How to Plan a Creative (and Profitable) Black Friday Cyber Monday Promotion

illustration of a person unveiling their black friday cyber monday promotion to a crowd of customers

Between rising customer acquisition costs and growing competition for online attention, your offer, more than ever, will determine how effective your marketing campaigns are this Black Friday Cyber Monday.

The good news is you don’t need to start planning months in advance or slash your prices to have a successful BFCM. 

With this guide and a few days of planning, you can put together and execute a profitable, creative promotion this holiday shopping season.

Create offers that fit your BFCM strategy

Whether you want to offer a discount code for free shipping, automatically offer a free gift when customers buy more than a specific amount, or put products on sale, Shopify has the tools you need to have a breakthrough BFCM.

Create a discount

The problem with blanket discounts

Now that Black Friday Cyber Monday has evolved beyond a 4-day weekend sales event, you’re more likely to see businesses spread their deals out to Christmas.

However, if you simply offer your customers a blanket discount on your entire store, it will be hard to drive continued interest after you announce it on the first day, especially as more brands start to compete for attention.

Your customers may also come to expect much more than just 15% off during BFCM weekend. With the growing popularity of welcome discounts and flash sales, saving at least a little bit on your online order has become expected.

blanket discount example
Many brands already offer small welcome discounts year-round to grow their email list.

Jumping to a 50 percent off discount just to stand out during BFCM could end up hurting your profit margins as advertising costs can spike this time of year.

Add to that the fact that promotional emails flood the inboxes of every subscriber on your list, as products are discounted at more than 50% off just to compete for consumer dollars.

Here’s what you can do instead.

Why you should focus on average order value

A high average order value can offset your advertising costs and create a larger profit margin on every sale, which makes it an attractive alternative to offering a big sitewide discount for BFCM.

Here’s a sample comparison between these two promotion types:

1. Sitewide 25% off

  • Average order value: $70
  • Product cost: $13.33
  • Discounted price: $52.50
  • Advertising cost: $20
  • Your Profit: $19.17

2. Get 35% off when you spend $200

  • Average order value: $210
  • Product cost: $40
  • Discounted price: $136.50
  • Advertising cost: $20
  • Your Profit: $76.50

By giving customers a larger discount based on quantity or cart value, you can significantly improve your profit margins on each order. As a result, many brands have turned to the “buy more, save more” promotional model.

But a successful sale isn't just about enticing customers with a compelling offer—you need to ensure that it remains profitable for your business.

Working backwards to meet your BFCM goals

It isn’t uncommon for businesses to start planning out their BFCM promotions several months in advance. With all of the hype around the holiday, it can seem like the only way to succeed is to out-plan the competition.

In reality, planning your sale shouldn’t take more than a few days—as long as you ask the right questions. Pairing a realistic plan with smart, achievable goals will allow you to define your success first and work backward to create your offering.

It starts with answering these six essential questions:

1. What is my overall revenue goal?

When setting your top-line revenue target, make sure to use historical sales data from your store to create a forecast. Setting unrealistic goals can lead to careless overspending on advertisements or inventory.

If this is your first BFCM, you can use store performance data from previous months to determine what’s possible. Look at your website conversion rate, traffic and email performance as indicators of what your BFCM could look like.

2. How much revenue do I need to make each day to meet my goal?

If your sale is running from Black Friday to Cyber Monday, you can divide your revenue goal across the four days. One day’s offer might feature your best discount, resulting in most of your overall sales. Or you might plan to entice new shoppers on each day of the sale with a new deal. Either way, breaking down your revenue targets by day to meet your overall revenue goal will help you plan out your promotion.

3. How much traffic will I need in order to reach my goal?

In order to meet your goal, you’ll need to drive the right amount of top-of-funnel traffic to your website. That number is determined by your revenue goal, your average order value, and your website conversion rate. Set goals for each of these metrics ahead of your sale and track them each day to make sure you are hitting your targets.

4. Where will this traffic come from?

Probably the most important piece of planning should be your traffic mix. Email offers the most predictable source of traffic to start.

