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1. Black Friday: History and significance

Black Friday ecommerce in 2023: How to prepare and drive sales

The calendar page turns, and the collective heartbeat of ecommerce businesses around the globe quickens. Black Friday looms on the horizon, an event synonymous with both unparalleled opportunity and formidable challenge.

Last year, US online retail consumers spent a whopping $9.12 billion on Black Friday—a new spending record. This year, Black Friday falls on November 24th and is expected to be a similarly huge shopping day.

However, for ecommerce businesses, it’s not just a day; it's a dance of meticulous preparation, razor-sharp marketing, and delivering promises that leave an indelible mark on consumers.

In this high-stakes game, the margin between success and lost opportunities can be razor-thin. However, with the right tools and strategies, your business can shine brilliantly amid the frenzy.

Whether you're a seasoned player or a newcomer gearing up for your first Black Friday rodeo, this article offers insights that will not only prepare you but set you distinctly apart. Discover the secrets behind crafting a superior Black Friday ecommerce strategy and how platforms like Gelato can be your ace in the hole.

Main takeaways from this article:

  • Black Friday holds historical significance and serves as a cornerstone for retail sales.

  • Start planning early for the holiday shopping season to ensure your ecommerce store is well-positioned to capitalize on the sales opportunity.

  • Techniques like enhancing the online shopping experience and streamlining order processes can drive higher sales and customer satisfaction.

  • Special emphasis on providing exceptional customer support can differentiate your brand in a crowded marketplace.

  • An effective Black Friday marketing strategy involves a blend of anticipation, exclusive offers, and tailored engagement across platforms.

Black Friday: History and significance

Black Friday marks the unofficial start of the holiday shopping season and falls on the day after the American Thanksgiving.

Historically, it's said to have received its name from Philadelphia police in the 1950s, who used "Black Friday" to describe the heavy traffic and chaos that occurred as shoppers flocked to stores. On the financial side, it represents the day when retailers "go into the black," turning a profit after operating "in the red" for much of the year.

Over the years, Black Friday has evolved from a single day of in-store shopping deals to a massive global online shopping event, with retailers offering significant discounts both in physical shops and online, attracting millions of shoppers seeking the best deals.

Black Friday & Cyber Monday: What's the difference?

Black Friday and Cyber Monday, though close in date, cater to different shopping audiences.

Black Friday traditionally focused on in-store sales, drawing crowds to physical locations. Cyber Monday, introduced in 2005, is the online counterpart, focusing on internet deals the Monday following Thanksgiving.

As ecommerce grew, the lines began to blur, with many Black Friday deals available online. However, while Black Friday emphasizes general merchandise and doorbuster deals, Cyber Monday often spotlights tech and electronics. Both days offer consumers myriad discounts, but their origins and primary sales platforms differentiate them.

Additionally, Black Friday has now become a multi day event for online businesses, spanning the entire weekend leading up to Cyber Monday. Some ecommerce businesses will even run deals throughout the following week or the entire month.

Preparing for Black Friday ecommerce marketing and sales

Early preparation can set the stage for maximizing profits and enhancing customer satisfaction. This section will guide you through the essential steps to ready your store for the Black Friday rush.

Understand the Black Friday consumer

For your business to succeed on Black Friday, it's crucial to understand the consumer's mindset and shopping habits during this peak sales period. Dive deep into the psyche of the Black Friday shopper:

  1. Motivations: Most shoppers are on the lookout for unbeatable deals and exclusive products. Understanding what drives them can shape your promotions.

  2. Research behavior: Many consumers research products beforehand. Ensure your products have clear descriptions, high-quality images, and reviews to inform potential buyers.

  3. Mobile shopping: A significant portion of Black Friday shoppers use mobile devices. Optimizing your site for mobile is essential to cater to this demographic.

  4. Shopping times: While Black Friday traditionally starts after Thanksgiving, many retailers start promotions early. Knowing when your consumers are most active can inform your sale's start time.

  5. Safety concerns: Ensure your ecommerce platform offers secure payment methods. Trust badges can reassure online shoppers of their financial data safety.

By tapping into the Black Friday consumer's mindset, you can tailor your approach, ensuring a seamless shopping experience that maximizes sales potential.

