How to Prep a Site for Black Friday: Your Checklist

Since we are heading into November, our guest blogger, Victoria Greene from Victoria eCommerce, explains how to prepare your site for Black Friday.

Last Updated: October 25th, 2017 • Design •
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Your online storefront needs to work extra hard on days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

With millions of people hitting the shops to get awesome deals, you would be foolish to not ride the ecommerce tidal wave yourself. Whether you run a small family business, or are in charge of a few bigger enterprise sites, here are some crucial site prep tips.

Site Speed & Security

For users, one of the biggest frustrations of shopping online is when sites are sloooow to respond. Before a big shopping day like Black Friday, you will need to ensure that your site speed is up to scratch. Run some speed tests and make sure that all images and pages are minified and compressed. Take extra care when installing any new features and functionalities in the run-up to the event.

The other key issue for your users (and yourself) will be security. A site that’s been compromised or is open to vulnerabilities can literally haemorrhage money, and may permanently dent your brand. Make sure that you check and secure your site well in advance. Pay special attention to any third-party code, and always always update your plugins, and remove any you aren’t currently using to reduce bloat.

Preparing your server & performance testing

Your hosting arrangements may come under pressure during the shopping traffic surge — prepare for the worst and have backups and contingency plans in place.

  1. Options like Cloudfare can help you scale your hosting arrangements fast, but it’s probably better to invest in a long term solution like high quality hosting, rather than putting a plaster over your site temporarily.
  2. Be aware of time zones and test your site around the clock — down time at any time of the day is a no-no.
  3. Your site’s UX should be an ongoing consideration and testing ground, but make sure you specifically road test any new features and functionalities.

Inventory & Infrastructure

Pay attention to the backroom, and make sure that your site can perform to the best of its ability on the day.

Priority number one: Make sure that you have enough stock to cover all potential orders, and that your carriers can handle orders efficiently. Delayed orders and missing parcels are a customer service nightmare.

  1. Now might be the time to invest in your customer service channels and install live chat on your website, or set up a dedicated delivery portal or social media channel for enquiries. A sophisticated support infrastructure will give your brand credibility.
  2. Your suppliers will be under a huge amount of pressure as the event nears, so it’s important that you cultivate a good relationship with your product suppliers. If you are the main client for a dropshipper, you will be in a stronger position than if you’re one of many. Make sure your dropshipping arrangements are working as expected to avoid any embarrassing delays.

Dynamic pricing

Displaying dynamic pricing or running flash sales on the day are not that hard to implement on a website (as long as the backend is sufficiently integrated with your inventory).

  1. It’s a good idea to keep an eye on other companies' pricing strategies as the event unfolds. Could you undercut the competition by playing the volume game?
  2. A flash sale needs to add value to your customers, so make sure the offers you are advertising are enticing enough. Poor offers will create a negative customer experience
  3. Urgency is core to Black Friday pricing — so make sure that your site copy and visuals are delivering on the urgency stakes!

Geo-targeting

Make the most of local selling and any offline and in-store deals by leveraging geo-targeting. Geo-targeting can greatly improve the customer experience and help you create a sticky sales funnel with deals, offers, ads, and emails.

It’s easy to set up tracking tools on your site that leverage cookies, and users won’t know any different. Here’s the guide on how to do geo-targeting for PPC — another great seasonal sales strategy.

Personalization

Make the most of retargeting and target any cart abandoners with some great content, from ads to emails.

Set up all your tracking codes for campaigns before the big day so that on the day you can just automate & implement based on the data collected.

Content

If you are hoping to make a killing during the buying season, you need to start publishing content in advance.

  1. Create presale buzz with some blog content and landing pages. Tease your customers about the deals they can expect on the day.
  2. Create some visually appealing designs for your store to give it a seasonal makeover.
  3. Help your search rankings by pre-preparing relevant, timely content beforehand to get it indexed in time.

Organization & microdata

Your product catalog will be put to the test, so make sure that the way your site is organized is logical, and that users can easily follow a clear sales funnel.

  1. Mobile is set to be big for Black Friday/Cyber Monday 2017, so keep testing your mobile UX to ensure that making purchases is as quick and painless as possible
  2. You will also benefit from implementing some schema to encourage click-throughs on organic search result pages — it’s worth testing this out a few weeks in advance to get the full benefit.

Links

Get some inbound links to your home page, category pages, and relevant deals and product pages. These will help boost your overall page and domain authority.

  1. Go down the PR route and work with bloggers and publications on gift and product guides — there are literally thousands of these being published during the run up season.
  2. Be careful with links — you don’t want to overdo it or get too spammy with your anchor text. Overt adverts are best left to advertising, not SEO.

Competitor research

Keep an eye on what others are up to during the lead up to the big day. A site like visualping.io can help you keep track on what others are doing to their websites.

At the end of the day, you are operating in a marketplace of hundreds, even thousands, of other websites. You need to make sure that yours straddles market consensus and innovation for the best results.

Making a statement

LUSH made a big statement last Black Friday by closing down their entire website. Someone else made a ton of money by exchanging nothing (literally) for 5 dollars.

Outside of your website, this is your chance to (potentially) make a statement to the world. There are loads of journalists, digital pens poised, ready to cover the event. Could you news-jack Black Friday for your brand somehow?

Hopefully this checklist will help you prepare yourself (and your website) for the big day! Once you are in the thick of things, you will barely have time to breathe so make the most of your prep time now...

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Picture of Victoria Greene

Victoria Greene is a content strategist and writer, blogging at Victoriaecommerce. She’s proud to say that she’s built a few websites in her time, picking up a thing or two about ecommerce UX during her journey.

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