By looking at the size of your email list, the average open rate, and revenue generated through email, you can predict how much of your traffic will come via email.

What will take more planning is traffic coming through any paid promotions like Facebook ads, influencers, or affiliates. To help you track the success of these promotions, consider creating specific discount codes to measure the impact of each channel or partner.

5. What is my advertising budget?

You should determine your advertising budget based on your revenue goals, too.

For example, many store owners will run ads prospecting to new customers or retargeting previous website visitors prior to their sale. In order to determine how much you’ll need to spend on these traffic sources to reach your goals, you’ll need to look at your historical performance like cost per thousand impressions (CPM) and return on ad spend (ROAS).

6. What is my target profitability on each order?

If you haven’t already, add a product cost to your products to make analyzing your profit margins easier. Knowing these numbers, and using them to determine your target profitability, will let you hone in on what your actual deal might look like.

After taking into consideration your product costs and estimated advertising costs, you will be able to determine how much room you have left to offer a discount.

You may find out that you need to bundle products in order to maintain profitability, or that certain products can be discounted more heavily.

Record your product cost in Shopify

You can now add the cost of each product directly in Shopify to help you keep track of your margins.

new cost per item on shopify product pricing field

8 creative promotion ideas for Black Friday Cyber Monday

Running a successful sale involves more than just planning around store traffic and profit margins. Most of your overall performance will be determined by how creative your offer is and how you market it to potential customers.

While coming up with a truly unique sale will require some brainstorming, here are a few lesser-known ideas you can use for inspiration.

1. Facilitate gift giving this holiday season

The holiday season is a time for giving gifts to friends, family, and coworkers, and while physical distancing measures may keep people from celebrating in person, ecommerce can help bridge the gap.

As many have fallen on challenging times, those who are more fortunate may be shopping for ways to surprise their loved ones or participate in a long-distance Secret Santa gift exchange.

You can make this easier for new and existing customers with gift-related upsells, such as gift wrapping services, personalized cards and messages, and the option to select a target delivery date for the gift to arrive.

There are several Shopify apps that can help you incorporate gifting options into your checkout flow, such as Super Gift Wraps and One Click Upsell Gift Checkout

food not flowers encourages buying their products as a gift

 

Food Not Flowers encourages shoppers to purchase their product bundles as a gift for someone else.

2. Offer a free gift card with a purchase

One of the more creative ways to leverage this feature is as an incentive in a promotion: When a customer purchases a certain product or makes an order above a certain threshold, they get a free gift card for a future purchase. If you’re on Shopify, gift card support is now available on all plans

Since gift cards are only redeemed when they are used, this approach creates a win-win situation where you either get a repeat customer down the road or a new customer when that gift card is given to a friend or family member.

When you sell a gift card, you often get two customers. According to our data, 62% of gift cards sold are redeemed by someone else.

setting up a buy x get y with a free gift card in shopify

3. Curate a bundle of your products

Bundling products is one of the easiest ways to provide more value to customers while increasing your store’s average order value, which is essential for retaining a healthy profit margin for your business.

Depending on your brand, you can take this idea even further with a mystery bundle containing some of your best products, offered at a significant discount for those willing to buy everything. This has the added benefit of helping you clear your underperforming inventory.

black friday cyber monday mystery bundle
The "Mystery Bundle" from Loot Crate.

To make the offer even more enticing, you can keep some of the items in the bundle a “mystery” and slowly reveal them on each day of the sale. By revealing the items one at a time, you can appeal to a different segment of your customers each day and drive consistent traffic and revenue throughout your entire sale period.

4. Gamify your offers

If you haven’t experimented with gamification—allowing customers to "play to win" your offers—BFCM is a great opportunity to do so.

By incorporating gamification into your store you can get more engagement from the new visitors you can expect to drive from your BFCM campaign.

Gamification comes in many forms, but there are a few approaches you can set up and easily try using Shopify apps.