Perform competitor analysis

Black Friday is not just about attracting consumers; it's about outshining competitors. A thorough competitive analysis is key:

  1. Identify key players: Know who your primary competitors are. This includes major industry players and smaller niche competitors.

  2. Promotion tactics: Study the promotional strategies they've employed in previous years. What worked? What didn't?

  3. Product offerings: Understand their product range and any exclusive deals they might have. This can guide your inventory decisions.

  4. Pricing strategies: Monitor competitor pricing. Consider if you want to match, beat, or offer added value elsewhere.

  5. Feedback analysis: Read customer reviews from competitors. This can give insights into what shoppers loved or loathed in past years.

  6. Unique selling proposition (USP): Based on your analysis, determine what makes your store stand out. It could be faster shipping, exclusive products, or superior customer service.

Armed with knowledge from a competitive analysis, you can carve out a unique space for your ecommerce business in the Black Friday frenzy, ensuring you're not just another retailer in the crowd but a standout destination for holiday shoppers.

Jumpstart your preparations early

Consumers start their hunt for holiday bargains much earlier than you might think, often beginning their search in September. Tapping into this early-bird mentality can set the stage for successful Black Friday sales.

This is the most ideal time to identify and re-release some of your most popular products. While some products—like apparel—will always be in demand, look at shopping trends to guide which products to advertise and discount for Black Friday.

By initiating early and consistent communication, you'll not only raise awareness but also prime your audience to eagerly anticipate what you have to offer.

Here are some questions to start asking yourself to ensure you're prepared for Black Friday:

  • What products will you discount?

  • When will you start offering sales, and for how long?

  • How and where will you advertise your deals?

  • Will you add any new products or designs for the holidays?

  • How can you maximize cross-sell and upsell opportunities?

Optimize your website for a superior online shopping experience

When consumers are constantly flooded with options and high expectations, the significance of Black Friday only heightens the stakes. As this peak shopping day draws near, ensuring your website offers a seamless shopping experience becomes paramount. A smooth, user-friendly interface can mean the difference between securing a sale and losing a potential customer to a competitor.

While some digital hiccups may be unavoidable, they can be minimized by the following:

  • Streamlined payment process: Install and test an efficient payment system to ensure hassle-free transactions for users.

  • Diverse payment options: Provide multiple payment methods, including popular options like PayPal and various card payments.

  • User-friendly platforms: Utilize platforms such as Etsy or Shopify, which are known for their intuitive design and customer-centric interfaces.

  • Efficient search functionality: Ensure that users can easily search for and locate their desired products on your site with a robust search feature.

  • Frictionless checkout: Reduce the number of steps in the checkout process. Allow for guest checkouts and offer a progress indicator so customers know how many steps remain.

  • Optimized site speed: Compress images and leverage browser caching. Consider using a content delivery network (CDN) to ensure fast load times, especially during high traffic periods.

  • Mobile shopping experience: Ensure your site is mobile-responsive. Implement easy-to-click buttons, clear product images, and a viewport that adjusts to various screen sizes.

  • Website security: Highlight the security features of your site. Use trusted SSL certificates and display security badges prominently on checkout pages to assure users of their data safety.

  • Streamlined navigation & user experience: Organize product categories logically and offer filtering options. A simple, intuitive design with clear call-to-action buttons can guide users effortlessly from product selection to purchase.

Remember that your consumers have countless options at their fingertips, and the ease of the shopping experience is often the deciding factor.

Outsource order production and fulfillment

Outsourcing order production and fulfillment to a third party allows online retailers to scale efficiently during high-demand periods like Black Friday and navigate holiday shipping with ease. It eliminates the challenges of stock management, space requirements, and labor-intensive packaging.

A checklist for vetting third-party providers
  1. Reputation & reviews: Do they have a strong track record?

  2. Integration capabilities: Can they seamlessly integrate with your ecommerce platform?

  3. Shipping speed: How fast can they deliver to your customers?

  4. Cost-effectiveness: Do the financials make sense for your business?

  5. Customer service: Are they responsive to your needs and those of your customers?

Print on demand: the perfect outsourcing solution

Print on demand (POD) is a stellar choice, especially during peak seasons. It allows for the production of items only as they're ordered, drastically reducing overhead costs. During peak sales events, leveraging POD means you won't overstock or run out of inventory.

