Are you prepared for the biggest online shopping weekend of the year?

The Black Friday cycle starts earlier and earlier every year. In the same fashion, customer expectations are sky high for doing business with online brands. Throwing something together a week or two before the big day isn’t going to cut it.

Running an effective Black Friday campaign involves a lot of moving pieces. From strategy and planning, to site optimization and advertising.

If you want to launch a successful Black Friday campaign, you need to start planning…

*looks at calendar*

…now.

Not to worry! Below you’ll find a Black Friday content calendar broken into 7 phases from early October until the big day and beyond. Keep reading to learn everything you need to make this Black Friday campaign your most successful yet.

Phase 1 — Planning (Early October)
Phase 2 — Campaign and asset creation (Mid October)
Phase 3 — Site optimization (Mid-late October)
Phase 4— Email testing, automation building, sale announcement! (Late October – Early November)
Phase 5 — Cart abandonment and retargeting (Early November)
Phase 6 — Process optimization (Mid-November)

BLACK FRIDAY LAUNCH

Phase 7 — Post campaign reporting

Black Friday is a big opportunity – don’t miss the chance to make the most of it for your business. The ActiveCampaign Black Friday Toolkit has what you need to successfully prepare for the big event. Access here!

Phase 1 — Planning (Early October)

  1. (First week of October) Plan out your Black Friday offersWhat are you going to offer? Will you have 1 deal, or several? — Your Black Friday campaign will be the most successful if your offer is too good to pass up. Think about your pricing and decide what you’re willing to incentivize. If you’re having trouble, take a look at other eCommerce stores or previous Black Friday offers you’ve received for inspiration. You don’t have to do exactly what they did, but you can use them for inspiration.
  2. (First week of October) Plan your messaging by contact list segmentWhat are your customer list segments? Will your messaging change based on the group of contacts you’re contacting? — Targeting specific customer segments with tailored messaging is a great way to rise above the competition. Your contacts will have a more personalized experience and the likelihood of your offer resonating with them is much higher. A relevant message and a relevant offer leads to more conversions, customers, and $ in the bank. Some ideas for segmenting your list include:
    1. Unengaged contacts — Black Friday is a great opportunity to re-engage some of your contacts that haven’t interacted with your brand in a while. Creating specific messaging around their situation and crafting a hard-to-resist offer might be just what they need to come back to life.
    2. Engaged contacts — These contacts know you, they interact with your brand, open your emails, and peruse your store. They’re friends of your brand, so create messaging that treats them that way.
    3. Repeat customers, Active, or VIP contacts — These are your cheerleaders. They’ve been with you for a while, and they’ve made multiple purchases. Consider crafting a campaign or offer that’s special to them, because they’ve been so special to you.
    4. New contacts, customers, and subscribers — Black Friday is a huge deal, and many contacts will experience your brand for the first time. Some of these new contacts will like what they see and subscribe or purchase. Create a special campaign or welcome series to take advantage of their newfound enthusiasm, and create an experience so good that they return long after Black Friday has passed.
  3. (First week of October) Plan your advertising strategyWhere will you advertise? Who will you target? What types of ads will you run? — Advertising is critical to getting the word out about your Black Friday campaign to those who aren’t on your email list. Identify the channels and places your audience typically hangs out in and focus your efforts where your ROI will be highest. Target your existing audience or create a lookalike audiencecreate a lookalike audience on social media platforms like Facebook to target potential customers. Depending on your product, use high quality images or videos to capture attention. Determine the relevant keywords with high purchase intent and advertise on Google. Use tools like Facebook Pixel or Google Remarketing pixel to track your contact’s journey, or use a tool like ActiveCampaign’s Attribution to determine contact source.

Phase 2 — Campaign and asset creation (Mid October)

  1. (Second week of October) Craft your announcement email campaignsHow will you communicate your Black Friday offers to each of your customer segments? How many emails will you send to each? What is important for each of them to know? What details are more pertinent than others for a given segment? — Think about each of your customer segments and pretend that you’re one of them. Think about the questions they have and the things they want to know. Get into the mind of your customer and write your Black Friday announcement and follow-up emails with these points in mind.
  2. (Second week of October) Create your design assetsWhat products will you feature? Will you create them or will you outsource? Will you feature banners + other onsite design assets? — Your Black Friday campaign ads will only be successful if you provide high-quality images/videos of the products that you’re promoting. 67% of eCommerce consumers say that a high-quality image is “very important” in selecting and purchasing a product. Where images are good, videos are even better — Databox found that video ads on Facebook can increase click rates by 2-3x, and increase conversions by 20-30%! You can create them yourself, or outsource the work — but one thing is for sure: include high-quality visuals in your Black Friday campaign!
  3. (Second week of October) Craft your ad copyWho are you targeting? What resonates with them? Will you be funny? How will you ensure that viewers know what you’re advertising? — Writing ad copy is tough (especially if you’re not a copywriter), you’ve got to be compelling, memorable, and you’ve got to grab the reader’s attention and hold it! Writing copy often takes longer than you think, so knocking it out a month in advance will give you plenty of time to write and test a few variations until you’re happy. The potential of social media ad campaigns is massive, with 55% of consumers reporting that they’ve bought something online after seeing it in a social media advertisement!

