The Black Friday 2020 Rush: How Your Ecommerce Store Can Survive


For more expert advice, download our 2020 Holiday Guide.


It’s that time of year again where retailers and shoppers rejoice. The clock is ticking and the countdown to Black Friday is on. The retail holiday is synonymous with deals. This year, consumers remain ready to shop, but due to the coronavirus pandemic, their traditional holiday shopping experience will be getting a digital makeover.

Last year, sales hit an all-time high. There were 151 million consumers who shopped on Black Friday both in-store and online. One thing we know for certain is that consumers will still be able to find incredible Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals.

In this article, we’ll talk about how businesses of all sizes can prepare for Black Friday 2020. But first, let’s dive into the history of Black Friday to discover how all this madness and frenzy came about.

The History of Black Friday

The most popular myth regarding the history of Black Friday is based on the belief that retail stores spent most of the year in the red according to their balance sheets. When the holiday shopping season arrived, on the day after Thanksgiving, retailers were believed to finally start making a profit. Their balance sheets also reflected this, going from red to black.

But, the true history of Black Friday and its origins are much different than the adopted myth. According to, Black Friday began in the United States after Philadelphia police coined the term to describe the chaos that ensued on the day following Thanksgiving.

This was a popular time for tourists to visit for two reasons: to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday and to see the traditional Army-Navy football game. Due to the influx of people visiting the city of Philadelphia, it was not only a popular day for shopping, but for looting as well. Local Philadelphia businesses later tried to change the term Black Friday because of the doom and gloom associated with the phrase. They instead pushed for Big Friday, but the original term, Black Friday held its place.

By 2003, Black Friday became so popular that it was the busiest shopping day of the year in the United States, and the status is yet to be given up. The famous holiday shopping event has extended to other parts of the world, too. Even though Thanksgiving is a holiday celebrated in North America both the UK and Australia have begun to partake in the Black Friday craze.

Just like the United States, the UK term Black Friday came from local police. The difference here is that Black Friday referred to the Friday before Christmas. Both Police and hospitals noticed a spike in demand as people partied and enjoyed the last weekend before the holiday.

Australia and New Zealand are not immune to the online shopping opportunities centered in the U.S. Back in 2015, major New Zealand retailers like The Warehouse started noting the retail holiday’s importance by offering their own deals.

Apple expanded its own offerings to Australia in 2013 under the Black Friday promotion, suggesting that Black Friday may have a bigger future as an overseas holiday than the Thanksgiving holiday, which is traditionally limited to North America.

Black Friday vs Cyber Monday

After the success of Black Friday more retail holidays surfaced, one of them being Cyber Monday. They often are considered so similar that few people know their differences. So, let’s start by discussing Black Friday. 

Black Friday traditionally falls on the Friday immediately following the Thanksgiving holiday. It officially marks the beginning of the holiday shopping season.

Black Friday started as a completely offline affair. It occurred with retailers making such irresistible offers causing bargain-hungry shoppers to rush out in droves to partake of them.

Cyber Monday, on the other hand, takes place primarily online. It was created in 2005 to help smaller retailers compete with big-name companies giving out discounts on Black Friday.

Cyber Monday falls on the Monday immediately following Thanksgiving, which in 2020 means it will take place on November 30.

Why Is Black Friday Important to Your Business?

Last year, Americans spent more money shopping than they ever did prior, with 151 million consumers purchasing at least one item on the big event. Brick and mortar sales were up 4.2% from 2018 and online shopping sales were at an all-time high hitting $7.4 billion.

In light of this year’s challenges with the coronavirus pandemic and social distancing guidelines, many retailers have pivoted from their traditional Black Friday activities. Big box stores like The Home Depot, Macy’s, BJ’s, Costco and several others have already announced that they will be closed on Thanksgiving day. Others like Walmart, Target and Best Buy have shifted strategies, offering deals on select days throughout the month of November. 

This is good news for online retailers and small businesses. Focus your marketing efforts on SEO optimization for your website and driving sales through digital means and you’ll be on your merry way to Black Friday 2020 success.

How To Prepare Your Ecommerce Store For Black Friday

With the vast amount of customers expected to shop for deals online this year, there is one thing that is pretty much guaranteed: your online store will experience a spike in traffic. While that’s great news, the downside is that high traffic can quickly lead to poor site performance without the right ecommerce platform to support your business. This goes for large retailers and small ecommerce business owners alike.