As a global print on demand platform, Gelato's network of more than 130 production hubs across 32 countries significantly reduces delivery times and costs while ensuring your customers receive their products in impeccable quality.

Prepare to provide swift, exceptional customer support

In the bustling rush of Black Friday sales, providing swift and exceptional customer support can be your differentiator. With increased traffic, it's inevitable that there'll be a surge in customer inquiries, complaints, or feedback. Here's how you can prepare:

  1. Staffing: Consider temporarily expanding your customer service team. The increased manpower ensures that customer queries are addressed promptly.

  2. Training: Equip your team with the necessary knowledge about deals, promotions, and common customer issues. A well-informed team can resolve queries faster and more efficiently.

  3. Use technology: Implement chatbots for instant, automated responses to common questions. This reduces the strain on your human resources while ensuring customers get quick answers.

  4. Feedback loop: Encourage customers to provide feedback on their support experience. It can help you quickly identify and rectify potential pain points during the sale period.

  5. Clear communication: Ensure your website has clear information on return policies, shipping details, and product specifications to reduce the number of queries.

By ensuring your customer support is agile and efficient, you not only enhance the shopping experience but also build trust and loyalty.

Top Black Friday marketing strategies

To maximize sales and brand exposure during this high-stakes shopping event, businesses must employ a mix of traditional and innovative marketing tactics tailored to the unique dynamics of Black Friday.

Building anticipation and excitement

Creating a buzz well before Black Friday hits can set the stage for a successful sales day. Building anticipation is all about teasing your audience and making them eagerly await what's to come:

  1. Teaser campaigns: Start with sneak peeks of deals or products on social media. A well-timed teaser can ignite curiosity and chatter among potential customers.

  2. Countdown clocks: Implement a countdown clock on your website, building urgency and highlighting the limited nature of Black Friday deals.

  3. Exclusive previews: Offer email subscribers an exclusive preview of your Black Friday deals. This not only drives email sign-ups but also rewards loyal customers.

  4. Engaging content: Use blogs, videos, or infographics to highlight top products or anticipated deals, educating customers while building excitement.

  5. Social media challenges: Launch interactive challenges or contests on platforms like Instagram or TikTok, encouraging user participation and engagement.

By methodically building anticipation, you ensure that when Black Friday arrives, you have an audience ready, excited, and primed to shop.

Automating marketing efforts

Harnessing the power of marketing automation can significantly boost your Black Friday sales efficiency. Here's why and how:

  1. Timed promotions: Schedule and automate email campaigns to announce deals, reminding subscribers of ongoing sales or last-minute offers.

  2. Personalization: Use automated tools to segment your customer base, sending tailored messages based on their browsing and purchase history.

  3. Abandoned cart recovery: Set up automated reminders for customers who've left items in their carts. A gentle nudge can often convert these abandoned carts into sales.

  4. Social media scheduling: Use platforms like Buffer or Hootsuite to pre-schedule Black Friday posts, ensuring consistent engagement without manual oversight.

  5. Customer retargeting: Utilize retargeting tools to remind visitors of products they've viewed. Displaying ads on other sites they visit can entice them to return and make a purchase.

  6. Performance analytics: Automated platforms can provide real-time analytics on campaign performance. These insights can help you tweak and optimize on the go.

Creating exclusive promotions & deals

Black Friday is synonymous with jaw-dropping deals, and your store should be no exception.

Start with time-limited flash sales, creating a sense of urgency. Bundle complementary products together at a discount to increase the average order value.

For your loyal customers, consider offering early access deals or extra discounts as a token of appreciation. Exclusive "doorbusters" can generate buzz, driving traffic to your site early in the sale.

Additionally, leverage the power of scarcity by promoting limited-stock items. Not only will these strategies entice shoppers to buy, but they'll also amplify the excitement around your brand, making it a go-to destination during the shopping season.

Adjusting your pricing strategy

While Black Friday is renowned for its bargains and deals, it is key to find a price point that balances consumer satisfaction and profitability. 

To ensure your Black Friday pricing strategy drives the most value for your business and its customers, consider the following:

  1. Market research: Understand the competitive landscape. Know the average price points in your industry to ensure your deals are attractive.

