Last-minute BFCM checklist: 5 things you should review now

The clock is ticking down - Black Friday weekend is just 2 weeks away. 

The closer we get to BFCM, the more you see people say it’s “too late” to do more to help your store succeed. However, what you do in the days leading up to BFCM can make a big difference. You may as well use all the time you have to ensure that your store is primed and ready for customers. 

Even small changes to your store’s site speed, your customer support, your out-of-stock strategy, can all make a difference in whether or not a customer clicks “checkout”. 

#1 - Go over your user experience essentials

You could have the best deals on the market, but you won’t see as big an uptake from customers if your site is slow to load or they can’t easily find products included in promotions. Even if you’ve been planning and optimizing your store over the last few weeks, it still helps to take some time to review user experience essentials as you may uncover some small points of friction that can still be fixed. 

You won’t have time to fully audit your user experience, therefore you need to prioritize the issues that will be the most important to your customers over BFCM. When they’re keen to grab a deal, they’ll be concerned with:

  • How your site performs
  • How easy it is to find your deals
  • How fast they can get through checkout 
  • Whether or not they can secure a deal on mobile

You can address each of these by optimizing performance, and adding in extra navigational and content elements.

Assess your site speed

Use tools such as PageSpeed Insights to determine where your key landing pages can be optimized for speed. Use the recommendations to make some adjustments, and go through pages to look for any bonus wins for speed such as reducing image file sizes, caching content, and minifying code. Any small boost in speed may make all the difference to an eager shopper.

Review site navigation

What does the path look like from your key BFCM pages to checkout? Make it as easy as possible for customers to find and navigate through your content. If for example not all of your products are included, create a Black Friday landing page with temporary collections so customers can very clearly see what they can and cannot buy. Add the link to this landing page to key areas throughout your site, so it’s easy for customers to navigate to regardless of where they first land.

Check your site for mobile friendliness

Over BFCM 2020, 47% of online sales were made on a mobile device. Look over your mobile experience, checking for any areas where you could make improvements. This may be changing font size or button color on recently created pages, or the spacing or sizing of larger pieces of content on landing pages.

Look at your checkout options

Do you have the ability for customers to use a guest checkout? Do you have options enabled such as Shop Pay so that customers can auto-fill information? Do you offer a quick checkout option on product pages? These are all options that if you do have them available, highlight them to the customer so they can get through checkout faster. 

#2 - Double-check your inventory plan

Over Black Friday weekend, inventory will move a lot faster than usual. Especially if a product or a deal happens to get picked up by social media or featured in an article, you may see that inventory disappear faster than expected. Add on to that any pressure from a slowed supply chain, and your store might be headed for trouble. 

Take time now to review your inventory allocations for over BFCM weekend and the holidays. Create contingency plans for different scenarios, and be ready to implement at a moment’s notice.

  • Allocate a certain amount of stock to BFCM and to the rest of the holidays up until your order deadline. This will help to ensure you don’t sell out of your top products before the end of BFCM, and be left with nothing for post-Black Friday shoppers. Use your store data to determine how much inventory you should allocate post-BFCM.

  • Determine how much reserved stock you’re willing to add to your store inventory if a product does sell out, and have it ready to shift into live inventory quickly.

  • Set up stock level alerts for your key products so you can act on stock fluctuations fast.

  • Have an out-of-stock strategy ready to deploy automatically (more on that shortly).

 Reviewing these inventory contingencies will give you a clearer picture of your stock position for over the holidays in general. If your projected restock dates are after the holidays for best sellers, you can start to plan your post-holiday strategy for those who purchased gift cards, or people who received your products as gifts and may be interested in purchasing more.

#3 - Implement an out-of-stock strategy

Seeing a high volume of interest in your store and products is exciting; seeing those promotions you carefully planned truly engage and excite customers is rewarding. However what isn’t so rewarding is leaving customers disappointed who may have missed out and are left with an “out-of-stock” notification on the product they really wanted. That’s why you need an out-of-stock strategy.

In cases where you’re reserving stock for over the holidays, let customers know that it will be restocked after Black Friday weekend. You can do this by including a restock date on the product page. If it won’t be back in stock at all before the holidays, then you’ll want to give them an alternative option. They want to buy your products, and there’s a strong chance over BFCM that the customer will be purchasing something as a gift. Including product recommendations for similar products based on store data can be a good way to direct their purchasing intentions elsewhere, but if they had their mind set on a particular product or there are no like-for-like alternatives you’ll need to have a second option ready.

