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Make this Black Friday and Cyber Monday your best sales days of the year

Find out what customers want on Black Friday and Cyber Monday so you can give it to them and get the most of this high-revenue weekend.

November 15, 2019 by Len Markidan

The leaves change colors. The air gets crisper. Surplus Halloween candy finds a new home in secret caches throughout your office.

If this sounds like the beginning of November in your house, then your house is a lot like mine.

But this auspicious month isn’t just great for parades, overeating, and family get-togethers.

It also has two of the biggest shopping days of the year packed into a single weekend.

And if you’re selling digital downloads or online courses, that’s great news.

Because you don’t have to battle the lines to turn a tidy profit and reach more customers than ever before.

In fact, if you prepare your storefront ahead of time, you can spend your Black Friday like it was intended:

Sleeping in, shopping online, and arguing about who gets the last of the pumpkin pie.

Today, we’ll prepare you with actionable strategies for getting your products polished for the holiday shopping season and selling more.

But before we get started with that, let’s take a quick look at the facts.

What is Black Friday?

For Americans, Black Friday is a holiday so synonymous with Thanksgiving that they’re at times simultaneous events -- albeit there’s some contention about whether that’s a good thing.

If you’ve never heard of Black Friday, though, here’s what you need to know:

  • Black Friday is always the fourth Friday in November, following immediately after Thanksgiving in the United States.
  • This year, it’s on November 29.
  • While not an official holiday, many of your potential customers will have the day off, especially if they work in more corporate positions.
  • 61% of consumers are planning to shop on Black Friday, while 50% plan to shop on Cyber Monday.
  • Consumers plan to spend an average of $502 on Black Friday and $431 on Cyber Monday -- both are increases from 2018.

Although Black Friday owes its origin to retailers in the United States, it’s an international event. 

Just check out how sales figures increased across the world on Black Friday in 2018 compared to regular days: 

So regardless of whether your customer base will be celebrating Thanksgiving on that Thursday before or reside clear across the world, Black Friday is an opportunity you don’t want to miss.

Not if you want to sell online courses like never before and capitalize on the busiest part of the Christmas shopping season, anyway.

After all, 60% of consumers planned on spending more than half of their holiday shopping online in 2018.

And Black Friday isn’t a strictly one-day event, either.

Its sister holiday, which is catered specifically for online shoppers, Cyber Monday, packs even more of a sales punch.

To see how much of a punch, check this out:

Holiday shopping between November and December accounted for $126 billion in 2018 alone.

Thanksgiving day earned a respectable $3.7 billion, while Black Friday accounted for $6.2 billion in sales.

And Cyber Monday?

It beat both days by earning a cool $7.9 billion. 

Altogether, the five-day period between Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday accounted for 19.2% of online holiday revenue in 2018. 

So what’s the deal with Black Friday?

Shoppers everywhere are on the hunt for a bargain, and if you market your storefront correctly, that bargain might just be yours.

Though tread carefully, because not all bargains are made equally.

Should you offer Black Friday coupons?

54% of consumers planned on using discounts and promotional codes to save on holiday shopping in 2018.

For 2019, 44% of consumers plan on getting discounts on Black Friday, and 53% plan on getting them on Cyber Monday. 

As for your competitors, 76% of retailers plan to offer more sales and discounts in 2019 than in 2018, too. 

Consumers aren’t happy to receive just any discount, either -- nearly a quarter of shoppers said 25% off is the minimum they would consider a “good sale”.

It’s an unpleasant reality, but a truth that you can’t avoid: you’ll probably need to cut your prices or offer Black Friday coupons to stay in the running during the holiday shopping season.

That said, coupons and discounts are a fickle art to master. Offer too good of a deal, and you might accidentally train your customers to expect a slashed-down price all of the time.

Or, even more perilously, your discounts might actually hurt your brand’s perceived value.

Which isn’t to say that coupons aren’t a powerful tool at your disposal.

In fact, discounts and promotions make people downright happier.

How much happier? About 11% more, says science.

And it’s a happiness that people are willing to chase. 53% of price-conscious consumers spend as much as two hours a week looking for coupons.

But aside from making consumers happier, discounts have another benefit: growing your customer base and sales. 

80% of consumers have said they feel encouraged to make a first-time purchase from a brand that’s new to them if they found a discount or offer. 

93% of consumers said they would make a repeat purchase if a brand offered good discounts, as well.

