Prepare for Black Friday-Cyber Monday with our ultimate BFCM guide for ecommerce brands.
An estimated $209.7 billion was up for grabs during the 2022 holiday season (November 1 to December 31), according to Adobe Analytics forecasts. But most online stores will fall short of their revenue potential during this year’s Black Friday ecommerce rush.
Merchants spend heavily on Black Friday marketing strategies to lure customers in: They run Black Friday deals, influencer campaigns, Instagram ads, and other expensive customer acquisition plays. But dollars spent on attracting people to your site go to waste if you can’t provide a shopping experience that converts browsers into buyers.
Between now and Black Friday-Cyber Monday, your best bet for driving online sales is to optimize your website and customer support experience for conversion and retention. This means clarifying policies, answering customer questions more efficiently, and smoothing out your checkout flow.
10,000+ online retailers use Gorgias to upgrade their Black Friday customer experience, and we pulled their data and best practices to create this Black Friday-Cyber Monday ecommerce strategy. If you have time, go through this whole guide in order. Otherwise, jump around and focus on the areas you feel will have the biggest impact on your business.
On that note, here’s our plan if you only have a few days to a week to prep.
TL;DR, if you’re running short on time
If you’re finding this article a week before Black Friday-Cyber Monday or are otherwise strapped for time, you need to prioritize the 20% of actions that drive 80% of the results.
Here are the top five things Gorgias Director of Support, Bri Christiano, would do today to drive revenue through your customer experience during the holiday shopping season:
- Turn on self-service chat menus (through Automation Add-on, if you’re on Gorgias): This is the single most effective thing you can do to reduce your ticket volume for BFCM. Up to 20% of your tickets will be deflected immediately, freeing your agents up for higher-value conversations.
- Make sure you’ll be able to handle the ticket volume (and hire an outsourcing agency if not): Drowning under your ticket backlog is a quick way to ensure your team burns out. Plus, if you’re too swamped to find and answer urgent pre-sales questions (or upselling and cross-selling opportunities), you’ll lose easy sales.
- Update your FAQ page or help center to answer all common questions and cover BFCM-specific policies: If your customers can find answers on these pages, they’ll buy faster, convert more often, and leave your support team to handle more complex questions. Use Gorgias’ native help center to upgrade your FAQ page and offer even more self-service features.
- Set up Macro templates and automation Rules for all your most common pre-sales questions: For the questions that aren’t easily answered by an FAQ page, or for customers who can’t be bothered to read them, make sure your agents are prepped with Macros that reflect current policies. Automate the Macros with Rules where you can to move a larger volume of potential customers to the checkout button as quickly as possible.
- Turn on proactive live chat campaigns to convert more customers during the big weekend: Live chat campaigns let you reach out to certain customers based on browsing behavior to offer support, information, or even a discount. This is how you turn casual browsers into customers. Strong support programs don’t wait around, hoping for customers to make the first move.
Note: These steps assume you’re on a helpdesk already. If you’re not, the holiday season will be much less festive for your team. Get Gorgias free for the rest of the year if you sign up before BFCM, and we’ll be here to help you get set up before the big day.
Now, we’ll discuss seven initatives — some expanded versions of the quick wins above, others we haven’t yet mentioned — that will best help you convert and retain shoppers during the upcoming holiday season.
7 Tips to maximize ecommerce revenue from Black Friday in 2023
- Create (or update) and display key policies before Black Friday-Cyber Monday
- Leverage self-service to deflect ~30% of your BFCM requests and prioritize high-value conversations
- Forecast BFCM ticket volume to capacity plan
- Fortify your customer support frontline to keep pace with ticket spikes
- Reduce abandoned cart rate to convert more customers during Black Friday-Cyber Monday
- Set up proactive live chat campaigns to reach your highest-intent shoppers during Black Friday-Cyber Monday
- Plan your retention efforts now to keep these first-time BFCM customers coming back
1) Create (or update) and display key policies before Black Friday-Cyber Monday
Ecommerce sales depend on clear policies around shipping, returns, lost packages, and more. When customers don’t know your policies, they’ll either write to your support team (if you’re lucky) or abandon their cart completely (more likely).
You don't want your agents spending all day answering repetitive questions like, “What's your shipping policy?” And you definitely don't want customers leaving your store to shop at Amazon after being unable to find your typical shipping times.
In the first case, you’re losing time that could be spent on revenue-driving tickets. In the second, you’re losing sales directly because of a lack of clear customer self-service options. That’s the problem this section helps you solve.
“Make sure all of your policies are up-to-date before Black Friday-Cyber Monday, and communicate them to both agents (through your SLA) and customers (on key pages of your website),” Gorgias Director of Support Bri Christiano said. “This will reduce the number of tickets you have to field and ensure customers have the information they need to make a confident purchase decision.”
Policy for shipping and fulfillment during Black Friday-Cyber Monday
Most customers use BFCM sales to lock in holiday gifts, and they want to know if their order will make it to their loved ones in time — especially with recent supply chain issues and shipping delays. If you don’t have a clear policy around this, communicated in all the relevant places, you can expect an influx of tickets for just this one question.
The best practice is to work backward with your fulfillment team to understand the absolute last day orders can ship and still arrive in time (factoring in holiday slow-downs). That “drop dead” order date needs to be agreed upon and communicated loud and clear to any holiday shoppers, along with any opportunities to speed up shipping for an additional fee.
