both sides because for Blend Jet, they’re getting that customer engaged,” adds Imperl.

“They’re coming back and buying, they’re finding new products to discover on the Blendjet marketplace. But for Oatley, Soylent, Tenzo, they’re acquiring a new customer on the back of Blendjet. Blendjet’s out promoting via email, SMS, and their ads. So for both sides, it’s a symbiotic relationship and that they’re coming together, they’re selling a great offer, and both sides benefit. Blendjet increased AOV by about 80% over the last year, and their LTV’s up around 71%. And it’s much cheaper for partners like Tenzo and Oatley to think about acquiring these customers.”

Optimize your email marketing communications

Email marketing remains one of the most affordable and efficient channels for communicating with your shoppers – so make sure that you’re using it wisely.

Build foundational workflows focused around different customer behaviors, says Fontana. “You have your welcome flow, you have to have your abandoned cart flow, your browse abandonment, and then if you want to go beyond that for thank you flows, et cetera. Make sure you have the foundation that if somebody signs up for your email, they’re going to get a welcome email from you and they’re going to get a sequence of follow-up emails that nurture that purchase.”

It’s also important to focus on growing your email list, Fontana adds. “Acquiring as many emails as you can is going to really help set you up for targeting again during Black Friday-Cyber Monday and beyond, but leading up to Black Friday-Cyber Monday or any sale period, it’s a really great time to get organic email sign up. So promoting that you’re going to have a VIP period where only people on your email and SMS list are going to get access to your Black Friday-Cyber Monday sale can be a great way to generate new leads.”

Want to get more expert tips on getting prepped for Peak Season?

Watch the full webinar.