Black Friday and Cyber Monday (BFCM) are just around the corner, and if you’re in ecommerce you’ve been planning for this shopping event all year long. Customers are expecting discounts and promotions, and that means you need to think through your offer strategy so you can stand out from the crowd. 
In this blog post, ecomm marketing expert Kasey Luck, the founder of Luck & Co Agency, shares her insights on discounts, promos, and offer types to help you CRUSH this holiday shopping season and take your store to the next level. 

What’s the opportunity, really? 

Compared to 2019, Black Friday 2020 was a record-breaking year for online shopping with 8% more consumers shopping online, and 37% fewer shopping in stores. (Sources: here and here)
Though many stores have reopened in 2021, there is a surge of consumers in the ecomm marketplace. The past two years have pushed shoppers online by necessity, and now their familiarity and comfort with ecomm (and the convenience to boot) have made online shopping a mainstay of consumer shopping habits. 
This is a huge opportunity for ecomm businesses, but it also means more competition as an increasing number of online stores with an ever-expanding list of offerings enters the marketplace. Gaining competitive advantage on Black Friday and Cyber Monday takes planning and forethought so that you have the best offer strategy in place to help you break through the noise. 

Why A Long Term Vision Matters

Before we go through discount and deal ideas, I’d like us to focus on the big picture. Black Friday and Cyber Monday are just 5 days of a year. If you don’t have a clear strategy for how you’ll be engaging with holiday shoppers BEFORE and AFTER this event, you’ll lose out on all the value you can gain from your customer relationships the other 360 days of the year. 
If you’ve read our blog post about Core Ecommerce Metrics, you’ll know that the customer acquisition cost will be higher than usual during BFCM and discounts will be cutting into your profits. To come out on top you need to get shoppers to buy more items, or increase their average order value (AOV), and have a plan for how you’ll get them to become repeat customers so that your acquisition costs are worth it in the long run (aka Customer Lifetime Value). 
As you plan your holiday deals, keep in mind that your discount strategy can also build up your brand ethos, personality, and underscore the type of customer community you want to create. Repeat customers are the backbone of your business, and promotional strategies that are on brand help draw in customers who will be with you beyond the holiday shopping season. Loyal customers mean you can get away with offering smaller discounts, and you find yours by educating your audience throughout the year about why you are different so they fall in love with your brand and products. 
Before we cover offer types, let’s dive into customer segments that clarify the WHO you are extending your discounts to and HOW you’ll do it.

Know Your Customer Segments For More Effective Promotions

So the first thing we’ll do is we’ll outline the different segments that we should be thinking about. Some of those segments probably deserve a better deal, and they all need slightly different messaging and frequency of touchpoints. 

VIP Customers: find your VIPs either by looking at your top spenders or most frequent shoppers. These customers want to buy regardless of a discount, so reward them with promotions like gifts and early access.  
Current Customers: those who have purchased at least once, but are not VIPs. 
Engaged Email Subscribers: they’re opening and clicking your emails, they may or may not have made a purchase. They are interested in your brand, so share the benefits, story, and other unique qualities. They’re receptive to communications and curious, just looking for something to tip the scales and help them convert.  
Unengaged Email Subscribers: not opening or clicking emails. Emphasize discounts, savings, they need clear messaging to reignite the interest that landed them on your list in the first place. 
SMS list: similar to VIPs, these are customers who want you close and for that, you should offer them early deal access and exclusive or deeper discounts. 

Offer Strategies, Discount Types, and Promotions

So onto the main event: promotional offers. Here we’ll go through a few different types so that you can think through what makes sense for your business, customer community, and brand. 

1. Tiered Discounts 

This is a great strategy that works time and again. It works like this: buy 2 products, get 20% off; buy 3+, get 25% off. You are incentivizing shoppers toward a bigger cart, thereby offsetting your costs, increasing AOV, and getting them to experience a larger selection of your offerings. The more products they try, the higher the chance they’ll fall in love with one and come back to purchase again. 

2. Bundles 

Bundling your products is another promotional strategy that meets a lot of different goals. It increases AOV, gets customers to try more products that make them more likely to become loyal to your brand, eases fulfillment logistics by creating shipping efficiencies, and can be tailored to brand-aligned “bundle types” that underscore what you are all about. 

3. Increase Your Loyalty & Rewards points 

Again, repeat customers are the backbone of your business so show them some extra love during BFCM. Create a Loyalty & Rewards program, or if you already have one then give them EXTRA points (in addition to your core discounts) for shopping with you during the holidays. Plus, for an existing customer who loves your products, this is a way to check gifts off their list while knowing they’ll get a little payback for themselves to look forward to. 