Here are the other customer expectations you’re dealing with around fulfillment, during the holidays (thanks, Amazon!):
Where to put your BFCM shipping policy
The best ecommerce sites make their shipping policies (and the related “drop dead” date) clear in the following places:
- During your checkout flow
- In your confirmation emails
- On your FAQ page and help center
- In any relevant Macro templates
- In a banner on your site as you get closer to the deadline
- Possibly even on your product pages, especially during BFCM
If you aren’t crystal clear in your communication of this “drop dead” date, expect a lot of angry customers come late December when they find out their gifts won’t arrive until the new year.
Want to learn more about revenue-driving best practices around ecommerce shipping and fulfillment? Check out our full article on the topic.
Policy for returns and exchanges during Black Friday-Cyber Monday
Similarly, because people often buy gifts for others during this period, returns and exchanges are even more important than usual.
No brand can completely eliminate returns, and that’s because customers return items for a wide variety of reasons — some of them outside of your control. In addition to gift returns, the top reasons that customers choose to return products purchased via online shopping include:
- Item didn't match its product description and/or customer expectations
- Item arrived late and the customer no longer needs it
- “Wardrobing,” when serial returners buy and return items without any intention of ever keeping products
- Merchant shipped the wrong product
- Item was damaged or defective
You need to decide if you’re going to offer full refunds or just exchanges. Plus, if you do offer full refunds, you need a thoughtful policy that lets your agents and customers understand the conditions under which you will and won’t accept the return. Check out our return policy template generator to get started with yours.
And if you want to reduce ecommerce returns, during BFCM or any other time, check out our full article on the topic. (Spoiler alert: the more information you give upfront, the less likely people are to return the items later on.)
Where to put your BFCM returns and exchanges policy
Similar to the shipping policy locations, you want to get your returns and exchanges policy (or at least a link to the full policy) in all the main places to avoid unnecessary tickets:
- During your checkout flow
- In your confirmation emails
- On your FAQ page and help center
- In any relevant Macro templates
- Possibly even on your product pages, especially during BFCM
Policy for lost packages during Black Friday-Cyber Monday
Lost or damaged packages are common during BFCM. Here are some common reasons this happens:
Make sure you’re clear with your team and customers upfront if you are willing to cover damages (either with refunds or credits). This type of policy also needs to cover:
- Any limits in coverage
- How customers should inform you of issues (and what it required, like pictures)
- How long a package needs to be stuck before it’s considered lost
- The steps agents should take to troubleshoot the missing package
- Available Macros the team can use in these cases
This will help your agents handle the process quickly and consistently, and give your customers the peace of mind that accidents won’t put them out.
We have an entire post on our best practices for dealing with lost ecommerce packages. Check it out if you find yourself creating this policy from scratch.
Address fraud in your lost packages policy
Make sure you account for theft and fraud when creating your policy around lost packages. You need to have internal policies in place, especially if you sell higher-price-point merchandise and a customer is repeatedly claiming damage or loss.
The standard practice is to escalate to the fraud team after a certain number of repeated claims, but figure out what works for your business and price point.
Where to put your BFCM lost packages policy
Focus on this policy in your FAQ page and help center, plus in relevant Macros for when customers write in to ask. If it’s an item at a higher price point, consider including the policy (or at least a link) in your confirmation emails.
Your FAQ page and help center
Your knowledge pages (whether a simple FAQ page or a dedicated knowledge base or help center) offer convenient answers to simple questions and give agents more time for unique, challenging, or VIP conversations. When done right, they will deflect tickets, answer pre-sale questions, and ultimately drive revenue for your business.
“If you have an FAQ page or help center, now is the time to update it with your current policies and any holiday changes,” Christiano said. ”If you don’t have an FAQ page, now is absolutely the time to create one (but I wouldn’t advise spending the time to create a help center from scratch in the time leading up to BFCM — better to stick with a quick FAQ page).”
Whether you are building a new FAQ page or updating an existing one, the steps are generally the same:
- 1) Review past helpdesk tickets to gather questions your customers frequently ask to ensure you’re covering all the common topics that take up the most agent time
- 2) Create concise answers to every question, otherwise customers will be overwhelmed and stop looking for the answer themselves
- 3) Provide a navigation system to keep your page clean and make it easier for customers to find the answers they’re looking for, prioritizing the most common questions up top
- 4) Make the FAQ accessible, prioritizing clarity, searchability, SEO, pagespeed, and user experience (including on mobile devices) over other aesthetic factors
- 5) Make timely updates and refreshes when necessary, like when you have new products or BFCM policies to share with your customers
It’s also good practice to link to your FAQ in your post-purchase confirmation email, especially during Black Friday-Cyber Monday when there’s an influx of new customers who don’t know your policies.
We have a full guide on FAQs and help centers that dives deeper into the process, along with top examples for each type of knowledge page. Check it out if you find yourself building a new knowledge page from scratch or heavily updating an old one.
If you need a starting point for what to include, check out our FAQ template generator and the following checklist of the most important questions to answer:
Try to provide succinct, accurate answers to questions in these categories, plus any other common queries your website visitors ask your support team. If you try to cover too many questions on your FAQ page (or answer questions with too much detail), you risk information overload and burying key information.
If you end up with more than a few hundred words of information you want to convey, a more organized help center will provide a better customer experience.
2) Leverage self-service to deflect ~30% of your BFCM requests and prioritize high-value conversations
Customer service automation is often a boogeyman, with many leaders assuming that it will lead to a poor customer experience.
