The countdown clock is ticking.

Today marks just three months left until Christmas – and that means you only have two months until the online commerce event of the year, Black Friday / Cyber Monday.

This year, Black Friday falls on Friday 24 November. Cyber Monday will be 27 November, and this is the day that online sales really go through the roof… in many cases, lasting for a full “Cyber week.”

Shopify will be on fire with sales – over Black Friday / Cyber Monday weekend in 2021, for example, more than $6 billion in transactions went through the Shopify site.

How are things looking at your end? Is your store prepped with sale banners, are your warehouses fully stocked for the delivery rush? 

Don’t worry if not, because we’re here to lend a helping hand.

The team at Alvio are hardened veterans, when it comes to tackling the BFCM stampede.

So we talked to Alvio founders, Mike Harding and Luke Green, to get their top tips on how to prepare your ecommerce store for the BFCM rush. The short version is: You still have time to ace this, but you’re going to need to make every day count.

Here’s what Mike and Luke had to say.

Mike Harding and Luke Green, Alvio.

Mike and Luke’s Guide to Black Friday / Cyber Monday Sales

1. “No last-minute changes.”

MIKE: I’ll start by telling you the worst thing you can do. This happened to our friends at Gymshark, many years ago. They replatformed from Shopify to somewhere else, just before Black Friday / Cyber Monday... and their entire website went down. The loss of sales ran into 100s of 1000s of pounds. These days they’re back on Shopify, and their brand is bigger than ever – but that BFCM crash in 2015 was a real teachable moment. One for the textbooks.

The worst thing you can do before BFCM is change up your store, introduce new user journeys... anything that may affect the status quo. 

Maybe you can safely add some sale banners and links… but your site structure, sales funnels, your user journeys and core UI – keep all that exactly the same. It's such a busy time, you’ll be focussed on a million other things. So don't bring in anything new.

And I’m including Shopify apps here too – anything that might interact with the frontend of your store. Unless you're doing it well in advance, and thoroughly testing. For example, you might think, We could bring in new bundles! So we can put BFCM bundles together, then offer it as an upsell when people click ‘Add to Cart.’ 

But if that goes wrong, then you’ve just broken your ‘Add to Cart’ journey! And then you’re in trouble. No matter how much testing and everything else you do, remember the old adage: users are random. They’ll do stuff that you don’t expect. If it ain’t broke, they'll find a way. 

Though of course, there’s one caveat to this: Alvio. The Alvio system is designed so that it doesn’t affect your storefront… it’s entirely backend. So if you wanted to bring in new product lines at the very last minute, without any risk of breaking user journeys right before the BFCM sales bonanza, then Alvio’s your safest bet.

2. “Keep it simple.”

LUKE: Make your offers simple and clear… easy to understand and action. If your customer has to think too hard to see the value, then you’ve already lost them.

Now, this is really important – You are going to be bringing a lot of traffic to your site. Probably a lot of traffic from places beyond your normal general demographic.

If you've got a good offer on your site, if your BFCM promotions are well publicised, they may go viral. Even more likely if they're on Shopify, because everyone's looking at what's going on on Shopify at this time of year.

But…! Imagine you've done all the work to prep for BFCM, you've got everything in place, you get all this traffic to your site… but then your offers just aren’t very clear. Users have to jump through hoops to get to the checkout, or it’s just confusing, or your popups interrupt the purchase process… 

Any complications at this stage are just going to lose you that traffic, straight away. Because remember – all your competitors have sales on, too! Visitors will just opt out of your site and your conversion rate will go down the drain.

Anecdotally, we see this all the time, when we're testing stores for clients: 

The simpler the offer is, the clearer it is for the customer, the better the conversion rate.

Now this sounds very intuitive. Obvious, even. But you’d be amazed how easy it is to overcomplicate things. And, you know, maybe you genuinely do have a complex product. A complex sales system. But for the sake of BFCM simplicity, you’ll have to work hard to simplify that – and make visitors the most streamlined offers you can.

To sum up: You've already worked hard for this traffic. So when visitors get to your store, make sure they can find what they want. Make sure they can see the value, see the savings, very clearly. Keep it simple.

3. “You’re not as ready as you think you are.”

MIKE: If you think you're planning your BFCM sales on time, then you're already late. ‘On time’ won’t do it… you need to be early. The thing is, there's a lot of planning in this, a lot of organisation. And if you're only thinking about BFCM now, in September, then you're simply not going to get the best out of it. 

You want to be thinking about BFCM a good three months before. But even before that, you should already have a plan in place. You should know what you're going to do, and what your strategy will be for this year… then, maybe three months before, it’s time to start implementing that plan and getting your key stakeholders in place. 

You also need to ensure that you have enough stock… if you need stock, that is. Of course, the beauty of Alvio is that you won't actually need to buy that stock in. With Alvio, you can be a bit more flexible like that, because the stock ships direct from your suppliers to your customers. 

But you’ll still need to ensure you're a well-oiled machine. You need to know your product lines, have your discounts planned out, your key offerings… and also, think about your personnel. Who within your organisation will be involved in the decision making, the implementation, and all that stuff? There are so many moving parts to consider.

