How to prepare your e-commerce business for Black Friday

Anna Thompson
Anna Thompson
Discover content team
4 min read
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graphic image of presents and DHL delivery items

There are just a few weeks left until the trillion-dollar global sales bonanza that is Black Friday. 25 November is the big day, so your e-commerce business’s preparations should be well under way. But, if they aren’t, don’t panic, because we have all the tips to help your business cash in.

Black Friday is typically the biggest sales day of the year for many e-commerce businesses. Yet, this year, with the global energy crisis and widespread inflation impacting consumers’ spending, celebrations may be a little muted. In a DHL survey earlier this year, 26% of US-based SMEs said their international sales had already decreased due to inflation1. Against this backdrop of uncertainty, competition for sales will be tougher than ever so, to stay ahead, you’ll need to raise your e-commerce game.

Yet, there are still reasons to be optimistic. Here’s one statistic that should excite you: 79% of consumers typically discover a new online store on Black Friday2. But what can you do to ensure it’s your business they discover? According to Criteo3, the leading motivations for trying a new brand on the day are great deals (54% of consumers), free shipping (48%), and discounts on products that aren’t discounted elsewhere (37%). To get these right, read on…

Ensure your deals are competitive

With global inflation at unprecedented levels, it seems only right to address consumers’ changing budgets first. A poll commissioned by CNBC found that 52% of shoppers said it will be harder to afford their holiday purchases this year than in 20214. As a result, Black Friday bargain hunters will be looking to get more bang for their buck and will spend more time researching and comparing offers in order to do so.  

Look at what price points your competitors are selling their products at – can you go lower? Or throw in some freebies or samples to give your offer the edge? Just be sure to put your best deals front and center on your website and across your social media channels.

man and woman in warehouse looking at tablet screen

Be adaptable against supply chain disruptions

It’s still a tricky time for global supply chains – but for different reasons than last year. The war in Ukraine has resulted in a steep rise in oil and gas prices, which is putting pressure on businesses in many parts of the world, especially where transport and logistics are involved. And while last year’s main problem, COVID, has receded as a concern in many countries, strict testing and quarantine regulations continue in China, one of the main manufacturing countries, slowing down the transport of goods for export.

If your products are manufactured in China or elsewhere overseas, our advice is to think seriously about diversifying your suppliers – it will reduce bottlenecks if something should go wrong. At the very least, you should be maintaining regular communication with your suppliers so you can adapt quickly to any hiccups. If, for example, you discover a key shipment of inventory has been held up somewhere abroad, you can quickly switch to pushing another deal across your sales channels instead.

Plan and manage your inventory

Do you need to order extra stock in advance? After all, you don’t want to disappoint customers. On the other hand, you don’t want to be left with lots of unsold goods that take many months to shift. So how can you predict what will sell well this year?

There are several approaches you can combine to get a good indication: reviewing what sold well last Black Friday; looking back over the past year and picking up on any non-seasonal buying trends; and checking what’s sold well just recently. There are also tools to try, which claim to take out the guesswork, such as the Inventory Planner5.

As well as planning ahead, you should keep a close watch on your inventory on the big day itself. If something does sell out, you can quickly switch to push other products. And if something is selling more slowly than predicted, be ready to discount or price-match your competitors.

Keep new customers happy…

Attracting new customers through your online stores this Black Friday is key, but so is ensuring they come back again and again. Criteo asked consumers: “What would make you return to a brand or retailer that you discovered on Black Friday?” The leading answers? Beyond the obvious “great deals”, free and fast shipping scored highly6. Consider if you can absorb the cost of free shipping elsewhere in your business – it’ll be worth it, if it secures you extra sales. As for fast shipping, Express leader DHL has you covered!

…and remember to reward the loyal ones

Drop previous customers an email with an extra Black Friday discount code. Use engaging copy to thank them for supporting your business – they’ll appreciate the personal touch. Just remember to use the phrase “Black Friday” in the subject line – emails containing this phrase have a +64% CTR7.

man pointing at computer screen

Optimize your e-commerce website…

Ahead of the rush, it’s time to give your website a quick health check to ensure it will meet customers’ expectations. Does it have the capability to manage a surge in traffic without slowing the page loading speed? Is it user friendly with a powerful search bar to help customers find what they’re looking for? Do the product listing have lots of high-res images?