“The reality is the opposite: If you force agents to respond to every question manually — no matter how small — you're only limiting the time they can spend on tickets that actually need human attention,” Christiano said.
“The more ‘empty calorie’ tickets you can deflect (e.g. ‘where is my order?’) the more time your agents can spend helping customers who need a custom response or driving revenue by answering pre-sales questions in real time.”
That’s the reason we built a full Automation Add-on suite at Gorgias: It deflects your most repetitive tickets — up to 30% of your overall ticket volume — so you can focus on the tickets that grow your business. These urgent tickets are:
- “Is this the right size for me?”
- “Just checking, this will arrive before Christmas, right?”
- “What’s the best choice for someone who doesn’t like sweet things?”
Questions from VIP customers:
- “Hey! I loved what I ordered last time but want to try something new — any recommendations?”
- “Will this accessory will work with the device I bought from you last month?”
- “The product isn’t working. I want a refund and will leave a bad review unless you can help me fix it.”
Here are the top three automations you can set up to deflect those repetitive tickets and prioritize the revenue-driving tickets that move your business forward.
Turn on self-service menus to deflect up to 20% of your ticket volume immediately
Without a convenient support channel, customers may just abandon their purchase when questions arise. But when you give them the ability to open a convenient chat window and get an instant answer, you reduce friction and lower cart abandonment.
Many CX leaders have the impression that live chat is labor intensive and requires a large team, and all chatbots offer a frustrating experience. But self-service chat menus let customers quickly track and manage orders — no agent needed.
Our four standard menu items are:
- Track an order
- Return an order
- Cancel an order
- Report an issue with an order
You can even add Quick Response Flows to provide automatic answers to the most common questions specific to your brand (like sizing or restocking questions).
This is a great way to reduce the number of tickets that make it to your agents: We have seen up to 15% deflection for “where is my order” tickets, alone, with some customers.
On the customer’s side, starting with self-service chat helps them receive quicker customer support at scale — a more satisfying experience. Plus, 88% of customers expect this kind of self-service functionality on your website. Then, if self-service chat can’t solve the issue, someone from your support team can easily step into the conversation and provide more in-depth support.
Whatever you do, prioritize offering a clear, helpful self-service experience. Specifically, stay away from chatbots that try and mimic human conversation — they usually end up driving customers crazy rather than driving sales. That’s why our self-service experience is clearly a non-human way to get instant answers:
Set up automated Rules and Macro templates to respond faster to questions for a better customer experience
Questions that can’t be answered through self-service menus and chatbot conversations can usually be handled by an automation Rule. Rules are automated sequences triggered when something happens in Gorgias or your ecommerce platform. Just like self-service resources described above, they provide instant answers to customers and help agents focus on the most important conversations in their queues.
In Gorgias, Rules can include templated Macro responses that bring in customer and order information automatically, deflecting tickets without an agent’s attention.
Here’s an example of an automation Rule that automatically responds to customer questions about shipping status, with personalized order information pulled directly from Shopify.
For other questions that require human discretion and can’t be handled with automation, like pre-sales questions, you can use a Macro template on its own. The example above uses a Rule to automatically fire the templated Macro, but your agents can also pull up Macros to get started and tweak before sending. Notice the wide variety of custom variables (e.g. [Status URL of last order]) that personalize the template and save the agent from pulling up other tabs to find that information.
Here’s another example of a Macro in Gorgias, plus the SMS response the customer would see:
TL;DR: Turn on self-service chat menus through our Automation Add-on and add any relevant items from our managed Rules and Macro library. This will give you a much-needed head-start to start deflecting the most common questions from our ecommerce brands.
Set up a system to prioritize your BFCM tickets and surface revenue-generating conversations
Keeping your customer support response time as low as possible is a key part of meeting customer expectations and providing a great customer experience.
“As your brand grows, it's just not realistic to respond to every ticket the second it rolls in,” Christiano warned. “This makes developing a system to quickly assign priority levels to support tickets an essential strategy for every customer service team to implement — especially if you want to surface the tickets that will drive revenue for your brand.”
Here’s how Gorgias can help.
Our platform can process the language on an incoming ticket and apply a rule to automatically take action — in this case, add a tag to cancel that person’s order:
Gorgias can automatically tag tickets with specific intents, as determined by our proprietary algorithms.
From there, you can create a View that puts tickets with priority tags in a specific queue. Or, depending on your team’s setup, you can assign certain agents to handle different views, so every agent can focus on a certain channel, priority level, product line, or type of customer.
We have an entire article on customer service prioritization if you want to dig in further and understand the best practices around ticket triage or see specific rules you can use to automate that process.
Here are the categories we recommend prioritizing at Gorgias, especially during Black Friday-Cyber Monday:
- Automate any “empty calorie” tickets up front, to deflect them: This leaves more time for you to focus on tickets that drive revenue
- Respond to your most loyal customers first, then repeat customers: Repeat customers generate 300% more revenue than first-time shoppers, so it’s important to make sure they get the help they need
- Mark tickets with urgent pre-sale activity as high priority: This is a key way to reduce cart abandonment and nudge high-intent customers over the finish line to the checkout button, and you can tag tickets automatically with Gorgias intent detection
- Then, prioritize messaging channels (like live chat, SMS, and Instagram or Facebook messages): Messaging channels are popular because they offer swift support, and customers will expect as much when they text your brand
- Finally, deprioritize (or auto-close) no-reply tickets: Customer service resolution is a two-way street, so deprioritize or close tickets where customers have stopped responding
If you’re still prioritizing tickets by hand, one trick is to implement an auto-response Rule like this one to buy yourself some time once tickets come in:
3) Forecast BFCM ticket volume to capacity plan
Data from Gorgias merchants shows that most merchants see a 20% spike in ticket volume. Forecasting ticket volume is a critical part of preparing to drive Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales. The exercise will help you reserve an appropriate amount of time for your team to help answer the revenue-driving questions standing between your customers and the checkout button.
