With Black Friday rapidly approaching and prices for ad space skyrocketing again, marketers are once more faced with this annually recurring, though nonetheless challenging question: How do you create the perfect Digital Marketing Black Friday campaign that reflects current shopping trends, has not been done before, and makes your own business stand out from the competition, especially if you don’t have the kind of Marketing budget e-commerce giants like Amazon have at their disposal? Sure, finding an answer can feel daunting, but no need to stress, because in this article, we will not only inform you about relevant shopping trends, we will also explain to you all you need to know about creating and optimizing your 2021 Black Friday Digital Marketing campaigns.
These are the topics we will cover today:
- General Tips
- Black Friday 2021 shopping trends
- Which channels should you use?
- 7 Strategies for making your black Friday Digital Marketing campaign stands out
One thing I should make clear here is that, while technically SEO, referral traffic and onsite improvements are part of Digital Marketing as well, this article focuses on strategies related to paid digital marketing campaigns, so if you’re looking for information on improving your keyword strategy or generating referral traffic, this might not be the right place for you.
1. General Tips for you Black Friday Digital Marketing Strategy
Here’s a few basic things to keep in mind when working on a digital marketing plan for Black Friday 2021:
- Start early enough: Things like collecting subscribers for your email campaigns can take time.
- Do your research: Before you start working on this year’s campaigns, look into what worked in the past. Also inform yourself about current shopping trends that impact your Black Friday planning.
- When setting up campaigns, a comprehensive omnichannel strategy usually works best!
2. Black Friday 2021 shopping trends:
Before we start talking about the actual campaigns, let’s look into some current shopping trends affecting Black Friday sales in 2021.
Where do people buy?
- The trend for more shopping to be done online is expected to continue in 2021, even now that the situation around Covid has settled some and most stores have reopened, so make sure to take this into account when choosing your channels and creating your content.
- Another noteworthy development is that according to similarweb, 75% of last year’s Black Friday shoppers used mobile devices to research products and complete purchases, so a similarly high percentage of mobile shoppers can be expected this year.
And finally, with the pandemic, supporting local businesses has become important to many consumers, so use this to your advantage when targeting local shoppers.
When do people buy?
- According to similarweb, around a third of holiday shoppers are planning to do their holiday shopping in 2021 earlier than they did last year. Make sure to target these people with your Black Friday campaigns.
- Another very important trend that has started in recent years, is that Black Friday sales are not limited to the actual Black Friday anymore, instead they extend over several days, so make sure your business is prepared for that. In fact, the majority of businesses generates more revenue on Cyber Monday than on Black Friday itself.
What do consumers want?
- More than ever, consumers expect an effortless shopping experience from anywhere, not just from their home, with flexible payment terms, delivery options, and return policies. The more flexibility you offer, the better. Popular examples of this are “buy now, pay later” models or extended returns till after Christmas for unhappy gift recipients.
A surprising trend that started with the pandemic is that people are checking out more new brands rather than sticking to their proven repertoires. This can be a chance to attract new customers, but makes it difficult to retain loyal customers.
3. Which Channels Should You Use?
To keep it brief, here’s a list of the most popular online channels that can be used for Digital Marketing purposes:
- Display Ads
- Email and SMS campaigns
- Social Media posts, videos and ads on Facebook, Instagram, Tiktok, Youtube,…
- Mobile/App Push notifications
- Web Push notifications
I’m sure everyone knows about Display Ads, but if you’re on a budget, alternatives such as web push notifications for which you pay a fixed price might be worth considering, since there’s no need to outbid the competition for ad space.
Again, rather than putting all your efforts into one channel, set up a comprehensive omnichannel strategy to reach a wide range of users in a wide range of situations. Also make sure that your online campaigns reflect your general brand image, and that your digital campaign strategy fits in with your onsite efforts, your SEO, and offline Marketing channels such as TV, print, or outdoor ads.
4. Seven Strategies for making your Black Friday Digital Marketing campaign stand out:
c) The element of surprise
e) Social and environmental responsibility
f) Content and Design
a) Timing: it doesn’t start and end with the actual event
As you’re probably very aware of as a marketer, the competition for ad space around Black Friday is absolutely crazy. If you’re working for a smaller e-commerce with limited resources and you’re worried about not being able to compete with bigger bidders, don’t panic. If you strike at a less popular time, you can achieve amazing results at comparatively little cost.
