Prepare your Ecommerce for Q4: Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Christmas

According to Adobe’s 2017 online shopping data, last year Cyber Monday hit a new record as the largest online sales day in U.S. history with $6.59 billion. In comparison, Black Friday and Thanksgiving Day brought in $5.03 billion and $2.87 billion in revenue respectively.

Over the five-day period from Nov. 23, 2017 (Thanksgiving) through Nov. 27 (Cyber Monday), American consumers spent $19.62 billion online. This was $2.6 billion and 15% more than they spent during the same timeframe the year before.

If the fourth quarter is the best time of the year in Ecommerce, then Black Friday and Cyber Monday are the greatest opportunity for online retailers for a piece of that huge brick-and-mortar pie.


And you as an Ecommerce manager should be preparing for it weeks ago. Here’s how.

1. Know your Ecommerce calendar

“In the US, the Christmas season usually tips off after Thanksgiving, but as retailers grow more aggressive in taking on e-commerce, they are introducing holiday promotions and advertising for the holiday season as early as September—a phenomenon the industry pegs the Christmas creep.” – Bisnow reports.

Q4 Ecommerce sales holidays calendar:

  • Halloween – Oct 31 (4th largest online sales holiday)
  • Thanks Giving – Nov 22
  • Black Friday – Nov 23 (average online spending of $400 per user)
  • Cyber Monday – Nov 26 (biggest sales day of the entire year; $6.59 billion in sales last year)
  • Green Monday – Dec 10 (largest online sales day in Dec)
  • Free Shipping Day – Dec 16

You probably should be preparing for those dates weeks ago! It’s not only about discounts and promotions. It’s also about making the most of the season and avoiding any spectacular crashes or customer care failures.

2. Buying userflows audit

Review last years analytics and metrics for various devices. Draw conclusions. Pay attention to tablet and mobile sales. Rethink how you present promotions throughout the customer decision journey – highlight those CTAs. Improve all buying userflows. Contact us to get it done on time.

According to Forbes, in 2017 mobile set a new record representing 47.4% of visits (39.9% smartphones, 7.6% tablets) and 33.1% of revenue (24.1% smartphones, 9.0% tablets). Smartphone revenue specifically grew 32.2% from last year, reaching $1.59 billion, a new all-time high.

Be where your customers are while traveling, spending time off and thinking about getting some gifts for the family – in their mobile devices. Improve your Responsive Web Design (RWD).

3. Load testing

Traffic peak is coming. More importantly orders peak is coming and this one is far more difficult to handle.

Caching static content pages is easy. Just utilize any CDN. Handling ten fold order volume requires preparation and advanced engineering. It will take a few weeks to get right. Prepare early. Better safe then sorry.

“I would be interested to hear how retailers’ earnings were affected by site crashes late Cyber Monday — Eddie Bauer and Nordstrom for instance didn’t seem to have enough front-end capacity to serve all their visitors. I was able to hit the homepage of both sites but no product pages, and I’m sure they weren’t the only two retailers affected by lack of capacity planning.” a WSJ user Thea Domber comments.

“EB seemed to make right by extending their promo through the day, while Nordstrom had lots of apologies through its social media channels but no extra time for their Cyber Monday promotion” – Thea writes.

Time is the most precious resource. If you fail to prepare, prepare to fail. Contact us to get it done on time.

4. UX & Performance fixes

When you factor in userflows audit conclusions and load testing results you’re likely to get a list of UX and performance fixes.

Your primary motivation and incentive should be maximizing ROI during Q4 but sometimes UX fixes fall to the end of the to-do list. But the users will come and they will test your UX in great numbers. Maybe avoiding UX mishaps and minimizing Customer Care workload is a motivation booster.

Keep it usable, keep it simple. Empower mobile users.

5. Ecommerce SEO

Get some of that Google search results real estate. In Ecommerce it is still location, location, location. Meaning screen space. Getting users attention. But getting it takes time.