But only if the forecasting process is proactive and data-driven.
If you’re too reactive or rely on guesswork, you’ll end up with a team that’s the wrong size for the actual volume of tickets coming in. On one extreme, your agents take on too much and burn out instead of driving revenue, while customers are left waiting on the other end of the conversation (a poor customer experience that will drop your CSAT and NPS). At the other extreme, you’re wasting valuable resources on excess headcount, which will offset any sales you can close.
A strong forecasting strategy handles both of these issues and sets expectations with your team and your customers, so everyone knows what to expect.
Jon Tucker, CEO of HelpFlow, has developed and battle-tested this three-step framework through his company’s work running 24/7 live chat and customer service teams for over 100 stores.
Check out the full article he wrote on customer service forecasting for step-by-step guides and more detail on the forecasting process.
Calculate your contact rate (i.e. transaction-to-ticket ratio)
This ratio is simple to calculate:
- Pull your transaction count for a given period (it’s under analytics -> reports, on Shopify)
- Pull your ticket volume for the same time period from Gorgias or a similar customer service platform, pictured in the red frame below
- Divide ticket volume by transaction volume to calculate your ratio (e.g. 1,000 transactions and 400 tickets in a given time frame would yield a contact rate of 40%)
As a benchmark, HelpFlow usually sees a contact rate of 30-50% for stores that haven’t yet streamlined their customer service experience, and 20% for those with more optimized, automated processes.
Use your contact rate to project ticket volume
Once you have your overall contact rate, the next step is to estimate how many orders you'll experience over BFCM. Your estimated order volume and your average contact rate are the two ingredients you need to calculate the estimated ticket volume.
The best way to project order volume is to look at historical data such as:
- Your order volume from BFCM 2021
- Your business growth over the last year
- Market trends surrounding BFCM 2022
We discuss forecasting in more depth in our article on the topic, but for reference, Gorgias customers saw a 20% increase in average contact rate during this time in previous years. This benchmark will help you adapt your usual ticket volume estimates if you don’t have last year’s numbers.
Once you forecast ticket volume, the next step is to figure out how many team members are going to be needed to handle the volume.
Estimate the number of agents needed for the holiday season, based on past capacity
Next, you need to understand your agent capacity benchmark and use it to forecast the number of agents you need for the holidays.
Here’s how to calculate agent capacity per full-time agent:
- Run a report on the total number of tickets resolved per full-time agent over a specific period using the agent statistics in your helpdesk (in Gorgias, it’s under statistics -> agents)
- For each agent, convert this into the number of tickets handled per working day — the specific number will be different for each agent, but running this process will help you see the trends of how many tickets per day a typical agent should be able to handle
- Convert the forecasted ticket volume above into a forecasted agent headcount needed, once you know your tickets per day per agent benchmark
Again, this number will vary a ton depending on your business, your agents, and your customer service operation. HelpFlow typically sees anywhere from 40 to 60 tickets per day per agent as a healthy benchmark. Across the Gorgias customer dataset, we see an average of ~60 tickets per day per agent in healthy support organizations.
Let’s say you are projecting 4,000 tickets for your team to handle during November and December and your agent capacity averages 40 tickets per day. You’re going to need 3 agents staffed during November and December to handle this volume. Here’s the math:
- 40 tickets per agent per day x 5 days per week x 4.3 weeks per month = 860 tickets monthly per agent
- 4,000 tickets / 2 months / 860 tickets per agent per month = 2.33 agents
- Round up to 3 so you have a buffer for scenarios that may drive ticket volume up (e.g. delayed shipping, running out of stock, and promotions and sales)
There’s nothing more frustrating as a business owner than seeing piles of pre-sales questions going unanswered during the biggest shopping day of the year because you can’t keep up with orders or customer service volume. This forecasting process will help you avoid that unfortunate situation.
4) Fortify your customer support frontline to keep pace with ticket spikes
Hiring new customer service agents for the holiday sales event isn't a good solution because they may not ramp up in time for BFCM, and you may not need the extra bandwidth on your support team after the holiday season. But you do need to have enough people to handle pre-sales questions as they roll in and respond to the live chat campaigns we’re going to set up in the next step.
First, make sure you’re using all the tools at your disposal effectively before staffing up — automation Rules and self-service flows from the previous steps are a much more effective way to handle “empty calorie” tickets (e.g. “what size am I?”) than headcount. Remember: Your best bet to maximizing revenue is empowering agents to focus on revenue-driving conversations.
And even then, you should rely on stretching your current headcount through overtime and outsourcing, to ensure you don’t have an excess of agents come January.
Here’s how to build your team up, temporarily, if needed.
Offer your existing agents overtime
If you realize you don’t have enough agents to handle the ticket volume, you may be able to fill the gap by offering overtime to your existing team.
For example, if you have five agents working eight-hour days, you can add the equivalent of another full-time agent by adding about 90 mins to each agent’s shift (i.e. 90 mins per day x 5 agents = 7.5h of workload). See if the available overtime hours are enough to cover your forecast, once self-service features and automation improvements are factored in.
