There may still be some lingering uncertainty in 2021, but when it comes to Black Friday, there’s no doubt it’s going to be big. After another challenging year, the annual event presents a valuable opportunity for retailers to drive sales, boost revenue, and entice customers (old and new) with special deals.
Even though the UK economy is still struggling to recover from the impact of the pandemic, things are looking up for retail: the sector recorded its fastest quarterly growth on record in Q2 2021. With sales booming like this now, it's safe to assume that shoppers will be out in full force when Black Friday comes around.
And a significant proportion of these purchases will take place online. Lockdown restrictions led to a huge rise in online shopping, with 26.7% of all UK sales taking place online in June 2021 — up almost 10% from 2019. While shops are set to be open again for this year’s Black Friday, consumers who discovered the joys and convenience of online shopping during the pandemic are likely to return to virtual browsing.
It's not only online sales that ecommerce and multichannel retailers can increase on and around the 26th November, either. Alongside online order volumes, referrals were up earlier this year as consumers recommended their favourite brands to family and friends. Couple this with the fact that shoppers trust recommendations from their friends more than any other source, and a Black Friday referral campaign has serious potential to recover profit margins, acquire new customers, and build loyalty with your existing customers.
Here’s how you can set up a Black Friday referral campaign that acquires new customers and gets them excited to shop with you again.
9 steps to your best Black Friday campaign yet
1. BE PREPARED
As the saying goes, failing to prepare is preparing to fail. Every Black Friday, some retailers find themselves in the bittersweet scenario of outperforming expectations to such an extent that they run out of voucher codes. This means customers are unable to claim their reward for referring friends, and retailers lose potential sales and valuable new customers. Avoid this fate by making sure you’ve got plenty of codes to give out, so as many happy customers can use your offer as possible.
The aftermath of the pandemic (and Brexit) may also mean there's more pressure on your supply chain this year. To overcome this, anticipate which products are likely to sell out and have a strategy ready — such as being able to suggest similar products that are available.
Lastly, make sure your website is ready for a sudden surge in traffic. With virtually every brand running a Black Friday promotion, a website crash can be a costly mistake, even if it only lasts a few minutes. We recommend running tests in advance of 26th November, so you can be confident that absolutely everything is ready to make your campaign a success.
2. MAKE YOUR INCENTIVE IRRESISTIBLE
With so many brands offering Black Friday deals, your incentive has to stand out. Instead of offering a blanket deal across your website, segment your customers and target them with specific offers based on what you know about them. For example, do your second-time customers prefer a percentage off or fixed-sum discounts? Are referred friends more motivated to buy for the first time by a free gift or competition entry? Promote your offers via solus emails and push notifications, focused on times you know customers are likely to act.
To make your referral campaign a success, promote an offer that's not only better than your competitors’, but also better than any other deal on your website.
Double discounts (offering both referrers and referees money off their next purchase) tend to perform particularly well. While you may worry about your profit margins, your referral programme is almost certainly more cost-effective than digital marketing channels like pay-per-click (PPC) and social media ads. Take advantage of this by offering a generous incentive. It may well pay for itself; offering a higher discount than usual is more likely to spike your sales and average order value (AOV), driving a higher overall revenue than a less impressive offer.
It’s not just discounts that perform well, either. Free gifts, third party vouchers, and competitions are a few other ways you can encourage customers to recommend your brand. For subscription-based businesses, it’s also worth considering incentives like a month’s free service.
3. GET CREATIVE WITH COPY AND DESIGN
Black Friday is a great opportunity to reiterate your brand’s USPs and positioning. Use your referral campaign to reinforce your branding, from your messaging and tone of voice to design. Our Black Friday lookbook is full of examples for this, featuring brands from sectors including fashion, fitness, and food.
Using Black Friday-themed branding will make your promotion pop. Explore beyond your traditional colour palette, incorporating splashes of black (or another bold colour) to grab attention and show you’re participating in the event. You can even put your own spin on the event to suit your branding — fashion retailer PrettyLittleThing chose to run a “Pink Friday” promotion last year.
4. PROMOTE IT
Now you’ve come up with a brilliant Black Friday referral campaign with an enticing discount and on-brand design, it’s time to get your customers to take notice.
Black Friday is highly competitive, so it’s vital your campaign is clearly visible and well-promoted at touchpoints throughout the customer journey.
Feature it on your homepage, display as a post-purchase pop-up, shout about it on your socials — wherever your customers are looking, make sure they see it. Use your findings from A/B testing previous referral campaigns to optimise your promotion. Display at the touchpoints you know your customers most engage with (what we call the point of delight) and use wording that resonates (for example, ‘give’ a reward rather than ‘get’ one, or vice versa).
5. RETARGET CUSTOMERS
With so many brands competing for attention and shouting about their amazing offers, it’s easy for customers to feel overwhelmed on Black Friday. They may well visit your site to browse, only to end up being distracted by another brand’s equally tempting offer.
This is when retargeting becomes important.
Strategically use ads to retarget visitors to your site who are yet to complete their purchase. This is even better if you can personalise the messages (e.g. ‘Hey Jo, it’s not too late to get 30% off’). You can complement these ads with follow-up emails, featuring recently viewed items or a reminder of the products they left in their basket. Customers will often shop around for the best deal, so they may well have realised the value of your offer and be ready to buy at this point.
6. CREATE A BUZZ
Black Friday is intense, with every brand doing their best to cut through the noise and reach consumers. Take advantage of the fact that 51% of consumers trust their friend’s or partner's recommendation more than any other source by getting existing customers to share your brand.
Referral isn't the only way to do this — you could launch a competition encouraging user-generated content on Instagram, Twitter, or TikTok. It’s easy for a potential customer to scroll past an advert, but if they’re following numerous people (friends or influencers) all sharing content related to your Black Friday campaign, it’s bound to grab their attention.
7. KEEP IT EXCLUSIVE
Resist the temptation to extend your campaign throughout December. It may keep your online orders up, but it risks hurting your brand’s reputation and long-term profit margins. Continuing to offer discounts beyond Cyber Week sets the expectation that customers don't have to pay full-price, and risks alienating customers who thought they'd got a good deal in your Black Friday sale.
By keeping your Black Friday event exclusive, you're strengthening your brand reputation and reinforcing the value of special events. Plus, returning to full-price means you can continue to recover profit margins, especially if offering brand new products for the Christmas period.
8. MOTIVATE CUSTOMERS TO RETURN
Avoid the dreaded post-Black Friday sales slump by engaging with your customers throughout their journey. New customers are likely to have different characteristics than your existing ones — tailor your interactions to reflect this.
Shoppers may have landed on your site on the hunt for a Black Friday bargain, but engaging with them in the right way can significantly increase the likelihood they'll return and buy again. Invite customers, for example, to sign up to your newsletter for exclusive access to new products. Ask for NPS feedback to gauge customer satisfaction and pinpoint areas where you can improve. Share interesting and informative content, such as how they can make the most of their Black Friday purchase or customers sharing similar purchases on social media. Rather than push the next sale, look to build meaningful relationships with your customers. This will keep you at the front of their minds as they continue their Christmas shopping.
9. MEASURE, MEASURE, MEASURE
We've said it before and we'll say it again: measuring is key. Track how different elements of your campaign influence customer behaviour. Use segmentation and A/B testing to learn more about your customers and what most effectively drives desired actions throughout their journey and lifecycle. You can then use these insights to optimise your performance and create future marketing campaigns that acquire even more loyal customers.
Looking for more ideas and insights as you prepare your Black Friday referral campaign? Download our lookbook for brand examples, stats, and tips to help you drive long-term customer advocacy.