Wheelio is an app that turns email collection into a fun game of chance, in which your customers spin a wheel and hope to land on a big discount:  30% off orders over X, free gift with purchase, etc. 

The wheel is meant to increase email opt-in rates for new visitors and re-engage your existing customers by offering a new way to save on their favorite products.

wheelio app for bfcm
Wheelio pops out on page load and encourages users to play for your offer.

Dealio is another app that creates a similar game-like experience, where customers “scratch” a card on a product to reveal limited-time discounts and can be used to promote bundle deals.

5. Break it down into daily deals

Keeping the momentum and excitement throughout your entire sale period is one of the most challenging aspects of an extended BFCM campaign. Successfully engaging new shoppers during a 4, 5, or even 7-day period may require you to create exclusive 1-day sales on specific products.

Hudson’s Bay, a Canadian department store, runs single day offers called “Bay Days,” where they choose different product deals to highlight each day throughout a long sale period.

bay days black friday deals
The Hudson’s Bay Company offers single-day promotions exclusively during evenings to keep nighttime shoppers engaged.

If you sell several categories of products, this type of promotion creates several opportunities to focus on individual segments of your customer base. Having a daily (or even nightly) deal may also improve email open rates since each day features fresh content and a new limited-time offer.

You can create automatic discounts or discount codes for specific product categories directly in Shopify. 

6. Offer a free gift with a purchase

Even though BFCM is perhaps the most socially accepted time to put your products on sale, many brands still fear losing their luxury appeal by discounting their merchandise. An alternative way to take advantage of the holiday rush without slashing prices is to offer a gift with a purchase.

lively bfcm offer
Lively offered free socks with every order as a limited-time promotion.

A typical "gift" usually consists of a free low-cost item with every sale. You also may want to consider offering a free high-value or limited edition item with a minimum spend, which can help make your gift stand-out amidst a sea of other offers. Whatever gift or bonus you decide on, aim to create a sense of urgency and encourage customers to take advantage of the deal before it’s gone.

You can easily implement this type of offer with discount codes or automatic discounts using the "Buy X get Y" option in Shopify.

7. Partner with influencers

Partnering with influencers to promote your product can be an effective way to build widespread brand awareness and trust. Done the right way, influencer marketing can also drive direct sales during your seasonal campaigns.

The key to setting up a successful influencer promotion is knowing in advance how your product resonates with their audience. Look amongst those who you’ve had some success with in the past and choose your top-performing influencer partners to promote your sale.

hello fresh influencer deal
Hello Fresh taps influencers for Facebook ads to add credibility to their promotion.

Creating an exclusive discount code or deal that is catered to an influencer's followers will help personalize the offer. Additionally, having the influencer curate a bundle of their favorite products builds a more authentic connection to the products they’re promoting.

8. Donate to a cause

A trend that seems to be growing is the number of brands choosing to not run any traditional BFCM promotions at all. Instead, many of these companies opt out by donating a portion or even all of their proceeds to a charity. This approach not only appeals to shoppers who don’t want to participate in the seasonal frenzy but can strengthen your brand purpose with the right customers.

everlane giving tuesday offer
A teaser email from Everlane announcing their Black Friday Fund.

Everlane’s message firmly aligns with the brand’s values of working with ethical factories, which strengthens consumer trust in their company.

The movement toward charitable giving has taken off so much that it now has its own day of celebration, known online as #GivingTuesday. The Give & Grow app makes it easy to personalize Giving Tuesday, by providing a place where customers can choose which charity they want their proceeds to be donated to.

Plan for profit this Black Friday Cyber Monday

Deep discounts and blanket sales aren’t the only ways to motivate shoppers this BFCM–nor are they necessarily the best approaches for your bottom line. Planning your sale itself shouldn’t take as much time as you might expect, as long as you’re asking yourself the right questions and setting smart, achievable goals. A successful BFCM campaign involves coming up with a standout offer and executing it in a creative way. 

Taking the right steps on both of these fronts, as we’ve outlined here, will help you sell your best this holiday shopping season.

More resources for making the most of your BFCM: