The ultimate last-minute BFCM checklist: 30 tips to make this Cyber Weekend your best yet
Planning for Black Friday Cyber Monday is like planning a wedding.
You know you have to figure out the big things way ahead of time. You know the team you’ll have standing beside you to make sure everything goes smoothly, you know what promotional offer you’ll vow to shoppers, and you know the ultimate outcome you’re looking for—a committed relationship with your customers.
But the devil is in the details of your Cyber Weekend marketing plan. And just like any bridezilla’s greatest fear is to realize that they forgot about table place cards or monogrammed cocktail napkins until their wedding day, you don’t want Black Friday to arrive, only to realize you could have done more to ensure an effective marketing campaign.
To help alleviate the panic that ensues as Cyber Weekend nears, we brought together 30 ecommerce marketers, operators, and experts to formulate the ultimate last-minute BFCM checklist chock full of quick-hitting marketing ideas—so you can go into the online shopping extravaganza with the confidence of someone who’s never accidentally hit “send” on an email campaign with a typo.
Table of contents
- Update your pop-ups
- Rebrand Black Friday
- Simplify shopping with a straightforward user experience
- Provide alternatives to physical products
- Optimize the window shopping experience
- Make timely gifting easy
- Make early-access sales work to your advantage—now and later
- Update and test your product images
- Reduce, reuse, and recycle past campaigns
- Introduce your best offer first
- Put yourself in your customers’ shoes
- Find your next ad on TikTok
- Set up holiday SMS campaigns
- Segment your audience by shopper
- Add a customer support touchpoint for big spenders
- Implement a post-purchase one-click cross-sell
- Go against the grain with your discount strategy—if you dare
- Check that your campaigns consider product availability
- Collect shoppers’ contact information before it’s too late
- Nail down your returns process
- Incite post-BFCM loyalty
- Pique shoppers’ interest with gift guides
- Send a re-engagement campaign—and let lapsed customers go their own way
- Update your email automations
- Create a post-purchase email automation based on item bought
- Take the opportunity to test
- Pause smart sending
- Perfect your post-purchase flow to keep BFCM shoppers coming back
- Lock your website to unlock FOMO
- Optimize the experience for first-time customers
1. Update your pop-ups
Your Cyber Weekend discounts are likely the best you’ll offer all year. Make sure the spotlight is on them—and that shoppers aren’t layering them with additional discount opportunities when they’re shopping on your site.
“Remove your regular website pop-up offer, and get people excited for Black Friday. Put up a new pop-up and banner to invite your website visitors to your Black Friday event—your biggest sale of the year,” suggests Judith Prugger, digital marketing freelancer.
“This will help you capture new email subscribers just in time for Black Friday and increase the chance of them placing an order,” Prugger explains. “Send those new subscribers a quick email and tell them to move your email into the primary inbox or add you to their email contacts so your Black Friday offer will slide right into their inbox.”
2. Rebrand Black Friday
During Cyber Weekend, shoppers will be inundated with the same verbiage over and over again. So how do you stand out from the crowd?
“Rebrand your BFCM sale so it’s not literally called ‘Black Friday’ or ‘Cyber Monday,’” suggests Maria West, owner of DTC Mom. Instead, try naming it “something that’s on brand or related to holiday shopping that stands out a bit from the inbox and ad saturation.”
For example, “if you sell CPG products, your sale could be called ‘The Stocking Stuffer Event,’” West says. “This can give you some wiggle room if you change deals, and it’s yet another way to make your brand stand out.”
3. Simplify shopping with a straightforward user experience
Black Friday is not the time to overcomplicate your website copy and design. Instead, consider ways to make the experience straightforward for stressed-out shoppers.
“A top converting element during sale periods is your homepage’s masthead—and that’s never more important than over BFCM. You want to make it as easy as possible for shoppers to understand what you’re offering,” says Nick Disabato, designer and writer at Draft.
“Make it very clear that you are throwing a sale, that it’s your biggest sale of the year, and how much they’ll save if they buy from you right now,” Disabato continues. “Keep it bold. Remove carousels. Make the CTA text clear and concise. Rotate out imagery as the days turn from pre-BFCM to Black to Cyber Monday to the Christmas season. Keep the promotions going until the last day that you can guarantee arrival before Christmas for free shipping.”
4. Provide alternatives to physical products
There’s nothing like the joy of unwrapping a big gift under the tree. But everyone has that family member who sticks to buying gift cards for everyone each year, and it’s important to cater to them, too.
“Offer the option for customers to purchase digital gift cards and gift notes through your website during Cyber Weekend. These are a hit with shoppers and easy to implement,” says Ariel Vaisbort, community lead at Zero Acre.
“You may need to check with your 3PL if you use one on gift notes, but at a minimum, digital gift cards are a must for the holidays,” Vaisbort adds.
5. Optimize the window shopping experience
Too many marketers put all their energy into converting shoppers around Cyber Weekend without thinking through what happens if a shopper doesn’t immediately make a purchase.
“Consider every post-shopping experience after the person leaves the site. Make sure your browse abandonment and abandoned cart emails have updated messaging, and set clear expectations regarding possible delayed times,” suggests Molly Becker, marketing director at Perfect Keto.
Becker also emphasizes the importance of thinking through your email marketing strategy for your segment of unengaged subscribers: “Test unengaged segments—they don’t need to receive every promotional email since they have lower open rates, but this is the time to give them the announcement and a last chance to shop.”
6. Make timely gifting easy
Sometimes the most difficult part about buying a holiday gift for someone is keeping it hidden until it’s time for them to open it. So how can you help shoppers alleviate this complication?
“The cost of shipping has continued to increase. Meanwhile, consumers want to shop for gifts during BFCM, but they don’t want to ship directly to their loved ones 6 weeks before the holidays. They also don’t want to ship the gift to themselves and have to reship it to their loved ones,” points out Kelly Anne Parker, startup advisor and founder of Send Ribbon (acquired by UrbanStems).
Parker recommends offering a gift hold date and ship date—“an amazing feature for ecommerce companies to save their customers time and money, and build loyalty by providing this thoughtful service for gifting.”
7. Make early-access sales work to your advantage—now and later
The early Black Friday sale is nothing new in ecommerce—in fact, you’ve probably already seen BFCM deals in your inbox. But it comes with more strategic advantages than you might realize, and if you haven’t been planning to do one, it might be worth reconsidering.
“Leverage early access to BFCM deals as a mechanism to both identify subscribers who are likely to engage in more frequent content, even beyond BFCM, and to add new potential customers,” suggests Ben Zettler, digital marketing and ecommerce consultant at Ben Zettler Digital.
Zettler recommends building a list of users over a two-week period prior to the week of Black Friday by:
- Using an on-site pop-up for new and returning customers
- Using an embedded form, which Zettler says is “effective for organic social or in general if you want to link users to a page that has some preview content”
Then, “use the Wednesday of that week to give shoppers early access, or even a promotion, product, or bundle that is exclusive to that group of users before releasing sales content widely later in the week,” Zettler suggests.
8. Update and test your product images
Even if you’ve optimized your ecommerce store in almost every way, one of the biggest deterrents to shoppers can be product images that don’t properly convey what they’d be buying.
“As it turns out, those boring product shots on a white background are not your best converting images. Try to find or create action and lifestyle photos that speak to the value of the product and watch your conversion rate go up,” says Derric Haynie, CEO and co-founder of EcommerceTech.
“Don’t have any images that you think will work? Gift the product to Instagram influencers and see if they can get it done for you by posting user-generated content on social media,” Haynie suggests. “Just be sure to get permission to re-use their content on your site.”
9. Reduce, reuse, and recycle past campaigns
Marketers put a lot of pressure on themselves to always create the next campaign from scratch, but who’s to say you can’t make what’s old new again? Yes, even for Black Friday Cyber Monday sales.
As the adage goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” The same is true for past marketing campaigns you’ve run.
“Take your best-performing asset from the last 3-6 months and stick the offer on it in the form of a headline or dot whack button,” suggests Dara Denney, director of performance creative at Thesis Testing.
“You don’t need to make any other changes—just put the offer on that piece of creative. This tends to be a top performer on BFCM creatives year after year,” Denney explains.
10. Introduce your best offer first
Think of the last time you bought something, only to see it go on sale the next day. This experience is frustrating. As a merchant, you want to do what you can to prevent customers from feeling like they should have waited to purchase.
“Last year, we ran 3 different BFCM offers over the course of November, but made sure to introduce our best offer first,” says Matt Mullenax, CEO of Huron. “You never want to evoke the feeling in your customers of ‘Ugh, I already bought from the brand, but this is a better deal.’”
11. Put yourself in your customers’ shoes
BFCM is the perfect time to put on your customer hat. Go through your online experience as a shopper would to poke holes in what’s working and what’s not, so you can make necessary last-minute optimizations to your store.
“Make a purchase from your own website and go down your post-purchase flow yourself. Did you receive all of the necessary shipping emails/texts? Did you receive enough education about the products you purchased? Did the content feel personalized?” advises Joanne Coffrey, assistant manager of retention marketing at Jones Road Beauty.
“Build trust with small touchpoints,” Coffrey adds. “Put yourself in your customers’ shoes and make revisions based on your own experiences.”
12. Find your next ad on TikTok
Google? That’s old news. Gen Z is using TikTok as their preferred search engine, and the best part is you can also use it to find your next ad with a quick turnaround—just in time for BFCM.
“TikTok is the new search engine, and many brands don’t have enough content on the platform or know where to start. UGC creators can help boost a brand’s awareness, engagement, and sales,” says Kelly O’Brien, founder and CEO of Kapshure.
How does it work? “Brands can search TikTok for consumers who have made videos about their products or services,” O’Brien explains. “Select the ones with the highest engagement metrics—views, shares, saves, comments, and likes. Then reach out to the creator to sponsor their video as a TikTok Spark Ad for Black Friday Cyber Monday.”
13. Set up holiday SMS campaigns
Trying to spread good vibrations for Cyber Weekend—literally? Make sure you’re setting up Black Friday Cyber Monday SMS marketing campaigns—specifically targeting past purchasers who you know will be eager to come back for your best deals of the season.
“No matter how you slice it, ‘tis the season for SMS retention. Think about it—who better to buy your product than customers who have already bought from you, and who have specific holiday-centric needs?” points out Jon O’Toole, head of marketing at Peel Insights.
“This BFCM, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel for your marketing campaigns. We say look within,” O’Toole explains. “Find those customers who have a history with your brand and are primed to purchase. Identify those stories within your data, build hyper-targeted audiences, and launch perfectly timed, meticulously tailored messaging via SMS.”
With Peel, O’Toole says, “you can build audiences in just a few minutes with a super deep set of filters, send those audiences directly to Klaviyo, and then measure growth once you launch your SMS campaigns. Forever.”
14. Segment your audience by shopper
Someone’s relationship with your brand, what they’re looking for, and where they are in the customer lifecycle are all going to affect how they shop. Different content is going to resonate with different target audiences and types of shoppers, so segment your lists accordingly.
“Segment your everyday shoppers vs. your gift shoppers, and then cater your email content accordingly—both in terms of email creative for promotional blasts and then for automated flows, including post-purchase,” advises Troy Petrunoff, retention marketing manager at Every Man Jack.
“We’re sending out an email and SMS campaign soon asking, ‘Who are you shopping for this holiday season?’ and then tagging accordingly,” Petrunoff adds.
15. Add a customer support touchpoint for big spenders
Your customers with the highest lifetime value deserve a little 1:1 attention, and they’ll especially appreciate the opportunity to chat with your team during the chaotic holiday season.
“For high-end brands, consider adding a notification to your abandoned cart flow during this time for high and top CLV customers—or VIPS, loyalty customers, etc.—who have started checkout but not proceeded to purchase,” suggests Ash Simpson, CRM manager at Elephant Room.
“This can prompt your sales or customer service team to reach out to talk directly to these VIP customers,” Simpson explains. “Notifications within flows are an often untouched feature, but they can add so much value and be super useful in the right setting.”
16. Implement a post-purchase one-click cross-sell
It may be a tongue twister, but implementing a post-purchase one-click cross-sell is an easy way to create a sense of urgency increase the average order value of every sale over Cyber Weekend.
“As soon as a shopper’s payment is processed, display a pop-up with a limited-time offer for that customer, such as 20% off an additional product. Add that the offer expires in 5 minutes and include a countdown timer to increase the urgency,” advises Brandon Amoroso, president of Electriq.
“If the customer doesn’t take advantage of the offer, no harm, no foul—the order still goes through. If the customer takes advantage of the offer, the product gets added to the existing order with one click,” Amoroso explains. “It’s an immediate AOV and LTV booster, and we typically see 5-15% conversion rates on our clients’ sites.”
17. Go against the grain with your discount strategy—if you dare
Now for some counterintuitive Black Friday Cyber Monday advice: Have you considered not discounting at all? While this might not be the journey most marketers decide to take, there is a case for rethinking deep discounts.
“With Black Friday, it can be tempting to discount your products drastically. However, a deep discount can hurt your profitability more than you realize,” cautions Steve Chou, founder at Bumblebee Linens and MyWifeQuitHerJob.com.
“This is why you must be careful when offering coupons and discounts—because they can have a tremendous effect on your bottom line,” Chou explains. “If you can’t generate twice the sales you normally get, it might not be worth running a sale.”
18. Check that your campaigns consider product availability
Have you ever clicked an ad for a product, only to find that it’s sold out online? This is aggravating on a normal day, but when people are frantically trying to complete their holiday shopping during Black Friday weekend, it’s even more annoying.