And we all know how fast three months can disappear in the ecommerce industry. Especially at this time of year – annual leave season is typically July, August, and into the first week of September. So trying to get all these things in place in the run up to BFCM is doubly hard. So that’s my advice: 

Set aside three months – minimum – as your prep time for BFCM.

Make sure you know what you're doing. Make sure you've got everything you need… Do you need graphic designers to make new banners? Do you need to do a photoshoot for your clothing range? Get it all done early. If you think you're well prepared, and on time, you're probably not.

4. “Think beyond the first sale.”

LUKE: Think about this… Can you offer value, rather than just a one-time discount? Can you turn the initial interest in your offers into long-term customer relationships?

BFCM creates a lot of buzz, it can be an absolute frenzy of online shopping. But this can often equate to low-quality traffic. Shoppers may bounce in, bounce out, maybe even take the offer, but never come back.

So you've got to weigh this up as a brand: How do you pitch yourself on Black Friday? What makes most sense for you and your product… and your price point? For example, you might be a really exclusive brand. Let’s say you’re an exclusive, cutting-edge brand. Might it even make sense for you to put your prices up for BFCM?

It’s a crazy thought, but it’s all about context. Every brand is different, so put some thought into how best to use this sale season in building your brand’s long term image, and future. The key here is that you don't want customers to bounce in and bounce out, without giving you any future value. So this isn’t just about price… Simply making your products temporarily cheaper is not always the best BFCM strategy.

Now what about this model instead – if you offer subscription products, for example, perhaps then your BFCM deal could be offering long-term value to new subscribers. So they’ll reap the benefits over a longer period of time – as will you! That's a great way to turn that short-term traffic into long-term, post-Black Friday income.

Because otherwise this can be a bit like a locust swarm. These one-time customers will all swarm in, maybe give you a huge bump in your traffic, maybe a bump in your sales, but then it just tails off. The swarm disappears, and what are you left with?

You should be brainstorming ways to use this BFCM traffic to build customer relationships that last for the rest of the year… and beyond.

Think about how you promote yourself in the lead-up, and also how you follow up after they've purchased. And, of course, can you keep in touch, even if they don't purchase? At the very least you want to be getting an email address, getting them onto your mailing list, or having some kind of interaction with these curious shoppers.

Always keep that bigger picture in mind. Sales today are great, but the best thing you can do this season is build a relationship that will last for the long term.

5. “Pre-prep and automate.”

MIKE: Alright, so here’s my last tip, and this will be a big time-saver for you: Pre-prep.

Pre-prep and pre-configure your storefront for BFCM, so instead of building it from scratch each year, you’re switching to a tried-and-tested template. 

The simplest way to do this is by copying a version of your theme, with all the BFCM assets plugged in. If there are any changes to navigation, then create a duplicate of your nav bar too and assign that to the theme. You can audition this alternate theme, test it, then when the day comes all you need to do to prepare for BFCM is click ‘Publish.’

You can make it even easier than that, too. If you use Shopify workflows – depending on the level of your Shopify account – you can actually just set a date and time for a workflow to publish that BFCM theme, for an automatic switchover. 

Another benefit of working this way, is that your sales are not then dependent on personnel. It’s not relying on one particular person going into the admin panel, with the right permissions… because what happens then, if that staff member comes down with an illness? These kinds of oversights can be incredibly expensive, and they’re more common than you might think! So make sure you have thought about redundancy… there should always be more than one person in your organisation who knows what needs to be done, and even better than that: just automate the whole thing. 

Then of course, you can start bringing in other companies, like Shiptheory – who print labels for you, and automate huge sections of your supply chain. If you start building a network like this, then you’re going to massively reduce the stress around making the most of your BFCM sales.

Bonus Tip: “Track data, and analyse everything.”

MIKE: Okay, okay, last one! Here it is:

Make sure you track all your data, your traffic, and analyse everything to help you prepare better for next year.

You really want to dig in here, and understand the impact of your BFCM sales in terms of long-term profitability. What worked, and what didn’t? Was it PPC, was it emails, was it this discount, was it that discount…? Because there's no point doing a BFCM sale if you don’t learn anything from it. 

You want your business to be growing, and improving, year on year. So gather up all that great BFCM data, because that’ll then be your target to beat next year.

Running Late for BFCM? Alvio’s Here to Help…

Have you left it a little late with your Black Friday / Cyber Monday preparations this year? Did all that talk of three-month-minimum prep-times bring you out in a cold sweat?

Well don’t panic – Alvio can help.

You see, the whole Alvio concept of moving data, not products, means you don’t even need to fill your own warehouse. Our code-free store integration is entirely backend, so it won’t mean any last minute changes to your storefront.

All you have to do is sign-up, partner up, and start dropping new product lines straight into your store. You can be set up with whole new ranges in a matter of hours, and whenever you make a sale, your suppliers will ship directly to your customers.

So let us help you make the most of BFCM this year. For a limited time, we’re offering a special BFCM signup deal, which includes a complimentary one-on-one call with our ecommerce experts.

Sign up today, while you still have time to make the absolute most of the coming sales! Or for any questions, give us a shout and we’ll be glad to talk about what Alvio can do for you this Black Friday.

The Alvio Guide to Black Friday / Cyber Monday Sales


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