- Bid early: Rather than paying a lot for ad space during the actual Black Friday weekend, you could run Black Friday campaigns in the weeks or even months leading up to the event
Example 1: Walmart
Have you already considered preparing your consumers for Black Friday in advance, for example in the form of a countdown like in this campaign by Walmart? That way, there will be less competition for the attention of shoppers and ad space will be much cheaper.
Example 2: Frank and Oak
Maybe you can even get consumers to add your event to their calendar the way Frank and Oak did, so you don’t have to do the reminder on the actual day when everyone else does.
Example 3: Kopari
Another company that managed a great build-up to Black Friday is Kopari with their social media campaign in which influencers presented their favorite holiday gifts featuring products from Kopari in the month leading up to Black Friday. Not only did this remind shoppers of the brand, it also gave them inspiration for specific products to buy making the choice easier for overwhelmed shoppers.
Example 4: Zippy
Zippy extended the event throughout the entire month of November with this Black Month campaign keeping shoppers interested in the brand by announcing surprise offers:
- Bid late: The opposite works as well: As the term “Black Friday” is very strongly associated with sales, you can still grab consumers’ attention with Post-Black Friday campaigns into December, for example through catchy headlines making reference to the event with messages such as “Black Friday’s over, but we’re bringing it back for you!”
Example 1: Doggyloot
Here’s an example of such a Post-Black Friday campaign sent in December by Doggyloot:
b) Incentives: offer more than just your product
Everyone likes getting free gifts, so encourage customers to buy from your site by adding extras to your offer. Or instead of gifts, you could offer free shipping and returns or give access to exclusive benefits during future events. A great way to upsell is if you make gifts and extra benefits depend on the value spent in your shop.
Example 1: Shinesty
Shinesty offered more gifts, the more you bought. Personally, I’m not sure if I would have appreciated receiving 8 gifts with my purchase, but it seems to have worked for them and at least most of your Christmas shopping is taken care of after purchasing something at Shinesty for 250$.
Example 2: KVD
This company offered an entire gift bundle and made it even more attractive by offering two designs for some sense of personalization.
c) The element of surprise: Catch your customers off-guard
If you really want to stand out from the crowd, use shock value. There’s nothing better to pique someone’s curiosity than an email with the scandalous headline stating that Black Friday has been cancelled this year. If that’s too risky for you, no problem, you can still tease people with little snippets promising an amazing surprise without giving any further details, or make your headlines purposely obscure, ambiguous, or otherwise unexpected.
Example 1: Chubbies
Chubbies caused quite the stir with this email campaign announcing the cancellation of Black Friday. Also notice the email address in the subject line of the email! A message like that leaves people confused and eager for more information.
Example 2: Cards Against Humanity
Something that is becoming more and more popular are Anti-Black Friday campaigns, especially among companies with a sustainable mission. For an example check out Cards Against Humanity’s campaign from last year that didn’t just cancel Black Friday, but took it a step further and asked customers to pay more rather than offering discounts. It definitely got people talking about the brand!
Example 3: Death Wish Coffee
If you don’t want to take it quite that far, there are much simpler ways to appeal to shoppers’ curiosity, just take a look at what Death Wish Coffee did. They surprised shoppers by assigning them a random gift code that could be anywhere in between 1$ and 100$. A big part of the appeal lay in the fact that you didn’t know the value before checking out.
d) Innovation: Offer things not usually on offer
It’s always a good idea to come up with innovative ideas and features. That could be product features not usually available such as mix and match options, innovations related to the shopping experience such as shipping and return conditions, or the invention of an entirely new event like Black Thursday or Technicolor Friday.
Example 1: Bath and Body Works
Bath and Body Works offered a feature only available on Black Friday, a mix and match option for the entire store.
Example 2: Cartier
Cartier realized that many Black Friday shoppers are shopping holiday gifts for others which makes bad buys inevitable. That’s why they decided to extend returns until after Christmas.
Example 3: Community Forklift
Community Forklift came up with their own name for the event, one that is more in line with their brand image. Instead of Black Friday, they celebrated Green Friday and Small-business Saturday. I also really like the accompanying slogan and the idea to have people make their own gifts together!
