Countdown to Black Friday: What Shopify merchants can do now

Black Friday is coming up fast - are you ready? 

Black Friday/Cyber Monday, or BFCM, is a period that’s known for massive sales, has an unparalleled grasp on the commerce world, and now, especially the e-commerce world. It’s the springboard for the holidays, and sets the tone for your store’s end-of-year success. 

Oftentimes, merchants will begin to plan for BFCM months in advance, establishing a marketing strategy, developing products, planning promotions, and forecasting inventory. As we get closer to BFCM, it does become more difficult, as anything that takes months of planning or testing is no longer feasible. 

However, the opportunity to optimize is far from over. 

The most valuable thing that you can do as a merchant is to go through the customer journey from discovery to purchase, and finding those little points of friction that you can easily tweak now before the big day. Even the little things can make a big impact come Black Friday. Customers, after all, are the ones who will experience your store so keep it simple by focusing on them and develop a customer experience that will last well beyond Black Friday and the holidays.



4 tasks you can do now that will improve your Black Friday customer experience


#1 - Optimize your website for speed, mobile experience, and navigation

Before arriving at your customer experience, customers need to be able to interact with your site. Especially over BFCM, if your site doesn’t load fast or your mobile site is difficult to use, customers will quickly start to look elsewhere. In fact, 70% customers say page speed impacts likeliness to buy from a retailer



If on Shopify, the platform uses a Content Delivery Network, or CDN, to negate some of these challenges. This will help content load faster, no matter where in the world the customer is browsing from. However, you can also work to solve the problem of slow pages. For example, you can run your site through Page Speed Insights to highlight what may be causing slow load times. It’s also important to take time to investigate whether images are optimized on key pages, such as your product page, BFCM landing pages, gift guides, etc. 

Other recommended optimizations include:

  • - Minifying code
  • - Looking at any apps that may be causing slow load times
  • - Reducing redirects
  • - Removing broken links
  • - Avoiding using too many unnecessary pop-ups



Remember, customers want to discover deals and promotions as quickly as possible. If it takes them too long to do so, they may abandon their purchase altogether. Pages with a lot of content are difficult to navigate, and scrolling through everything requires time and effort. Make sure pages are to-the-point, CTAs are clear and obvious, and strategically place links throughout to other helpful pages instead of posting all relevant information on the same page. This keeps your pages clear and easy-to-use, allowing customers to find what they are looking for and get straight to that checkout page.


Mobile experience

Also, consider the role that mobile plays -  71% of purchases made through Shopify over BFCM in 2021 were on mobile. We often build and manage stores on desktop, so it’s easy to focus too much on the desktop experience. Go through your mobile experience, and note any friction points - hard to navigate menus, too many steps at checkout, poor CTAs, etc. Some of these points can be fixed fairly quickly ahead of BFCM, meaning they’re fixed and ready rather than trying to find them over the weekend in a panic.


In short, it's most valuable to consider the customer perspective, the front end of the store, and solve any hiccups from the backend.


#2 - Create a back-up plan for inventory


With BFCM big for sales, there is great reward but also great risk as it means you may run out of stock early on. So, have a contingency plan for inventory - especially if you won’t get a restock before the holidays due to supply chain. Split up your existing stock between what you expect to sell over BFCM, and what you hope to sell over the holiday season. If you deplete your stock too quickly over Black Friday, you can dip into your holiday stock for Cyber Monday. 

However, don’t empty the inventory pot altogether. If you’re running a more traditional BFCM promotion such as discounts or money-off, it’s worth remembering that customers buying after Cyber Monday will most likely be happy to pay full price so you want to ensure you have stock to satisfy those customers.


If stock does run out entirely, or you don’t have enough to reserve stock, having a backup plan is essential. Many people are probably shopping for gifts, so consider offering gift cards or gift subscriptions as an alternative option.


#3 - Strengthen your approach to customer support


There’s no question that customer support will experience a lot of pressure over BFCM. Instead of routing all customers to your team members, improve your support in other ways, such as:

  • - Making it clear where to find FAQs, linking in your sitemap as well as product pages and cart page.
  • - Creating a specific Black Friday FAQ, and including it as an accordion menu on any BFCM landing pages.
  • - Including key information in emails about the issues that are most common over BFCM e.g. shipping information, returns and exchanges, etc. 
  • - Adding site banners to let customers know if dispatch will take longer due to a BFCM backlog


When customers do get in touch, have an automated message ready to go with the info they may need. There’s a chance the issue they’re facing may be resolved using this information, allowing your team to focus on more complicated requests. Consider having this automated message reflect Black Friday weekend and then change it to a holiday-specific message after the weekend concludes. 