Phase 3 — Site optimization (Mid-late October)

  1. (Third week of October) Set up site tracking and link tracking in your emails and on your websiteWhich contacts will click through the email to your website? What will they look at? Will they come back to the site again? What are they interested in? — Site and event tracking can tell you a lot about your audience. If a contact clicks your email link or returns to view a product multiple times, you can send a targeted message to nudge them toward the conversion. If one product or collection of products attracts more viewers than anything else, you can increase promotion of those products. You can also use site and event tracking to trigger high-intent email automations based on your contact’s behavior and actions. Use automation to tag your contacts on a recurring basis! Or use ActiveCampaign’s Black Friday automation recipe to retarget interested contacts!
  2. (Third week of October) Test your site’s speed & server load capacity, improve if necessaryWhat type of traffic are you expecting? Can your site handle that amount? How do you know? What can you do to increase it? — Slow sites are a massive friction point between you and your potential customers. According to section.io, 32.3% of page visitors will have left if your site takes 7 seconds to load, and according to Google, 40% will leave if it takes longer than 3 seconds to load. That’s more than 1 out of 3! You can have amazing products, irresistible offers, perfectly crafted ad campaigns, and a beautifully curated store — but 4 out of 10 potential customers will leave if it takes too long to load. You can test and work to improve your site’s speed and server load capacity with these tips from Growcode!
  3. (Third week of October) Prepare your site’s mobile experienceIs your site optimized for mobile? Is the experience different? What can you do to improve your site’s mobile experience? — More consumers are perusing and purchasing via mobile than ever before; and this number is increasing every year! Business Insider projects that mobile purchases will account for 45% of all online purchases by the end of 2020. Shopify reported 64% of all sales on Black Friday of 2017 were made on mobile. Your site’s mobile experience will be the customer experience for half of your visitors and customers. Make sure your e-store is optimized for the mobile experience!
  4. (Fourth week of October) Use Google Analytics to track the traffic, conversions, and other web traffic metrics in this period of high activityHow will you measure success? What are your primary key performance indicators (KPIs)? What are your secondary KPIs? — Tracking the data throughout your Black Friday campaign is an important step for identifying problem areas, success areas, and making changes for future iterations. If you’re unfamiliar with GA, you can get started here.
  5. (Fourth week of October) Consider setting up heat mapping tools to track more advanced web traffic metrics (Optional)What catches the most attention on your site? What are visitors viewing most? What aren’t they viewing? — Advanced metrics like heat mapping can be useful for gaining insights into the highest and lowest performing sections of your website. This can help you prioritize your time to improve the site experience, web copy, or buying process as you can see where things go well, or go wrong. Some tools include Hotjar and Smartlook.

Phase 4— Email testing, automation building, sale announcement! (Late October – Early November)

  1. (End of October, First week of November) Test your initial email announcementsDoes the email look the way you want it to? Are there spelling or grammar errors? Does it land in the primary inbox? How do the subject lines and preheader text appear? What about the sent-from address? — Testing your emails before you send them is critical. Spelling and grammar errors, image formatting, and the dreaded “Hi %FNAME”, could all be avoided with a simple test beforehand. Use a secondary email address, or send your email to a friend to find and fix the errors before your audience does.
  2. (First week of November) Send your initial announcement email campaignsWhat are the open rates? What are the click rates? Do they differ by segment? — Start building awareness for your Black Friday sale a few weeks before the event. This helps create urgency and excitement, as well as creates headspace for your sale in the minds of your audience. Track to see how each segment engaged with the email (opens, clicks) and use this information to make any changes to your reminder email automations and campaigns.
  3. (First week of November) Create reminder email automations for each segment, create sending cadenceHow many times will you remind your audience about your Black Friday offering? Will it change from segment to segment? How often will you remind them? — Reminder emails work. They build more awareness, create urgency, and nudge contacts that are on the fence towards that conversion goal. Sending your segments reminders about your upcoming Black Friday sale can be the difference between shattering your revenue goal, and coming up just short. Think about which segments are more likely to purchase, and take a look at the initial email stats from the announcement campaign. Use these insights to your advantage when deciding the style, frequency, and number of reminder emails.
  4. (First week of November) Draft 2-3 additional reminder email campaigns for each of your customer segments to keep your sale top of mind, add to email automationsBased on the initial announcement send, what will you change? Which group engaged most? Which segment didn’t engage? — You’ve ideated the cadence and the automation for your reminder emails, now it’s time to use the insights from your initial send to draft the remaining reminders. Try a new subject line style for the segments that didn’t respond well, and keep the style consistent for those that did engage well. Remember, you’re competing against your last email send so take what you learned and apply it!
  5. (First/Second week of November) Launch your advertising campaignWhat kind of engagement are you seeing? Which platforms are performing best? Where is there room for improvement? — Much like the initial announcement, it’s important to begin driving awareness about your sale a few weeks before the event. Depending on budget or strategy, you could postpone the ad campaign until the next week. With 3 weeks before the actual day, you’re able to track the performance of your ads across channels and make changes to your budget allocation as trends reveal themselves. If one channel is performing well, but another isn’t — double down on where you see success!