“Shop green, shop small, or don’t shop at all – here’s an excuse to stay away from the mall! Instead of fighting crowds to buy presents, come by our warehouse to relax with friends, shop with local businesses, and even learn how to MAKE presents.”
e) Social and environmental responsibility: Stand out by standing up for your values
More and more businesses are associating their Black Friday campaigns with social or environmental causes. There are a number of different ways to do this, some businesses promote conscious consumption by discouraging consumers from shopping that day, some use the revenue generated during Black Friday to support non-profit organizations, some plant trees for every purchase made on their site, and others simply offer educational material to make issues more transparent. Associating with a good cause is another great way to build long-term relationships with your customers.
Example 1: Deciem
Deciem used their Black Friday campaign to remind shoppers of conscious consumption. That’s why they didn’t offer a Black Friday sale, but an educational month and extended discounts. That reduced the sense of urgency and the feeling that you’re missing out on something if you don’t buy immediately.
Example 2: Birdsong
This company highlighted the downside of Black Friday and some of the injustices in the fashion industry with a Transparent Friday campaign. What’s really unique about it is that they let shoppers choose their discount value themselves after reading through the informational material.
“Through Transparent Friday, Birdsong is not only showing customers the very people who make and pack their clothes and how much they earn, but also how much each garment costs to make, its total revenue for the year, and how much its CEO earns. In return for reading through the information, customers can choose whether to take 15% or 10% off as a discount on the new winter collection, or add a tip to their order to support the work that Birdsong is doing”
f) Content and design: Make your campaigns unique and appealing
To make people want to continue reading, try using humour and wordplay for good headers and subject lines, tell captivating stories, create cute animations that appeal to people’s emotions, or come up with special design themes that capture attention, are easily recognizable and reflect what your business is about.
Example 1: Hermes
Hermes did a great job with this winter wonderland video reel. It told a story, looked cute, appealed to people’s emotions and featured the company’s products.
Example 2: Asos
Asos chose to follow a very recognizable design theme with this comic book vibe campaign:
Example 3: Chubbies
Chubbies used humor and wordplay in their campaign. As this example shows, it can also be a good strategy to build campaigns around one particular product to avoid overwhelming shoppers with choice.
Example 4: Target
Target’s campaign was based on this catchy headline: “First we turkey, then we Target!”
g) Engagement: Work together with your shoppers to make your event special
Make your campaigns personal and interactive, maybe even celebrate Black Friday together with your customers by inviting them to live events or encouraging them to spend the day working towards a common cause with you. Allowing customers to interact with your brand usually has them talking about you for a long time, and as shoppers are not just buying a product, but become part of an experience, you leave them not only with positive memories of the event, but also with an emotional connection to your brand.
Example 1: Phoenix Productions
Phoenix Productions organized a live fundraising raffle last year where shoppers could bid on gifts from their home.
Example 2: REIs #optoutside campaign
Another amazing campaign that encouraged customers to actively participate is the #optoutside campaign by outdoor company REI asking people to spend Black Friday outside rather than in the mall. The campaign was unique, promoted a good cause, and asked shoppers to join forces with the business, thus creating a sense of community and a long-lasting emotional bond.
Example 3: MeUndies
Somewhat similar to Phoenix Productions, MeUndies invited shoppers to a live event. However, this time it took the form of an exclusive virtual party where MeUndies organized a live unveiling of their discounts. While the event was extremely successful in terms of returns, it also generated a lot of brand awareness.
As with most things, when planning and executing a Black Friday Digital Marketing campaign, there is no one size fits all ideal solution. Just remember that it is important to plan ahead, develop a comprehensive omnichannel strategy, be innovative and use your creativity to engage customers. If you can’t afford quantity, make it about quality and your sale can be just as memorable as that of leading e-commerce businesses.
And most importantly, no matter which channels you use and which strategies you decide on, make sure that your campaign is aligned with your brand image, your brand values and your offline campaigns. It will probably serve you more to work on long-lasting strategies that bind customers to you even beyond Black Friday, rather than putting all your efforts into attracting them to your site for the weekend and getting them to buy from you right this minute.
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