#4 - Review and improve the checkout process

Getting customers to check out is the final hurdle - if the process is too slow or complex, they’ll abandon their cart. Easy ways to improve this include guest checkout, quick pay options, and reducing the number of required fields. It’s also crucial to look at abandoned carts and do your best to recover them, utilizing emails and SMS, adding a sense of urgency to motivate them to return and take advantage of the deal.

How to plan for what happens after BFCM

Ahead of BFCM, merchants can start to plan for the shift from Black Friday weekend to the gift-buying season. The holidays should not be treated as an entirely separate period, as BFCM flows into this and will have some overlap. Many assume that the customers for both are one and the same, but only
51% of shoppers plan to buy gifts over BFCM. This shows that plenty of customers remain in need of gifts, even after Cyber Monday.


Offer a better gift-buying experience

Did you know that 63% of shoppers are more likely to buy gift cards than physical gifts? The opportunity of digital gifting is high, especially as holiday shipping deadlines start to approach after Black Friday weekend. The best way to boost gift card sales is to offer an enhanced experience, not just promoting their existence. You can do this through better personalization options - sending it directly to the recipient, adding a gift note, and allowing the customer to select the date the gift card is sent. Add multiple images for the customer to choose from, to suit their recipient and the messaging they’d prefer similarly to how they’d choose gift wrap for a physical gift. 

You can take this a step further by offering more than just gift cards as part of your digital gift product selection. Gift subscriptions function much the same way as a gift card, being delivered and redeemed digitally, but give customers an alternative option to suit different budgets. What’s more, these subscriptions offer the opportunity for improved retention after the holiday season has long passed.


Make it easy for gift buyers when a product is out of stock

Products run out of stock all the time. Whether that’s low inventory after Black Friday weekend, or your most popular products are selling faster than usual. It might be that an entire product runs out of stock, or a particular size or variant. In any case, you don’t want to shut the door on the customers who reach your product page a little too late. 

In most cases when a customer is faced with an out-of-stock product, they’ll simply look elsewhere. In ordinary circumstances where they’re buying for themselves, they likely don’t have as strict a deadline as they do buying a gift during the holiday season. They may not know other like-for-like brands to shop with, or they may not have time to research a new option.

That’s why offering a solution right on the product page in the form of gift cards is the best strategy. When a product runs out of inventory, automatically display the option to purchase a gift card instead. This gives gift-buyers an easy and attractive alternative, turning a dead-end into an opportunity.


Have a solid returns strategy

It’s just a fact of ecommerce that during December and January, returns are higher because of both BFCM and the holidays. Maybe someone received two of the same product, or the wrong size of shirt, etc. The returns process can often be a pain point for merchants, but it can actually hold a lot of opportunity - 92% of customers will shop again if the returns process is easy.

You may not be able to totally overhaul your returns strategy, but there are small tweaks you can make that will enhance it in order to maximize customer satisfaction and revenue retention.

Start with the initiation process. Make sure this is very easy, and have some FAQs and resources ready for those who may be returning a gift they received. This may be because the original customer shipped it directly, or they don’t live close enough to the customer to pass it on. Have plenty of information on your website, as well as sending emails to the original customer about how to start a return either from themselves or from the gift recipient. 

Then come the resolutions. You don’t want to seem like you’re pushing customers toward options like store credit or exchange, you want to make these the most attractive option for resolving the return. Especially if the return is coming from a gift recipient and not the original customer, store credit can be a much easier alternative to a refund. With a refund, the original customer would have to wait for the money to be refunded then buy something else for the recipient, but with store credit the recipient can simply pick whatever they want right away. Be sure to inform the customer of these benefits, and you can even offer an incentive such as an extra $5 when they opt for store credit.  




BFCM and the holiday season are packed with opportunities. And if you get the experience just right, those extend far beyond just sales, giving you an audience of happy customers ready to become loyal brand advocates. 

If you’d like to quickly and easily enhance your gift products and store credit strategy ahead of BFCM, Govalo offers a range of features that will make a real difference such as improved gift cards, gift subscriptions, and more. Click here to learn more.

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