Your Black Friday e-commerce checklist – are you ready?

Black Friday e-commerce checklist featured image

Question: When is the best time to attract new customers and make some serious e-commerce sales? Answer: The holiday shopping season. This really gets going with a bang on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, and it runs all the way through into January. To take full advantage of this golden window of opportunity, you need to get started now.

Know your e-commerce holiday shopping season dates

Although a full one fifth of all annual retail sales happen between Black Friday and Christmas, let’s not forget about the opportunities on either side of that. These are the dates you need to plan for:

  • Thursday 31 October 2019 – Halloween

  • Friday 29 November 2019 – Black Friday

  • Monday 2 December 2019 – Cyber Monday

  • Wednesday 25 December 2019 – Christmas

  • Thursday 26 December 2019 – Boxing Day

  • January 2020 – Back to School

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are a big part of the lead-up to Christmas and many people use those days to shop in advance for discounted gifts.

10 ways to prepare for Black Friday and the upcoming shopping season using this e-commerce checklist

Each of these elements is crucial if you want to make the most of the shopping season. Bear in mind that approaches will differ slightly for Black Friday versus Christmas. The former is a build-up for discounted sales happening on a specific day, whereas the latter is more about helping customers find Christmas gifts for their loved ones, with some deals included. You can also read more tips in our Black Friday post here, which discusses how to create opportunity from the potential chaos.

Example of a Black Friday image

1. Start with a strong foundation

Before you even think of getting creative for the holidays, you need to make sure all the basic elements of your e-commerce site are working perfectly. There’s no point in attracting a whole lot of new customers ready to shop with you, only to have them bounce away because they can’t find what they want, your site is too slow, or your checkout is too complicated.

Take Actions:

Contact us for advice on how to optimise your site in advance of the holiday shopping season.

2. Select your e-commerce sale or promotional products

Decide up front which products you will promote and/or put on special over this holiday season and when. You may choose one set of products for Black Friday and another for Christmas, for example. Or you could offer a discount on a different product every day leading up to a holiday.

Take Actions:

  • Look at what sold well last year and what’s trending this year.

  • Check the availability of stock for promotional products.

  • Consider using surplus or older stock to offer dramatic discounts or give-aways.

  • Make sure your product descriptions are excellent and include holiday season keywords to boost your SEO.

3. Calculate your discounts

There are many elements to consider when offering a discount. Customers generally expect at least 20% off, especially for Black Friday sales. Some retailers work on the basis that heavily discounted items act as loss leaders, attracting customers who then buy other items at full price or, at the very least, sign up for their newsletter and become potential long-term clients. Bear in mind though that any discounts you offer need to be worth the new/extra business you will gain as a result. Also note that discounting does not work as an ongoing strategy – you will simply be winning the race to the bottom.

Take Actions:

  • To find out how to calculate the right discount, see here.

  • If offering a large discount doesn’t make sense for your business, get creative by offering two-for-one deals, bundles, free shipping or a free gift over a certain threshold total instead. Ask us about our Free Gift Promotion Plug-in, which makes this easy to manage.

  • Don’t ‘fake’ discounts by putting up prices just before the holidays, then offering a discount that takes the price back down to close to the normal price. People notice price changes, especially if they have those items on their wishlist, and you will damage their trust in your brand.

Image of a percentage sign in a store

4. Create excitement

The holidays are all about anticipation and excitement. Use that to help you sell more.

Take Actions:

  • Add seasonal design touches to your site.

  • Display a count-down to Black Friday or Christmas to build anticipation.

  • Create a sense of urgency with wording on promotional material and product pages like ‘Selling fast!’ or ‘Last few in stock’.

  • Encourage customers to sign up early for holiday deals, which also helps build your email list.

  • Promote your e-commerce app as an opportunity to get easy and early access.

As an example, Zando is making use of both of these last two points to create excitement around Black Friday:

An example of Zando making use of both of these last two points to create excitement around Black Friday

Feel free to contact us for help with setting up your app or any of the other ideas above.

5. Make it easy to find discounted and seasonal products

Your customers should be able to see at a glance which products are on special and by how much and which have a holiday theme. Bear in mind that people need time to research and plan their purchases and you want to get them thinking about it well in advance.

Take Actions:

  • Display your selected products, especially the most popular ones, either directly on your home page or create a special seasonal landing page. You could even display different products each day on a Daily Surprise landing page.

  • Create a category for seasonal or discounted items, and prominently display the link to that category in your menu or elsewhere on your home page.

  • Organise your promotional products in a helpful way, perhaps using visual categories for different types of products.

  • Create a gift guide for different personality types and include that in your email marketing.

  • Use our customisable Comalytics ribbon plug-in to make sure seasonal products and those on special really stand out.

  • Encourage visitors to add items to their wishlist in advance, so they’re ready to buy when the time is right, for example when items go on sale on Black Friday.

6. Bump up your holiday marketing

Attract new customers to your site as far in advance as possible using advertising. People often need to see ads a few times before they will click on them.

Take Actions:

  • Tailor all online advertising to the season, using lots of images to grab attention and help your products stand out from the crowd.

  • Know your audience to make sure you are getting your ads in front of potential customers.

  • Set up Product Listing Ads (PLAs), a type of visual pay-per-click ad.

  • Revisit your digital marketing framework to plan social media campaigns.

  • Include trending and popular seasonal keywords like ‘Christmas gifts’ or ‘Black Friday deals’ in all your marketing to improve your e-commerce SEO.

