How to prepare for the Black Friday sales

Pete Whitmarsh and Ulla Felden


Black Friday is a huge phenomenon in the US and its popularity among consumers and retailers alike is growing. Last year, Statista found a 15% YoY increase in Black Friday search queries. They also found a third (35%) of consumers say they hold off purchasing goods in the lead up to the Black Friday/ Cyber Monday weekend, which means missing out on this opportunity can make a big difference to your yearly revenue.

What are people buying in the Black Friday sales?

With so much money being spent during the Black Friday weekend, it comes as no surprise that consumers are buying both for themselves and for friends and family. The period signifies the beginning of the Christmas gifting period, and for many sectors, sales during this weekend outperform the traditional Christmas sales period.

Last year, the highest number of purchases were in the following categories:

  • Clothing, footwear, accessories
  • Personal gadgets (phones, tablets)
  • Home electronics
  • DVDs, computer games and books
  • Cosmetics and perfumes.

Preparing for Black Friday

Due to the short-lived, fast-paced nature of Black Friday, having a strong paid media strategy is crucial if you want to grab a share of the sales.

Unlike normal paid media campaigns, where you have months to adjust and perfect the strategy, Black Friday has a turnaround of 24 – 72 hours, which means it needs to be right, right from the start.

There are plenty of platforms to advertise your sales on, so consider which will best suit your audience and allocate budget accordingly beforehand. You should already have a feel for which platforms work best for your audience and looking at your previous years’ Black Friday data can help to provide additional insights as to which channels have historically performed best during the peak season.

Running PPC ads for Black Friday

Due to the competitive nature of Black Friday, planning your PPC campaigns to a T is crucial if you are going to cut through the noise and capitalize on demand.

For each product and/ or category you want to run ads for, you need to know:

  • Budget
  • Audience
  • Keywords
  • Targets
  • Conversion goals.

You will also need an idea of how much stock you have so that you can keep an eye on stock levels and ensure ads are stopped once stock runs out.

In addition to the plan, you need to have a contingency plan – what will you do if your performance is poor, or spend is too fast? Ensuring everyone on the account is aware of what to do in these situations will prevent issues from occurring over the Black Friday weekend.

Top-level decisions, such as budget increases, should be outlined before everyone heads home on Friday, as those working on the account over the weekend may need to make snappy decisions during out of hours. Having clearly defined rules (e.g. budget can be increased by X amount if ROAS is over a certain percentage) will help to keep campaigns running smoothly.

Smart bidding or manual bidding?

Smart bidding strategies are a great tool for improving general campaign performance but historically have been unable to keep up with short seasonal spikes during peak periods like Black Friday. However, Google has recently introduced seasonality adjustments for smart bidding which means you can apply your predicted conversion rate for the Black Friday period (using data from previous years) and Google will consider these adjustments during the selected date range.

With both smart bidding and manual bidding suitable options, it comes down to preference and availability to check and adjust bids over the weekend.

Test, test, and test again

Testing before the sales period minimizes potential problems and helps activity run smoother across the weekend. Experimenting with different ad texts and CTAs in the lead up to identify what ad copy improves performance, checking your shopping feed, and ensuring tracking is set up, will eliminate unnecessary setbacks during the event.

You will need to have someone on hand on the account across the weekend to check in on campaigns and make sure they are on track to hit KPIs and stick to budget, as well as keep an eye on inventory so you can react to low stock, and check competitors for any opportunities – for example, if servers are down or they’ve sold out of products, can you take their share of sales?

How to prepare for Black Friday on Amazon

Amazon is well known for its Black Friday deals, which means many consumers will be turning to the platform for weekend deals. If you are planning on running discounts on your products, ensuring your listings are fully optimized to rank organically for key search terms is crucial as it means you are top of the list when users are searching for products you have. We have provided tips on how to optimize your Amazon product listings here.

Black Friday is a season, not a day

In the UK, search impressions are 2.3x higher in the 14 day lead up to Friday, and 30% of internet users in Europe start their Christmas shopping in November. It is important that you are Black Friday ready before the frenzy begins if you want to capitalize on early searches and Christmas gifting.

Create a Brand Store

If you haven’t done so already, now is the time to create an Amazon Brand Store. Brand Stores are a free service from Amazon which gives you a greater ability to showcase your products professionally on a multi-page, customizable space.

Having a Brand Store gives you greater opportunity to drive more customers, both organically and through paid activity. Each store has a unique URL which can be shared through your various marketing activities, making it easier for prospects to access all of your products at once. Your store URL is available on every product detail page, too, which means users can click through and view more products that may be of additional interest, or more suitable than the product they are already viewing.

Brand Stores also give more opportunity for paid visibility, as you can run Sponsored Brands ads to target keywords in addition to your Sponsored Products and Product Display Ads. There are three types of ads which can be run on Amazon, which you can learn more about here.

During Black Friday season, ensure that your best-selling products and biggest promotions are clearly visible on the Brand Store – above the fold – so that it is easy for users to find and shop the best deals.

Running Amazon ads

Amazon is one of the first places consumers go for Black Friday deals, and there is a lot of brand activity going on that you will need to compete with for sales. Running Amazon ads is a great way to cut through the noise and make your products and deals visible to relevant users.

Prioritize ASINs (Amazon’s unique product identifier, Amazon Standard Identification Number) with deals when it comes to paid activity and budget allocation. Ads without deals are likely to result in high impressions but low clicks, whereas ads with deals are much more likely to get click-throughs and conversions. Making sure you have enough product stock, particularly for discounted products, to cover the entire Black Friday period is crucial as many people will be shopping for Christmas, which can mean reduced sales following Black Friday.

During the Black Friday sales peak, you should be actively monitoring your campaign budgets as this has a direct impact on how successful they will be; moving budgets from low performing to high performing campaigns can make a big difference to your overall revenue from the weekend. You should also keep an eye on your visibility for important keywords throughout the day to make sure your products are visible to users.

What about other sales events?

While Black Friday is a huge phenomenon in the UK and the US, this is not the case in all markets. Different markets have their own peak sales periods – for example, Singles Day is China’s biggest shopping day of the year, while in Australia, Click Frenzy is one of the biggest sales periods.

Our international team have compiled sales events from different global markets into one international annual sales calendar. Never miss an international sales period again!

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