The world has changed significantly since I wrote last year’s Black Friday roundup post, Risk and reward at Black Friday for WordPress products. COVID-19 has accelerated the trend towards digital and eCommerce, and for many WordPress product businesses this has been a record year for revenue.

Yet for some WordPress businesses, and for many of our customers, 2020 has been completely different. The human impact of the pandemic has been immense, most economies have entered a recession, and it has been a real struggle. It can be easy to miss these changes when you were already working remotely and the lockdown routine simply meant you now had to put your MacBook in a different spot in the house each morning.

But regardless of periodic disruption, sales need to fit into a wider pricing strategy, and it’s much more desirable to capture long term value than make short term profits with negative long term impacts. You should always charge what your product is worth, not just the lowest customers are willing to pay!

Black Friday 2020 is on November 27th. It is typically a big revenue event for WordPress businesses, but this year the sale requires care and more attention than usual. Here’s what we think you should do for Black Friday 2020.

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You still don’t have to do a sale

The post I wrote last December has a lot of recommendations which are still relevant, and the main one is you don’t have to do a sale if you don’t want to. There are very good reasons not to: primarily, predictable sales risk making your customers wait for discounts.

You also risk undermining long-term confidence in your pricing, and you “punish” existing customers by offering new customers a better price. Anecdotally, product owners report price-conscious customers often have a higher support load, too. Kinsta is a great example of a company which actively chooses not to do a Black Friday sale; here’s co-founder Tom Zsomborgi:

We are not fans of discounting the service and we don’t want to jump on the bandwagon and offer crazy deals… It’s just my personal opinion but huge discounts for any service where human workforce needs to be involved (like customer support), or there is an ongoing cost (like paying the cloud servers bill), is not possible. Or, it is possible but at the end of the day always the quality will be sacrificed as companies try to make some money to keep the business going.

– Tom Zsomborgi, Kinsta

All of those are perfectly good reasons not to do a sale. In the WordPress sphere we’re pretty bad at looking at the bigger picture; the most successful Black Friday sales work because they fit into a pricing strategy which looks years ahead and maximises long term profitability. Everyone copies everyone else in WordPress, so make sure you’re aware of the impact of your actions. You don’t want to start competing on price and fire the starting gun on a price war which puts you out of business in 2025. Caveats aside, let’s go deeper into what your sale should look like.

Customer segments are increasingly important

In these difficult times, it’s more critical than ever that you’re aware of who you’re targeting. That goes both for your business model in a general sense, and for your attitude towards sales. Any offer isn’t going to appeal to all its potential recipients equally, so the sale model you choose needs to be specifically targeted. Are you hoping to reach:

  • Existing customers who could be tempted with an up-/cross-sell?
  • Your regular new customers who’d be likely to buy on a given day even without a discount?
  • Price-sensitive customers who might require the discount to nudge them into buying your product?
  • Bargain-hunting customers who are scouring the internet for the best Black Friday deals, whatever they might be?

Charging the entire market a single price risks undercharging some segments – eating into your profit – and overcharging others, costing you additional foregone profit since those customers will then buy from other suppliers.

Focus on putting together a great sale package, rather than a headline discount

Part of Ellipsis’ mission is to drive forwards sophistication and understanding of marketing in WordPress, and to that end I want to make a clear suggestion: this year, focus on putting together a great sale package, rather than a headline discount.

In previous years the focus on sales has been on the discount itself: “what is the best discount you can offer?” One of my favourite parts of last year’s post was the analysis of discount levels on offer from 167 products. The results showed us the discount levels seem pretty much picked at random, with spikes at 30%, 40%, and 50%, but also every 5% interval between 10% and 80% in there too:

This year, I’d be much more inclined to move away from putting a headline discount on existing products – especially individual products – and I’d shift the focus towards new or higher value bundles.

