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Marketing World Consumer Goods

9 steps to a successful Black Friday referral marketing campaign

By Courtney Wylie | vice-president of product and marketing

Mention Me


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September 28, 2020 | 11 min read

During what’s been a challenging year for retailers, Black Friday offers a valuable opportunity to drive sales, acquire new customers, and boost profit margins. The tough economic climate means getting a good deal is even more important to consumers, with many already preparing to do their Christmas shopping during the seasonal promotion.

Lipstick beauty

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A significant proportion of this shopping is set to take place online. Two years ago, 73% of Black Friday sales were online. Last year, online Black Friday sales totalled £5.6 billion in the UK alone. Add a pandemic into the mix – complete with long queues, social distancing and a now rising Covid infection rate – and this year's figures are set to be dramatically higher.

It‘s not only online sales that e-commerce and multichannel retailers can increase on and around 29 November, either. Alongside online order volumes, referrals soared in lockdown as consumers recommended their favourite brands to family and friends. Despite shops reopening, this trend has remained up year-on-year for retailers in sectors including home and garden, fashion, and gifts.

Couple this with the fact that shoppers trust their friends’ recommendations more than any other form of advertising, and a Black Friday referral campaign offers valuable potential to recover profit margins and acquire new customers who match your target demographic.

On Black Friday last year, our referral marketing and customer retention platform served 160% more traffic year-on-year. Incentivising customers to refer friends when they're feeling excited about their Black Friday purchase is a strategy proven to work. DNA Fit acquired 116% more referred customers and increased referral revenue by 174%. Schuh had its best ever month in terms of AOV, new customers and revenue. Monica Vinader increased its referral share rate by 41%.

And this year is set to be even bigger.

Read on to learn how you can implement a Black Friday referral campaign that acquires new customers who return, throughout the Christmas period and beyond.

Be prepared

Don't be that brand that has to end its promotion early because you weren't fully prepared. Every Black Friday, some retailers find themselves in the bittersweet scenario of outperforming expectations to such an extent that they run out of voucher codes. This means customers are unable to claim their reward for referring friends and retailers lose potential sales and valuable new customers.

The ongoing pandemic may also means there's more pressure on your supply chain this year. To overcome this, anticipate products likely to sell out and have a strategy ready, such as suggesting similar, available products.

Lastly, make sure your website is ready for a sudden surge in traffic. With virtually every brand running a Black Friday promotion, a website crash can be a costly mistake, even if it lasts just a few minutes. We recommend running tests in advance of 27 November so you’re confident that absolutely everything is ready to make your campaign a success.

Make your incentive irresistible

With so many brands offering Black Friday deals, your incentive has to stand out. Instead of offering a blanket deal across your website, segment your customers and target them with specific offers based on what you know about them. For example, do your second-time customers prefer percentage or fixed-sum discounts? Are referred friends more motivated to buy for the first time by a free gift or competition entry? Add context into this, promoting your offer via solus emails and push notifications at times you know customers are likely to act.

Boux mention me

Boux Avenue's Black Friday referral campaign 2019

To make your referral campaign a success, promote an offer that's better than both your competitors’ and any other promotion on your website.

Double discounts (offering both referrers and referees money off their next purchase) tend to perform particularly well. While you may worry this will weaken your profit margins, your referral programme is almost certainly more cost-effective than digital marketing channels like pay-per-click (PPC) and social media ads. Take advantage of this and offer a generous incentive. It may well pay for itself; offering a higher discount than usual is more likely to spike your sales and average order value (AOV) to drive higher overall revenue than a less notable offer.

It’s not just discounts that perform well, either. Free gifts, VIP invites and competitions are just some of the other ways you can encourage customers to recommend your brand. For subscription-based businesses, it’s also worth considering incentives like a free month’s service.

Get creative with copy and design

Black Friday is a great opportunity to reiterate your brand’s USPs and positioning. Use your referral campaign to reinforce your branding, from your messaging and tone of voice to design. Our Black Friday lookbook is full of examples for this, from fashion brands to fitness and food.