Here are some tips from HelpFlow CEO Jon Tucker, to maximize the impact of team overtime:
- Don’t surprise your team with overtime: Keep them informed of upcoming volume so they’re not blindsided and resentful for being asked to extend their shifts
- Keep your team informed: Let them know how the department is doing — including forecasts and potential issues — and brainstorm solutions together, which reveals unconsidered options and creates a sense of comradery that makes overtime easier to implement
- Show your appreciation: Offering time-and-a-half pay on overtime hours is a great incentive for agents, and will most likely be more cost-effective than letting sales and customer satisfaction slip — as well as most Black Friday marketing strategies!
Agent burnout is a real problem, especially since the pandemic, so be careful using this method. But it can be an easy short-term solution, especially if you have a healthy team culture. Just make sure you’re following any relevant HR rules and regulations — sometimes the penalties can be severe if you aren’t careful.
Bring in an outsourcing agency or BPO
If your overtime forecast doesn’t bridge the gap, it’s time to look externally for resources.
“A great outsourcing agency or BPO should be providing advice to make your team more efficient, not just providing temporary agents,” according to Tucker. “So, the net result of finding the right partner is not only the additional tickets from their agents, but also the increased output from your existing team.”
Tucker is the CEO of outsourcing agency HelpFlow, as mentioned before, so he has plenty of thoughts on finding a great customer service vendor:
- Ask your helpdesk provider for recommendations: At Gorgias, we have an entire partner program with talented teams that can help you scale (here’s HelpFlow’s partner page)
- Vet your potential agencies’ training processes: This training should be extremely methodical, robust, and agency-driven — it’s a red flag if you’re expected to train their temporary agents
- Look for an agent turnover rate less than 10%: It’s common for these agencies to have turnover rates of 30% or higher, meaning you will constantly be onboarding new hires (HelpFlow’s turnover rate is about 1% per year, meaning you’ll get experienced, fully-ramped agents who can hit the ground running during BFCM)
- You should feel vetted in return as a good-fit client: If they seem desperate for business and fail to dig into the mechanics of your business to know if they can help, it’s a sign they won’t go deep on training either
Once you onboard your chosen partner, make sure you’re using the extra bandwidth to its full power by tracking and reviewing important customer support metrics.
“You should be measuring first response time, resolution time, and CSAT, overall,” Tucker said. “But you should also take an individual view and track agent capacity (number of tickets per hour), handle time, and CSAT (viewed by agent) for a truly balanced view.
Related reading: Our VP of Success’s guide to evaluating customer service.
Onboard outsourced agents on your specific products and processes
It’s normal to feel apprehensive about letting external agents represent your brand to your valued customers, but you can rest easier if you nail the incredibly important training process.
“A poorly trained agent will create really negative customer service experiences,” Tucker warned, “which will lead to brand reputation issues. Not to mention, you’ll be starting at square one with hiring (and more training!).”
Here is the process Tucker uses with his team at HelpFlow, for more than 100 brands:
- Have a senior agent review your tickets to list the most common questions: Bonus points for tagging example tickets directly in the system that can be used for training
- Have the senior agent record screencast videos for each ticket type: This gives the necessary context without taking too much time from your agent, compared to training agents one-on-one
- Have your new agents start processing certain types of tickets and review their work: By using split Views or tagging in your helpdesk, you can batch certain ticket topics easily for the new agents to reply to, then have the senior agent review before sending those replies in bulk (this is how HelpFlow balances coaching and confidence in the responses)
As these agents ramp up, track their metrics (agent capacity, handle time, and individual CSAT) consistently, until they start to align more with your current team’s metrics. And ideally, you’ll want to try to reach that parity by Black Friday-Cyber Monday.
Update your SLA for Black Friday-Cyber Monday
Once you have set your staffing plan, you need to set expectations for your agents and customers with an SLA, which stands for service level agreement. You likely already have one set for your support team that just needs to be updated for BFCM, but if not, spend some time creating one.
In ecommerce, an SLA is a clear definition of customer support boundaries and responsibilities from an online seller. It defines the services you’ll deliver, how responsive you are to answering customers’ questions, and how you’ll measure performance.
You can read all about SLA best practices in this article, which dives into all of the below in more detail.
Here are some benefits of creating an SLA, if you don’t already have one:
- Managing customer expectations: A well-defined and fully communicated SLA will let customers know what kind of wait times and service to expect from your team
- Setting agent expectations: If you have a support team, an SLA helps your agents understand your expectations and priorities, which helps guide their work
- Measuring customer support performance: SLAs set internal benchmarks for key metrics (CSAT, first response time, and resolution time are the most common) that help you measure your progress on those metrics as you track them with a platform like Gorgias
At a time when customers are writing in more often, shopping at new stores, and asking more questions about policies and discounts, being clear on your SLA is a great way to smooth out your team’s workflows.
Best practices for your Black Friday-Cyber Monday SLA
Here are some things to keep in mind as you create (or update) an effective SLA for Black Friday-Cyber Monday:
- Use plain English and simplify as much as possible: Talk to your target audience in language they’ll understand, to avoid confusion
- Design your SLA based on data: Benchmark your SLA expectations based on what you’ve seen in the past and adapt to the forecast you calculated above, so you can make the metrics you aim for challenging, but realistic
- Be clear on expectations by channel: Different customer service channels will require different expectations (e.g. messaging should receive a faster response than email)
- Build in procedures for breaches: Your website might crash, you might have more customers than expected, or there could be other unexpected issues — plan ahead to make sure you aren’t caught off-guard (more on this below)
- Communicate the SLA to your agents and customers: The value of your SLA depends on both of these stakeholder groups understanding the terms, so make sure you communicate it to your agents in your helpdesk (more info in this article) and include business hours and wait times in key places on your website (contact us page, live chat widget, etc.)