  2. Dynamic pricing: Consider using software that adjusts prices based on demand, inventory, and competitor pricing.

  3. Bundle deals: Offer products in bundles at a reduced combined price. This can increase average order value and move more stock.

  4. Tiered discounts: Encourage larger purchases by offering tiered discounts. For instance, "Buy 1 get 10% off, buy 2 get 20% off."

  5. Loss leaders: Sell selected products at a loss to drive traffic. The idea is that customers will make additional purchases, compensating for the initial loss.

  6. Transparent pricing: Avoid hidden fees. Ensure customers understand the total cost, including shipping or taxes, to maintain trust.

By adjusting your pricing strategy intelligently, you can attract a slew of customers without sacrificing profitability, ensuring Black Friday is both busy and beneficial.

Offering free shipping

In the ecommerce realm, especially during the bustling season of Black Friday, every detail counts, and one detail that consistently captures customers' attention is free shipping.

Why does this simple offering hold such allure? For many consumers, the idea of a deal isn’t just about the discount on the product itself. It extends to the entire purchasing process, and shipping costs can often feel like an unexpected, unwanted addition to their bill. Offering free shipping can be the decisive factor that nudges a potential buyer from contemplation to conversion.

Here are compelling reasons to consider this strategy:

  1. Increased sales: The promise of free shipping can motivate customers to finalize their purchases, reducing cart abandonment rates. It adds perceived value to their transaction.

  2. Competitive edge: Many businesses will be vying for consumer attention on Black Friday. Standing out with a free shipping offer can give you a distinct advantage.

  3. Builds loyalty: An act of goodwill, like waiving shipping fees, can foster positive brand sentiment and encourage repeat business.

  4. Promotes larger purchases: You can set a minimum purchase limit for free shipping, incentivizing buyers to add more to their cart.

However, when you offer free shipping, it's crucial to ensure your business can absorb these costs without harming profitability.

Showcasing social proof

Leveraging social proof can significantly boost the credibility of your ecommerce store and drive more sales. In a world saturated with choices, consumers often look to others to help make decisions:

  1. Customer reviews: Encourage customer reviews and showcase them prominently. A product with multiple positive reviews can substantially increase its conversion rate.

  2. Testimonials: Feature detailed testimonials from satisfied customers, especially those who vouch for the effectiveness, quality, or value of your products.

  3. User-generated content (UGC): Encourage customers to share photos or videos of them using your product. Repost these on your product pages and social media platforms with their permission.

  4. Influencer endorsements: Partner with influencers in your niche to review or showcase your products. Their stamp of approval can influence their followers to make a purchase.

  5. Trust badges: Display badges from trusted third parties that vouch for the security or quality of your store, like SSL certificates or "Best Seller" labels.

Personalization and targeted marketing

Black Friday isn't just about slashing prices; it's about creating memorable shopping experiences that customers eagerly await all year. With the digital marketplace becoming more crowded, standing out requires a personal touch. The magic of personalization can transform casual browsers into loyal customers.

For Black Friday, understanding your customers’ specific wants is paramount. Here’s why and how:

  1. Black Friday buyer profiles: Dive deep into analytics from previous years. Identify patterns, such as which segments spent more and which products were most coveted. Use this data to tailor this year's offerings.

  2. Segmented promotions: Not everyone is looking for the same Black Friday deal. Segment your audience and design tailored promotions that cater to each group's interests.

  3. Personalized content for Black Friday: Design Black Friday teasers, blogs, or social media posts that address specific segments. For instance, tech enthusiasts could get sneak peeks of electronic deals, while fashionistas receive early-access views of clothing discounts.

  4. Customized email alerts: Beyond the generic “Black Friday Deals Incoming!” email, send curated lists of deals based on past purchases or browsing history. A personal touch can be the difference between an opened email and one that’s ignored.

  5. Engagement beyond discounts: Use personalized thank-you notes post-purchase or offer exclusive early access to deals for repeat customers. Celebrate their loyalty and make them feel seen.

In the chaos of Black Friday, where every brand is vying for attention, personalization can be your beacon, guiding customers straight to your doors (or online store).