The good news: You can prevent this from happening to your customers.
“We plan back-pocket campaigns that are ready to send to help boost revenue, or we hold based on inventory levels,” says Lindsey Coulter, founder and email/lifecycle retention lead at InboxStars.
“I recommend planning down to the day during BFCM—including products you plan to feature,” Coulter adds. “You don’t want to feature something if it’s out of stock, so be mindful of those stock levels and merchandising choices.”
19. Collect shoppers’ contact information before it’s too late
OK, realistically, it’s never too late to collect shoppers’ contact information. But by pulling out all the stops before Black Friday Cyber Monday, you can make sure you have email addresses and phone numbers galore when it comes time to send out your doorbuster deals.
Do yourself one better: If email and SMS live in the same platform, you can more effectively invite your email subscribers and current customers to sign up for text message marketing.
“Get an email address if you have never connected with the customer before. Get a phone number if you have their email and they have already purchased from you,” suggests Ben Parr, president and co-founder of Octane AI.
“You want to turn the flood of one-time customers during BFCM into repeat purchasers, and you need data and contact info to do it,” Parr explains.
20. Nail down your returns process
Last year, the return rate post-Cyber Weekend jumped to an average of 16.6% from 10.6% in 2020. If you haven’t solidified your returns policy, now’s the time.
“All year, brands prepare for Black Friday Cyber Monday. But many ignore a key correlation—that a spike in sales creates a spike in returns, and that managing them well can mean the difference between increased costs from unhappy customers and increased revenue from happy customers,” points out JP Arnaud-Marquez, content marketing manager at Loop Returns.
“Nailing your return process down before the Black Friday Cyber Monday rush allows your brand to grow sustainably and makes for happier customers when it counts the most,” Arnaud-Marquez explains.
21. Incite post-BFCM loyalty
Any frequent Starbucks customer will vouch for the effectiveness of a good loyalty program. But if you want to increase both sales and retention, a loyalty program is especially important throughout—and after—Cyber Weekend.
“Brands that focus on keeping customers around after the holiday season see higher CLTV and expand their customer base beyond this season surge,” says Annette Snow, manager of partnerships at Stamped.io.
“Alongside your promotion offers, your brand should be leveraging loyalty,” Snow continues. “A few ways to do this include giving new customers a generous points bonus for signing up to your loyalty program, implementing a referral program before Cyber Weekend, and including point updates in your emails to increase the likelihood that existing customers make a purchase with you during the holiday season.”
22. Pique shoppers’ interest with gift guides
Shopping for friends and family can be overwhelming, especially when there are endless choices at hand. If your store offers multiple products, gift guides can help shoppers reach a decision quicker—and improve the chances their decision will be to buy from your brand.
“Create gift guides such as ‘5 Gifts for Him,’ ‘5 Gifts for Her,’ ‘The Perfect Stocking Stuffer,’ etc. and include them in your upcoming email and SMS campaigns,” suggests Oliver Allen, CEO of Blade Commerce.
“This will allow you to find more active users and re-engage them early,” Allen explains. “It will also start sending signals to users who are window shopping and give them ideas of what to purchase for that special someone.”
23. Send a re-engagement campaign—and let lapsed customers go their own way
If only every person who opted into your email list were an engaged subscriber, and not just trying to get their hands on your first purchase discount, the world would be a better place. Sadly, that’s not the reality—but you can still address lapsed customers before BFCM.
“There’s likely a percentage of your list that isn’t currently opening or clicking your emails. This is a great time to ask them if they are still interested in remaining on your list, and tease that you’re about to drop a huge sale,” points out Monica Grohne, Klaviyo consultant and founder of Marea Wellness.
“Suppress the people who don’t re-engage and save that money you would have spent on them to reinvest elsewhere,” Grohne advises.
24. Update your email automations
Your core email marketing automations are putting in the work all year long to keep making you money while you sleep, eat, and work on other parts of your ecommerce marketing strategy.
While these workflows typically require little upkeep or maintenance, it’s smart to take a second look around large sales events like Black Friday.
“Be sure to create a version of your core email flows, such as your welcome email series and cart abandonment emails, with your BFCM discount to re-emphasize your sale,” suggests Magan Le, senior email and lifecycle marketing manager at Bolt.
“This will also ensure you’re not confusing customers with multiple discounts that aren’t applicable during this time, unless you allow people to use multiple discount codes,” Le adds.
25. Create a post-purchase email automation based on item bought
One important thing to realize about Cyber Weekend: You’re not only making online sales, you’re also collecting customer data. Put that data to good use once BFCM has come and gone.