Add in the fact that coupons increase customer loyalty, and it’s hard not to see the value of a good discount, even with the potential risks to your brand.

Mitigating the risks is surprisingly simple, too.

Because while you can’t prevent them altogether, you can curb bargain-hunting behaviors with your regular customers by limiting your use of coupons overall. 

Besides, avoiding offering discounts may backfire since 48% of shoppers said they would avoid companies that did not offer discounts. 

Except for special events like a new product, membership launches, or Black Friday, you should offer coupons sparingly. 

The rarer they are, the more effective they’ll be -- and the less likely they are able to eat into your bottom line.

TunnelBear, for instance, offers a steep 58% discount only one or two days per year and said as such in their “Cybear Monday” email. 

Similarly, Lifesum limited their 30% discount to Cyber Monday only. 

There are ways to make your discounts exclusive beyond limiting them to a handful of days, too. 

Like Standard and Strange, you could offer discounts of decreasing value for each major day during the Thanksgiving - Cyber Monday shopping period. 

You could also limit your discount to certain sections of your audience, such as Withings did for their Black Friday promotion. 

Lastly, if you’ve decided that discounts just won't work for your brand this year, you could take a note from Everlane’s book and explain why you won’t offer discounts. 

Not offering a discount is a bold move to take during the holidays, but it can, ultimately, be a necessary one. A coupon that gets a new customer in the door is a positive, but coupons that attract customers who won’t stay without more coupons will wither your profit margin.

Bottom line:

Keep couponing to a minimum to make them effective sales-boosters without permanently discounting the value of your products.

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5 strategies for holiday promotion

With that out of the way, let’s dig into the fun stuff. Here are five sales strategies you can use leading up to and on Black Friday to make the most out of the year’s highest sales day.

#1. Bundle your products to sell more

When people hit the streets -- or internet, in this case -- on Black Friday, they’re ready to make big purchases.

Nintendo Switch levels big.

So if there’s ever a time to increase the average order value, it’s on this shopping-spree-friendly day.

And there’s no simpler way to do that than through product bundling.

Justin Jackson, who has pulled in over $100,000 through his storefront, uses Podia’s bundling feature every Black Friday to increase his sales.

It’s super quick to create a bundle. Let’s run through it now.

As usual, start out on your dashboard. From there, head to your products page.

Click the “new product” button in the top right corner.

Select the “product bundle” from the colored list, and then pick a short but memorable name for your product. 

Since this is a Black Friday sale, you might want to let people know they’re getting access to a rare sale or promotion. 

At least, that’s the approach Maddy Osman, a successful content strategist and entrepreneur, recommends you take:

“Offer a legitimately unmissable deal at a price point that you don’t offer during any other holiday or sales event of the year,” she says, adding that, “Buying from you will feel like a no-brainer.”

So something like this should do nicely:

Once you’re satisfied, click “create & continue” to move to the next screen.

From here, you can edit your URL, change your descriptions, set your price, create a payment plan, and add products to your bundle.

Note that you can only add a product to a bundle that has already been published. If it’s still in draft mode, you’ll have to launch it separately and come back.

Now, all you need to do is scroll down and click on the products you want to add to your bundle.

Anything highlighted in green is part of your bundle. If it’s white, it’s been excluded from the bundle.

To set the price, just switch to the “pricing” tab at the top of the page. 

On this tab, you can also determine if you want to offer a payment plan for your bundle.

You also have the option to create custom coupons for your product bundle. Scroll down to the bottom of the page and click “coupons page” to be taken to the coupon dashboard. 

Since we’ve talked about keeping coupons scarce, let’s create a limited coupon. This type of coupon can only be used by a set number of customers before it expires.

There are a couple of ways to customize your limited coupon. 

You could determine if the coupon can be used storewide or for certain products, will be an amount-based or percentage-based discount, or limited to a certain number of customers. 

28% of consumers are more likely to dish out extra cash if your offer includes a percentage (as opposed to a flat fee), so let’s keep ours with the default setup and limit it to the first 50 customers.

Ready to go? Hit “create coupon”.

And like that, you’ve got an exclusive coupon ready to share on your social media feed without your discounts spiraling out of control.

If you’d prefer to create a coupon that anyone can use, but that expires after Cyber Monday, check out our other post here on launching a membership site for a quick walkthrough on timed coupons.

Otherwise, it’s time to start gifting. Sort of.

#2. Create niche-ready gift guides

Why is the weekend period between Black Friday and Cyber Monday such a hot spot for sales?

