I was both repulsed and impressed when I read about this. How can a marketing strategy be so devious and yet so remarkable? Should this be legal?
I'm referring to the toy store's demonic scheme to both maintain peak Q4 sales AND simultaneously assure high Q1 revenue. It's absolutely brilliant—I mean, devilish.
In case you aren’t aware of the toy store scheme… According to Robert Cialdini in his book "Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion", toy stores purposely sell out of the products they advertised to children before Christmas, to then restock and advertise these same toys in Q1 again. Parents are forced to get an equally valuable improvised Christmas gift but are then compelled to live up to their promise to their kids by returning to the shop for the requested toy.
I would never recommend anything this diabolical. But I must admit it got me thinking.
And that's the most important point: thinking. With some strategic planning, you too can dream up ways of bringing your customers back to your ecommerce store after the big Black Friday sales rush. But instead of shamelessly manipulating your audience, let’s work together to think of how you can provide the most value.
Here are 14 perfectly ethical tips (I promise) for your holiday marketing campaign that you can draw from to avoid a rude awakening after the November adrenaline rush, and keep your new Black Friday customers coming back again.
1. Create post-Black Friday/Cyber Monday gift guides
Many of us are terrible gift-givers, and yet we all have loved ones whose primary love language is that of receiving gifts. That being said, the holidays can be pretty stressful for the former and disappointing for the latter.
Yet, with a few thoughtful gift guides, you could save your stumped customers from their uncomfortable dilemma of "What to buy for Aunty Jane?!"
Here are some possible angles to use after your Black Friday discounts end:
- Stocking stuffers
- Gifts for her/him
- Bundles to create a full experience
- Gifts based on personality types
A few bonus guide ideas
Or course, we're all supposed to be shopping for family and friends in December. But we also deserve a little self-care in the form of online shopping. 😉
To address those self-gifters, write up a few guides to help them feel their best during this time of the year.
- How to look sharp on NYE
- Travel accessories for holidays
- A skincare routine to start the new year with your best face forward (break it down by oily, dry, combination, etc skin types)
- Decorating ideas
2. Announce shipping deadlines
This year in particular, shipping is quite a mess thanks to backed up ports, stranded containers, customs delays… So much so that even non shop-owners are highly aware of delays and issues affecting global shipping.
These factors are out of your hands. And still, if Aunty Jane's paint-by-numbers kit doesn't arrive on time, guess who will face the wrath? You.
So, what should you do about it? Send warnings to your customers with thick buffers to assure on-time delivery. Give them a due date, and let them know that the ball is in their court to get their act together and buy on time!
If you have different shipping rates available, let them know exactly what option will get their gifts under the tree with time to spare.
3. Communicate honestly about delays
On the same theme of shipping being a mess this year, perhaps you're not 100% sure you'll be able to deliver your expensive bikes on time for Jimmy to ride off into the sunset of December 25th. In that case, make it crystal clear that Jimmy might need to live a few days with a postcard of a bike as a stand-in.
If you're experiencing supply chain delays, let your customers know so they can prepare themselves. They'll likely cut you a little slack if they feel "in this together" with you and realize that you're doing your best as a small business owner.
4. Highlight your gift cards (before and after Black Friday)
Let's say it's almost Christmas-time, and your customers didn't act on all the wonderful gift ideas you shared and the very clear warning about shipping due dates. Well, there's still one more thing you can do to help your customers help themselves: highlight your Gift Cards.
Take it a step further by sending customers a pretty image of your collection along with the gift card. They'll be able to print it out and stick it in an envelope. Instead of passing for the lazy relative, they can say they opted for a gift card because they didn't want to impose a horse on Aunty Jane who might prefer to paint a sunflower instead. Win-Win!
5. Create a holiday focused collection
Why not share some patterns, styles, or items specifically intended for the holiday shopping season? You can then plan themed lifestyle photoshoots for potential customers to easily visualize your products in a holiday setting.
This way, you'll have all the ammo you need for some highly-relevant and engaging content to share with your audience. Here's a great example from Little Sleepies.
6. Plan to launch new products
Consumers expect Black Friday deals. So that's likely your time to discount inventory you'd like to move. However, you can use the post-Black Friday period to show off new and exciting items.
By planning a launch during a naturally slow sales period, you'll keep the spotlight on yourself for a bit longer.
Product launches are great to create hype around your brand. It's a good time to share education about a new item, explain how it's made, or quote joyful testimonials. These ideas are enough to easily come up with topics to continue engaging your audience—and bring them back to your store.
7. Communicate your return and exchange policy
Some people are impossible to shop for—or they just can be a bit "picky". Your customer shouldn't be penalized for trying to make this person happy.
Here's how you can help: extend your Return and Exchange Policies to the beginning of Q1. You'll help your customer take the plunge by removing the risk of getting their heads bitten off. Then make sure to highlight this added benefit frequently.
