2021 Black Friday Marketing Strategies: How to Win Over Customers and Maximize Sales

BFCM 2021 is just a few weeks away and now is the time to rev up your marketing efforts to make a splash and set your brand apart from the competition. Follow these 14 tips to get ahead ahead of the pack! 

This time of year signals the start of one of the biggest global shopping events — Black Friday and Cyber Monday (BFCM). Retailers and brands of all sizes are already prepping for the onslaught of incoming web traffic while goal-oriented shoppers are starting to hunt for the most attractive deals on everything from high-ticket items to budget and wholesale products. 

With the big weekend quickly approaching (Black Friday falls on November 26th and Cyber Monday is November 29th) and thousands of stores now easily accessible online, the question for brands and retailers today is: What can I do to stand out from the noise? 

Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. In this post, we’ll detail 14 of the best marketing, advertising, and social media strategies you can implement over the next few weeks to put your brand ahead of the pack and ensure Black Friday and Cyber Monday success. Let’s dive in! 

Build Anticipation for Big Savings & New Product Launches 

Jo Malone prompts shoppers to sign up for their email list to gain special access to BFCM 2021 sales.
Jo Malone prompts shoppers to sign up for their email list to gain special access to BFCM 2021 sales.

The most successful Black Friday marketing campaigns know how to keep customers on their toes. You can build anticipation for new product launches and get your customers excited about deep savings in several ways:

  • Sneak peeks at new products on your social media accounts and influencer posts can help drive momentum. 
  • Teasers on your website can keep your brand top of mind. 
  • A countdown timer can build anticipation for upcoming deals on your site that browsers have to check out when holiday shopping officially begins.
  • Send emails to your subscribers ahead of time to create buzz around deep discounts and exclusive deals.
  • Remind shoppers to update their Black Friday wishlists before the big shopping event so they are ready to snag the best deals. 

Use Each Marketing Channel for Its Unique Strength 

Potential Black Friday customers are spread across numerous digital platforms, so you need to be prepared to meet customers wherever they are browsing — be it social media, email or your website. The important thing is to use each of these channels in the most optimal way to inspire different types of shoppers. For example: 

  • Social media — These platforms are great spaces to boost organic engagement and keep a pulse on what your shoppers are looking to buy during BFCM. Once you know which products you want to promote, the next step is to create eye-catching posts, stories, and videos for your company’s Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook pages. 
  • Influencers — Influencer marketing can extend your reach to new audiences on Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, and other popular digital networks. One way to get influencers involved is to give them free access to your best sellers and special items that will be discounted for BFCM in exchange for product endorsements.
  • Niche communities — You can promote highly specific product collections in niche online groups or community pages that are based on shared interests, such as outdoor activities, pet lovers, or sports enthusiasts. This is an ideal way to inspire casual browsers who have only a general sense of what they want to buy without any specific items in mind.
  • Email campaigns — Email subscribers are already interested in your brand and products, so don’t forget about this low hanging fruit when you start preparing your BFCM promotions. To be effective, make sure your email subject lines are short and attention-grabbing. We recommend that you try a few different options and then conduct A/B tests to see which subject lines result in the best open rates. To improve your click-through rates, try adding offers such as exclusive promo codes, gifts, or free shipping vouchers that are only accessible on your website. 

Getting your message effectively across different channels requires careful planning and the right timing. Customers will likely be exposed to a stream of exclusive Black Friday discounts and offers, and it is possible for them to experience burnout. That’s why it’s important to strike a balance — with too many offers, consumers may start ignoring you and with too few offers, your brand can get lost in the shuffle. To stay relevant, focus on creating memorable, engaging and high value deals that are hard for your audience to ignore or forget about. 

Create Highly Curated Gift Guides 

Kay Jewelers’ Black Friday landing page highlights their shareable holiday gift guide.
Kay Jewelers’ Black Friday landing page highlights their shareable holiday gift guide.

