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Black Friday 2021 eCommerce Checklist: last-minute preparations for merchants

Here at JH, we’ve been helping our eCommerce clients prepare for Black Friday 2021 for months. We made changes to site layouts to avoid niggles with the iOS 15 update; gathered and summarised top tips for success from experts in the industry; and researched the updates coming to Adobe Commerce in Q4 so our clients could make sure their security was ship-shape.

But if you’re reading this post, maybe you don’t feel prepared. Maybe you’re here because you need to take action NOW – to make sure you haven’t missed anything that could throw a spanner in the works during BFCM weekend. And if the proverbial spanner does end up in the works after all – you want to be able to fix it swiftly, or at least show you took steps to prepare for it in advance.

While it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to make major design or architecture changes to your site this close to BFCM – there are still plenty of smaller changes and preparations you can make, even at this late stage! Let’s get prepared for your best BFCM weekend yet, with our last-minute checklist for eCommerce merchants…

Start sneak peeks early

If 2020 was anything to go by, the festive season is likely to start earlier and go on for longer than previous years – so don’t let your messages get lost in the noise around BFCM. Customers are already on the lookout for great deals, so why not take advantage early and get your brand included in their Black Friday shopping list?

Share sneak peeks of deals, new products and gifting inspiration via email and on social media to help create a buzz around your brand in the lead up to BFCM – and consider asking customers to sign up to your mailing list for early access, too. Email marketing has a considerably higher click-through and conversion rate than social media, so the festive season is an ideal time to encourage customers to join this high-ROI channel.

Create a contingency plan

No matter your campaign plans over the black Friday weekend, it pays to allow a degree of flexibility. Get your team together and have a 15 minute brainstorming session – what do they think is most likely to go wrong over the weekend? What could be the most detrimental? Then create contingency plans for those which could cause the most damage – and check in with your agency too, to ensure your priorities are on the same page.

Evaluate your shipping options

Customers know brands receive a high volume of orders around BFCM – and as long as you communicate it, most are happy to wait. Give your fulfilment team breathing room by considering temporarily reducing the amount of shipping options you offer customers – or simply extend the lead times on the options you already have. Adopting ‘get it before Christmas’ messaging can work well at peak times – reassuring customers that gifts for their loved ones will arrive in advance of the big day.

Don’t forget to communicate any changes you do make – setting expectations for your customers is so important, and can considerably reduce customer service enquiries. Include updated messaging at the checkout, on shipping information pages, and within order notification emails for the best results.

Schedule as much as you can in advance

The more you can schedule in advance around BFCM, the more prepared you’ll feel – and the less stress your team will be under! Product discounts, social campaigns and email newsletters can all be scheduled days or weeks in advance, but if you haven’t started working on these already, there’s still time to get ahead and clear your schedule to enable you to deal with potential hiccups.

A great tip is to keep a central list of what’s happening when, so the team are all aware and you can pause or cancel elements if the worst should happen – like pausing ad campaigns if the hero product goes out of stock!

Refresh your new customer welcome strategy

With so many customers browsing for bargains ahead of gifting season, you’re likely to receive an influx of new customers around BFCM. But there’s no reason these should all be one-time customers – it’s important to nurture those new to your brand and ensure they come back again throughout the year.

Look over your email welcome flow or any other campaigns you have to welcome new customers, and make sure everything is up to date – often these automated campaigns can get a little neglected. Consider sending a personal follow-up after BFCM to your new customers, too – many consumers love to see behind the scenes from the brands they support, and something as simple as sharing your story with them could glean you customers for life.

Update policies, FAQs and notifications

If you’re changing shipping and delivery options during BFCM, make sure this is reflected in any website policies. Ensure information on processing times, shipping carriers or any other information customers might need is correct and easily available – and consider updating automated email notifications and messages to warn customers ahead of possible delays. We’ve written extensively about the advantages of self-service information for eCommerce brands, and this becomes all the more important during busy sales periods.

Triple-check your security and patches are up to date

With many platforms bringing out new patches ahead of BFCM, now’s the time to make sure all your tech tools are running the latest software. We recently wrote about the Q4 updates from Adobe Commerce, which included a slew of security improvements ahead of the festive season. Check in with your agency and make sure that everything that needs to be upgraded has been done well in advance – so there is no last-minute scrambling for fixes!

Integrate mobile or BNPL payment options

While it might be cutting it a bit fine, if you do have time to get them up and running, mobile payment options like PayPal, Apple Pay and Google Pay – and BNPL services like Klarna or Clearpay – could really help improve your conversion rates this festive season. Anything that speeds up the checkout process for your customers is integral to Black Friday success, and preferred mobile payment option availability also makes the process smoother for new customers, while building trust with your brand at the same time.

Look back and learn from your successes – and failures!

No matter what happens, it’s important to evaluate how BFCM went for your business, so you can take those learnings into 2022 and beyond. Once the weekend is over – but while it’s still fresh in everyone’s minds – get the team together and discuss what went well, and what could have been better. Save these insights to refer back to next year, and share them with your agency partners to ensure 2022 is an even more successful year for your business.

Is it time for your eCommerce business to be two steps ahead?

If you’re tired of last-minute action and dream of switching to a proactive business mindset – we could be the eCommerce agency that takes you there. We work with our hand-picked clients to develop a roadmap for their future that helps achieve their goals – providing best-practice recommendations that make a real difference to their business growth. Get in touch via or +44(0)115 7940060.