We’re down to the wire when it comes to Black Friday and Cyber Monday 2019. Due to the way that Thanksgiving fell on the calendar this year, the holiday sales cycle is compressed and shortened. This compression has already had tremendous impacts on eCommerce businesses this month. eCommerce companies across the spectrum are struggling to get traffic and conversions out of their standard ad spends.
I caught up with two LEGITIMATE eCommerce ninjas in order to shed some light on how to really make the most of the holiday season now and moving forward into 2020. AJ Yager and Meaghan Connell are the masterminds behind Praxis Metrics and are two of the most helpful I’ve ever met in this industry.
We dove into ways that you can leverage data to help you maximize your ROI and ROAS. While we focused on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, these tips and this information is applicable year-round.
The first step to maximizing your returns is making sure that you have data.
That means getting your tracking in order. Lots of business owners and marketers put tracking off. It’s a common impulse.
Tracking takes time and it feels tedious to set up triggers and events for everything on your site, but no one can make up historical data. If you don’t set up your tracking until you’ve already been in business for 5 years, you will miss out on 5 years of data and insights.
Even waiting to start until after the holidays will cause you to miss out on potential insights into how you can better capture and serve your customers.
We recommend that everyone do a quick audit of their tracking systems to establish where they are now. Some of the things to check in this audit are:
- Do your UTMs all track properly across your customer journey?
- Are your UTMs organized in a way that makes sense and actually helps you better understand your customers?
- Can you see right now where your traffic is coming from, and which traffic converts the best?
If you can’t answer yes to all of those questions, then you won’t be able to get nearly as much out of your Black Friday data.
Moving into UTMs, you NEED to make sure to track all of your marketing efforts with UTMs. They can help you track variations on ads, help with split testing, and give you clarity into what marketing efforts actually drive results for your business.
Step two to maximizing your returns is reviewing your data.
If you already have UTMs in place and feel confident in your tracking, then you can take the next few weeks to review your data. Look at what has worked for you in the past: analyze which emails have the best open and click-through rates, check which ads yield the highest ROAS, what buttons drive the highest cart values, etc.
Too often we get caught up in our plans for the future. We get locked in a cycle of what we want to test next, and we forget to look at what we’ve done in the past that worked. Those that fail to learn from the past are doomed to repeat it. If you don’t go back and review your data, you could potentially miss out on huge and easy wins for your business.
As we talked about earlier, Black Friday being pushed back a week has changed the face of the buying season. Many eCommerce companies are in full-blown panic mode right now because their year-over-year revenues are way down from last year.
We suggest that, rather than making month-to-month or day-to-day comparisons, look at your data through the lens of days before Black Friday. So, if today was 5 days before Black Friday, you could compare it to 5 days before Black Friday last year. Then you can start to analyze what your marketing efforts looked like on that day last year, what worked, what KPIs you saw success in, and how those impacted sales on Black Friday.
We recommend focusing on driving traffic to your site and getting them browsing your products. Then you can leverage retargeting to reach them during your Black Friday sale and focus on driving them to purchase.
Metrics You Can Use to Get a Leg up This Black Friday and Cyber Monday
Now, we want to switch gears and talk about what metrics specifically you should analyze and track to make sure that you have the best Black Friday and Cyber Monday possible.
Average Order Value (AOV)
This one seems basic, and it is, but we see eCommerce companies forget about this frequently during this time of the year.
Most companies focus on their profitability and the discount rates around this time of the year. That should be a top priority, but you also need to make sure that you have your upsell flows, recommended products, and bundles in order to make sure that your AOV doesn’t tank. While you may want to focus on client acquisition, you still need to make sure that these new customers provide value to your business.
This is one of the primary metrics that you should review from last year. Explore what bundles drove higher cart values, what products drove cross-sales, and what upsell flows performed best for your business.
Promo Code Effectiveness
This seems like a no-brainer, and, hopefully, you already have examined this data. Looking back at what discounts you ran last year and seeing what worked, what failed, and what fizzled will help inform you as to what you should do this year.
In addition to just looking at the surface level of this metric, we recommend that you deep-dive into when your customers used your different codes, what time of day they purchased, what the AOV was based on discount code, and what was the average discount per code.
Black Friday and Cyber Monday are some of the worst possible times to run out of inventory. Obviously, you can’t perfectly predict this year based off last year, but by examining your historical data and comparing that with this year’s demand, you can get a better feel for how much you need to order.
Many eCommerce companies neglect to factor staffing into their costs. During this time of increased demand, lots of businesses need to bring on extra help; but they fail to account for this increased cost in their cost of goods sold.