  • Get your products into online gift guides created by partners and influencers.

  • Run a seasonal contest or start a refer-a-friend campaign on social media to build your email database in advance of the shopping season.

  • Try to gather email addresses from all new visitors to your site. Then you can email them with the aim of converting them into long-term customers.

7. Make your email marketing work for you

Earn trust from your subscriber database by providing ongoing value, rather than just shamelessly promoting your products. Loyal customers will always be your best customers.

Take Actions:

  • Plan a strategic email marketing campaign that starts building the excitement and suspense well in advance. Spaced mails about a week apart, and then more closer to the time, work well. The more often you can get them to visit your site, the more opportunities you have to convert them.

  • Use their name in the email.

  • Make sure you use creative, personalised attention-grabbing subject lines to stand out from the crowd.

  • Reward those already on your email list with discount coupons that tempt them to buy.

  • Incentivise them to tag or refer friends that then provide their email addresses, so you can add those to your list in advance of the holiday season. Referrals and word of mouth are your best ambassadors.

  • Include seasonal blogs in your mailing strategy to help potential customers find the right gifts. Encourage readers to share these on social media.

  • Remember to follow up afterwards to say thank you and encourage them to leave a review if they have purchased.

Talk to us about how Mailchimp, Yotpo and other software plug-ins can help you with email marketing.

8. Get stocked and staffed up

Prepare to deal with the extra e-commerce orders you’ll be receiving over the holiday shopping season. Otherwise you may be caught short and lose out on sales.

Take Actions:

  • Do your best to forecast how much extra stock you may need to meet the increased demand. If you are managing your inventory well, this should be fairly simple.

  • Talk to your normal suppliers to make sure they’ll be able to fulfill that demand. If not, start looking for other suppliers who may be able to help.

  • Hire and train extra staff for wherever they may be needed, from customer service through to fulfillment.

9. Plan to deliver

Making those sales is a great start, but you also need to make sure customers get their products intact and in time.

Take Actions:

  • Plan your shipping in detail or, if you’ve already done that, review it for the upcoming season.

  • Make order deadlines for delivery before Christmas very clear on your website.

  • Consider offering discounts for buying early. You could even tier these, with prices rising the closer it gets to the holiday.

  • Check with your shipping provider/s that they are able to deliver the extra orders.

  • If your shipping provider is able to accommodate it, offer a last-minute shipping option at extra cost for those who have left buying very late.

A kid pointing at a pargo logo

Contact us about our Pargo or SmartFreight shipping integrations.

10. Have a back-up plan

When you plan in advance, things are more likely to go smoothly, but you also need to plan for when they don’t.

Take Actions:

  • Check with your web hosting company that they’ve optimised their systems in preparation for the holiday shopping season.

  • Make sure they’re backing up every aspect of your site. Then if it does go down, you will be able to get it up and running again fairly quickly. Comalytics takes care of all this for you.

  • Provide alternative channels for customers to purchase and to follow up on orders, just in case.

  • If things do go wrong, fix it as quickly as you can and apologise and/or compensate unhappy customers.

IN SUMMARY: How to make Black Friday and Christmas work for you


  1. Get your site in tip-top shape using this checklist. Your priorities are:

    • Create a ‘look and feel’ for Black Friday and later for Christmas.

    • Do regular speed optimisation.

    • Implement an easy checkout process.

    • Build trust with the right badges and practices.

    • Check that every item on your site has a photo, a price and preferably a very creative, unique product description.

    • Prepare your shipping offer and logistics, bearing in mind that free shipping can seal the deal.

    • Ensure free and easy returns, and make that policy very easy to find on your website.

  2. Create a sign-up page on your website (see an example below).

  3. Do what you can to boost your search engine rankings, so your sign-up page appears on page one of the search results when you type in keywords like ”Black Friday 2019 [yourindustry]” or a more competitive one like “Black Friday 2019 South Africa”.

  4. Post on social media to send followers to your sign-up page.

  5. As soon as possible, set up social or search engine ads to promote your sign-up page.

  6. Consider integrating your online website with Facebook Shopping, Google Shopping and Instagram Shopping.
  7. Add feeds to your online shop to feature on BidorBuy, PriceCheck and/or many other options.

From end October:

  1. To build awareness and anticipation, email your Black Friday or Christmas deals to your database far in advance. Encourage people to fill their wishlist for easy buying on Black Friday itself, and before the last day of shipping for Christmas.

  2. Create social media posts for Black Friday or Christmas deals, sending visitors to general deal pages, category pages or specific product pages.

  3. For visitors coming from anywhere else, create landing pages that show all your deals in one place. Even if you can’t offer discounts, aim to help make shopping easy. Think about what would make sense for your audience. For example, you could create a page for general “Black Friday Deals” or “Christmas Gifts for Him” or “Products that are HOT this Christmas”.

  4. Display “Sale” or “Black Friday ’ ribbons on your discounted products, so visitors just browsing your site can easily see which promotions are running.

Screen shot of the Adidas website

Let us support you through the e-commerce holiday shopping season

Have a look at some of our more popular services that could help you prepare for Black Friday and Christmas. If you’re interested in implementing them, contact us as soon as possible. Slots do fill up and time is running out.

The bottom line…

Take advantage of this holiday shopping season not only to increase your e-commerce sales but also to build your customer base. Get the basics in place then build on those to add value to potential customers wherever you can. The better you can make their shopping experience with you, the more likely they are to come back – and long-term loyalty is the key to a successful business.

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