Breakthrough Campaigns: 5 Merchants Share Their Strategies for Black Friday Cyber Monday

Two photographs side by side, framed in peach and grey. The photo on the left is a picture of hands working on a sewing machine. The photo on the right is an aerial image of a road winding through a forest.

The most wonderful time of the year for shoppers is undoubtedly the busiest time of the year for merchants. Black Friday Cyber Monday (BFCM) is an exciting prelude to the holiday shopping season, as consumers enjoy a long weekend and take advantage of fruitful deals, get ahead of gift-giving plans, or simply treat themselves.

Despite the stress and competitiveness surrounding preparation for this sales period, there are great rewards for businesses when Black Friday Cyber Monday is executed strategically. We spoke to five merchants in various industries about how they approach Black Friday Cyber Monday. Here are five major tips they shared:?

  1. Inject fun into gamified campaigns and exclusive deals
  2. Raise awareness and funds for a cause
  3. Offer mystery boxes and bonus items
  4. Remarket BFCM to fit your mission statement
  5. Discounting on select items to reach the most customers

1. Inject fun into gamified campaigns and exclusive deals?

In 2016, Jeremiah Curvers injured himself at a golf tournament and ended up bedridden for three months with a double herniated disc. Not resigned to spending his time resting idly, he began obsessively researching mattresses in search of a solution that offered stronger support and better rest. Through his search, Jeremiah met some of the mattress industry’s key foam manufacturer, and he decided to start Polysleep, a foam mattress company based in Montreal, Canada.?

A model sleeps in bedding and on mattress by Polysleep.
By marketing new offers to Polysleep mattresses owners, the team aims to create a ripple effect, as loyal customers spread word of the company’s upcoming promotions. Polysleep

With massive, venture-backed mattress-in-a-box companies dominating the market, Jeremiah worked closely with his supplier to differentiate Polysleep’s product. “The type of hybrid foam we use is more breathable and the construction offers stronger support edge to edge,” he says. Jeremiah also credits Polysleep’s competitive pricing as a differentiator, an advantage he’s secured by operating closely with suppliers and maintaining lower margins.?

When it comes to Black Friday Cyber Monday, Jeremiah also tackles things differently by getting creative with his campaigns. Last year, the Polysleep team created a mock “leaked” email that spilled the details of an upcoming sale to their email subscribers. With an explanation, and all the legal terms and conditions, in the footer of the email, some subscribers were quick to notice the fun tactic. Lots of subscribers participated in the sale and many forwarded the email to friends and family members who needed a new mattress. Jeremiah explains the sale had a domino effect: “A lot of people, after seeing that email, started interacting with the brand on a more personal level because it pulled back a corporate curtain and showed people Polysleep’s personality.”?

Fans of Polysleep’s marketing can rest easy: the company plans to inject plenty of fun into this year’s Black Friday Cyber Monday promotion as well. “An illustrated postcard will be mailed to customers that they can scratch to reveal a hidden discount. And it’s transferable to anyone who’s in need of a new mattress,” Jeremiah says. Giving this extra promotion to those who’ve already bought mattresses allows Polysleep to stay top of mind with their customers—and, of course, Jeremiah is hoping to create a domino effect as people pass along these discounts. The team will also offer some soon-to-be-revealed deals online, bonus gifts, and raffles with retail partners to bring more sweet dreams to their BFCM shoppers.

Learn more about all of the different types of discounts you can set up in Shopify for this BFCM.

2. Raise awareness and funds for a cause?

For many years, Julie Clark struggled with eczema and other skin allergies. So she began experimenting with natural oils, waxes, and herbs to craft her own skincare recipes. After studying aromatherapy, holistic health, and esthetics, Julie fine tuned those recipes to launch Province Apothecary and turned her homemade remedies into a business.?

