The Black Friday weekend will only mean all it can to your ecommerce store if you take the steps now, months before, to lay the groundwork for that to happen: build your contact list, build your contacts’ trust, and optimize your website for conversion, sales, and accessibility.

Blast from the Future

Imagine yourself almost four months from now as your eyes pop open early on a Friday morning after your glorious tryptophan-induced beauty sleep. It’s the day after Thanksgiving, and usually you’d be joining the bleary-eyed Black Friday zombies lining up at your favorite store at five in the morning to get that amazing door-buster, but you’re up early today for a different reason. You’ve set up your ecommerce store and are going to be glued to your site dashboard to see your website traffic explode as you’ve heard it’ll do all weekend. You want to witness this first-hand!

animated gif of a dark outline of the US with lights blinking on in various cities

As exciting as it will be to watch that live map light up, the greater volume of traffic will just be greater volume—just more of the same results you get every day—unless you take some steps now to prepare your store for the Black Friday weekend. Take those steps, though, and the Black Friday weekend will prove to be a compounder of your efforts, and you’ll actually achieve the promise of the holiday: an account book that’s gone from red to black in a few short, intense, days.

A changing landscape

Black Friday used to be a one-day phenomenon. People used to force themselves out of bed early and spend the day sprinting from store to store to get the deals that were only available on this one day.

Today many of the deals are offered online, and extend from Friday all the way through the Monday after it, called, “Cyber Monday”. In reality, all five of those days, including Thanksgiving itself, see a tremendous increase of traffic to both physical and online stores. To capitalize on this increase of traffic and disposition to spend money, your actions as a business owner need to start long before then so your store is prepared to reap the benefits of those days of such heavy traffic.

Why Start in July?

To make the Black Friday weekend as explosive as you want, there are many actions you’ll need to take in the days leading up to it, and on the day itself. These actions, though, will be impossible to take unless you have laid the groundwork.

For example, you’ll certainly want to establish a sale, and then let your customers know that it is going on, along with specifics about it. This could be a pretty easy step, but won’t be easy, and may in fact be impossible, if you haven’t gotten together your list of contacts.

Furthermore, if you only have ten or fifteen people in your contact list, any promotions you run on Black Friday won’t have the kind of impact you’re looking for. This is a pretty obvious example, but the other ways you should lay the groundwork in July and August for Black Friday are just as important, and can be just as impactful.

You need some time to lay this groundwork, and starting on it early will result in a process that is less frenetic and potentially much fuller. In the context of your contact list, the sooner you commit time and resources to building your list, the bigger and better the list will be by the time you’ll most want to use it.

Your contact list will also be of greater quality if you focus on the next thing I’d like to highlight: Building trust early. Getting your contacts to trust you is not a quick process. Just because some people gave you their email addresses and said you could send them messages doesn’t mean that they trust you. Like any relationship, it takes an amount of time, and a number of interactions to develop. You want to start this early to give the relationship time to mature and the level of trust to deepen. We’ll talk about specific actions you can take to build that trust a little later.

Trust Takes


Another reason to start early is that in the early days all your efforts have pretty low stakes. It’s not the moment at which you are counting on your efforts to lead to massive conversions, so you can feel free to experiment a little. Figure out which language works best for your particular audience so you can be sure to use that language when the stakes are higher. You can do this with A/B testing, which we’ll explore more in the next section.

How to Prepare

Probably you already have processes in place to do many of the things we’re going to talk about in this section. That’s good, and if your processes are getting you the results you want, I’d say you should stick with them. Maybe accelerate them a little through August and you’ll be able to build on that growth through September and October so that you’re ready for the culmination in November with Black Friday through Cyber Monday. But let’s talk some specifics in case you don’t have an optimized process for some of these things.

List building

First, you want to build a list, not buy one. Buying a list of contacts is a terrible idea for a variety of reasons. The email addresses in the list might not be current or even active. The people won’t be expecting your messages, so they’ll likely mark you as spam. This will lead to your address being flagged for other users, even ones who have given you permission directly. The emails may have been unethically collected, and it may be illegal for you to send them an unsolicited message.

Build, Don’t Buy!

So you definitely want to build your own list of people who have given you explicit consent to send them marketing emails, which are essentially how all your emails will be classified, even if you’re using many of them to just build a relationship. That’s what you should be doing, especially at this early point of the season. There are many great resources exploring how to build your marketing list, so I’ll point you to a couple good ones that I found rather than rehashing them myself.