It’s less about the days themselves and more about the mission of the shoppers. Expecting great deals, many consumers tackle their shopping list with a goal.

Chiefly, they’re trying to clear off as many gifts as possible for Christmas.

Capitalize on that mission by giving them a helping hand on your blog ahead of time. Blogging and SEO should already be part of your sales strategy, but if they’re not, creating gift guides is a great place to start.

And the earlier you start, the better. 

Only 32% of US shoppers planned to get their gift lists cleared out during December last year. The rest of them were ramping up in the period before Thanksgiving and shopping through to Cyber Monday.

Keep in mind that when you’re creating a gift guide, you should include more than just your products. Think about your audience: do they have families? Are they in a specific industry or interest group?

For instance, if your products primarily cater to people who want to learn visual design, there’s a good chance that they -- and their friends -- are interested in the arts.

Your gift guide could focus on providing artistic gifts on a budget and talk about your planned Black Friday promotions for relevant products.

Or, you could create multiple guides by price points and relationships like Anthropologie does.

Alternatively, you could focus on gift guides that cater strictly to your audience.

Penguin Random House does this really well while selling the benefit of their products with clear, catchy value propositions.

Who doesn’t want to impart a little curiosity to their loved ones?

Basically, ask yourself:

What could your products and gifts related to them provide for your audience’s social circle?  

Then, make that answer your selling point and motivation for the gift guide. And remember, it doesn’t have to be a physical product to be valuable or sell well.

Because while the gift of knowledge doesn’t have a price point, the products that offer it -- like your online course -- do.

Of course, just having a gift guide isn’t enough. You have to tell people about that gift guide, and that’s where our third strategy excels.

#3. Run a drip campaign about upcoming promotions

Gift guides are a great way to drum up interest, but they’re passive. They’re not actively engaging leads and bringing new people into your sales funnel.

But if you combine them with email marketing, they can.

In addition to providing visitors with information about your products and planned promotions in your gift guides, direct them to a landing page with the promise of keeping them up to date with exclusive sales information.

Landing pages capture more email addresses than signup boxes, popups, and wheel-of-fortune type boxes combined.

For every new signup and current user on your email list, run a pre-Black Friday promotion drip campaign. Think of it as a teaser for what’s to come.

And if you’re hesitant, take heart: it’s a teaser that others will be and are receptive to during the holidays.

47% of consumers prefer email for receiving messages from retailers, and 68% of consumers say they pay more attention to brands’ emails during the holidays. 

So, email is definitely the place to both tease and delight your subscribers about upcoming product releases and promotions. 

AVON does. In fact, they used a popup box over the course of five days by offering users an exclusive peep at new offers and scored almost 4,000 new leads.

Just imagine how much more their list could have grown if they’d combined it with a landing page. Remember, popup boxes like the above only have an average signup rate of 3%.

So this tactic? Ultra-powerful.

And, AVON isn’t the only retailer who uses this strategy. Amazon, whose Black Friday deals start earlier and get bigger every year, regularly runs drip campaigns leading up to and through the sales period.

Notice how they include a gift guide as part of their campaign, as well.

Amazon claimed 54.9% of online purchases on Black Friday last year, so their strategy is definitely one to copy.

Most experts recommend starting your campaign at least a month ahead of time, around Halloween.

They also suggest making your offers clear -- don’t just tell people that you’ll be providing a discount, tell them what you’ll be discounting -- and keep faithful to your brand style.

After all, 60% of shoppers said they would purchase from an email that offers a discount and free shipping, so clarifying your proposition can only help consumers decide if they want to buy from you. 

But the take-home advice for this strategy?

Above all else, know the people you’re emailing. What are their goals and motivations for being on your list?

“We have best practices and rules of thumb,” explains Nate Wright of Small Biz Triage who has created hundreds of Black Friday drip campaigns for clients, “But at the end of the day you have to do the groundwork way ahead of time to understand what your subscribers want.”

If they signed up from your landing page, you already have a strong starting place:

They want deals no one else is getting.

So that’s exactly what you should give them.

To make your holiday emails truly shine, check out these guides to writing better sales emails, email subject lines that can boost your opens, and email marketing tools to lift sales. 

#4. Upsell and cross-sell your products

28% of small businesses said driving sales was a top priority in 2019. 

And do you want to know what can drive more sales and reduce friction in your customers’ holiday buying process?

Upselling and cross-selling.         