Phase 5 — Cart abandonment and retargeting (Early November)

  1. (First week of November) Create abandoned cart automations within your eCommerce or marketing automation platformHow will you remind your engaged contacts to complete their purchase? How many times will you remind them? When?According to the Baymard Institute, the average cart abandonment rate across 41 related studies is 69.57%. 7 out of 10 consumers will put a thing in their cart, and then leave without purchasing the thing (on mobile the story is even worse with one study finding abandoned cart rates at 85.65%). But the story doesn’t have to end there! You can create abandoned cart automations (like this one for Black Friday) to reclaim some of that lost revenue! Sending your potential customers an email or two regarding their abandoned cart has been proven to work — one study found a 29% success rate over the course of 3 emails. You can further incentivize your cart abandoners by sending a discount, or a voucher for a discount in the future!
  2. (First week of November) Write the emails for abandoned cart automation and test themWhat can you say or offer them to incentivize conversion? — Think about how many emails you’re planning to send your cart abandoners, how can you nudge them towards the purchase without coming across as pushy or greedy. You know they’re interested, they began the checkout process! Hit them with some product-benefit statements and help them visualize a future in which they’ve purchased the product, and they love it.
  3. (First week of November) Create retargeting emails and ads for contacts who interact with your ad content or come to your site through advertisingWhat will you say to potential customers who have shown interest? Which advertising channel is performing best? — Creating targeted ads on social media through Facebook Custom Audiences or on another platform can be a great way to provide the nudge needed for your curious prospects to cross the line and become a customer. Similar to an abandoned cart email, you know these contacts are interested. You know the desire is there, so use that to your advantage with some retargeted email and ads to keep nudging your potential customers towards conversion.
  4. (First week of November) Create email campaigns for post-purchases, multiple site visitors, and New subscribersuse Black Friday as an opportunity to grow your reach and audience! — How will you welcome new subscribers? Will you work to create repeat customers with a post-purchase offer? Can you use email to capitalize on engaged contacts? — Creating email campaigns for each situation or potential customer interaction is a quick and easy way to provide an incredible customer experience. The best part is, you’ve automated them! By thinking through the different pathways within your customer experience, you can scale these personalized interactions and make every customer feel important. This will only work to your benefit as new contacts become engaged contacts, engaged contacts become customers, and customers become repeat customers!

Phase 6 — Process optimization (Mid-November)

  1. (Second week of November) Optimize your subscription forms, add pop-up forms, and incorporate other list building strategiesHow will you take advantage of increased website traffic? Will you craft a special offer in exchange for an email address? What types of forms will you use? — Black Friday is a period of high traffic, high purchase intent, and high enthusiasm for new products and companies. You can take advantage of the heightened state of everything by optimizing your subscription forms, landing pages, and list-building strategies. For some list building ideas, you can check out this blog!
  2. (Third week of November) Double check your customer service processpre-write responses to common inquiries, and create a plan for different situations so your team knows what to do when needs arise — What are the common customer service situations that arise? What are your processes for those situations? Where will the situations vary? — While visitors, customers, and purchases are on the rise, you can be sure that customer service inquiries will also increase. It’s important to have a plan for the common situations that arise, and a protocol to follow when the answer isn’t immediately apparent or obvious. Pre-writing responses to billing, shipping, and return inquiries will save you time, and provide a consistent experience for your customers. Likewise, your customer service team will face less stress knowing that there is a protocol and a plan for handling the various situations that arise. Remember to lead with empathy! It’s the most crucial of the customer service skills.

BLACK FRIDAY LAUNCH

Phase 7 — Post campaign reporting

  1. (End of November, Early December) Compile your data into reports after the event to gain insight into what worked, what could have gone better, and what went wrong.What were your goals? Where did things go right? Where could things have gone better? What did you learn that you can apply to your future campaigns? — Pull data from your email sends, your advertising campaigns, and your eCommerce platform for purchase info. Identify the things that went well, the things that could have done better, and the areas that need a lot of improvement. Think about how you could iterate and change the process in the future so that the next campaign is more successful. Try to beat your previous record, and always always apply what you’ve learned to your future campaigns!
  2. (Early December) Use these insights for future Black Friday campaigns, or any future email/marketing campaigns