5 things retailers should do before Black Friday & Cyber Monday

Matt Ellis
Matt Ellis / Published November 15, 2019

Like athletes before the big match, retailers everywhere are finishing their last-minute preparations for Thanksgiving weekend. And why not—those five days after Thanksgiving Thursday host some of the biggest shopping days of the entire year, not the least of which are Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

We won’t pry into how much you’ve already prepared (or why you haven’t yet). What we will do is list seven ways you can still get ready, right up until the last minute. To maximize your sales during this crucial shopping holiday, here’s a checklist of the best preparations for Black Friday and Cyber Monday, all of which you can finish in an afternoon!

1. Encourage gift cards

If there’s one single product that can transcend all industries, brand styles, and price segments, it’s the gift card. That’s not just our opinion either: according to a National Retail Federation study, 60 percent of all people like receiving gift cards as presents, the highest-rated option.

Gift cards are gifts for everyone, including both the retailer and the gift-giver. For one thing, they satisfy a big shopper pain point—what do I get the person on my list who’s hard to shop for? Some people seem impossible to shop for, but gift cards provide the ultimate workaround.

For retailers, gift cards are some of the most flexible products you can offer. The physical cards themselves are easy to come by, and you can even forego them all together with a paperless gift card coupon code. But the real beauty of gift cards lies how the prices can be set to appeal to different markets; $1 or $100, you can offer as many or as few as you want.

You can go the extra mile and design your gift cards with branding in mind. For one thing, be sure to use your brand’s color schemes and logos, even if they’re overshadowed by holiday design. You can also add special messages to the receiver, such as holiday wishes or even product deals.

And, of course, if you offer gift cards, you need to let people know about them, which brings us to our next item…

2. Promote your promotions

If a tree falls in the forest and no one’s around to hear it, really the tree should have chosen a location with more foot traffic… or at least been more active on social media to reach out to more people. (Status update: today I fell, and no one cared!)

Our point is, it doesn’t matter how great your Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals are if your customers don’t know about them. You need to publicize them everywhere you can.

Promotions and discounts are the backbone of Thanksgiving weekend shopping. It’s a collective conspiracy of retailers to all offer purchase incentives at the same time and whip the general public into a once-a-year shopping frenzy. If you fail to advertise your deals properly, you’re just pushing your would-be customers into the arms of your competitors.

Promotions are a good way to highlight your products to customers

When it comes to promotion, you always want to give your Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals “top billing.” That means allotting them the space that’s most visible, online and off. Specifically, mention your promotions in these areas:

Website:

  • hero images on homepage
  • banners on site pages
  • modal or pop-up windows
  • notification bars (those horizontal bars at the top of web pages)

In-store:

  • posters in windows
  • signs on displays
  • signs at the register
  • display cases for popular items
  • badges for employee uniforms

Social Media:

  • periodic posts during peak hours
  • profile page banners
  • links and text descriptions in profile
  • paid advertisements
  • influencer mentions

Other:

  • email notifications for subscribers
  • targeted blog posts on friendly sites
  • paid ads on relevant sites

And while we’re on the topic of promotion, try to capitalize on the sense of urgency. The most effective techniques of the holiday season take advantage of time restraints. One of the best examples is the ticking clock, i.e., a real-time countdown in online banners or an in-store display marking “days until…” an event. The ticking clock can add excitement for an upcoming sale, or increase urgency during a sale by emphasizing its end.

Want to save time when messaging your customer base over email or on social? Check out these strategies for streamlining your marketing workflow and increasing your sales speed with Zapier.

3. “Check the plumbing” on your site/app

A lot of experts are predicting mobile commerce to be a big winner this holiday season. Make sure the shopping experience on mobile devices flows smoothly, or else you risk cart abandonment or lost interest.

