Ecommerce Black Friday Tips: The No-Nonsense Guide for High-Volume Operations

Ecommerce Black Friday Tips: The No-Nonsense Guide for High-Volume Operations

While Black Friday, Cyber Monday (BFCM) is the largest revenue event of the year, it carries with it an equal potential for ecommerce catastrophe.

If stock is low, processes aren’t streamlined, technlogy isn’t tested, or communication between team members isn’t clear, you might just have a weekend full of disaster.

To help you leverage the good — rather than fall victim to the bad — we’ve put together this no-nonsense guide … teeming with ecommerce Black Friday tips designed especially for high-volume operations.

Don’t stop here …

Keep reading to discover all the no-nonsense ecommerce Black Friday tips.

But, if you want to go even deeper, we’ve built the ultimate Black Friday, Cyber Monday Toolbox. Everything you need to unwrap the magic of the Shopify Plus platform and make this holiday season your most profitable ever.

Check out the BFCM Toolbox

1. Create a Timeline

A timeline might sound obvious, but the lead-up to the holiday season can be overwhelming without the right dates and tasks to guide you. Launching new products, honing offers, deploying coupons and automating discounts, and getting your post-BFCM follow-ups nailed down are musts.

While all those plans look great in your brain, they look even better on paper … and best on a Gantt Chart. You can set due dates, assign projects, create subtasks, and ensure that all the necessary work gets finished before the holiday season hits.

To make this truly no-nonsense, we’ve developed a downloadable Gantt Chart you can use in either Excel or Google Sheets:

Ecommerce Black Friday tip one: Create a Gantt Chart for your holiday season

What do all of those colors and well-organized bars mean?

The start of a horizontal, aqua bar — both above and below — represents the time (i.e., the week) a task within a project begins. The end of each bar represents its due date. And the grey area on the left represents the time that has already passed.

A detailed look at an ecommerce Black Friday calendar (Gantt Chart)

When organizing your Gantt Chart, be sure to include enough detailed information so that every team member has a clear understanding of the overall goals as well as their specific role. To do this:

  • Name each major project in yellow
  • Break down the various tasks below each project
  • Designate an owner for each task
  • Then, create start and end dates that lead up to both BFCM itself as well as your Holiday Shipping Cutoff in red

In addition to the start and end dates detailed above, you’ll notice that each task is assigned to someone specific.

The key to a successful timeline for the holiday season is specificity and responsibility. Why? Because …

Specificity: a deliverable without a due date never gets done

Responsibility: everybody’s job is nobody’s job

Each project needs to be specific enough that it has actionable tasks, and each task needs to be tied to an individual who will be responsible for its completion.

2. Prepare Your Inventory

If you don’t have inventory to sell, your business will have zero chance of leveraging the benefits of Black Friday, Cyber Monday.

Usually, it’s better to over-prepare for the holiday season. The last thing you want is to miss out on an extra 200 sales because you weren’t ready.

Rather than be exact in your inventory, aim just a little above your estimations — so long as you sell a product that isn’t perishable.

To help determine how much you should stock up over the holidays, consider that ecommerce Black Friday generates on average 3.6x more sales — and Cyber Monday, 3.1x — than a normal day in November.

Here’s the same data broken down by country:

Worldwide growth of Black Friday, Cyber Monday

To stock your business for the holiday season, determine the following:

  • What is my average amount of sales per day during November?
  • What is four times that number?
  • How much stock would I need to meet that demand?

You can break the same information down by item:

  • How much of each item am I selling on average during November?
  • What is four times that number?
  • How much stock would I need to meet the demand for each item?

Then, prepare your online store with the appropriate amount of inventory.

If you over purchase, you can sell the rest of your inventory over the following months, which is a tactic we’ll cover soon. If you under purchase, there’s no gaining back those holiday sales …

3. Test Your Website

Your goal during the holiday season is to remove every obstacle that would be in the way of turning a visitor into a buyer.

One of those hurdles is a slow website.

A website with a laggy load time slows down the purchasing process and increases the chance that visitors will leave your website before purchasing. In fact, a slow load time is directly related to a higher bounce rate.

To avoid that demise, speed up your website before the holidays.

The first way to do this is by optimizing your images. Load times suffer when images don’t fit the screen that’s summoning them, or there are simply too many images on a single page.

And mobile load times suffer most drastically because mobile devices don’t have the processing power of desktop computers.

As motivation to optimize your images, consider how much business comes through smartphones during Cyber Monday.