According to Catchpoint, some of the leading causes of website slowdowns include:

  • Third party website components/apps,
  • Overburdened APIs,
  • Servers with lack of scalability unequipped for peak traffic and
  • Web pages with slow loading times resulting from too many graphic components.

Given the estimated number of Black Friday sales, it’s crucial for businesses to have their sites prepared for the inevitable Black Friday rush.

Here are a few tips to ensure your site is ready for the expected increase of Black Friday traffic.

1. Plan early.

25% of shoppers expect to start holiday shopping earlier than usual in 2020, and your planning needs to follow suit.

You should be going into the holiday season with:

  • An intuitive user interface
  • A seamless checkout experience offering multiple payment options
  • A high level of mobile functionality

2. Check your site speed.

The holiday season can be a stressful time for busy shoppers who don’t want to waste time waiting for their favorite ecommerce sites to load. Having a slow website also hurts credibility with shoppers and risks customer retention.

To check your website speed and ensure the performance is top notch, Google has a free tool that is simple and easy to use. All you have to do is enter your URL and the tool will analyze the performance of your website, giving you immediate results.

BigCommerce has a native integration with Akamai Image Manager to help optimize images across your site and keep it fast. Akamai automatically optimizes images for device size, no matter the browser’s origin.

3. Audit your checkout process.

People who are shopping online, especially during the holidays are often pressed for time. They expect the checkout process on your store to be fast and efficient.

On a day like Black Friday when customers are eager to buy, you want to take advantage of the opportunity to make as many sales as possible. Your checkout process needs to be seamless, providing a simple way for shoppers to purchase from your store.

If visitors can’t make it through the checkout process then all the marketing dollars you spent to drive traffic to your store won’t matter – it will all be for nothing.

That’s why you should test your checkout process beforehand, go through it yourself and optimize it for the best results. This won’t only benefit you on Black Friday, but it will also help you throughout the year.

Oftentimes, an inefficient checkout process can lead to cart abandonment. In fact, 21% of online shoppers in the United States have abandoned their shopping carts due to a long, complicated checkout process.

Here are some ways that you can improve your checkout process:

  • Consolidate your checkout to one page
  • Offer more payment options such as PayPal/Venmo, American Express
  • Enable automated cart abandonment notifications
  • Consider enabling multi-recipient capabilities

4. Get support on deck.

Customer service is an important part of running a successful online store. All it takes is one single poor customer service experience to damage your brand image, causing you to lose customers and sales. 

Because so many online sales are expected, you should prepare for an increase in customer service requests, and have several ways – clearly identified on your site – for shoppers to reach you for customer support.

Aside from Black Friday, customer service requests are quite common. 62% of customers reach out for some form of service every month whether by phone, email, text, live support or chat. Therefore, be prepared to answer questions from an influx of customers expecting immediate assistance.

For shoppers, the most important aspects of customer service are getting issues resolved in a single interaction and conversing with a knowledgeable customer service representative.

You may consider being personally available or having someone else on standby to answer customer questions in real time. 

Providing good customer service also helps to build trust in your brand. As much as 95 percent of consumers say that customer service is important for brand loyalty.

9 Black Friday Marketing Strategies to Try

These 11 Black Friday strategies are designed to help you drive traffic and sales so you can capitalize on the biggest shopping day of the year. The time to implement them is now to ensure your online store is positioned to reap the benefits.

1. Put retargeting strategies in place.

Some people are window shoppers – they’ll browse your site, look through your offerings and choose to leave without making a purchase. This, however, does not mean that they aren’t interested or that you have to lose them as customers. 

With the right retargeting strategies, you can follow up with people who never checked out online.

If you are a BigCommerce user, there are even specific apps you can use specifically for this purpose. With the right marketing automation tool, you can set up email sequences targeted to shoppers who abandoned their carts on your site.

2. Lean on social media.

Social media is a great place for brands to provide engaging, high quality content that entices customers to make a purchase. In addition to promoting blog posts via social media, you should also be creating informational content that is valuable to your audience.

While planning your social media marketing strategy this Black Friday remember to include a sense of urgency in your messages — but, be careful to not overdo it. Buyers will quickly become immune to an endless stream of “limited time offers” and begin to ignore them if they see too many of them.