Gift guides benefit consumers and retailers alike:

  • For brands and retailers, gift guides can inspire shopping journeys that consumers never planned to take, resulting in new customers, additional revenue, and increased brand loyalty. Carefully curated guides with strong SEO optimization can also be a tremendous help with improving retailers’ search rankings for the holidays.
  • For shoppers, effective gift guides will highlight specific products or deals that can help them to plan their holiday purchases in advance of Black Friday weekend. Some gift guides even have the added capability of allowing shoppers to forward the products they like to family and friends. 

Once you’ve created your brand’s BFCM gift guide, make sure to feature it prominently on your site’s homepage or navigation menu. You should also make gift guides available on social media, and you can consider submitting them as guest posts to popular online publications for added exposure.

Ride the Right Trends for an Extra Boost

Viewer watches Squid Game on Netflix with remote control in hand.
The green jumpsuits from Netflix’s Squid Game are highly recognizable right now, as the show is on track to become the most-watched program in any language in Netflix history. 

Be one with the times—make references to trends or pop culture that can help you relate to your audience. For example, here are some questions you should consider: 

  • Is there a popular Netflix show that you can tie into your copy or imagery for one of your promotions? For example, Squid Game is all the rage right now. An athletic gear company could take advantage of this trend to promote green track suits similar to those worn by the players in Squid Game. 
  • Do you have any products you can highlight that are related to timeless pop culture icons, celebrity outfits, or home decor hacks? 
  • Are there any relevant hashtags you can use to get your posts in front of more potential customers? 

Each of these tactics can help you reach new shoppers who are not yet familiar with your brand. Try combining trending topics with discounted items, and you might just gain new followers who are keen to buy unique finds, collectibles, and more come Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Offer a Mix of Time-Based Promotions to Attract More Customers

Zaful’s calendar of time-sensitive sales for November 2021.
Zaful’s calendar of time-sensitive sales for November 2021.

To attract the attention of your target customers, you can implement different plays to keep your message fresh and inviting. One way to do that is by offering different promotions at different times. For example:

  • Start sales early – Brands can start certain sales a week or more before BFCM, giving customers a head start on big savings. This strategy is not only appealing to shoppers, it is also beneficial to brands and retailers because it allows you to space out your orders and process fulfillment and delivery options in a more manageable way. During unpredictable times such as the COVID-19 pandemic, this can be especially helpful.
  • Extend sales past BFCM – You can also extend the holiday weekend sales later than expected to lure in shoppers with deals they can’t ignore even after Black Friday. 
  • Very short or very long promotions – Consider experimenting with month-long, week-long, day-long, or hour-only flash sales. Each of these strategies can attract different types of shoppers, and ultimately increase your BFCM revenue before or after the big weekend itself.   

Pro tip: To make it easier for shoppers to remember which sales are happening at which times, we recommend setting up a way for them to add each event to their own calendars. An .ics file, for example, can contain a link to your website and other details that directly connect shoppers to relevant landing pages. You may also want to combine email notifications with timely SMS messages just to be sure your shoppers won’t miss any of your sales events.

Prevent Cart Abandonment with Well-Timed Offers and Promotions

Glossier email countdown displays the hours, minutes and seconds left before their sale ends.
Glossier email countdown displays the hours, minutes and seconds left before their sale ends.

You won’t always have high-intent shoppers on Black Friday. Sometimes, you’ll have window shoppers who will browse your site and your products, and then leave. Others will go so far as to add items to their cart or wishlist, and then leave without purchasing. When faced with these types of consumers, there are two simple strategies you can and should implement to change these shoppers from missed opportunities into satisfied customers:

  • Email reminders:  For individuals who signed up for an account, you can regain interest with an email highlighting special discounts on cart or wishlist items, as well as complementary products. Make sure the discounts are eye-catching and hard to refuse. For example, Buy One, Get One (BOGO) is a strategy that works extremely well both online and offline. In BOGO sales, the second item can be free or offered at a significant discount (e.g. 50% off), which is a deal many shoppers are thrilled to find.  
  • Exit pop-ups: Alternatively, you can take action even before a shopper clicks the exit button on your site. You can do this by implementing an exit-intent pop-up notification that appears if the shopper’s mouse movements imply that they are about to leave the page empty-handed. Use the pop-up to provide exclusive discounts that urge them to complete the purchase now. 