Building awareness on social media

Social media is a powerful tool to amplify your Black Friday promotions, reaching vast audiences and creating virality to ensure your ecommerce store is front and center in customers' minds when Black Friday arrives:

  1. Engaging graphics: Create eye-catching graphics highlighting deals and discounts. Consistency in design helps in brand recognition.

  2. Hashtag campaigns: Develop a unique Black Friday hashtag for your brand. Encourage users to share and use it, amplifying reach.

  3. Stories & live sessions: Use Instagram Stories or Facebook Live sessions to showcase products, conduct Q&A sessions, or give behind-the-scenes peeks.

  4. Collaborations: Partner with other brands or influencers to host giveaways or contests. This can increase your reach to new, relevant audiences.

  5. Paid advertisements: Invest in targeted ads. Platforms like Facebook and Instagram allow for detailed targeting, ensuring your ads reach potential customers.

  6. Engage with followers: Respond to comments, share user-generated content, and create polls or quizzes. Engagement can boost your visibility on social feeds.

Upselling and cross-selling to increase revenue

During Black Friday, while you've already attracted customers to your website, maximizing revenue per transaction becomes paramount. This is where upselling and cross-selling shine.

Upselling encourages customers to purchase a higher-end version of the item they're looking at, while cross-selling suggests complementary items that enhance their primary choice. For example, if a customer is purchasing a laptop, a suitable upsell might be a higher-spec model, and a cross-sell could be a laptop case or headphones.

To be effective, ensure that your product recommendations are relevant and add value to the shopper's experience. Highlight the benefits clearly, whether it's the enhanced features of an upscale product or the convenience of having complementary items.

By effectively integrating upselling and cross-selling strategies, you not only boost your revenue but also enhance the shopping experience for your customers, making them more likely to return.

Abandoned cart recovery strategies

Every abandoned cart represents potential revenue slipping through your fingers. Especially during Black Friday, when shoppers are bombarded with choices, it's crucial to have a strategy to reel back in those who've left items behind.

Start with an automated email sequence; the first can be a gentle reminder, while subsequent ones might offer a small discount or highlight limited stock to instill urgency.

Additionally, employ retargeting ads that showcase the abandoned products, nudging shoppers back to complete their purchase.

By understanding the reasons behind cart abandonment – be it unexpected shipping costs, complex checkout processes, or simple indecision – you can tailor your recovery strategies to address these pain points and reclaim lost sales.

Expanding your product line

During this mega-sale season, customers are scouting for an array of products, and by offering fresh, diversified choices, you increase the chances of capturing a broader audience.

To identify potential new products, start by analyzing market trends and customer feedback. Additionally, consider seasonal items or complementary products to your best-sellers. For instance, if you sell coffee machines, introducing custom mugs can be enticing for your customers.

In the age of heightened environmental awareness, introducing sustainable options can also be a game-changer. Items like reusable tote bags and clothing made with organic cotton/recycled polyester are not only trendy but also resonate with a growing audience and amplify your brand's commitment to ethical and sustainable practices.

Introducing these new products with special Black Friday deals can create buzz and anticipation. Moreover, expanded product offerings mean customers can find more of what they're looking for under one roof, increasing the average order value.

Remember to market these new additions effectively, highlighting their key attributes, benefits, and how they fit into your existing product ecosystem.

Explore our gift guide to ensure you cater to shoppers on all budgets.

Offering Post-Black Friday rewards

While Black Friday is a sales powerhouse, savvy businesses look beyond this singular event. Offering post-Black Friday rewards is a brilliant strategy to ensure continued engagement.

After customers make a purchase during the sale, offer them exclusive rewards redeemable in the upcoming weeks – be it discounts, early access to new launches, or loyalty points. This strategy serves a dual purpose: it expresses gratitude, bolsters brand loyalty, and incentivizes future purchases, turning one-time Black Friday shoppers into recurring customers.

As December, with its holiday season, follows Black Friday, these rewards can be geared towards festive shopping, ensuring a seamless transition from one peak sales period to another. Think of post-Black Friday rewards as an investment in customer retention and long-term ecommerce growth.

Post-Black Friday: Analyzing data & preparing for next year

Once the Black Friday frenzy subsides, the real work begins.

Dive deep into the data. Which products were best-sellers? At what times did your website see the most traffic? Did any customers voice complaints or leave negative reviews?