The best option in this case is to make use of gift cards. Rather than suggesting these are a recommended product or as a link on the product page, you want to make it as easy and quick as possible for a customer to purchase a gift card so you don’t lose their attention. You can do this using Govalo’s out-of-stock integration which puts the gift card purchase option right on the product page when an item goes out of stock. This is automatic, so you don’t need to implement this manually as products run low on inventory. A gift card is an attractive alternative to customers who are keen on your products as gifts, and can be a valuable asset to your store over the holiday season when inventory is less reliable.  

#4 - Check in with courier partners, and update customers

Black Friday weekend is always extremely busy for merchants. Imagine then how busy it is for couriers around the world who deal with the massive influx of additional packages that come in once the weekend is over. It’s typical to see increased fulfillment times and delayed delivery dates in the days after BFCM, and this is exacerbated if there are supply chain issues. These delays then impact your customer, and can cause them to have a negative perception of your store even if the delay is the result of your courier partners. 

The best way to combat this is to do some last-minute check-ins with any delivery partners. You’ll want to know:

  • Are they expecting any delays due to BFCM after the weekend is over, and how long may this add on to delivery times
  • Are they experiencing any current disruptions that may have a knock-on effect on BFCM deliveries
  • When do they expect issues to resolve - this may not be until into the new year.
  • What do they recommend you do to help mitigate the impact of delays on your customer deliveries.

From there, you can relay this information to your customers ahead of Black Friday to temper their expectations. Customers become even more time sensitive in the days and weeks after BFCM, as if they’ve purchased gifts they will want to know they will receive them on time. Send email campaigns and post on your social media channels letting customers know what the situation is with fulfillment times and delivery estimates. Do this again in the days after Black Friday, sending emails specifically to customers who ordered over the weekend to let them know of any extended fulfillment times. This will lessen the blow on your customers’ expectations, and prevent them clogging your customer support team with enquiries about order status.

#5 - Look at your customer support for over BFCM

We’ve mentioned already that Black Friday is a very time sensitive event during an already time sensitive period during the holiday season. Customers will be paying a much closer attention to time estimates and how long certain things take, and that applies also to your customer service. 

There are a number of issues customers may have over BFCM weekend, and you want to prioritize your team’s time to focus on the tickets that do require a prompt response. Time spent on tickets related to common, easily-resolved issues such as order status, or discount codes not working, is time wasted for your support team. It’s also wasted for your customers, who may have been able to get a faster response elsewhere and this can cost your store - the majority of Americans say they’ve backed out of a purchase due to poor customer service. Moreover, over half of customers say the reason they can’t resolve an issue on their own is because there’s too little information online.

The way to ensure your customer support is ready to satisfy customer needs over BFCM is by going over what your current structure looks like and making any necessary adjustments. 

  • Internal FAQ
    Do you have an internal guide on how to process, respond to, and escalate common BFCM issues? Having this can help your team provide timely, consistent responses, and speed things up internally.

  • On-site FAQ
    Do you have a separate BFCM related FAQ section? This can be a valuable temporary addition to field questions about restock dates, delivery times, and customer service response times to avoid customers waiting on a reply from a representative before making a purchase.

  • Chatbots/AI and auto responders
    Do you have specific messaging set up for your automated customer service tools? You want to add messaging over Black Friday weekend that lets your customers when and if your team are available over the weekend with response time estimates, as well as links to helpful resources that may be able to assist.

  • Other communication channels
    Be sure to let customers know on other channels such as email and social media when or if your customer service team will be available over the weekend.

Waiting on customer service can impact a customer’s chances of placing an order, as they don’t want to miss out on deals or inventory. Therefore it’s important to reduce that period of time between the customer having a question and then placing an order, to increase the likelihood of them making it to checkout.

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If in the course of running through this checklist you don’t identify any issues to resolve, you’ll still have a better understanding of your store’s position in some key areas ahead of Black Friday. This can be a huge benefit to your team, and they won’t be concerned about issues like inventory management or out-of-stocks knowing that the time has been taken to review everything in advance. If you do happen to spot any small tweaks you can make to improve the experience for your customers, that will always be a win for your store.