Berkey Filters, an online retailer that sells water purification systems, does a great job of sharing its SLA for live messaging channels with customers. Their Help page acts as a sort of customer support landing page, setting expectations with customers about the fastest way to reach the team — 2 minutes, for live chat and SMS.
5) Reduce abandoned cart rate to convert more customers during Black Friday-Cyber Monday
Increasing your conversion rate and lowering your cart abandonment rate are the two actions with the biggest impact on your BFCM revenue.
A Baymard Institute study finds that the average shopping cart abandonment rate for ecommerce stores is 69.8%. Yup: 70% of shoppers who visit your store add products to their carts but don’t place an order.
That’s tough to read, but there’s a silver lining:
- Reducing cart abandonment by 33% is equivalent to growing your customer base by 23%
- Completely eliminating cart abandonment (while not feasible) would in theory triple most online stores’ revenue
You have already done the hard (and expensive) work of breaking through the holiday noise to acquire any shoppers on your site, and possibly even dedicated support resources to answering their questions.
Don’t let a leaky checkout process undo all of that progress and cost you revenue that would otherwise be in your company’s account.
What’s a good conversion rate
Bottom line: The latest data, which comes from Kibo Commerce in Q1 of 2022, shows that ecommerce conversion rates in the US average out at 2.3%. The report goes into considerable detail about variances in conversion rate: for example, conversion rates vary between mobile (2%), tablet (3%), and desktop (3%).
Most ecommerce experts we talk to would say 1-3% is normal and 4% is fantastic, but a “good” ecommerce conversion rate depends on your business’s maturity, product category, audience, digital marketing maturity, and so much more.
You’ll get better results benchmarking against your own metrics and focus on increasing them from past performance.
Related reading: Check out our article on ecommerce conversion rates for more information about common benchmarks and our full list of best practices from our top-converting stores.
Here are our five highest-impact tips for raising your conversion rate to capture more sales during the traffic influx of Black Friday-Cyber Monday:
- Review your conversion rate data (or set up tracking before BFCM): You need data to make informed decisions and understand trends with your business, which can come from tools like Google Analytics, Crazy Egg, HumCommerce, or Kissmetrics
- Invest in a customer support platform with live chat: 79% of stores that offer on-site live chat say it positively impacted their conversion rate, sales, and customer retention — take a look at Gorgias’ live chat options to bring these results to your store
- Display social proof and user-generated content: There’s nobody better to prove your trustworthiness than other customers, so use social proof (like product reviews and testimonials) to earn the trust of brand-new visitors
- Provide coupons and discount codes to high-intent shoppers: Not only will this grow your email list, but it will also tempt the shoppers to purchase with you instead of a competitor
- Optimize your shopping cart flow and create an abandonment strategy: If you do everything right until the checkout flow and lose them there, it was all for nothing — read on for more information about developing a cart abandonment strategy
Check out how live chat, one of the most powerful conversion tools available, netted CROSSNET a $450,000 order:
Why do people abandon their carts when shopping online?
Understanding why customers leave your checkout page in the first place is key to reducing your number of abandoned shopping carts. Here are the top reasons why online shoppers abandon their carts without making a purchase:
To summarize this chart, anything that reduces choice, adds steps, or generally makes their lives harder will result in a higher abandonment rate.
And that’s money slipping through your fingers. So, here’s how to bridge the gap and make sure customers finish their order after hitting the checkout button.
5 tips for reducing cart abandonment during BFCM
Reducing cart abandonment may not be easy, but it’s a whole lot easier (and less expensive) than acquiring tons of new customers. As mentioned, 70% of online carts are abandoned, so there’s a lot of room for growth there.
Here’s the simplest cart abandonment strategy we would use to patch that hole before Black Friday and protect your hard-won revenue:
- Double check site speed and overall site performance: One of the top reasons people abandon carts is because a website crashes, which is especially likely during such a high-volume shopping event
- Keep them informed and invested during the checkout process: Use thumbnail images of the products throughout the checkout process, show your progress bar so customers know how much time is left, and offer limited-time discounts if they try to exit the checkout to create a sense of urgency
- Get their email immediately to set up cart abandonment emails and retargeting: If the exit-intent pop-ups don’t work, sometimes customers just forget about their order, and an email marketing campaign for cart recovery is your best bet to rescue the sale
- Incorporate free shipping and a generous refund/return policy, even if just for BFCM: Blame Amazon, but that doesn’t change the fact that customers expect free, fast shipping and refunds, and you need to adapt if you want them to shop on your site, directly (make sure they are aware of these policies, as well)
- Make it as simple as possible for the customer to click “buy now”: Don’t require a login, limit payment options, or do anything else that could create friction in the checkout process
Set up the tips above so you don’t have to fret about that 26% of customers from the chart below. Your competitors don’t need any extra help.
6) Set up proactive live chat campaigns to reach your highest-intent shoppers during Black Friday-Cyber Monday
When you think of customer service, you likely imagine a team of agents responding to incoming customer complaints and questions. This reactive customer service is an important way to help customers, but it’s only one dimension of a larger customer service experience.