Make the Shopping Experience Unique and Fun with Gamification 

Twitter post from Boohoo promoting a game for Cyber Monday.
Twitter post from Boohoo promoting a game for Cyber Monday.

If you want to step up your shoppers’ Black Friday shopping experience, one popular and engaging way to do that is through gamification. It can be something as elaborate as a mini-game inside of your app or as simple as an online raffle or Instagram filter that lets customers win prizes, just like what Boohoo did for Cyber Monday in 2020. 

Either way, you need to find the sweet spot where your game isn’t too complicated that visitors simply give up, or too plain that people scroll past it. Done right, this strategy will increase the time users spend on your website, app, or social media page. It’s also an ingenious way to grow organic engagement because users can share your campaign with family and friends if they had a positive experience.

Entice Shoppers With Mobile-Only Offers

Ardene promotes VIP treatment for shoppers who download their mobile app.
Ardene promotes VIP treatment for shoppers who download their mobile app.

In 2020, Adobe Analytics predicted that 42% of online holiday shopping would be done with smartphones, which was up 55% from the previous year. This time around, after another year of the COVID-19 pandemic, we expect the trend will only continue — which is why it’s worth offering special deals and creating Black Friday advertisements that are only available on mobile devices and mobile apps.

You can encourage mobile users to download your app by offering special discounts for in-app purchases. Ardene, for example, offered an extra 10% off to all 2020 BFCM shoppers who downloaded their app and set up a VIP account. Other companies sweetened the deal with extra perks such as free shipping or referral programs that make it worthwhile for shoppers to continue using their mobile app for future purchases. 

Rewards programs, in particular, have had a lot of success in this area. In fact, Google found that at least 51% of smartphone users are more likely to use a company or brand’s mobile app when browsing or shopping online because they can get rewards or points that reduce their total costs when they check out. 

Grab Attention with Impactful Visual Merchandising

Attracting attention and creating a sense of urgency in your Black Friday marketing is not only about writing powerful web copy, it also requires playing with the right visual elements. Here are a few different ways to set the right tone: 

  • Promote sale items at the top of each page so shoppers don’t have to scroll down to see them.
  • Use a product count number (e.g. “only five left!”) to prompt customers to add items to their carts before they are out of stock. 
  • Create bold or brightly colored banners to make users notice top deals. 
  • Drive shoppers to act fast with countdown timers conveniently located next to highly coveted merchandise.
  • Clearly identify the savings that shoppers will earn from each of their BFCM purchases. 
  • Highlight any possible product bundles of sale items with complementary items in recommendation carousels. 

Bundle Slow-Moving Products With New or Best-Selling Items 

Another way to leverage smart merchandising is to pair slow-moving or declining products with newly launched items or best sellers. To do this effectively, you should start by segmenting your inventory according to the product life cycle: introductory products, maturing products, growth products, and declining products. Then, you can create product bundles that pair new items with declining ones. Done right, this can move dead stock while generating excitement and drawing more attention to your brand, particularly if you already successfully teased shoppers with information about your new and best-selling products.

There is, however, a caveat: It is absolutely critical that the items you’re surfacing are relevant to your shoppers’ intent. For example, it makes sense to offer discounts on leftover bathing suits from last summer if a Black Friday shopper is currently looking at sunglasses, sandals, and sun hats — but not to a shopper looking at coats and rain boots. Remember that maximizing your chance of conversion lies in your ability to always provide value to the customer.  

Promote Your Site’s Product Discovery Tools

Coleman Furniture offers shoppers the ability to search for items by uploading a photo instead of typing into the standard search bar.
Coleman Furniture offers shoppers the ability to search for items by uploading a photo instead of typing into the standard search bar. 