If you do that, make sure you send an email to your general audience a week prior with a “sneak peek” to encourage them to join Rewards. You can also post about it on your social media channels.
When people see a tangible reward like that, you’ll likely have a spike in the number of your loyalty program members. This is a great example of how to think long-term during Black Friday and Cyber Monday since Loyalty Members have higher retention rates and Lifetime Customer Value. 

4. Gifting, Freebies, and Upsells

Have inventory you need to move? Use it towards your BFCM promotions instead of offering a discount.
Here’s an example from Shinesty

You can offer a single gifting item, or create a tiered approach based on customer spend. Rather than gifting every customer the same way, you can motivate customers with different items of varied values so that they feel excited to move up to the next spend tier.
This tactic again covers many goals: increasing AOV, getting customers to try more products, moving excess inventory, and utilizing a creative approach that adds some personality to your brand through your promotional approach. 

5. Mission Driven & Values-Based

If it aligns with your brand and the values of your customers, partnering with a brand-aligned charitable organization during BFCM is a powerful way to rewrite the consumer narrative during the holiday shopping season.

The important element here is to clarify how this is an extension of your already established brand ethos and to ensure that this will truly resonate with and motivate your customers. Everlane does a good job with this approach, as they have sustainability-minded fabrics and operations built into their brand all year round. By creating their Black Friday Fund, they are underscoring a part of their brand that is important to their core customer. 

6. Launch a New or Limited-Edition Product

Have a product ready to launch, but worried it will get lost in the holiday mania? Never fear, you can use the BFCM hype in your favor to release a new product successfully. 
When you release a limited edition product, your most loyal customers will want to purchase it first. Black Friday is the perfect time for this because as your customers come for the limited-edition item, they also add other stuff to the cart since it’s Black Friday. 
This is also a great “insider perk,” and you can extend first access to a new product to your VIP and SMS customers. 

7. Give Out Gift Cards

Instead of offering discounts, you may choose to offer gift cards — as a gift — with every purchase. For example, spend $50 on our site, get a $10 gift card. Spend $200, get a $20 discount.
This way, the shopper is getting a gift for themselves as well as someone else — or they might keep that gift card for the next time they shop!
This is also a good strategy for businesses that want to have a plan in place to boost Q1 sales or want to shift inventory movement to a later date. Offering a gift card will get customers to come back after the holidays, a time when sales are typically slower. 

Make It Memorable

Now, no matter what deal you choose to run, you wanna make sure your sale is MEMORABLE! Remember, your subscribers’ inboxes will be FULL of deals, so you need to find a way to stand out.  
Shoppers have a lot to navigate during BFCM, whether it is a long list of gifts they need to purchase, or trying to remember what promotions (and when) their favorite brands are offering. Making things easier for your customers during this time of year is an excellent strategy to both build their trust and snag a sale. Here are a few creative strategies to do just this: 

Calendar Invite 

Send your customers an email before Black Friday offering to send them a reminder when your deals go live: 

Include your sales go-live date and time, and include an option to add the event to your calendar by clicking the “Add to Cal” button.
When your customers download the file, they’ll see a link to your website so they know to go there, click, and begin shopping. Less to think about, more fun to shop! 

This approach lets you help out your customers and secure a place in their life that will keep you top of mind when the deals start to get loud and noisy. It’s a simple yet effective tactic that every business can easily implement long before the BFCM chaos begins.

Surprise, Mystery, and Gamification = Delight

Here’s another idea for making your sale memorable — add a surprise, or mystery, to your sale. 
Look at this subject line from Death Wish Coffee: Black Friday: Here’s your random gift code. 
And this is what the email looks like:

They send you a unique “mystery” coupon. To reveal the amount, you have to click through the email, add some products to your cart, and move to checkout to see your surprise gift.
This is a clever way to make your Black Friday offers more interesting. Plus, it will increase your email opens, email clicks, and encourage more subscribers to move to checkout.

Now It’s Go Time…

We’ve covered so much, and we hope you feel excited and energized to make a splash with your BFCM promotions. Remember that you can always combine different offers — just don’t make it confusing for your customers to know what the offers are and feel like they are taking advantage of them. Treat your VIPs in a special way, and don’t forget to touch base with unengaged subscribers – Black Friday is the PERFECT time to contact them and draw them back with a special deal. What’s more, you can begin your customer communications now so that when the deals drop they are excited and ready to shop.