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Are You Ready for Black Friday and Cyber Monday?

Merchants know that holiday sales can create a lot of chaos – so now is the time to get prepared. Here at Weidenhammer, we have identified the top 5 areas that can help get ecommerce companies prepare for a successful holiday season. 

  1. Shipping & Sales Tax 
    Lets start with Shipping and Taxes, probably the least exciting part for most merchants. If you’re using third party services for sales tax calculation or shipping rate calculation, you’re reliant on those APIs staying up and not crashing due to thousands of other websites also using the same APIs. 

    Make sure your integrations have a user-friendly error handling system that allows a shopper to complete the checkout even if sales tax can’t be calculated. It may be wise to use a service like ShipperHQ to designate a backup shipping carrier in case your primary one goes down. If you’re using a solution like Avalara for tax automation, you can also switch to table rates as a fallback in case a service goes unresponsive. The last thing you want is for customers to be stuck, unable to complete their transaction. 
  2. Promotions & Campaigns 
    If you are planning to do a big sale with doorbusters or limited time offers consider implementing a countdown timer on your site that builds urgency and interest in your sales. How about seasonal deal sites like BlackFriday.com or SlickDeals? These aggregators can drive extra traffic to your site, and they are the kings of holiday SEO among motivated shoppers looking for deals. Do you plan to roll out blog posts or other targeted content that supports a paid campaign? Get that copy written now!  

    Also, think hard about your keyword bidding strategy. “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday” are expensive keywords around this time, but adopting a long tail strategy of combining product or region-specific search terms could boost your performance. Think “Cyber Monday deals on outdoor apparel” or “Black Friday sale on power tools”.  

    Finally, don’t forget about social media. This is a way to re-introduce your brand to customers who are already thinking about where to spend their money during the holidays, and it can be even more effective than PPC at acquiring new customers. Make sure your fans have a call to action besides likes and favorites – get your fans to sign up for your newsletter, share your post, or click through to your site. 
  3. Email Marketing 
    You probably plan to send an e-blast to your subscriber list letting them know about your great deals. Once you’ve identified your sale & promotional items, you can segment your customers now and target the right group with the right promotion. Now is a great time to get in front of potential customers without waiting for them to search for you.  If your email service provider doesn’t support dynamic segmentation, you may have to do this by hand. 

    This is also a great time to grow your subscriber list more cheaply than trying to do it during the holidays. Get some promotional landing pages up now that have e-mail address captures (“Subscribe Now to Learn About Our Great Black Friday Blowouts!”), and bid on the keywords for those pages now while competition is low. Your CTA will be cost-effective, and when you do start pushing out targeted emails you’ll have a group of interested, motivated subscribers! 

    And of course, if you’re not doing automated cart abandonment emails, set that up now! Triggered emails in general are as fantastic way to bring back people who have already engaged with your shop. 
  4. Advanced Analytics
    A startling number of merchants aren’t aware that their Magento store is already equipped to tie-in with Google’s Enhanced eCommerce via a native Google Tag Manager integration. It costs nothing to start tracking your customers shopping and purchase behavior. Turning this on won’t help you sell more during 2019, but the more customer data you can track now, the better you can optimize your site for 2020. At some point next year, you’ll want to analyze where customers abandon the cart or checkout process so you can help prevent them from falling out of your funnel.  

    For information on how to enable this valuable service, check out Magento’s documentation.  
  5. Server Monitoring
    Chances are there will be some high-profile site outages during the holidays. Long page load times, slow checkouts, and random 404s happen to a lot of merchants during peak traffic hours. Even if you’ve load tested your site, it’s still possible for higher than expected traffic or hardware failures to take down the most optimized merchant. Do you have a solution like New Relic installed on your servers, and have you reviewed your SLA with your hosting provider and systems integrator?

Don’t let your customers be your early warning system for a poorly performing site. Install monitoring software and setup automated alerts and a system for triaging issues now.  If you are a Magento Commerce Cloud customer, New Relic is included with your license, so we recommend getting familiar with it!

This post is written by Weidenhammer’s Director of Ecommerce, Aaron Sheehan