Be smart. Plan ahead, starting well before Black Friday. Personalize your message, and make your customers feel known and appreciated.

 Gurmeet Lamba, chief operating officer, Sentient Technologies

Gurmeet Lamba, chief operating officer, Sentient Technologies

Black Friday, the day after American Thanksgiving, has become synonymous with one of the year’s most lucrative days for e-commerce businesses. Competitive online retailers are spending increasing marketing dollars in an effort to capture attention and Black Friday traffic to their sites.
No strategy is off the table—special offers, slashed prices, free returns, cash back … the kitchen sink. Does it work? Not if visitors aren’t buying. What can online retailers do? Don’t panic. Play it smart.

Plan ahead: Soften up your audience ahead of time with email drip campaigns and social media

Black Friday is about more than just one day. If you want to compete, you need to plan ahead and gear up to give yourselves the best chance of attracting and converting customers throughout this hectic sales frenzy. As well as deciding what discounts you offer, you need to plan out your marketing efforts, email campaigns, on-site copy, graphics, and images.

It’s also good to start softening up your audience in good time, reminding your existing customers that you exist. Think about creating drip email campaigns, regular marketing communications across multiple channels, and teasers about what you might be offering around Black Friday to help build anticipation.

Ah! The site knows who I am and knows what I want—perhaps I’ll be able to find that perfect thing I need.

Familiarity breeds sales, so remind existing customers that you’re there and alert potential new customers to what you offer ahead of time. This will help you stand out amongst crowded world of online retail during the holiday season.

Make good use of social proof: Reach out to brand ambassadors, bloggers, and your existing customer base

Social proof can be a key component of many optimization campaigns, both on- and off-site. Imagine seeing crowds gathering outside a big department store when the sales start: It only serves to fuel demand and encourages more shoppers to join the line. Social proof can serve a similar purpose for online stores, especially during Black Friday—a time of year when it is most essential to build anticipation and instill a sense of urgency.

Why not call upon your existing customer base to act as brand ambassadors and spokespeople for your online store? You can incentivize them with discounts and free gifts in exchange for them sharing your products and deals on their social media accounts or through email. Invite them to become your own tribe of brand ambassadors and you’ll spread the word throughout their network about your online store and your  special holiday deals. Take advantage of the “she said, he said” culture of social media and instill social proof in potential and existing customers.



Personalize your messaging: Send the right message to the right group of people throughout all of your messaging whether it be email marketing, social media, website content, or on-the-spot product recommendations on your site.

While your value proposition can be a crucial step to convincing customers to explore your store, what can be even more effective is to simply let the products do the talking. This is particularly powerful when you are able to showcase the items that are most likely to appeal to each shopper, whether by targeting different content to different segments and cohorts of shoppers or using more advanced methods of individual personalization.

If you can personalize any of your content, then ensure you promote offers that are relevant to the person landing on your site. For example, if your home page hero banner boasts 50% off on all women’s dresses and shoes, it’s most likely not going to appeal to your male customs. They will respond to different products being placed in their eyeline. Using technology that’s able to understand quickly who your audience is when they come to your site enables you to direct the right content and product offers to them. This will make them feel appreciated as well as demonstrate that your store is aware of their shopping needs and ready to fulfill them.

Segment your Traffic: Segment your audiences based on a whole host of signals, such as the PPC search terms they used, social media campaign they clicked on, previous purchases for returning visitors, or location and time zone.

As a way to further personalize your online shopping experience, you can segment your online traffic so you know which customers are coming from which location at what time of day, and whether they came to you store via social media or email campaign. This allows you to promote the most relevant offers to most relevant customers as soon as possible on their shopping journey.
This also means you can add those personalizing details that make the customer feel known and welcomed. For instance, if you know your customer is a woman from San Francisco who has entered your site in the afternoon while it’s raining, you can present a welcome image of San Francisco and present products like rain gear and umbrellas. This will make the customer think “Ah! The site knows who I am and knows what I want—perhaps I’ll be able to find that perfect thing I need.”


Advances in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning means retailers can now deliver true one-on-one personalization from the moment a visitor lands on your site. Each version of a website’s copy, imagery, and products can be optimized to individual users on-the-fly, which ultimately drives higher conversions.

Optimize Optimize, Optimize: Driving traffic to your website is one thing. Delivering a seamless, intuitive experience for shoppers when they arrive is equally as important yet can often not be given the same level of attention.

The work to keep a website fresh, engaging and effective in converting customers is never complete. Luckily the days of running drawn out A/B tests to see what works and what doesn’t are gone. Sophisticated tools that leverage AI can test unlimited variations in page designs—copy, font, images, layout, colors, etc. —across multiple pages in a sales funnel and quickly understand what is working for customers and what isn’t. Testing and retesting all of the small details that make your customer’s journey as effortless as possible will pay dividends immediately. All of the time and money spent attracting customers to a website are in vain if they don’t convert. So it pays to make the most of your website investment and ensure that each detail is working together as efficiently and effectively as it can be.

Get your Black Friday Game Plan On: Time to Personalize! The growing surge in Black Friday revenues inevitably has every online retailer competing for its piece of the pie.



Be smart. Plan ahead, personalize your message, and make your customers feel known and appreciated. Demonstrate to customers that you understand who they are, what they want and that you are the store that can fulfill their needs. Greet them with a personalized message and product recommendation from the first time they log into your site and ensure their online experience with you is as easy and enjoyable as possible. You only have a limited amount of time to capture the hearts and wallets of online Black Friday shoppers so make sure every second and every click counts.

Sentient Technologies supplies digital marketing and customer engagement software based on artificial intelligence.