E-commerce is fiercely competitive, with customers able to switch to a competitor’s website with just a couple of taps, so don’t lose them because of something as fixable as an uninspiring home page. Follow our 22 golden rules of e-commerce to tick the essentials off.  

…and don’t forget mobile!

With mobile commerce booming, there’s a fair chance the majority of your customers will be shopping your store via their smartphones, so check your e-commerce website is optimized for the small screen – luckily, we’ve got a guide  to help you.

You could go one step better and invest in a dedicated mobile shopping app for your business. 85% of online consumers said they prefer shopping on mobile apps over mobile websites8, and with conversion rates through mobile apps a whopping 130% higher compared to mobile-first websites9, it will pay off for your business! We just so happen to have a guide for this, too.

Ensure your products are found

Competition will be fierce so it’s worth considering selling on an online marketplace to reach more customers – especially when you consider that in the US, more product searches now start on Amazon10 than Google. Many of the leading marketplaces run their own Black Friday events to build buzz, maximizing your opportunity to connect with millions of buyers around the world. Check out our guide to to help you pick the right ones.

Spread the word about your (genuine) discounts

You’re running a Black Friday sale? Great! Now you just need to let all your customers know. Spread the word on social media, SMS and email. However, only shout about genuine discounts. While Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales figures have generally continued to rise over the last few years, the number of shoppers has actually fallen6. One important reason is that they don’t believe the best prices are available on those days!

In a survey of 1,000 UK shoppers, 62% said they didn’t think Black Friday prices were any better than the rest of the year11. And it turned out, they were correct. In a study from 2019, just 5% of Black Friday sales offered a lower price than what was available during other times of the year12. So, if you want to build trust with your customers in the long term, make sure your discounts are genuine.

three women looking at mobile screen

Turn the likes into sales  

Early Black Friday bargain hunters will be browsing social media on the days before, so tease your discounts across your channels during this time. Create a dedicated hashtag to encourage customers to post their own content around your brand: consumers consider reviews from family and friends to be more genuine than those from influencers13.

Start selling internationally

Currently, of the world's 195 countries, it’s estimated that approximately 50-60% celebrate Black Friday in some form or another14. That makes it the ideal time for you to think about selling and shipping internationally – if you don’t already do so. DHL Express can help your business sell cross-border, taking care of all the hassle around customs regulations, duties and taxes, so that your customers receive their orders without delay – wherever they are.  

Use packaging as a marketing tool

Black Friday may be all about one-off discounts, but you can use your packaging to start building a long-term relationship with a new customer. Carefully chosen packaging can project your brand’s image and differentiate it from competitors, while personalized messaging or storytelling can make an impression on recipients as they unwrap. You can also include an incentive to sign up to your mailing list, so you can target them with new products or deals in the future. Of course, there's more to branding than jazzy packaging: discover the 6 key principles of marketing to give your business the edge, all year round.

man sealing a brown package

Be ready for returns

E-commerce returns rates are around 30% worldwide13, so you’re likely to have some, no matter how great your product is. Have a good returns policy in place and state it clearly on your website – 67% of shoppers check a business’ returns policy before committing to a purchase14.

You’ll also need to decide whether to make your returns service free. While customers certainly love this perk, rising fuel prices are set to increase the cost to businesses even further, so many companies are starting to charge.

If you do decide to offer free returns, think about enabling customers to return to parcel lockers, so your logistics partner can collect more of them from a single location. Not only will this bring your costs down, but it will also result in fewer carbon emissions. If you have a bricks-and-mortar store, allowing customers to return there will reduce costs for your business. As a bonus, the customer may even make a couple of impulse purchases whilst there. Win win!


Finally, remember, the fun doesn’t stop after Black Friday – there’s also Cyber Monday and Christmas to think about! For more detailed advice to help you maximize all the holiday season sales opportunities, take a look at our Peak Season E-commerce Toolkit

1 - GoGlobal.DHL, May 2022

2 & 3 - Criteo, October 2021

4 - CNBC, September 2022

5 - Inventory Planner

6 - Criteo, October 2021

7 - DotDigital, September 2022

8 - Forbes, May 2022

9 - Business of Apps, March 2021

10 - Insider Intelligence, September 2018

11 & 12 - Divante blog, 2022

13 - Business2Community, October 2021

14 - Jungle Scout, November 2019

13 & 14 - Invespcro, May 2022