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

Make the most of Black Friday and Cyber Monday with these 5 creator-approved (and budget-friendly) strategies for uplifting sales and increasing customers’ orders.

The leaves change colors. The air gets crisper. Surplus Halloween candy finds a new home in secret spots 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 , online courses, webinars, or communities, 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 website and product pages 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 leftover pie.

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

But before we get started with that, let’s take a quick look at the facts and make sure we’re on the same page.

What is Black Friday?

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

Here’s what you need to know about Black Friday:

  • Black Friday is always the Friday after Thanksgiving in the United States.

  • Black Friday is a part of Cyber Weekend, the five-day weekend that starts on Thanksgiving and ends on Cyber Monday.

  • Black Friday is projected to bring in around $17 billion this year, while Cyber Monday 2021 will bring in over $11 billion .

And here are the details on Cyber Weekend 2021:

  • Thursday, November 25, 2021: Thanksgiving

  • Friday, November 26, 2021: Black Friday

  • Saturday, November 27, 2021: Small Business Saturday

  • Sunday, November 28, 2021: Cyber Monday Eve

  • Monday, November 29, 2021: Cyber Monday

Something important to remember is that while it’s true Black Friday and Cyber Weekend owe their origin to retailers in the United States, it’s an international event. Retailers across the world see massive upticks in orders and visits.

So whether your customer base will be celebrating Thanksgiving on that Thursday or reside clear across the world, Black Friday is an opportunity for everyone.

And if you’re selling online courses , digital downloads, or communities, it isn’t one you want to miss.

Online holiday shopping is projected to reach a record $207 billion in the U.S. between November and December, a 10% increase over 2020. Cyber Weekend is expected to account for $36 billion of those sales.

Altogether, experts predict that the five-day period between Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday will make up over 17% of online holiday revenue in 2021.

So, what does Black Friday mean for online creators?

Shoppers everywhere are on the hunt for a bargain, and if you promote your digital products the right way, that bargain might just be yours.

Tread carefully, though, because not all bargains are created equal.

Should you offer Black Friday coupons?

70% of American shoppers actively sought out promotions and coupons when holiday shopping in 2020.

There’s the obvious answer about why — who wants to spend money they can save? — and then the not-so-obvious answer.

Shopping for bargains actually makes people happier.

This is what Dr. Paul J. Zak , professor of neuroeconomics, had to say on the results of his study around the physiological and psychological effect of coupons:

“…not only are people who get a coupon happier, less stressed, and experience less anxiety, but also that getting a coupon — as hard as it is to believe — is physically shown to be more enjoyable than getting a gift.”

The differences weren’t on a purely emotional level. In the study, shoppers who received a $10 voucher experienced a 38% rise in oxytocin levels and were 11% happier than those who did not receive a coupon.

Oxytocin is sometimes also called the love hormone . It’s what we associate with the warm-and-fuzzies, and for participants in Dr. Zak’s studies, it’s what they felt when they received a voucher.

All of this is to say that coupons definitely have a lot of pull for customers, and it’s deeper than the surface level number on how much they might save.

In spite of that advantage, 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. That hurts your brand’s perceived value .

Conversely, offer a deal that isn’t good enough and your competitors will leave you behind in the post-shopping dust.

Take heart: you can run holiday promotions without hurting your bottom line .

But except for special events — like a new product launch , membership launch , or Black Friday — you should offer coupons sparingly. The rarer they are, the more effective they’ll be, and the less likely they are to eat into your bottom line.

For example, Podia creator Reuven Lerner offers discounts on his Python online courses and ebooks just a few times per year, including Black Friday.

When you only offer promos a few times per year like Reuven, shoppers will be more likely to take advantage of those deals.

Plus, if you make those promos available to a select group of customers or for a limited amount of time, you can leverage the scarcity principle through FOMO (the fear of missing out).

89% of Americans say that an exclusive offer would make them likely to shop with a brand, and 48% say an exclusive offer would make them purchase sooner.

To use the sales psychology of exclusivity, you could limit your discount to a VIP group of subscribers, like Withings did for their Black Friday promotion.

Or you could stagger your promotions and offer exclusive perks for each day. You can also turn your promotion schedule into its own timer, just as Standard and Strange did with descending discounts.

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. There’s no shame in it, and plenty of brands have lived to tell the tale of not offering discounts.

So, use coupons sparingly and make them strategic. They’re meant to help your profits, but if you’re using them year round, you’re just as likely hurting your own margins.

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.

So if there’s ever a time to increase the average order value, it’s on this shopping-spree-friendly day. There are fewer simpler ways to do so than through product bundles .

Justin Jackson , who has made $100,000 from his membership site and coaching, uses Podia’s bundling feature every Black Friday to increase his sales.

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

From your Podia dashboard , head to your Products page .

Click the “New product” button in the top right corner and select the “Bundle” product type, then pick a short but memorable name for your product bundle.

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

Next, click “Create product”.