Creating a new Black Friday bundle is going to let you do a couple of things:

  • You can create an excellent value offer whilst keeping your average order value high.
  • You can mix essential and nice-to-have value. This works especially well if you have multiple products or addons, with some of them valued more than others. Any nice-to-have extras can still drive up the amount “saved” vs purchasing individually, making the sale even more attractive.
  • You can get a higher average order value than normal, even though you’re offering a big discount.
  • You’re not “punishing” existing customers as it’s a totally new product. You can offer existing customers a special upgrade price which takes off what they’ve paid you already. This lets you reward existing customers whilst still offering a great sale offer.

I’d recommend creating a couple of bundle offers, including a fairly high price one which you don’t expect many customers to take. A multi-year or lifetime licence would be a good option for this. This is going to let you anchor your “main” offer against a more expensive offer.

You should make the “savings”, versus the cost of individual purchases, clear with your bundle offer. You may argue your potential customers will realise they don’t want everything in the bundle, and thus value it less. But the psychology of pricing is strange: even when consumers recognise savings are exaggerated, their behaviour is still favourably influenced towards the purchase by the perceived discount (Nagle, Hogan, and Zale: The Strategy and Tactics of Pricing).

A couple of final notes: whilst your bundle is going to mix nice-to-have and essential value, your sale should be fair and trustworthy: be very clear this is a temporary offer and it will expire – no exceptions for those who purchase after the deal is over. If you’re going to be offering new customers a better deal, I’d also give it to any existing customers who’ve purchased recently before the sale and ask for it. You can define what “recently” is for you. You don’t want your sale to cost you goodwill.

Communicate your sale clearly – and early

The build-up to Black Friday starts now. 84% of US consumers and 73% of UK consumers report delaying purchases from the start of October to Black Friday (source). We see this in search data in the leading period:

Build up to Black Friday, as seen in Google search volumes for 2019. Source same as the link above.

This is extremely useful data: where we talk about the risk of making customers delay purchases, this is where you see it play out.

84% of US consumers and 73% of UK consumers report delaying purchases from the start of October to Black Friday.

The month beforehand (which is now) is where potential customers enter a heavy consideration stage. If there’s any evidence when I search your product name + Black Friday sale on Google that you’ve done a sale previously, I’m going to find it and expect one this year.

The data also helps with your sale planning: you want to take advantage of “The Craze” and start your sale the week before Black Friday. Indeed, with cash needing to go further this year, announcing the sale early can also help with planning: customers will appreciate you communicating your sale clearly and early, thus letting them plan their purchases better.

You can see interest drops off a cliff after Cyber Monday, so ending on the Monday is good. Being able to have a “sale closing” urgency period whilst Black Friday interest is still high is preferable to dragging the sale out another couple of days when interest is significantly lower.

The above matches with what Barn2, who sell WooCommerce and WordPress plugins, found last year:

Starting the sale a week before Black Friday [which we hadn’t done before] was the right decision because 56% of the sales we received during the sale took place before Black Friday.

– Katie Keith, Co-Founder, Barn2

If you want to exploit this rise in interest beforehand, you may want to consider using a pricing mechanism to force your product higher up the potential customer’s priority list. This is what Chris Badgett, co-founder of Lifter LMS, reported worked last year:

“What went well is how we do a bigger discount the week before Black Friday.”

– Chris Badgett, Co-founder, Lifter LMS

Having a bigger discount the week before Black Friday is going to let you have an urgency period (“discount ending, buy now!”) just as interest is peaking, whilst still letting you offer a good deal the week after. You may get some pushback from customers on this, so if you do this make sure it’s communicated clearly. Conveniently, we’ll talk about that next.

Distributing the sale

This year I want us to think about Black Friday through the lens of funnels and stages:

  • The build-up: create strong awareness immediately beforehand
  • The craze: your main sale period where most customers will make their purchase
  • The last call: final urgency period, letting you close on any potential customers stuck in the consideration stage

Let’s review each of these stages!