In Ecommerce Google Structured Data is probably the most effective tool for getting the most Google real estate and differentiating your search results from the competitions. Use it.

Research the topic yourself or get some expert help. Implement the improvements early.

6. Promotions

RetailMeNot found that 70% of retailers started promoting Black Friday offers before Thanksgiving, and that the average duration of the offers was 10 days.

What sells? Electronics and appliances were the best-performing category on Thanksgiving and Black Friday, with sales up nearly 27% from a year earlier, First Data found. Clothing and accessories grew 10%, as did sporting goods, while health and personal care was up nearly 8% – WSJ reports.

Pay attention to weather patterns – Suzanne Kapner of WSJ advises. Last year sales in the Eastern U.S. were helped by a cold snap, while sales in states west of the Mississippi were hurt by warmer than usual temperatures, according to Planalytics, which analyzes historical weather patterns and industry sales data. For instance, sales of women’s boots were up 12% in Hartford, Conn., but down 19% in Denver, Planalytics found.

7. Ecommerce marketing automation

Traffic peak is coming. Surely not every user will complete their shopping experience.

Automate abandoned cart recovery. Sign those users up for a newsletter or an automated product recommendation. Dig that traffic gold to maximize your returns on Ecommerce investments. Or loose out on over 90% of traffic which does not convert into sales.

Capture those lost orders or say bye bye to lost profits.

8. Bulletproofing fulfillment integration

Automation is key to handling sales peaks. The only problem is that no fulfillment integration is 100% bulletproof.

Identify any re-occurring issues. Fix them. Anything you can handle in low season will backfire during high season and swamp your merchandising and customer service with customer inquiries and extra work. Not mentioning customer frustration and bad press.

Contact us to not let any orders slip through the cracks.

9. Shipping transparency

Are you informing your clients about expected delivery dates? Any extra shipping costs? Transparency is key!

As pointed out by WSJ “surging levels of web orders will test retailers’ fulfillment and logistics operations and put added pressure on shipping companies like United Parcel Service Inc. and FedEx Corp.” Some of the delivery companies are introducing extra charges for their services.

Let’s get crystal clear on what customers should expect.

10. Systems Monitoring

Know your platform. If you don’t have any metrics in place, you cannot manage your business continuity or prepare for traffic and order peaks. You’re flying blind.

Google Analytics is not enough. Monitor your backend. Monitor your 3rd party integrations performance.

Monitor early, catch all anomalies, fix them. Q4 is hardly the time for debugging, maintenance or downtime.

Contact us to get it done on time.

11. Dev & Devops on standby

Have someone on standby during the busiest sales days and hours. Q4 is not over after Black Friday. Fail elegantly and learn from the past mistakes.

Improve during night time to be ready during daytime. Minimize maintenance periods during your customers waking hours.

Make sure to set it up ahead of time.

12. Customer Service channels available

Allow for Multi Channel Customer Service. It’s quite easy with cloud services such as Zendesk.

Think ticketing system. Think email, online chat, searchable FAQ lists. Think catching social media comments or praises.

If you’re only thinking about it now, you’ll probably be late to the party.

Contact us to set it up on time.

So much to do, so little time till Black Friday. 

Spark Solutions is a software house, based in Warsaw, Poland, which specializes in Ecommerce web application development – online stores and marketplaces for US clients.

All web applications being developed are based on Spree Commerce open-source framework because Spark Solutions team is the core team behind this open source project. Spark Solutions also coordinates efforts of hundreds of developers all over the globe to make Spree the best Ecommerce platform in the world.

In cooperation with PayPal Spark Solutions has developed the official Braintree & PayPal extension for Spree which allows Spree-based Ecommerce platforms to fully utilize Credit Card payments and PayPal Express payments.

Contact us to have a serious discussion about your Ecommerce venture.

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Michal FaberPrepare your Ecommerce for Q4: Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Christmas

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