Julie Clark the founder of Province Apothecary.
Through her own skincare struggles, Julie Clark was able to find the recipes to improve her skin and help many others with her line, Province Apothecary. Province Apothecary

Now Province Apothecary is a certified vegan, cruelty-free, and ethically sourced skincare company with a physical location and a skincare clinic. With Black Friday Cyber Monday being one of its largest and most profitable annual sales, Province Apothecary spends plenty of time and energy planning and coordinating between production, retail, and its online store. “We use sales data from the previous year to help inform our decisions on production, and we start planning for Black Friday inventory as early as spring,” says Julie. Starting early gives the company’s suppliers the necessary time to source raw ingredients and room for their production team to physically blend ingredients to create each product. Julie says her head office team “typically begins preparing for their Black Friday Cyber Monday sales and campaigns in the summer.”?

The healing eczema balm from Province Apothecary.
The product that started it all for Province Apothecary—the healing eczema balm. Province Apothecary

This year, Province Apothecary is planning a 25%-off discount for online and in-store purchases. Julie says the team plans to use tried-and-true approaches during BFCM, including email marketing campaigns, gift guides, and paid and organic social posts. With the swell of additional store traffic, Julie also plans to draw shoppers’ attention to a worthy cause: the team will be donating 15%–20% of its BFCM sales to Native Women’s Resource Centre of Toronto, an Indigenous-lead organization aimed at providing employment, family planning, housing, and parenting and youth services for indigenous communities. In years past, Province Apothecary has raised funds for Earthroots and Canadian Organic.

An array of skincare products from Province Apothecary.
From head to toe, Province Apothecary has created products that are vegan, cruelty-free, and socially sourced. Province Apothecary

The Province Apothecary team also plans to practice what they preach by making good use of the wellness tips they offer to clients. To destress during BFCM, the team aims to stay hydrated, have balanced meals, and practice self-care with oils, balms, and masks.?

3. Offer mystery boxes and bonus items

Cheyenne Federiconi has always loved to create things. At an early age, she began selling commissioned artwork inspired by video games. But it was during art school that she found her preferred artistic style: feminine aesthetics with empowering messages. “Pink, sparkly, and girly designs always get put down for being weak or unpowerful,” Cheyenne says. “So I mixed aesthetic with a lot of themes and characters that create a dynamic that empowers.” Smashing the starving-artist stereotypes, Cheyenne turned her innate need to create into a business. Under the moniker Sugarbones, she initially monetized her designs by printing them on stickers and later expanded her business to include enamel pins, patches, accessories, and apparel.?

A selection of necklaces and pins from Sugarbones.
From pins and patches to jewelry and apparel, Sugarbones is all about empowering while still remaining feminine.?Sugarbones

Cheyenne views BFCM as a time to treat Sugarbones’ customers to a little fun, and her campaigns often make use of surprise and mystery. “I'll add in bonus stickers or a miniature art print for all orders during BFCM,” says Cheyenne. Her door crasher comes in the form of a mystery box filled with multiple pins, patches, and stickers. “Ordering a mystery box is like receiving a present where you don’t know what's inside it, which is exciting for those who love surprises,” Cheyenne says. “It’s also a different approach without discounting the whole store and a great way to clear out inventory of older items.”?

Sugarbones’ BFCM campaigns are built around fun and excitement, but behind the scenes Cheyenne works hard to ensure things run smoothly. As the sole owner and operator of her business, she juggles a bevy of responsibilities. To prepare for BFCM and the hectic holiday season, Cheyenne stocks inventory at least a month in advance and finishes all of her email and social marketing materials a week beforehand.?

4. Remarket BFCM to fit your mission statement?

While spending a semester in Hawaii, Canadians Dave Luba and Kalen Emsley found themselves immersed in nature, thanks in large part to days spent hiking and surfing. These experiences inspired them to look for ways to help preserve the world’s natural wonders. They followed the footsteps of socially conscious enterprises and brands, like Toms, and in 2012, the duo launched Tentree, an apparel company with a commitment to plant 10 trees for every item sold.?