Relationship building

When you collect your email addresses yourself, you start out with some relationship—those people wouldn’t have given you their addresses if they didn’t trust you at all. Initially, it’s probably not much of a relationship, though, and your task in the first several mailings is to build and deepen the relationship.

Welcome to your list

You should start off with a good welcome series of emails that thanks new subscribers for the opportunity to send them updates and offers. Let them know that the relationship is most important to you, though, so you’ll be sending some emails over the next several days introducing your company, finding out about them, and asking them for suggestions to make your company even better. Then do that. Follow the suggestions in this blog post by Omnisend about how to use a welcome series to engage your audience.

Ask for help

After the welcome series has ended, aim to stay top-of-mind of your contacts by engaging with them through other relationship-building messages. Lisa Foster at Groove points out that one of the best ways to do this is by asking your contacts to help you create content for your site.

In the third post of our Big Picture series, we recommend you use reviews as integrated parts of the content of your site. In a one-time or even periodic email you could let your contacts know how much you benefit from this and ask for their help. Michael Simmons at Forbes has pointed out that asking for help is a powerful way to deepen a relationship. It’s probably not wise to ask for help in every email, but it’s definitely a good strategy to put this tool in your relationship-building belt.

A/B testing

After tackling your active interactions with your audience through the emails you send them directly, it’s time to tackle the somewhat more passive interactions you’ll have with them through your website. They’ll hopefully visit your website, but may or may not read anything on it, and may or may not interact with it in the way you’re hoping.

Your subtle influence

I’d say that on your website the ball is in your visitors’ courts—they control how much of your content they want to navigate to and read—but this doesn’t mean you’re powerless to influence their choices. Indeed, the decisions you make about what words to use, what images if any to use, where to place any buttons and what color to make them, and the thousand other choices you make about the site, have a clear influence on your audience.

That influence, though, is divined only after hundreds or thousands of interactions, and in a way that’s not very easy for you or any store owner to be able to figure out on your own. Luckily there’s something called A/B testing that can be performed through various A/B testing services available to you for your online store.

In an A/B test, you will provide two different options for a component in your store—button text, button color, paragraph text, particular image used, layout, etc. Then the A/B test provider will serve up one of those permutations to half of your visitors at random, the second permutation to the other half, and it’ll record which way gets more results.

Withhold Judgment

Now, an A/B test performed on just a few visitors has a high degree of chance for anomalies so that it won’t represent the wider audience very well. Knowing this, you should give the A/B test enough time to run until the interactions it has measured are enough that you can draw fairly accurate conclusions. When the program has recorded the results over thousands of interactions, it can show you with a fair degree of certainty which option produces better results. Once you know this, you can ditch the version that doesn’t work as well and keep the one that does.

This is a great way to tweak your site into a better form, which is something that you should do before the stakes get higher and your traffic goes exponentially up for the Black Friday weekend. Statistically, you can expect traffic to more than double, and in some cases, it’ll way more than double. With an A/B optimized site, your doubled traffic will have a compounded effect, so you should make sure that the A/B optimized version of your site is up and running by then.

Optimize for Accessibility

In addition to optimizing the content and presentation of your site for conversion, you should also make sure that you have done everything needed to make sure that your site is fully accessible to all, even to people with disabilities. If on a regular day your site receives 500 visits, and on Black Friday it receives 1000, statistically 260 of them will have disabilities.

That’s two hundred and sixty individuals who might have greater difficulty than others in purchasing products online. It’s either 260 discouraged people who found your site inaccessible and may discourage their friends and family from patronizing your store, or 260 excited people who found your site accessible and may share their enthusiasm with their friends and family.

As the largest minority-group in the world, the disability community anecdotally tends to be fiercely loyal to brands that accommodate it and has equal measures of antipathy towards those who don’t. Take advantage of this by at a minimum fixing the most egregious accessibility issues brought up by your web development firm in their accessibility review of your site, and make sure you have an accessibility statement linked to in the footer of your site.

Want to do more than the bare minimum? Go through our blog series on accessibility. Want to do all you can do? Get a full accessibility audit from us and sign up for an accessibility retainer to ensure that your site will become fully accessible over time, and that it will stay that way.

Wrap Up

There are many things you can do to prepare your store for the Black Friday weekend, and we’ve only gone over a few of them. But every action you take now will pay huge dividends then, so you should jump right in and start making the changes today. You won’t regret it!

Need some help getting ready for Black Friday? Contact us for a consultation and we'll help you make sure all the right preparations make it into your summer plans.