“Implement intelligent post-purchase cross-sell and up-sell automations, preferably on an individual product or category level, at least for bestsellers,” advises Ryan Turner, founder of Ecommerce Intelligence.
“If each new customer acquired during BFCM is led down a relevant cross-sell path based on the items they’ve just purchased, the chances of them coming back to buy again at full price are much higher,” Turner explains.
26. Take the opportunity to test
Believe it or not, Black Friday isn’t only an opportunity to make sales—it’s also an opportunity to improve your brand experience as a whole.
“In the sprint to plan, produce, and launch all of your BFCM campaigns and assets, many marketers often forget that this time of year is an often-missed, huge opportunity for testing and learning. Triple the site traffic means triple the sample size for A/B testing,” points out Tessa Mu, CEO of Plot.
“Use this week to set up some conversion and engagement rate optimization experiments,” Mu suggests. “It doesn’t have to be intense—every bit of learning (e.g., changing this button color leads to a 10% increase in email sign-ups) can have exponential and measurable impact.”
27. Pause smart sending
Klaviyo customers depend on the smart sending feature throughout the year in order to limit the number of emails and texts subscribers receive from their brand within a set period of time. If you have many active flows and campaigns, it’s typically a good way to prevent your subscribers from receiving too many messages at once.
For Cyber Weekend, though, subscribers typically expect more emails from ecommerce brands. It’s a special occasion where you might consider turning the feature off.
“Don’t accidentally have smart sending turned on if you’re sending multiple emails over BFCM weekend that you want everyone to receive,” warns Kristin Bond, founder of Email Snarketing.
“I almost ruined a whole weekend of campaigns in the past, but thankfully checked on my emails and turned it off before that happened,” Bond adds.
28. Perfect your post-purchase flow to keep Black Friday shoppers coming back
Black Friday shoppers come and go, but your email automations are forever. And if you do them right, you actually might retain more of those Black Friday shoppers than you anticipated.
“If you’re interested in keeping all those new BFCM customers you’re spending money to acquire, my best advice to you, aside from having a killer product, is to focus on retention,” says Val Geisler, customer advocacy lead at Klaviyo.
“Specifically, I would take a look at your post-purchase experience,” Geisler adds. “The standard post-purchase flow is great and all, but I like to break it up into 3 unique time periods.”
Geisler’s suggestions for a post-purchase flow include:
- Post-first-purchase education pre-delivery
- Post-delivery review request and referral program intro
- Post-review request to second purchase
“When you break down that post-purchase experience into unique milestones, you honor that customer’s journey with your brand,” Geisler explains. “And that’s what you’re going for—a full journey. So use that time to educate between the purchase and the delivery, save the referral and review requests for once they actually have the product, and then—and only then—go after that second purchase.”
29. Lock your website to unlock FOMO
Want to recreate the anticipation (or anxiety, depending on your perspective) of big box retailers opening their doors to huge savings at the onset of Black Friday? Try password protecting your online store.
“Build authentic exclusivity and demand by locking your website. This tactic is guaranteed to increase FOMO to a level too high to ignore,” says Sully Tyler, CEO at SullyTyler.com.
“Once it’s locked, set up a pop-up that invites shoppers to sign up for VIP early access,” Tyler recommends. “Email and text your entire list when it’s locked. Send out an early-access password to the VIP list. For the grand finale, send out a password the day your deals go live. Then sit back and sip the champagne.”
30. Optimize the experience for first-time customers
Many shoppers will discover your brand for the very first time around Black Friday—and they might even make a purchase in the same session, greatly reducing what is probably the average time to buy in your customer lifecycle.
This makes it more important than ever to provide touchpoints that nurture and engage first-time buyers.
“With CACs on the rise and an unpredictable economy, your thank-you flows are vital for recouping your ad spend and driving repeat customers from first-time shoppers. Nurture your relationship with these customers by giving them control over their experience with your brand,” advises Joseph Siegel, head of lifecycle and retention at Fluency Firm.
“You can implement this by unlocking access to private Instagram stories, engaging in two-way conversations, or offering rewards for being active in the community,” Siegel explains. “Above all else, the customer experience is the most important piece of the puzzle. Be proactive with shipping delay notifications, brand your order tracking page, and design all transactional emails to be on-brand.”
Small improvements lead to big Black Friday successes
Cyber Weekend may feel like a massive undertaking. But if you planned ahead and focused on creating the best brand experience you possibly could throughout the rest of the year, you’re probably already in a great position to meet and exceed your holiday sales goals.
Use this checklist as a resource to comb through the last-minute details of your BFCM marketing strategy, and give yourself the peace of mind you deserve going into the holiday shopping season.