Turkey. Football. Pumpkin pie. Shopping. These are all things we've come to associate with Thanksgiving over the years. Most interestingly, the holiday shopping spree known as Black Friday & Cyber Monday has exploded in popularity over the last decade.
Reports on the 2016 shopping season found that 154 million consumers opened their wallets during the five days between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday. In fact, Cyber Monday set an all-time record last year with $3.45 billion in online sales!
As a religious retailer, we know you probably have your hands full getting ready for the upcoming holiday season. That's why we pulled together nine of our best tips to help you make the most of your time before, during, and after Black Friday & Cyber Monday. Let's dive in:
Before Black Friday & Cyber Monday
#1. Don't wait until the last minute
It comes as no surprise that the retail rule book (for both digital and brick & mortar) continue to evolve each year, especially when it comes to the holiday season. Consumers begin researching and planning out their holiday purchases far earlier than one might expect.
Just take a look at the Google Trends chart below for the 2016 search term "Christmas Gift Ideas." Interest begins slowly in October, but steadily picks up pace all the way until mid-December.
Keep your store top-of-mind with customers and contacts leading up to the peak purchasing season by giving sneak peeks of upcoming sales weeks (or even months) in advance. Even better, create an informative blog or email series to highlight some of the season's most popular shopping trends in religious jewelry and gifts.
#2. Make sure your website can handle a surge in traffic
If you're planning to launch a big holiday campaign, you'll want to guarantee your website can handle an influx. In some cases, too many requests to visit your ecommerce store at once can slow down loading speeds or cause the site to crash all together.
If you have a web team or agency handling the maintenance of your site, reach out to them first. But, if you're on your own, there are some free tools out there to get a basic indication of your site's performance like tools.pingdom.com or Google PageSpeed Insights.
#3. Use eye-catching banners to promote sales and showcase products
According to the Social Science Research Network, 65% of the population is made up of visual learners. Behavioral science aside, our decreasing attention spans and disappearing free time means the best way to communicate is often with fewer words and stronger visuals.
If you're planning a promotion for a physical storefront, consider investing in a relatively inexpensive pop-up banner to pull holiday foot traffic into your location. If you're planning for ecommerce, try creating a few banner images for your homepage and key product categories using a simple, free tool like Canva.
#4. Build a targeted campaign to reach new and existing customers
If Black Friday & Cyber Monday is a make or break time for your annual sales, you will want to consider doubling down on your marketing efforts during this peak season. Take email marketing for instance; a few well-timed emails to your previous customers could make a world of difference, especially if you provide the most loyal with exclusive discount codes or coupons to encourage a purchase.
If you're trying to break out beyond your established list of customers, take a look into Facebook advertising. While it may seem intimidating at first glance, many ecommerce shops and local businesses have been able to significantly grow their sales by leveraging this tool.
With just a few clicks, you can try to engage users who have visited your site in the past or build a custom audience from scratch using extremely detailed targeting options.
#5. Forecast 2017 sales and stock your store accordingly
Now that you've put a plan together and checked your site twice, you will want to guarantee you're able to fulfill your campaign claims by having enough inventory in stock. If this isn't your first holiday season, you should start by reviewing your 2016 sales and work your way back from there.
Make sure you're increasing or reducing this year's expected sales to align with the your current growth. Additionally, this is a great time to take a more detailed look into specifically which products flew off the shelves and others that didn't quite make the cut.
If this is your first holiday season or you're having difficulty anticipating this year's trends, reach out to your McVan sales representative or give us a call at (800) 322-8781. We are always happy to put together retail recommendations!
During Black Friday & Cyber Monday
#6. Use abandoned cart emails to increase online conversions
Cart abandonment happens when an online shopper places items in their shopping cart, but fails to place the order before leaving the site. While this may seem like a lost sale, there are a few techniques to try and convert these departed visitors into paying customers.
If you haven't taken a look yet, we suggest you read our post "Sick of Abandoned Carts? How Online Religious Retailers Can Boost Conversions" for an in-depth look at this strategy.
#7. Guarantee top-notch customer service
Thanksgiving may be a secular celebration, but the core message of gratitude and sharing thanks will often resonate strongly with men, women, and families of faith. As some of the biggest shopping days of the year approach, service should be among your highest priorities.
Put together some canned responses to common questions to be used via email, over the phone, or in-store. These could be as general as seasonal store hours to something as specific as what gifts you would recommend for someone serving in the military.
When it comes to staffing, make sure you take into account extra holiday foot traffic in shrines and church gift shops. If you manage an ecommerce store, you may want to consider adding some temporary staff to assist in order fulfillment and customer support.
Post Black Friday & Cyber Monday
#8. Uphold a frustration-free return policy
Your service as a retailer doesn't end when the transaction does. Aside from providing an exceptional shopping experience, you should be prepared for returns with a solid return policy to save you headaches down the line.
As a religious retailer, it's extremely likely that you carry a wide variety of products from different manufacturers and distributors. Coordinate closely with your vendor on any recurring product issues and make sure you're crystal clear on their policy before you define yours. While every retailer hopes they don't have to encounter a dissatisfied customer, consider each opportunity as a chance to make a new sale.
#9. Convert your seasonal, once-a-year customers into repeat business
Our final tip for you this holiday season has the potential to help you sustain and grow business for the year to come!
All of the activities done pre-holiday rush can be rolled out in a smaller scale throughout 2018 to keep your new and existing customers engaged.
Things like weekly social posts with company updates, email announcements for exciting new products, and even an ongoing ad campaign can bring visitors back into your store or onto your website. Just think, Baptism and Communion season is right around the corner!
What do you do to prepare before, during, and after Black Friday & Cyber Monday? Share your tip in the comments below!