Using Black Friday themed branding can be a good way to make your promotion stand out, too. Explore beyond your traditional colour palette to incorporate splashes of black to grab attention and make it obvious you’re participating in the event. Or you can put your own spin on the event, like vegan food brand allplants in their rebranding to ‘Green Friday‘.

Green Friday

Allplants promoted 'Green Friday' to reiterate its brand purpose on Black Friday last year

Promote it

So now you’ve come up with a brilliant Black Friday referral campaign with an enticing discount and on-brand design, it’s time to get your customers’ attention.

Black Friday is a highly competitive time, so it’s vital your campaign is highly visible and promoted at touchpoints throughout the customer journey.

Feature it on your homepage; display as a post-purchase pop-up; shout about it on social. Use your learnings from A/B testing previous referral campaigns to optimise your promotion. Display at the touchpoints you know your customers most engage with (what we call the curve of delight) and use wording that resonates (for example, ‘give’ a reward rather than ‘get’ one, or vice versa).

Retarget customers

With so many brands competing for attention and shouting about their amazing offers, it’s easy for customers to feel overwhelmed during Black Friday. They may well visit your site to browse before being distracted by another brand’s offer.

This is when retargeting becomes important.

Strategically use ads to retarget visitors to your site who are yet to complete their purchase. This is even better if personalised (eg ‘Hey Jo, it’s not too late to get 30% off that shirt’). You can complement these ads with follow-up emails featuring recently viewed items or their basket. Often customers will shop around for the best deal, so they may well have realised the value of your offer and be ready to proceed to checkout at this point in the journey.

Create a buzz

Black Friday can be an intense time as every brand tries to cut through the noise and reach consumers. Take advantage of the fact that 51% of consumers trust their friend’s or partner‘s recommendation more than any other advertising.

Referral isn't the only way to do this. Launch, for example, a competition encouraging user-generated content. It’s easy for a potential customer to scroll past an advert, but if they’re following numerous people – be they friends or influencers – all sharing content linking to your Black Friday campaign, it’s bound to grab attention.

Keep it exclusive

The excitement of snagging a bargain begins to wane by Cyber Monday. Last year, we saw order volumes significantly drop compared to Black Friday.

Resist the temptation to extend your campaign throughout December. It may help avoid a post-Black Friday slump, but risks hurting your brand reputation and long-term profit margins. Continuing to offer discounts beyond Black Friday sets the expectation that customers don‘t have to pay full-price, and risks alienating customers who thought they'd got a good deal in your Black Friday sale.

By keeping your Black Friday event exclusive, you‘re strengthening your brand reputation and reinforcing the value of special events. Plus, returning to full-price means you can continue to recover profit margins damaged by the pandemic, especially if offering brand new items.

Motivate customers to return

Avoid the infamous aftermath of the Black Friday spike by engaging with your customers throughout their journey. New customers likely have different characteristics from your existing ones; tailor your interactions to reflect this.

Shoppers likely landed on your site on the hunt for a Black Friday bargain, but engaging with them in the right ways can significantly increase the likelihood they'll return and buy again. Invite customers, for example, to your loyalty programme for exclusive access to new collections. Ask for NPS feedback to gauge customer sentiment and how you can improve. Share interesting and informative content, such as how they can make the most of their Black Friday purchase or customers sharing purchases like theirs on social media. Rather than push the next sale, look to build meaningful relationships with your customers and stay front of mind as they continue their Christmas shopping.

Measure, measure, measure

We've said it before and we'll say it again: measuring is key. Track how different elements of your campaign influence customer behaviour and revenue. Use segmentation and A/B testing to learn more about your customers and what most effectively drives desired actions at points throughout their journey and lifecycle. Then use your insights to optimise performance and create marketing campaigns that acquire even more loyal customers who love your brand.

For more Black Friday campaign inspiration, download Mention Me’s Black Friday lookbook. Packed full of real brand examples and tips on acquiring loyal customers who return, throughout the Christmas period and beyond.

Courtney Wylie, vice-president of product and marketing, Mention Me

Marketing World Consumer Goods

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