Upselling is when a business recommends a customer buy a more advanced or feature-rich version of your product as they’re checking out. 

When this customer was selecting a flower bouquet from ProFlowers, they had the option of either buying just the bouquet or purchasing a more expensive bouquet and vase combination. 

Cross-selling, on the other hand, is when you recommend customers add complementary or related products to their cart. 

Apple recommended three additional products to a customer after they added a MacBook to their cart, for example. 

With upselling and cross-selling, you can increase customers’ average order values while they already have their wallets out and buying motivations set to “spend”.

To maximize upselling and cross-selling effects, consider offering a slight discount for purchasing the upgraded or related product. 

Research has found that discounts and incentives are just one of several ways to use upselling and cross-selling to grow your business. 

With Podia, you can add upselling functionality to your storefront in just a few minutes. 

To add upsells to your digital products, go to your product dashboard and pick the product you want to offer upsells or cross-sells for. 

Go to the “pricing” tab and scroll down until you see the “upsells” block. 

Click “add an upsell” to pick what products you want to show during the checkout process. 

Next, pick what product you want to offer for the upsell and if you want to offer a discount. 

If you choose to offer a discount, pick whether you want to offer a percentage- or amount-based discount. After that, determine how steep of a discount you want to offer. 

Then click “save” and your upsell offer will appear whenever a student tries to purchase your base product. 

If you want, you can add multiple upsells for your base product by clicking “add an upsell” on your product’s pricing page. 

Don’t worry about your customers being shown upsells for products they’ve already purchased -- Podia will only show products they don’t have access to during the checkout process. 

And there you go! In four simple steps, you can add upselling and cross-selling to your checkout process and significantly increase your chances of earning more per sale.

#5. Offer a payment plan 

As much as consumers enjoy spending during the holidays, worries about going over budget can loom over their heads. 

74% of American adults said they have had to occasionally pass over a purchase or find a more affordable alternative during their holiday shopping because of their budget. 

However, one-third of consumers said payment options could relieve monetary pressure during their holiday shopping, with 75% of Americans who shop during the holidays being interested in paying in installments. 

In response, businesses such as Urban Outfitters and Anthropologie have begun to offer payment plans. 

When hosting your storefront on Podia, you can offer payment plans, too. 

On your product dashboard, pick the product you want to add a payment plan to by clicking the three little dots and then “edit product info”.

From there, go to the pricing tab and pick how you want to structure your payment plan. 

Payment plans can be as long as you like, although most creators tend to stick between two to six months. 

You can also determine if you want to charge more per month for offering a payment plan, or if you want customers on payment plans to pay the same as those who paid a one-time payment.

For my plan, I’m going to charge extra per month for the privilege of paying in installments.  

Payment plans spread you sale across several months, but can often be the deciding factor between a holiday shopper purchasing or passing over your products. 

And given the spirit of generosity and good cheer that permeates the holidays, giving your customers extra time to pay can definitely be worth it. 

Getting your turkeys in a row

November has a special place in the entrepreneur’s heart and the online consumer’s budget. Here’s what you need to know to make the most of it for your sales:

  • Black Friday may have started in the United States, but it’s an international phenomenon.
  • And phenomenon is the right word. The period between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday accounted for nearly a fifth of online revenue for the holiday season in 2018. 
  • People expect great deals during that period, but be cautious about how you apply discounts. You can’t skip giving them out on Black Friday -- you’ll be outcompeted before your coffee cools -- but you should limit them to protect your bottom line.
  • Want to sell more products? Sell more of them at once with product bundles (you can create them in a cinch if you sign up for Podia). People are already in the market for big purchases on Black Friday, and Podia makes bundles a breeze.
  • ‘Tis the season for gift-giving, which means it's the season for gift-buying. Make it easier for your visitors by creating relevant gift guides for the people in their life. All the better if those guides include your products and upcoming promotions.
  • Use a landing page to start building your email list up and run a special drip campaign in the weeks leading up to Black Friday. Keep your offers clear and get people pumped for your upcoming holiday promotions.
  • Add upselling and cross-selling to your checkout to increase how much each of your customers spends with you during the holiday
  • Offer a payment plan so customers who are feeling a little bit of budget burden can still afford the products that will make their holidays merry and bright 

Sure, following these tips will help maximize your sales without hurting your profit margin, but more importantly?

You’ll get that last piece of pumpkin pie and time off to enjoy it, and if that isn’t something to be grateful for, I don’t know what is.