If you’re a part of our email list or a member of the AppSumo Facebook group, you know the AppSumo Black Friday hype is real.
Every year, we bring back 10+ of the hottest AppSumo deals from the previous 10 months.
This is serious business to us because people start and run businesses on top of these tools. Sumo-lings know that Black Friday is one of the main times to grab a powerful tool that they might have overlooked earlier in the year.
This buying event has far-reaching implications for every brand trying to reach U.S. consumers. In 2019, Black Friday broke online sales records in the U.S. hitting $7.4B, up from $6.2B in 2018.
Cyber Monday sales were a whopping $9.2B, +16.9% from $7.9B in 2018.
Planning and executing a multi-million dollar Black Friday/Cyber Monday ecommerce launch is the triple black-diamond ski slope of the digital marketing world.
When you’re prepared, it’s a thrill-ride. When you’re not — well, it’s a long tumble to the bottom.
While it’s fresh, we wanted to publish our Black Friday 2019 learnings in a video and summarize our insights below to help you make a plan for a highly successful 2020 Black Friday/Cyber Monday event.
Top 5 Biggest Operational Mistakes to Avoid on Black Friday
Mistake #1 — Not starting early enough
From the team perspective, you should really start strategizing about your Black Friday/Cyber Monday promotions in the summer.
In 2018, we started planning for Black Friday in September. In 2019, we moved it up to July 24th.
Olman Quesada, Head of Business Development at AppSumo, says, “If you think you’re starting Black Friday prep too early, you’re starting on time. If you think you’re starting Black Friday prep on time, you’re already late.”
There’s a lot of planning and partnerships that you have to make happen. And with all the hype, there’s a lot that can go wrong if your team isn’t prepared.
Launch a Black Friday/Cyber Monday teaser page
Nick: “On the marketing side — with paid ads — you need to start early because your CPCs [cost per click] and CPMs [cost per mille ie per thousand impressions] normally double during Black Friday week.
We launched a teaser page about a month in advance so we could build up a remarketing audience:
- Sending ads to this page
- Collecting emails
- Cookie-ing the traffic”
Nick: “Then the week of Black Friday we were able to retarget those people for a much lower cost than if we were to go in cold. On top of that, the teaser page that we had was able to build up a lot of hype for Black Friday.”
When customers indicate their interest and excitement about your Black Friday/Cyber Monday promotions — do the work for them. Don’t make it difficult for them to opt-in to getting your emails, texts, or FB messages — whichever platform they prefer.
Basically, make it super easy for your audience to make sure they get your deals.
Mistake #2 — Not targeting the right customers
Black Friday is a great time to message the people who are most excited to hear from you.
But it’s easy to get sucked into the madness of it all.
Erika Isett, Partnerships Manager at AppSumo, says, “On Black Friday, people get bombarded with so many flashy promotional messages. Sometimes it’s better to show plain value to get the attention of your ideal audience. Next year, I want to be sure we focus on how the deals we’re offering are going to help entrepreneurs achieve their goal of scaling their businesses.”
That’s why targeting the audience that you know wants to hear from you is critical to success.
Erika adds: ”One mistake is trying to cast too wide of a net (i.e. blasting a ton of people via email or spending a ton on advertising but not in a meaningful way). Next year I want to focus on more niche communities (people in WordPress, designers with small businesses, etc.) in a targeted way that shows clear value versus just getting our name in as many places as possible.”
Getting ahead of the competition
Everybody’s competing during Black Friday/Cyber Monday, particularly on the paid side of search. People are competing for for the same amount of impressions.
Nick: “Pre-qualifying leads beforehand — making sure you have your own Black Friday audience to talk to versus trying to compete for someone else’s. We also did a pretty big Facebook Messenger campaign as another form of communication to let people know that week.”
Ilona: “One of our most successful measures this year was beefing up our affiliate program. Having people with audiences that are already pre-qualified on their end for our brand.”
Affiliates need a lot of care and support to run successful Black Friday cross-promotions. Let them know about your sales, give them resources (links, details, clear instructions, UTMs) for the deals you’re releasing. Make sure you over-prepare them with everything they need to be successful.
Mistake #3: Not enough focus on Cyber Monday
Nick: “Placing too much emphasis on Black Friday, digital brands like us — and I think even in-store brick and mortar brands — can miss Cyber Monday as a buying event for everybody.”
Ilona: “I think we made that mistake this year. We didn’t have a plan for Cyber Monday by itself. We thought Black Friday is the season — and historically it’s always been our season. But times are changing. Cyber Monday is starting to surpass Black Friday as the digital shopping holiday. So it’s important to think of it as one big event with two pushes as opposed to just focusing on one or another.”
But you need to be strategic about these two digital shopping holidays that happen back-to-back, or you can alienate your most dedicated (read: valuable) customers.
Ilona: “A few of the brands I bought from on Black Friday had better Cyber Monday deals. And I think we can all agree: that’s kinda a salty shopping experience. You don’t want to upset those customers. I’m not going to mention which brands, but I felt personally victimized by a few of the brands this year.”
Mistake #4 — Not beefing up your resources
Our Black Friday support team built a cheat sheet schedule months in advance to make a plan for who was going to be online.
We made sure that every single hour of our promotion was covered by several people who could resolve issues, answer support tickets, and respond to Sumo-ling questions in the FB group.
Ilona: “Because this is such a limited window of time, you want to make sure you’re there for your customers, answering questions, available in case anything breaks. It’s super time-sensitive. This year, we had a launch party when the emails went out. And we started seeing traffic and a larger audience. If anything were to go wrong — let’s say the site had a 500 error… having all the relevant parties there at the same time really made a huge difference for us.”
No matter how hard you plan, things will go wrong. Try to prepare for the worst.
Nick: “Our [traffic that week] is almost 3-4x a normal week. That has certain repercussions on site load times and your server ramp-up. So you can’t just go in as if it’s a normal week and expect your resources to be successful.”
Our team recommends you test your site capacity so you know where your limits are.
Ilona: “We decided to stagger our email sends to make sure we weren’t reaching or surpassing the thresholds we knew we had for our site. This also helps alleviate the pressure on the support team and everyone who is scrambling to make the Black Friday promotion a success.”
Mistake #5 – Lack of communication
As an ecommerce brand, you have to juggle the fact that Black Friday is one of the busiest times of the year — while being a time when most U.S. employees expect to have time off to enjoy Thanksgiving. Preparation is all that more important because most of your employees will be off work the day before your largest promotion of the year drops.
So once you’re back in the office, make sure you have a plan — and clear communication channels — ready to go.
Ilona: “We had a “Black Friday” Slack channel and any update that was made on the site, be it something as simple as turning on a banner — an @channel message was sent so everyone was aware of what was going on on the site so they could jump in to fix it.”
Yes, we realize Black Friday/Cyber Monday 2020 is a looooong way from now. But we’d encourage you to bookmark this post or save the linked YouTube video for future reference.
What’d you learn this Black Friday?