More than anyone else, eCommerce stores should invest in mobile optimization. How well does your site work on mobile devices? On all mobile devices? Before it’s too late, conduct some user tests to make sure your site functions well and catch some unexpected bugs before the heavy traffic arrives. The same goes for brick-and-mortar brands that offer shopping apps on mobile devices.

If you’re already aware that your site has suboptimal parts, now is as good a time as any to fix them. As we mentioned above, the holiday shopping season will bring you a lot of first-time shoppers, so you want your best foot forward to turn them into regulars.

4. Customize branded materials for the holidays

The little touches make a big difference. With all the extra exposure you’ll see this holiday season, you want to keep your eye out for every branding opportunity you can. In particular, add holiday messages and seasonal flair wherever you can.

For retail stores, you can use holiday-themed bags or packaging. Even something like a simple snowflake design (above) is enough to show customers that you, too, are in the holiday spirit. Overall, these little touches add up to create a better shopping environment.

Another quick-and-easy branding opportunity is your receipts—it’s not hard to print a customized message like “Happy Holidays” on all your receipts. For the bold, you can even promote deals or upcoming sales at the bottoms of receipts.

And then there’s in-store decor. You don’t have to go all out with the holiday decorations, but it’s always smart to make promotional posters and signs more festive, especially if they can be seen by window shoppers outside.

eCommerce stores have other options available. First and foremost is the packing slip—one of the best branding tools for online stores.

In general, your packing slips should be personalized and designed with branding in mind: your logo, a warm message, mentions about your top deals or products, and even a reminder for customers to go back online and rate the product they just received. During the holiday season, you can always add a holiday-themed greeting or even visual design to help shoppers stay in the spirit.

The same can be said of confirmation emails. Email design nowadays is pretty sophisticated, a far cry from the plain text of yesteryears. Use holiday imagery to accompany well-wishing and take advantage of the personal approach email provides.

5. Gift-wrapping service

If you work in sales, perhaps you’re already familiar with the idea of customer pain points—problems that a product or service aims to alleviate (for a fee), i.e., bottled water solves the pain point of being thirsty on the go. For holiday shoppers, there’s one such pain point that’s always easy to predict: gift-wrapping.

Although some of the more festive shoppers enjoy gift wrapping, for many others, it’s just a time-consuming chore. If a store were to gift wrap the purchases for them, it would be a big help, one that many would even pay extra for.

Gift wrapping is a popular service to offer.

Gift-wrapping is a great opportunity for both eCommerce and brick-and-mortar stores. For one thing, you can charge extra for the service, which never hurts. But there’s also the branding advantages—customers appreciate having one less thing to do, and they’ll likely remember your store next year when it’s time for holiday shopping again.

For in-store wrapping, all you have to do is set aside an area as the gift-wrapping station. If it’s out of the way, make sure you draw attention to it so shoppers know it’s available. You can also have your clerks mention it during check out and spruce up the area with attention-grabbing holiday decorations.

For eCommerce, if you have a warehouse, you can hire some extra assistance to wrap items before the shipment heads out. If you use a fulfillment center or someone else handles the shipping, gift-wrapping may not be an option, but you can still use gift boxes.

Gift boxes are like normal boxes but designed to look gift-wrapping. They’re the perfect alternative for when you want to stay in the holiday spirit, but can’t implement gift-wrapping for whatever reason. You can buy wholesale gift boxes at most stationery stores, including Paper Mart and Dollar Tree

Want some expert advice on gift-wrapping? Try offering it for free on expensive orders. If you provide free gift-wrapping for orders over a certain amount, or for certain high-ticket items, you add extra incentive to buy and a much-needed nudge for shoppers on the fence.


Staying organized during the holiday season is never easy. The potential is there to double or triple your daily sales, but you really have to earn it. Automation apps like Zapier can free up a lot of your time by handling the tedious tasks for you. Our integrations cover a wide variety of campaigns:

The less time you spend doing busywork, the more time you have for the decisions that really matter—and when the holidays are in full swing, you’ll appreciate any extra time you can get!

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