Clothing from Tentree worn by two models near a lake.
Each piece of Tentree clothing comes with a unique trackable code to show where a customer’s 10 trees will be planted.?Tentree

Initially, Tentree struggled with the idea of participating in Black Friday Cyber Monday. “We wanted to stay away from the negative impacts of consumerism and stimulating sales of items that were not needed,” says Shawn McIntyre, the ecommerce manager at Tentree. The company first dipped its toes into the BFCM waters three years ago, remarketing the sales period as Green Friday. “We looked at our company, mission, and products and realized there was a huge opportunity for us to promote our cause and create change during the busiest shopping period,” Shawn says. The team set a goal of planting one million trees through this year’s BFCM sales, doubling their target from last year.

A tree planter in Madagascar helping Tentree fulfill their mission.
EA planter at a Tentree site in Madagascar. Tentree

During its Green Friday campaign, Tentree offers a sitewide percentage discount along with additional daily promotions of mystery bonus gifts, new product releases, and free shipping. To reward its top customers, Tentree also offers early access and exclusive offers to its biggest supporters. It announces Green Friday and its paired promotional offers through email campaigns that show a live goal meter for the numbers of trees planted and advertise the campaign on social as well.

A t-shirt from Tentree promoting the protection of local forests.
Placing the environment from design to marketing, Treentree is committed to planting one million trees this BFCM. Tentree

Tentree’s main goal for its Green Friday campaign is to raise awareness. One way it does this is by providing customers with unique codes they can use to track the location where their trees will be planted. From Madagascar to Haiti to Nepal, Tentree has been able to successfully reposition Black Friday Cyber Monday to align with its mission statement and plant seeds of change.?

5. Discounting on select items to reach the most customers

The Wallack’s name is synonymous with art in Canada’s capital. This Ottawa art store and gallery has?been an institution for more than 80 years, and Michael Wallack, the current president and third generation owner, is carrying on the legacy. In 2015, under Michael’s management, this bricks-and-mortar store entered the ecommerce world. Selling online is not only a modernization tool. It also allows artists in remote places to purchase supplies and for others to peruse the inventory. “When artists get inspired, they want to figure out what materials or colors they'll need to complete a project, so our website is a helpful place for planning and inspiration,” Michael says.?

Aerial photograph of paintbrushes and paints placed on top of a bright teal background.
Wallack’s discounts items that the majority of its customers will benefit from during its BFCM sale. Wallack’s
Wallack’s initially began participating in Black Friday Cyber Monday to stay competitive against American art suppliers and Canadian companies who adopted the sales period. Now, its main motivation is to benefit its lifelong customers. Michael highlights the company’s 12-month planning cycle as a key component to building a Black Friday Cyber Monday promotion that fits with its profitability, inventory, and, most importantly, customers’ needs. “This period is an opportunity to help customers replenish their supplies at a better price. We don't view it as a way to get new customers, but rather a way to give our customers a deal they need,” Michael says.?
Aerial photograph of stationary supplies including a teal notebook, a ruler, pens and pencils and a compass, placed on top of a bright orange background.
Various tools offered by Wallack’s for those who find creativity in drawing. . Wallack’s
Art projects come in many forms, and there are countless niche tools available to help bring an artist’s vision to life. Wallack’s tries to discount items that appeal to the most customers during Black Friday Cyber Monday. In previous years, customers enjoyed sales on supplies and materials that need to be frequently restocked, like oil and acrylic paints. With a focus on serving and selling to existing customers, Wallack’s campaigns are typically featured through its website, email list, and social accounts. By approaching Black Friday Cyber Monday in its own way and putting artists first, Wallack's is launching campaigns that will continuing, and expanding its legacy.?

Get ready for a breakthrough BFCM?

Even though the strategies highlighted above are unique to each featured merchant, their process all points back to finding campaigns that resonate with their customers. Setting your goals and coming up with a unique Black Friday Cyber Monday approach is essential to reach your intended audience.

We hope the stories of how the above merchants created their own Black Friday Cyber Monday strategies will spark ideas for your own plans. To help you prepare even more, check out the 27 things to check off your Black Friday Cyber Monday planning list and kick start your 2019 plans.