This analysis provides insights into consumer behavior and areas of improvement, allowing businesses to refine strategies for upcoming sales events and prepare better for the next Black Friday.

By taking lessons from each year's data, retailers can continually evolve, ensuring more efficient operations and greater customer satisfaction in subsequent years.

Boost sales with Gelato this holiday season

Black Friday, with its frantic pace and dizzying array of deals, presents a unique challenge for ecommerce businesses. The key to mastering this challenge lies not just in stellar marketing strategies and early preparations but also in the agility and efficiency of your operations.

As we've discussed, personalization and tailored experiences can set your store apart from a myriad of others. But what truly amplifies this edge is your ability to deliver quality, consistency, and timeliness.

That's where Gelato steps in. As a global leader in print on demand, we offer a seamless solution to navigate the Black Friday madness.

With our platform, there’s no need to fret over inventory management, order processing, or product quality. We've got it covered.

Looking to woo your customers with holiday-themed designs? We offer an array of custom products that can be personalized to make the perfect gift. Our platform ensures that your business not only promises but delivers memorable Black Friday experiences.

So, as you gear up for the biggest shopping event of the year, remember that success lies in the details. While you focus on the grand strategy, let us handle the intricate logistics.

Ready to elevate your Black Friday game? Sign up for Gelato today and unlock a smoother, more profitable holiday season for your ecommerce business.

Black Friday ecommerce FAQs

What is Black Friday in ecommerce?

Black Friday in ecommerce refers to the online sales and promotions that businesses offer on the day following Thanksgiving. Traditionally a brick-and-mortar retail event, Black Friday has, in recent years, seen a significant shift towards online shopping, with numerous online-only deals and promotions. Ecommerce platforms and online sellers typically experience a surge in traffic and sales, making it one of the most anticipated and lucrative days in the online retail calendar. It's a day that demands strategic preparation, as it can substantially boost online sales and brand visibility.

What day is Black Friday for online shopping?

Black Friday occurs the day after Thanksgiving, which is the fourth Thursday of November. In 2023, Black Friday falls on November 24th.

When does Black Friday end?

Traditionally, Black Friday lasts for one full day. However, with the evolution of online shopping and extended retail promotions, the lines have blurred. While brick-and-mortar stores might have specific opening and closing hours, many online ecommerce businesses extend their deals through the weekend up to Cyber Monday, effectively creating a Black Friday weekend. Some retailers even extend their sales beyond this, turning it into a week-long or even month-long event. For ecommerce business owners, it's essential to monitor competitors and customer behavior to decide the optimal duration of their Black Friday promotions.

Does Black Friday affect online shopping?

Black Friday has a substantial impact on online shopping, with ecommerce businesses experiencing heightened website traffic, increased order volumes, and often a surge in new customer acquisitions. As consumers seek out the best deals, businesses must ensure their platforms are optimized, inventory is stocked, and marketing campaigns are effective to capitalize on this peak shopping day.

Are things cheaper online on Black Friday or Cyber Monday?

Both Black Friday and Cyber Monday promise enticing deals, but the focus can differ. Black Friday might feature a mix of deals for both online and physical stores, while Cyber Monday is exclusively for online shopping. In the context of ecommerce, products might be slightly cheaper on Cyber Monday due to the online-centric nature of the day. However, the best deals for specific items can vary based on the retailer and product category.

What are the best-selling products for Black Friday?

Popular and profitable products to sell during Black Friday include clothing, accessories, electronic gadgets and accessories, drinkware, and home decor.

When should you start Black Friday sales?

It's advisable for ecommerce businesses to start Black Friday sales early in the morning on the actual day. However, many businesses now extend their sales, starting them a week before or even at the beginning of November to capture early shoppers.

How do you make a successful Black Friday sale?

For a successful Black Friday sale, plan early, ensure your website can handle increased traffic, stock popular items, offer genuine discounts, and market aggressively across all channels, especially email and social media. An effective marketing strategy paired with efficient operations ensures success.

How do you retain customers after Black Friday?

Retaining customers post-Black Friday involves providing exceptional service during the sale, capturing customer data for future marketing, offering loyalty programs or post-sale discounts, and engaging customers through newsletters and targeted content. Personalized follow-ups and showcasing new products can also entice them to return.


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