That’s a lot of business you don’t want to miss.

Here’s a list of apps you can use to ensure that your images don’t hurt your website's load time.

The second way to speed up load time is to organize the CSS and Javascript on your website and to minimize the HTML, CSS, and JS files.

You can learn how to organize CSS here and Javascript here. And you can minimize HTML, CSS, and JS files by using Refresh-SF.

When optimizing your website's load time, just remember this: anything that your website needs to generate when a visitor arrives — images, unorganized CSS and HTML, and even an overabundance of white space — will slow your website down.

It might be by milliseconds, but that is time you can’t afford to lose.

4. Staff Appropriately

As traffic increases during Black Friday, Cyber Monday so too does the need for customer support, developers committed to problem-solving, and salespeople ready to answer phone calls.

Traffic demands attention, and since you want to make sales, it’s attention that you want to offer.

Cyber Monday spending, for instance, jumps higher every single year in the U.S.

And, this is a vital ecommerce Black Friday tip as well.

This means that having enough people working is critical for snagging your slice of the ecommerce revenue pie. To determine how many people to schedule for the weekend, ask yourself this question:

How much additional time would each necessary position take with 4 times the sales?

Then, brainstorm solutions with your team to prep for the holidays. If you can’t answer the above question for each position, ask your team members what they think. They’ll probably have a realistic idea of how high-volume traffic will impact their job.

Whatever you do, it’s far better to over-staff your ecommerce store for two days to the benefit of your profitability than it is to under-staff and lose sales.

5. Simplify Internal Communication

Before the holiday season arrives, you’ll want to prep for as many problems as possible, but once it’s here, new problems will always arise.

It’s just the way of the cruel ecommerce gods.

When those problems do arrive, communication between employees is more important than ever.

With seamless communication, your business can solve problems quickly. And since Black Friday, Cyber Monday only last a little while … doing so couldn’t be more vital.

To prepare your internal communication for the holiday season, leverage Slack for quick messaging:

Also, consider Google Hangouts for virtual face-to-face meetings, and Shopify Timeline to quickly collaborate with coworkers and determine potential solutions.

Those tools will help your team work together quickly to solve sudden problems during the holidays, but you should also identify and solve any glaring weaknesses in your current process before Black Friday, Cyber Monday arrive.

To do so, you can use the 5-Whys method. Just like the name implies, you identify a problem that your business is facing and ask “Why?” five times:

The idea behind this process is you’ll be able to turn an ambiguous problem into a tangible problem, and then an actionable solution.

How does it relate to simplifying internal communication?

Often, the customer-facing problems in your business actually stem from internal communication struggles. Using the 5-Whys method, you might find that issues in your processes can be solved by implementing better communication channels between team members.

That means you’ll be able to streamline lagging processes and prepare for the problems that the holiday season promises.

6. Find Tools to Solve Potential Problems

Before the holiday season, you’ll want to make sure all of the tools that can work in your favor, are working in your favor. Here are some tools to consider using that will increase your website’s efficiency for high-volume traffic:

  • Flow - Allows you to customize your backend workflows instead of hiring developers for one-time projects.
  • Fraud Filter - Blocks spam orders based on your predetermined criteria.
  • Slack - Offers quick and easy communication between team members.
  • Trello - Helps solve potential problems quickly by organizing them into a simple and consistent workflow pattern.
  • Zendesk - Simplifies your customer support efforts.
  • Freshdesk - Streamlines your customer support and helpdesk solutions.

More ecommerce Black Friday tips

The guidelines and tips above are a great start. In fact, they’ll set the stage to optimize your entire holiday season and beyond.

But, if you’d like even more, we’ve built the ultimate Black Friday, Cyber Monday Toolbox.

The Toolbox will provide you with all of the necessary apps and education that you need to optimize your customer’s experience by preparing your timeline, inventory, website, staff, and communication.

In other words, you don’t have to do it alone. We can help.

Check out the BFCM Toolbox

 

Photo of Doug Crowe

About the Author

After founding and scaling multiple e-commerce startups, Doug found himself working at Shopify in a role giving strategic advice to the top-grossing businesses on their platform. He’s worked with brands like Anheuser Busch Inbev, The Movember Foundation, Fairmont Hotels and Kylie Cosmetics. The cumulative ecommerce revenue of his clients was over $1billion. Currently, Doug is pioneering a new initiative at Shopify Plus building structured education programs for enterprise merchants and their employees, leveraging research and best practices to help mid-market merchants scale their digital commerce efforts.

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