Under “Products”, you’ll see all of the product options you can add to your bundle. Add or remove products to your bundle by toggling “Bundled”.

(Note: Draft products, pre-launch products, and bundles themselves can’t be added to bundles.)

Next, click over to the “Pricing” tab. Set a price for your bundle. You can offer your bundle for free, set a one-time payment, or offer a monthly payment plan .

Once you set your price, click “Publish”. You can either publish your bundle and make it available for sale right away or, if your bundle isn’t ready to sell, pre-launch it.

To publish your bundle right away, click the “Publish” dropdown to wrap things up and go live.

And just like that, you have a new bundle for your business. Not using Podia yet? Grab a free trial today to check out product bundling and so much more for yourself .

#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.

The earlier you start, the better, but there’s plenty of opportunity to go around for everyone, even if you get to the game late.

According to the Deloitte 2020 holiday retail survey , shopping schedules have remained relatively unchanged through the pandemic. About half of people plan to wrap their shopping up before Thanksgiving, and 22% plan to get it done on Cyber Weekend.

Heart-warmingly, there’s still 15% who plan to take care of things in December, so even if you don’t see the results you want from this Cyber Weekend, you still have a month left to make up the difference.

That also means the gift guides you create now can still help your holiday profit margins, even after Cyber Weekend is over.

Speaking of those gift guides, keep in mind that you need to include more than just your own products when you’re creating them.

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 like Anthropologie does .

Alternatively, you could focus on gift guides that cater specifically to the feelings your audience wants to invoke in their gift recipients.

Penguin Random House does this really well by connecting their gift guides to the experience that shoppers want to create for their loved ones.

An afternoon of escape or a meal to remember? I can’t think of many finer gifts, personally.

Basically, ask yourself:

What could your products and any 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, pop-ups, and wheel-of-fortune type boxes combined, despite being the most under-utilized form of sign-up. In other words, landing pages are the best signup forms for overall conversions .

For every new sign-up 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, hopefully this brings you comfort: 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. Given that popup boxes like the above only have an average signup rate of 3%, this tactic is ultra-powerful even without a landing page to supplement it.

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 included a gift guide as part of their campaign , as well.

Amazon reported their biggest year ever in 2020 , and while there’s a lot of very valid debate around them as a company, you can’t deny: their Black Friday strategy is definitely one to copy.

As for when to copy it, 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 keeping faithful to your brand style.

After all, 60% of shoppers said they would purchase from an email that offers a discount and free shipping. Since online courses (and other digital products) are always free shipping to a customer’s inbox, adding a discount teaser into your emails can only help.

The take-home focus for this strategy is that, above all else, you need to 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 the 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.

Now, let’s talk about how to beef up your customers’ average order value.

#4. Upsell and cross-sell your products

Upselling and cross-selling are powerful ways to drive more sales and reduce friction in your customers’ holiday buying process.

Upselling is when a business recommends a customer buy a more advanced or feature-rich version of a product during checkout.

For example, when a customer selects a flower bouquet from ProFlowers , they have the option to either buy the bouquet alone or a more expensive bouquet and vase combination.

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

Apple , who recommended three additional products to a customer after they added a MacBook to their cart, is a perfect example of this.

With upselling and cross-selling, the biggest benefit is that you can increase customers’ average order values while they already have their wallets out and are ready to spend.

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

With Podia, you can add upsells to your products in just a few minutes.

On your Products page , pick the product you want to offer upsells or cross-sells for, then click “Edit”.

Go to the “Pricing” tab and scroll down until you see the “Upsells” block.

Click “New upsell”, then select the products you want to show during the checkout process 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.

Click “Create”. Your upsell offer will appear whenever a student tries to purchase your base product.

With that, you’re all set to maximize your upselling and cross-selling opportunities. If you want to see Podia’s couponing system live in action but aren’t ready for a trial yet, check out our weekly, free demo below.

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Otherwise, let’s close out today with a gift that keeps giving for your customers and your profits.

#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.

Offering payment plans can help you make your products more affordable and boost your sales. 84% of consumers appreciate the flexibility of paying for large purchases over time, while 35% are more likely to make a purchase if a brand offers monthly payments.

Here’s how to set up payment plans for your products with Podia.

On your Products page , pick the product you want to offer a payment plan for, then click “Edit”.

Go to the “Pricing” tab and select “One-time or monthly payments”.

Payment plans can be as long as you like, though 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 made 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 your 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 runs through 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 is expected to make up 17% of all online shopping holiday revenue this year.

  • Want to sell more products? Sell more of them at once with product bundles. 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 holiday pie and time off to enjoy it, and if that isn’t something to be grateful for, I don’t know what is.

About the author

Lauren Cochran is the former Director of Content for Podia. She’s since moved on to leading marketing at PickFu, a do-it-yourself consumer research platform where business owners stop guessing about what customers want and start getting answers. She still drops in to say hello and share cat pictures from time to time.