3. Upsell and cross-sell your products.

Upselling is when customers choose a product and are then encouraged to upgrade their choice to a higher-end, more expensive version. A great example of upselling is shown in the image below from Amazon, where customers are prompted to select other related items than what they originally chose.

holiday ecommerce

Cross-selling offers customers the opportunity to purchase related or complementary items that fulfill a need their original item doesn’t.

When it comes to cross selling, remember that it’s not only about getting customers to purchase higher-end products. The goal is to offer related products that present a better solution to meeting the customers’ needs.

4. Take advantage of BOGO promotions.

Give your customers a reason to do more business with you while still offering a Black Friday offer. BOGO — or buy one, get one — is where customers buy one item and get a similar, comparable item for free or discounted.

If you are looking to boost foot traffic, consider offering this promotion exclusively in your physical retail location to capture more holiday shoppers.

5. Launch new products.

The Black Friday weekend is a great time to introduce a new product, but, in order for your product launch to be successful, you have to create a newfound excitement to engage new and existing customers.

You can increase awareness by using your blog, store promotions or by partnering with industry influencers. Here are a few tactics to consider:

  • Make the necessary preparations
  • Keep the suspense going as long as you can
  • Test thoroughly before launching
  • Take pre-orders
  • Collect feedback after the launch

The main benefit of product launches is that they draw attention to your company and your brand. This extra attention can often lead to more customers and increased sales for both your existing products and your new ones alike.

6. Delight your most loyal customers.

Especially in a year that has been challenging for many, surprising and delighting your customers can go a long way. Whether it’s taking your customer service to the next level or creating a customer loyalty and rewards program, delivering a leading customer experience lets your customers know you’ll always go the extra mile for them — even on the big day.

Giving unanticipated rewards to customers can renew their interest, restore their loyalty and boost your sales. A great way to surprise your customers is to reach out to them personally. Connect digitally with SMS marketing or send handwritten thank you notes to your most loyal shoppers. This will make them feel special and appreciated, showing them that they are important to you. Also, be sure to engage with customers on social media with personalized direct messages to those who have shared your content or liked your posts.

This ability to reach out to customers on a personal level can also give you a competitive edge against big-box retailers.

7. Go beyond Black Friday.

Black Friday is only one day during a long holiday weekend where customers expect to bag phenomenal deals. It’s important to consider your approach and have a marketing strategy for all five days of Cyber Week, like Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday.

Encourage your customers to not only take advantage of your holiday deals, but your engaged customer community. To do this, you can leverage continued email marketing, engage on social media and send abandoned cart notifications.

8. Add a touch of personalization in everything you do.

Sending tailored messages that are personalized to your customers will boost your sales, your average order value and increase your conversion rate. 

Nearly 89% of marketers reported that using personalization resulted in increased revenue, while 63% of shoppers expect their purchase history to direct personalized encounters from brands.

Why? Because they don’t want to feel like they’re one in a million or that they’re receiving a message from you that you’ve sent to hundreds of other people. They want to know that they matter to you.

Personalization allows you to demonstrate this. Here are a few different ways you can offer a personalized experience:

  • Offer different deals to different customer groups (new customers versus VIP customers, for example) to tailor your messages based on buying behaviors.
  • On product pages, include recommendations based on what other customers bought in addition to the product the shopper is viewing.

You can also create a special holiday experience for shoppers on your homepage and with a Black Friday landing page featuring your top-selling products, services and specials to help boost ecommerce sales.

9. Build out an email marketing strategy in advance.

Optimize your email marketing strategy by planning ahead and creating several email marketing campaigns tailored to your holiday promotions.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are infamously all about time-sensitive deals. Your email campaigns should awaken a sense of urgency with subject lines that raise curiosity and compel people to read the email.

Begin planning, creating, and scheduling your email campaigns about a month before Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Wrapping Up

Do you have a countdown timer ticking away in anticipation for Black Friday to arrive? If so, you’re definitely not the only one.

With a little preparation, you can put yourself in perfect alignment to gain some new customers this holiday season. 

People are still shopping, looking for deals and this year is expected to be no different.

The only change is one that benefits you – customers are leaning towards online shopping now more than ever before. They’re bargain hunting and searching for deals so if your website is search engine optimized chances are good that they’ll discover your store. 

All the odds are in your favor. If you play your cards right your holiday sales could be more than you ever thought possible.

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