At this point in ecommerce, being truthful and communicating your return policy clearly is key for providing a good customer experience.
8. Facilitate Exchanges over Returns
The start of the year means the start of returns-season. It's a scary sight for many stores who might have celebrated too soon.
You can either let this revenue head for the hills, or you can take action to guide would-be-returners into the exchange lane.
Consider offering free shipping for exchanges, but charging a small shipping fee for returns. Perhaps also extend your exchange window longer than your returns window. You can also offer free credits to exchangers. In this case, customers would have to refuse free money from you if they insist on returning.
Keep in mind, exchanging customers will likely have a much higher lifetime value than returners. So this concession is likely to pay for itself over the long run as they turn into loyal customers.
Finally, if someone visits your returns and exchange page after placing an order, trigger follow-up emails with exchange information and personalized products recommendations to enhance their customer experience.
9. Promote staying on subscriptions
It's one thing to get customers on subscription with a juicy entry deal. But, unfortunately, you can't force them to stick around after taking advantage of a huge discount on their first shipment from a Black Friday promotion.
In my personal experience, there's no better way to infuriate customers than by making it hard to stop a subscription. If I have to waste time calling customer service, you can be sure I'll NEVER shop from you again.
Instead, you'll need to make them want you.
For instance, you could spread your offer over their first three shipments and drive home the point that they'll save a lot of $$$ over the first three months. Perhaps the discount amount is split in three and grows from month one, to two, to three?
You could also distribute points to reward customers the longer they stay. Maybe subscribers are working their way towards a free product, and ending the subscription would mean losing all their progress.
10. Plan meaningful wishes
To forge a long lasting bond with your Black Friday shoppers you'll need to get personal. The Holidays are a good opportunity to invite your audience behind the scene, send them a heartfelt thank you, and create a sense of community.
Here are a few opportunities to consider sharing with your email list:
- Small Business Saturday: Ideal day for sharing a video of your team hard at work. Let your customers see the faces behind their purchase and stress how happy you are to serve them.
- Giving Tuesday: If your brand is involved in any altruistic activities, this is the day to show it off. On this day you could also give a percentage of sales to a charity (or a higher percentage than normal).
- Christmas: Send a personal note from the founders with a short year-in-review message. Share high-points and low-points to invite your audience into your story.
- New Years Eve or Day: Share your goals for the new year and help your readers define their own resolutions.
11. Come up with exciting sales
Customers expect Black Friday offers right before and during the BF/CM weekend, but gifts (and discounts) are much more exciting when they come as a surprise!
One way you can surprise customers is by sending loyalty program subscribers access to VIP sales in December and at the start of the new year. You can even turn it into a game to keep your brand top of mind.
For example, create a 12-days of Christmas calendar where you highlight different products and bundles on each day leading up to December 25th (a great way to increase average order value). These can also be shared on your social media channels—double whammy!
Note: If you're going to send that many emails for a 12-days of Christmas campaign, keep it creative and enjoyable for your readers. If you do, this type of campaign is sure to drive some conversions before the big holiday.
12. Give customers logical reasons to shop now
Your customers are busy, and they might not realize they're going to run out of your products during their family trip. Help them by mentioning it’s time to restock an item in time for the holidays. This sense of urgency reminds customers about why they need to purchase ASAP.
Or maybe they don't want to face the fact that winter is coming. For many, the new year brings the coldest days of the year; perhaps you have items that can help your subscribers stay healthy, warm, and cozy.
The new year also means setting new resolutions. Do you have anything that will help with that? If so, make it clear as day in one of your Newsletters.
13. Plan content for Q1 special days
MLK, Chinese New Year, Valentine's Day, St. Patrick's Day… the list goes on. Q1 brings many opportunities to pop into your subscribers' inbox.
Find a list of all the holidays and events to pick from, then select some that will make sense for your brand. And don't be scared to be creative and have fun with it.
Did you know December 4th was National Cookie Day? I just found out and I'll be sure to drop by my favorite bakery to support this critical holiday.
14. Follow up with value after an order
I hope that this year's Q4 will be your best yet, bringing you buckets of new customers.
But remember that a first sale is not the end game. Once you've collected a customer's information at checkout, there's a lot you can do with it to help them get the best possible impression of your ecommerce business.
So set up automated email flows to give each one of your buyers an enjoyable, valuable, and personalized experience. This means sending Thank You notes, Shipping Notifications, Product educations, and much more. You can find all sorts of valuable email retention strategies here!
Good luck to ecommerce retailers this year!
Hopefully, these tips help you build relationships with your new customers, so they continue to support you in the following months (or years!) to come. Remember, a Black Friday marketing strategy isn't just about the campaigns you send during the Black Friday weekend, it's also about how to keep first time customers coming back.
And for online stores that are looking for email marketing help, don't hesitate to reach out to our team of Shopify experts to learn about how our team of strategists, designers, and copywriters can help you.
Now go win your best black Friday yet AND retain your new customers!