Not accounting for this can easily turn your sale from an asset to a liability. Typically, as you increase sales, you also increase the amount of customer service tickets that you receive. If you don’t have the bandwidth in place for that, you may need to bring on additional support, but they may not get fully trained in time. Additionally, the increased wait time to have issues resolved can cost you sales.
If you don’t have a solid plan in place, issues can sneak up and turn your holiday into a nightmare.
Lifetime Value of Customers (LTV)
One of the biggest dangers that businesses face during this holiday season is acquiring unprofitable customers. Many businesses run loss-leader deals in order to acquire new customers and think that they’ll make up the loss sometime down the line.
Without tracking the lifetime value of those customers over time, you’re stuck guessing about their profitability. We have dealt with clients who offered discounts in order to acquire new customers, believing that they would make it back over time, only to discover later that they had overestimated the value of those customers. They thought that these new customers drove their profitability, but as it turned out, they dragged down profitability.
In order to maximize the effectiveness of your Black Friday and Cyber Monday marketing efforts, you need to understand what these clients purchase initially, what they come back to purchase, and when they come back to purchase. If you understand those three things, you can tailor your marketing efforts to their natural buying tendencies and dramatically increase your effectiveness.
Going through last year’s data and then looking at this year’s plan and making sure that they align is the key to a successful Black Friday.
How to Leverage Pre–Black Friday Sales to Your Advantage
We have found that if you can give your clients a juicy enough discount code, you can entice them to spend their money with you even if they know that they’ll likely get a better discount later. Some of the larger retailers have decided to just launch their official Black Friday deals before the official holiday.
You could also promote your pre-Black Friday sale exclusively to your email list. This provides value to those who have signed up for the list and could entice others to sign up.
We have also tested the tactic of offering a sale before the holiday by pitching it as a way for the customer to make sure that they got their orders on time. If they took advantage of this sale before the holiday rush, they could get a good deal and also avoid the hassle of holiday shipping issues.
How Real–Time Reporting Can Increase Your ROI This Black Friday
Tracking and reviewing your data make up the first two pillars of your data temple. The third pillar is automation.
In today’s world, every system tracks one specific thing, and it refuses to share that information with any other platform. Because nothing communicates, it falls to humans to aggregate and gather all of the data together. It can take days or even weeks for people to pull together the data, get it placed in the right location for analysis, and then take action from it.
Praxis Metrics specializes in automating the process of gathering the data from all of the different systems where it lives, cleaning it so that all of the metrics align properly, and then visualizing it in real-time.
This real-time reporting allows you to adjust and tweak your efforts much faster than if you relied on manual reporting. This decreased time to insights allows you to experiment and improve your marketing much faster, allowing you to drive immediate results, rather than having to wait a full year to improve your strategy.
The Goal This Black Friday and Cyber Monday
The goal of this entire process is to help you have the best Black Friday and Cyber Monday possible. If you have set up your tracking properly, you should know where your best customers come from and what efforts drove those customers to your eCommerce site. These insights will allow you to double down on the things that actually drive results, and cut the things that didn’t work for you.
You can reallocate your budget from the things that didn’t drive results to the things that do drive results, allowing you to increase your ROI and bringing in more money, which you can then reinvest into the marketing efforts that are actually working.
How Can You Assess Your Data Maturity to Understand the Next Steps?
If you fall into stage one, your entire goal is to gather as much information as possible. You can do this through Google Analytics, UTMs, defining your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), and, above all else, create Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). If you can standardize your naming conventions for UTMs, SKUs, etc., you can save yourself hours of cleanup down the line.
If you fall into stage two, your focus is on automation. What compound interest is to your money, automation is to your time. We have had clients cut the number of man-hours required to complete a data project from 10 hours per month to 1. Automation allows you to scale your efficiency and effectiveness across the board.
The focus of stage three is optimization. Everything before this point deals with historical data. Optimization leverages the wisdom and knowledge gained from the previous stages and applies it to your future endeavors. This allows you to predict outcomes from your actions. This stage is where the magic truly happens. Your efforts yield predictable, exponential results, allowing you to rapidly scale your business.
Stage four is the buzzword stage: Big Data. This stage focuses on leveraging AI, machine learning, etc. These technologies allow you to improve your business at scale through incremental adjustments.
Although all of this is easy to push to the background of your holiday planning, it needs to be an absolute priority. When you establish a regular cadence for practicing good data etiquette, it becomes far less of a chore, and far more exciting than you could imagine when you go back to mine gold from it!