By setting up strategic live chat campaigns through your helpdesk, you can reach out to potential customers at the optimal time to close the sale, all automatically. But first, let’s take a step back and discuss proactive customer service as a concept.
What is proactive customer service (and why should you use it)?
There are two main categories that customer service can fall into: reactive customer service and proactive customer service. If you would like to create a customer service strategy that is as efficient and effective as possible, it's important to balance both of these approaches.
“With proactive customer service, you can set customer expectations, create more opportunities for positive customer interactions, and increase your brand’s conversion rate,” Christiano said. “All without requiring your shoppers to put forth the effort of reaching out to you.”
It’s the online equivalent of in-store reps walking up to you to ask if you have questions, providing useful information, and encouraging you to make the best purchase decision for you.
But what does proactive customer service look like in practice? Examples of proactive customer service include:
- Contacting a customer pre-purchase via a live chat widget to walk them through the purchase process (and boost sales)
- Providing automated product recommendation pop-ups that are triggered based on specific customer actions
- Offering customers a knowledge base where they can find answers to common questions
- Proactively DMing new followers on social media to welcome them to your brand
All of the above examples (and many more) demonstrate proactive customer support, but we’re going to focus on one specific type: pre-purchase live chat campaigns.
These campaigns are launched through your live chat widget and target high-intent potential buyers at the optimal time, in hopes of converting them. And they can drive significant revenue during Black Friday-Cyber Monday.
Best practices for Black Friday-Cyber Monday live chat campaigns
Chat campaigns are a great way to catch the attention of BFCM shoppers — even at their most distracted.
“Make sure any live chat campaigns you run are focused on customer experience and revenue impact,” according to Christiano. “Slow-to-respond agents will frustrate your customers and low-impact campaigns defeat the entire purpose of running a proactive customer service playbook.”
Here are some other best practices for live chat campaigns:
- Manage response times with auto-replies and business hours: Chat campaigns in Gorgias are only active during business hours when live agents are available. Use auto-replies for a quick first response and contact forms to collect information when agents aren’t available. And make sure to adjust your SLA communication in the chat window when you’re experiencing a higher volume of tickets.
- Segment your audience: Different audiences will be most effectively reached with tailored chat campaigns, increasing your conversion rate.
- Prioritize responses with tagging: As we mentioned above, higher-value conversations should be prioritized to drive more revenue. These include expensive product questions, VIP customers, or questions that signal high buying intent.
- Measure, attribute, and iterate: You should never take a “one and done” approach to chat campaigns. Always understand the impact of your chat campaigns and think about the next steps to optimize them further. Gorgias’ revenue statistics dashboard can help with this.
Also, make sure you have a solid idea of who you want to target and what they stand to gain from buying your products. A campaign targeting current customers to upsell them for higher-priced holiday gifts will look different than a campaign targeting new customers for their resolutions in the new year.
3 live chat campaigns to set up before BFCM
One of the best parts of chat campaigns is that they are versatile. You can promote holiday sales, ask for feedback, or strike up a conversation in any number of ways with chat campaigns. But with so many options, you may wonder where to begin.
Here are the three campaigns we would set up before BFCM:
Share a limited-time Black Friday sale when customers linger
The holiday season is the perfect time to host and announce a larger Black Friday promotion. You might tie this offer to seasonal products, a collection page, or even the main page to offer a sitewide discount.
Regardless, chat campaigns are a great way to amplify your sale to the right customers. Campaigns function like website banners or pop-ups with countdown timers announcing a sale — but they are much less intrusive and give customers an easy path to speak with an agent if they want.
Set this up in Gorgias:
- Add your Campaign Name (Ex: Event: Black Friday – Sitewide Discount)
- Set the Current URL is your homepage
- Set the Time spent on page is greater than 15 seconds
Capture high-value customers browsing top products
Physical stores often have a premium section with higher-priced items or stylists that can make recommendations. It’s even easier to do this on your website. You can set up your chat campaign based on quality or, more importantly, price point.
Luxury jewelry brand (and Gorgias customer!) Jaxxon uses a chat campaign on its /solid-gold-collection page. Jaxxon understands that customers shopping for gold chains at a higher price point might be persuaded by extra care as they make their decision. The same would be true for any big-ticket items (such as electronics equipment) or high-value, highly sentimental purchases (such as bridal wear).
“We really believe in having engaging conversations with our customers and building those relationships so they come back and buy again. We see repeat purchases from people who have left us positive reviews. They trust us, and they want to talk to a person who really cares that they have a great experience.”
— Caela Castillo, Director of Customer Experience at Jaxxon
Set this up in Gorgias:
- Add your Campaign Name (Ex: Collections: Bridal Accessories – VIP Support)
- Set the Current URL contains your collections (example: /collections)
- Set the Time spent on page is greater than 15 seconds
Help customers find the right product within a collection
Your collection pages are the ecommerce equivalent of “just browsing.” You can help customers find the perfect item on the virtual rack by drawing their attention to a best-selling item or popular color.
You can even get more sophisticated with this tactic and engage your customers with a quiz. Quizzes can increase conversions by helping your customers find what they’re looking for through recommendations. Shopify has several apps (such as Visual Quiz Builder or Product Recommendation Quiz) that range from basic to advanced or even custom quizzes.