BFCM shoppers are in a rush to be the first to snatch up the best deals, which makes this an ideal time to promote the tech tools you have on your site that make it easier for shoppers to find exactly what they’re looking for. Here are some possible features to highlight to promote effective product discovery

  • Voice search – Highlight the ability for shoppers to search your site through voice command, which has become much more popular since the rise of Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant. 
  • Visual search – Make sure shoppers know they can upload an image or screenshot of a product they like, and then instantly view any items on your site that are similar to the photo itself. Coleman Furniture, for example, has a tooltip that introduces shoppers to their visual search engine on the homepage. 
  • Shop the look – Highlight editorial photo galleries filled with your products and let customers know they have the option to “shop the look” and easily find any items that appear in the photos. For example, if a shopper views a photo of a sofa in a living room,  they will also be able to find the rug and lamp pictured next to the original item of interest. Give them the ability to do this kind of in-context shopping with items they upload to visual search as well. 

Remove Doubts and Potential Bottlenecks

Harry Rosen’s returns procedure is easy to find and understand.
Harry Rosen’s returns procedure is easy to find and understand.

To minimize abandoned carts and halted customer journeys, brands and retailers need to anticipate the areas on their websites where friction is most likely to happen. Here are two common issues that you can preemptively address: 

  • Product comparisons – Many Black Friday consumers want to know that they are getting the best deal and they specifically shop around to compare product prices. To keep them on your site, you can let shoppers know that your site has product comparison technology that clearly identifies how your prices compare to your competition. Tip: If you can’t guarantee the cheapest price, then highlight the benefits your shoppers will receive by shopping with you instead of your competition. For example, you can offer discounted product bundles, free shipping, or unique gifts as giveaways. 
  • Return policies – During any shopping event, and especially during BFCM, returns are likely to become an issue. When the conditions are not clear, it can dissuade shoppers from completing their purchase. On the other hand, at least 42% of internet users in the United States cited an easy return policy as a factor that would increase their likelihood of purchase. So, it pays to let BFCM shoppers know that your brand offers a simple and smooth return policy for all Black Friday purchases. Draw attention to this fact at every step of the shopping journey — from the homepage to the product listing pages, product detail pages, and again at checkout. 

Personalize Your Offers 

Each shopper has a different set of expectations and goes through a different customer journey. By identifying different shopper personas, you can create personalized ads and email campaigns to draw customers into your site. To motivate them to stay  until they make a purchase, you should be able to tailor each individual shopping experience based on real-time intent and context. 

For example, repeat customers should see a more customized homepage than first-time visitors. This can include unique product recommendations that are based on previous purchases and recent browsing behavior. You may also want to offer VIP shoppers special perks on the checkout page, depending on the items in their cart and their loyalty tier.

Regardless of where customers are on your site or the platform they are using—mobile, tablet, or desktop—every step of the way should support personalized shopping experiences.

Even with Black Friday being a highly marketed event, adding a personalization layer to your strategy can make customers feel that they are one in a million. Making shoppers feel seen and understood with personalized experiences is a key for building brand loyalty.

Remind BFCM Customers to Come Back for More Great Experiences 

Chewy has a dedicated page for people looking for Cyber Monday deals even if the shopping event is over.
Chewy has a dedicated page for people looking for Cyber Monday deals even if the shopping event is over.

When BFCM ends, you should follow up with each customer in the subsequent weeks. Remind them of the great experience they had with your brand on Black Friday and start promoting other sales and relevant discounts with highly personalized emails and retargeting ads based on their recent browsing and purchasing behavior. 

After all, the next set of holidays is just around the corner. Make sure to tap into these opportunities with relevant product suggestions based on current and past sessions on your site.

Prep for Success 

There is no shortage of the ways you can strategize for the best Black Friday yet. With the right tools and preparation in place, you can win the BFCM battleground and strike the right balance to delight customers online and maximize sales. This is the time to personalize each individual shopping experience and cater to different shopper personas. 

Remember, if you’re strategic about your marketing campaigns in the lead-up to BFCM and follow the best practices in this guide, you can overcome banner blindness and gain new customers while building brand loyalty from past purchasers. Good luck!