Image adapted from source.

The build-up

As we discussed, clear communication is more important than ever this year. Give your potential customers the information they need to make a purchasing decision early. This means announcing your sale is coming soon, especially if you’ve put together a bespoke bundle.

The announcement doesn’t need to be too complicated: a single blog post, social blast (including any Facebook groups you manage/run), and an email blast announcing your deal is coming next week is great.

You can get creative with the copy: you’ll probably get best results from announcing when the deal will be revealed and letting readers opt-in to be the first to know. This is going to let you have an immediate sale boost when sales open. You’re also adding intrigue by keeping the details “under wraps” until the big reveal. As long as you have a genuinely great offer, this will pay off.

The craze

The craze is going to be the period in which you make the bulk of your sales. You’re first going to need to announce the deal itself (making sure it’s at the time you promised you would in your run-up!), and blast it to your network: emails, social, blog, you name it. If you have an affiliate program, you might want to speak to your affiliates and see if they can help with promotion. If you’ve created special mailing lists just for the deal itself, then it’s vital to communicate effectively to them – they’ve already expressed interest in the deal, after all!

Be sure to structure and target your campaign so that both new and existing customers understand they’re getting a great deal. The last thing you want is for your existing users to feel left out.

Tailoring the look and feel of your site during the sale period will help add to the event hype and maximise both awareness and conversions. Banner ads or other prominent positions on your site are great for this.

Rather than automatically discounting your customers’ baskets on checkout, try offering a coupon instead – this will let customers feel as if they’re adding the discount themselves, subtly reinforcing their satisfaction at “getting a good deal”. It’s a good idea to disable any existing coupons for the duration of the sale to prevent any “double-stacking” of discounts.

As the week goes on, keep up the buzz by sending a couple of emails to your lists. You can innovate and keep things fresh by adding an element of randomness – flash sales or limited-availability bundles will create unpredictability and urgency.

The last call

This is your last chance to make extra sales, and you’re going to be relying mostly on your existing network for this, so up your email game! You can lean on people’s innate loss aversion with “sale closing” emails 12 and 3 hours before the discount ends – crank up the urgency with a countdown timer in the email as well as on the site itself.

If you’re still seeing sales coming in right to the last minute it can be tempting to keep the sale live a little longer – but don’t give in to the temptation. It’s vitally important for your trustworthiness that you’re seen to keep your word, particularly where a deal is concerned. Reward those who got there in time and ensure that those who missed out know they shouldn’t delay their decision in future!

Email copy not your forte? Ellipsis can handle it all end-to-end for you; our best Black Friday ever offer has an “all in” package which has us taking care of all your emails, blog posts, and sale communications. We can handle everything from email copy, setup, automation, and ongoing support to maximise value. See the link above, or get in touch!

Get Ready for Black Friday 2020!

Okay! That was a lot to take in – let’s take a look at what you can do today to make your 2020 Black Friday sale a success:

  1. Assess whether a Black Friday sale fits with your brand, and if so which segments of your customer base you most want to target this year.
  2. Put together a tempting bundle offering that will appeal to current and potential users, rather than picking a simple discount price across the board.
  3. Do everything you can to increase awareness of your sale ahead of time, and keep up the hype during the sale period itself with flash sales and countdown timers.
  4. Tailor your strategy across each of the three key stages of Black Friday.

If that sounds daunting, we’re here to take the pressure off. Whether it’s overall marketing strategy, revenue-focused email marketing, conversion optimised copy – Ellipsis has you covered. We’d love to work with you to make your Black Friday 2020 the best yet!

Let’s make your Black Friday sale better than ever

Get bespoke sale design, or have us take care of the full sale setup for you. Make this year better than ever!

See what we can do for you

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About Alex Denning

Hey, I'm Alex! I'm the Founder of Ellipsis, and I co-curate the really good weekly newsletter MasterWP. I'm @AlexDenning 👏

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