Set this up in Gorgias:
- Add your Campaign Name (Ex: Collections: Nail Polish Colors – Take Quiz)
- Set the Current URL contains your collection (example: /polish)
- Set the Time spent on page is greater than 15 seconds
- [Optional]: Include a hyperlink to your quiz in your Campaign message
7) Plan your retention efforts now to keep these first-time BFCM customers coming back
Happy customers are the best fuel for growth.
But ecommerce businesses pour all of their time and money into attracting prospects and turning them into new customers. As acquisition costs skyrocket due to increased competition and rising ad prices, attracting new customers isn’t enough — especially if you can’t keep them around.
Allbirds, Warby Parker, and other DTC giants grew through ad spend at a time when that made sense. But the next generation of ecommerce leaders will grow through best-in-class customer experience, better customer retention, higher average order values through upselling, and customer referrals. That’s how you maximize customer lifetime value.
Our co-founders wrote an entire CX-Driven Growth Playbook on this topic alone, check it out for more context. They interviewed 25+ top ecommerce brands and analyzed data from 10,000+ merchants who use Gorgias to bring you 18 tactics that raise revenue by 44% through CX.
If your strategy over-relies on expensive marketing ideas to win new customers, you’re missing out. Of course, acquiring customers is important — but their value is only truly realized if you can keep them around.
Instead of making it a one-and-done event, here’s how to continue driving revenue from new BFCM customers for months (or years) after the holiday season is over.
Provide a fast, helpful customer service experience post-BFCM
There has been much ado about customer delight in ecommerce customer service in the past few years, but it’s a losing strategy… at least on its own.
As The Effortless Experience explains, customer delight isn’t linked to loyalty. And, more importantly, it’s often a distraction in customer service programs that haven’t yet nailed the fundamentals.
Customer support’s biggest impact is to mitigate disloyalty by reducing customer effort. Ultimately, customers don’t need a handwritten note as much as they need a useful product and a quick answer to their questions when they contact you.
Here’s how to minimize customer effort and provide a better experience to your BFCM customers long after the holiday chaos:
- Offer self-serve functionality on your website: 88% of customers expect your online store to offer some kind of self-service, which can be as simple as an FAQ page or as complex as customer automation
- List answers to common questions in a full help center: The more work you put into building a robust and easily navigated knowledge base, the easier it will be to scale your store — and Gorgias can help
- Make getting help faster and more convenient for customers: 90% of customers say an “immediate” response is important, and 78% of customers prefer a variety of support channels to get in contact with customer support. You can solve the former with CX automation and ticket prioritization, as mentioned earlier, and the latter with omnichannel customer support that meets them on the channels where they already spend time.
- Know more, ask less, and practice forward resolution: When you have a customer service platform like Gorgias collecting your customer data in one place, you can spend less time asking questions and more time anticipating your customers’ needs
Set a plan to make things right for missed orders and low-CSAT tickets
Now, there is a time and place for a little extra effort and customer care — delight even — and that’s when you are trying to make amends for your company’s screw-ups. It could be a package that never arrived or a disappointing experience with a customer service rep.
Either way, it’s time to fix it and win them back. Here are the three steps:
- Fix the actual problem they had: If the package was lost, replace it. If the CSAT of the ticket underperformed, follow up personally with customer care and properly resolve the issue. Until this step is complete, you can’t start rebuilding trust.
- Apologize for the error: Fixing the problem isn’t enough — you need to let the customer know you’re sorry for what happened and that it won’t happen again
- Win them back for another purchase: You’re playing the long game here — remember that repeat customers drive more value for your brand — so offer a discount or special offer to prime them for their next purchase with your brand
The right win-back strategy can make amends and turn a detractor into a loyal fan. This is a key step to ensure you’re protecting your brand and cultivating loyalty.
Read our full post on dealing with lost ecommerce packages if you need help with best practices and policies before BFCM.
Get that crucial second purchase from first-time BFCM customers
We’re going to, again, debunk the notion that ecommerce growth ends with customer acquisition. It’s important — of course — but it’s not nearly as powerful alone as it is when paired with strong retention efforts.
“The potential upside for these efforts is huge—even if you move the needle on only a small percentage of one-time customers,” according to ActionIQ CEO Tasso Argyros.
“Across retail verticals, approximately 60% of customers tend to make only one purchase from any given brand. Yet a small group of customers—around 20%—tend to provide 80% of retailers’ revenue,” he added. “That means that if you can convert, say, just 2-3% more of those first-time buyers into loyal customers, you can increase revenues by close to 7-10%. And securing that vital second purchase is the critical first step”
Here are the most important steps in driving that second sale:
- Introduce a clear post-purchase experience: This is like the onboarding flow for repeat customers — set expectations with clear, proactive communication and build the experience in a way that makes them excited to return to your site
- Offer discounts and deals to lure them back: The stats above show the clear value of that second purchase, so don’t hesitate to offer a discount or special offer in your marketing campaigns, to get them back on your site
- Launch strategic, proactive retention campaigns: In addition to the proactive chat campaigns we mentioned above, which can be triggered by repeat customers visiting your site, you can integrate Gorgias with tools like Klaviyo to run targeted email marketing and text campaigns that reach them away from your site
Get your customer support team ready for the 2022 Holiday Season with free access to Gorgias
If you take one thing away from this guide, remember: Bringing new traffic to your site isn’t enough of its own — converting and retaining customers is where the money is. And with the limited time before Thanksgiving Day, updating your customer service experience with the strategies above will set you up for your best Black Friday yet.
You can implement many of the tactics listed above on your own, but many are only possible with a customer service platform that offers time-saving automations and convenient self-service options for your customers.