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Black Friday’s big business.

But after a disappointing 2020 - both online and physical Barclaycard payments fell by more than a 10th compared with 2019 - and with recent tax increases to contend with, retailers might have their work cut out enticing shoppers this year.

Well fear not, virtual shopkeepers - we’ve got you covered.

Here are 3 top tips to get your online store ready for the biggest eCommerce extravaganza of the year…

#1. Test your website for traffic resilience

So, if all goes to plan, your website could be inundated with visitors from Black Friday through to the end of Cyber Monday.

But if your online store’s relatively new, its capacity might not have been tested quite like this before.
So, what can you can expect to see?

According to insights from Similarweb, traffic to the top 100 shopping sites increased by 137% on Black Friday and 112% on Cyber Monday in 2019. And although it might seem unrealistic to compare SMEs with the likes of Amazon or eBay, relatively smaller businesses have reported big leaps in traffic too. For example, Hollister Co. had a 539% increase in traffic during the same period.

OK, it’s not necessarily sensible or cost-effective to increase your hosting plan “just in case” there’s a surge. However, there are plenty of things you can do to give your site the best chance of handling the pressure of a sudden spike. These include:

      • Compressing your images - basically, the larger the image, the longer it takes for your site to load. If you’re a Shopify merchant, your images will be compressed automatically which is handy. But if you’re using another platform, you’ll need to do it yourself. Something like the TinyPNG web app will be able to help though.

      • Installing a caching plugin - the likes of W3 Total Cache or WP Rocket works by generating and saving static HTML pages of your website. So each time a user tries to access your website, they’re served the lighter HTML page instead of the heftier PHP scripts. It's a little thing that makes a big difference.

      • Consider a load balancer - lastly, if your business is rapidly growing and you’re worried about resilience, investing in a load balancer could be a good option. This “traffic cop” sits in front of your servers and distributes client requests evenly so they don’t get overworked. Handy.

        But resilience is only one part of the puzzle...

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#2. Ensure the shopping experience is mobile-ready

According to 2019 statistics from Statista, one-third of all purchases made in the UK were made using a mobile device. What’s more, this year also saw Google move to mobile-first indexing. So, if your site isn’t optimised for mobile, it could see a dip in traffic.

Not ideal on Black Friday, Cyber Sunday or any other day of the week.

The good thing is: there are lots of free and easy ways to check your site’s portability.

So, what’s the best place to start?

Well, we’d recommend using Google’s Lighthouse tool.

Free to install, this chrome extension will audit your site and rate it in terms of performance, accessibility, best practices, SEO and, crucially, mobile-friendliness.

Performance metrics include a speed index that measures in seconds how quickly content is visually displayed during page load. This is really important to remember for Black Friday for two reasons:

        • These days, page speed is a direct ranking factor. And if this isn’t up to scratch, Google’s algorithm will prioritise recommending content that offers a better user experience. Essentially, those keywords will only get you so far these days.

        • According to SEO guru Neil Patel, 40% of people abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load. And, alarmingly, a 1-second delay in page response can result in a 7% reduction in conversions.

But these aren’t the only ways that conversions could be affected.

#3. Sort your SKUs & create an eye-catching display

At this point, it’s almost cliche to say: “eCommerce sites are online shop windows” - but you know what?
It’s true.

With so much competition, you’ve only got a few seconds to make an impact - so it needs to dazzle.
The good news is: preparing for Black Friday gives you the perfect excuse to reassess your product imagery and any other digital assets that need a little TLC.

But with so many online retailers battling it for consumer attention, how can you get it right?

According to Jeff Delacruz at Shopify, it’s all about giving off the right signals:

“The perceived value of your products and the trustworthiness of your brand are often judged based on the quality of your visual presentation. That means having high-end, beautiful product photography can go a long way,” he said in A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Sales: A DIY Guide to Beautiful Product Photography.

According to Delacruz, here’s what to do if you’re on a budget and looking to take care of the shoot yourself:

Create the perfect environment - your studio should have a window for some natural light and also include: a camera, tripod, white background, white bounce cards made of foam, a table and tape.

Line up your shot - place the table close to the window, turn off all the lights and avoid direct sunlight hitting the desk. Then place or tape your sweep and adjust the camera settings (flash off, white balance (WB) set to Auto and ISO at 100).

Set up the product - line up your product and arrange the reflector card so that it fills in all the shadows - then shoot.

Afterwards, you’ll want to retouch or resize your images in Photoshop and optimise them for the website.
And that’s where a Digital Asset Management (DAM) system can help.

For example, Dash is integrated with Photoshop and other Adobe applications so that when you’re working on images you can stay in the flow more easily. But it can help streamline other processes too, alleviating unnecessary stress during such a busy time. Dash allows you to:

Send files directly via a link or an email - this means you can share specific collections and the recipient doesn’t need an account to access them. Perfect when working with external designers or photographers.

Bulk update huge collections - sizing for social ads, banners, logos and more are already set up in Dash. What’s more, you can apply changes to huge collections at once which makes life a lot easier when dealing with hundreds of product photos.

Bid goodbye to the bottleneck - Dash has enhanced permissions so that everyone can see what’s going on and where it’s being held up. Importantly, you can set a specific attribute to categorise which stage in the workflow your image is in. That means waiting in the dark for photographers to send images, designers to touch them up and product and eCommerce managers to sign them off is a thing of the past.

Easy categorisation - tags are automatically applied to your images as soon as you upload them, making them far easier to search for and organise - and cutting hours of admin time that could be spent elsewhere. What’s more, you can add your own bespoke tags and apply them to multiple assets at once. Perfect if you’re trying to categorise hundreds of product images or SKUs at a time.

But whatever you’re planning for Black Friday, just stay calm, take a deep breath and form an orderly queue for any “to-dos”. Because you can discount your products but there’s no budget when it comes to being the best brand.

3 more pointers for Black Friday (and beyond)

Test your checkout process - a must for reducing last-minute cart abandonment; use a tool like Hotjar and don’t forget to test on mobile.

Monitor the competition - this will ensure your offers and campaigns are both competitive and distinct. Just set up some Google Alerts and keep an eye on their socials.

Find your point of difference - people are inundated with promotional messaging around this time, so finding a way to stand out is crucial. With that in mind, try and be creative, whilst aligning your Black Friday campaign with your overall marketing strategy. This is the time to look beyond that standard mass mailout; lost in an already-overstuffed junk folder. Focus on your best deal and take the time to create something eye-catching - attracting customers on the channels that they’re native on.

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