Anticipating Black Friday: 12 Ecommerce Questions

You know how important the next few days are for ecommerce. You should already be set with campaigns, promotions and optimization. Now you need to make sure your head is in the right place. Here are 12 questions to get you in sync with your site, your numbers and your customers. 1. How are your […]



November 24, 2014


You know how important the next few days are for ecommerce. You should already be set with campaigns, promotions and optimization. Now you need to make sure your head is in the right place.

Here are 12 questions to get you in sync with your site, your numbers and your customers.

1. How are your leading indicators looking?

Are you seeing the right level of clicks on emails, a surge in retweets or a high number of affiliates grabbing your banners? If you expect your KPIs to move, then you need to make sure their precursors are going the right direction.

Increased new sessions to promo pages, more unique visitors, more users on the site during typically slow times (look at real-time reports for this), likes on Facebook for promotions, higher pages/visit, higher average quantity, and more clicks on affiliate banners or display ads are all good leading indicators. I honestly wouldn’t be looking for a lot more sales since the holiday is so close. Just make sure that the leading indicators are heading in the right direction.

2. How will your site handle peak traffic?

Your site should be able to handle the higher traffic levels that occur on BF/CM. If page load time is already creeping up, then you can expect it to get worse at peak traffic. Each second of load time costs you money, so make sure your servers can take it.

Look at page speed reports in Google Analytics or try a few online tests to make sure you are doing all you can. I’m a big fan of the test at GTMetrix. You can also do a lot with browser caching rules. Beyond that, you dont want get into complex code changes this late in the game, but a CDN or a load balancer may be an option.

3. What’s your big draw?

Yeah, you’ve got discounts and free shipping. But is that why people are showing up at your site?

It could be a category that you dominate, your brand, a product that got some press. It’s probably a combination of things. Whatever it is, make sure you are leveraging it.

Checkout the Full Referrer URL dimension and landing page reports to see where your traffic is growing the most year-over-year. Don’t just look at your top 10, 50 or 100 — go deep in your data to find the smaller wins that add up.

4. How important are new customers to your goals?

Repeat customers convert at a higher rate and spend more; and reactivation is usually cheaper than acquisition. However, new customers are the ones that keep your business growing year-over-year.

How many newbies are you expecting this year? What is the ratio of new to returning that you expect? What type of AOV are you expecting? Know what contribution you’re expecting from new customers, so you can make late game adjustments to your spends and on-site messaging.

%New Users is a good metric to look at along with unique pageviews. Go a step further and think about which specific channels you expect them to be driven by. If you’re feeling particularly cheeky, then consider putting together some remarketing campaigns for them.

5. Can you “nudge” some customers down the funnel?

It would be great if you could get a few more customers off the fence before years-end.

B2B: Whether you are using inbound or a more traditional sales process, identify any leads with a high likelihood of converting. Then filter down to those that are due for another touch, are supposed to send you paperwork, or need some documents from you. A lot of this is admin rather than sales or marketing, but it be will worth it when you make your year-end goals.

B2C: How long since they subscribed to your mailing list? What was the last thing they bought? Create some segments that focus on subscribers without purchases and try a deal to get them onto the site. For past customers, dig into your data to find complimentary products, themes or categories that might get them back onto the site.

And don’t forget about the Abandoned Cart emails! Those are worth giving a look anytime of year.

6. Who’s Your Backup?

Make sure that someone’s available if the site goes down, you get bad press on social, or your shipping dates slip. You might consider doing an all-hands meeting on Tuesday so everyone is on the same page. Check that the right people are getting email notifications. Also get a contact list for key vendors (hosting, agencies, IT support) and a phone tree setup.

7. Are you matching prices on your top products? Can you?

This is not always necessary (or advised), but its good to know you’ve got the option.

Be aware of how your competitors are pricing and if they make a big change. This goes for all your big volume drivers not just Black Friday deals. You don’t want your sales poached because you get undercut.

Your margins matter, so don’t starve yourself to make a sale. Just be honest about the competitive landscape and remember Customer Lifetime Value. If you’re pushing margins over new client acquisition, then you may be trading short-term growth for a longer-term decline in customers.

8. Are you exhausting your customers with too much messaging?

Pushing more around the holidays is the norm & its worth it to make sure your customers know about your offerings. Yet its a thin line between being persistent and being a nuisance: Too much email will lead to unsubscribes that can hurt you long after the holidays.

Look for consistent no-opens and declining click through rates within segments with traditionally high engagement. If you are seeing early signs of list fatigue, then consider taking a timeout or mixing up your message.

Also, please stop sending the same emails to everyone.

9. Have your holiday landing pages gotten any traction?

Think of all the time and money you’ve put into planning, design and development for your holiday promos. You’re expecting good things aren’t you? But if its not getting page views or its converting below your site averages, then it may be a clunker…and you’ll need to have a Plan B.

Make sure you aren’t wasting good traffic on bad pages. If you’re driving sessions but getting mostly bounces or pushing pageviews that lead to exits, then don’t just wish that things will get better. Be prepared to tweak merchandising, swap banners and maybe even swap on-page links to send people elsewhere.

10. What’s the CTR on your high value search queries

Getting to the top of Page 1 is not the end of it. You need to work on increasing click through rate from the SERPs. If you are top of page, but seeing less than 3% CTR on desktop, then you need to look at your copy.

You can get good info from the Search Queries report in Google Analytics or Webmaster tools, or try a tool like seoClarity to get this info.

Its too late to mess with page titles, but you can still adjust your meta description. If that’s not an option, then consider increasing bids on ppc to boost traffic from the query.

11. Will your coupons play nice with your discounts?

You have to honor your promotions, so make sure you know what they are and where/when they apply.

Example: If you’re giving 40% off and free shipping, then you may not want last week’s 10% off coupon to still be viable.

Stacking deals/coupons is an easy way for customers to boost savings. This may be expected and desired (look at Wayfair), but it can also lead to a lot of unprofitable sales. Take a look at your currently running coupons and also check coupon & affiliate sites with high referrals.

12. What will you do after Cyber Monday?

Cyber Monday is 12/1. What will you do for the rest of December? You’ve probably already got things planned. Take stock of the loose ends surrounding your upcoming plans and think up some scenarios in case the big shopping weekend doesn’t live up to expectations.

A Note on Mobile

You’re hopefully reading this on the Monday before Black Friday. If so, then it’s too late to be making big changes to your site for mobile. If you aren’t using an m.subdomain or responsive design, then you will probably be losing some sales. You also should have already made sure that you are sending people to the right mobile page and not just the mobile homepage.

Setting up and launching a mobile site at this point is a good way to confuse Google, annoy your customers and drive your team to substance abuse. I’m sorry, but you’ll have to wait. Fortunately, most people are still buying on desktop:

Image from UPS on shopping behavior

Image from UPS on shopping behavior

A Note on Everything

This is not meant as a checklist for Black Friday or Cyber Monday. This is a thought-focusing and prioritizing exercise focused on what you can get done in 4 days and figuring out what you should be watching now, then checking next Tuesday.

Good Luck this week. Watch this if you start feeling a bit grumpy.

Featured image from here.

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