A go-to partnerships strategy for the holiday shopping season: What brands need to do before, during, and after

Black Friday and Cyber Monday will be more socially distanced this year — which means more online traffic, less crowded frenzy. But everyone still loves a good deal, so it’s time to get ready — and that means looking at what you need to do before, during, and after Black Friday and Cyber Monday arrive.

A go-to partnerships strategy for the holiday shopping season: What brands need to do before, during, and after

These best practices will help you make your partnerships stronger than ever, even in a year that has been a rollercoaster. Check this ebook out to get you ready for a partnership-centric approach in the new normal.

Content Summary

Why you need to get prepared for Black Friday/Cyber Monday
Before Black Friday/Cyber Monday
During Black Friday/Cyber Monday
After Black Friday/Cyber Monday
The partnership-centric approach in a new normal

Black Friday and Cyber Monday will be socially distanced this year — which, by proxy, means more online traffic, less crowded in-person frenzy. But everyone still loves a good deal, so it’s time to get ready — and that means looking at what you need to do before, during, and after Black Friday/Cyber Monday arrives.

These best practices will help you make your partnerships stronger than ever, even in a year that has been a rollercoaster.

Why you need to get prepared for Black Friday/Cyber Monday

Not convinced it’s going to be worth the effort this year? Let’s look at the current predictions:

  • Amazon Prime Day is a good indication that shoppers still love a good deal, with third-party sellers making more than $3.5 billion thanks to the bargains.
  • In 2019, Black Friday saw 93.2 million buyers shopping online. Black Friday online shopping sales hit $7.4 billion, which was an all-time high.

60% of shoppers start shopping earlier than Black Friday for holiday gifts.

Black Friday 2019 online shopping sales hit $17.4 billion, which was an all-time high.

-14 pts. Global consumer confidence suffered a record drop in the second quarter of 2020

Whatever deals you have planned, 60% of shoppers start shopping earlier than Black Friday for holiday gifts. And, with consumer trust waning during a global crisis (global consumer confidence suffered a record drop in the second quarter of 2020), it’s more important than ever to leverage affiliate and influencer partnerships. After all, the partnership model is all about building relationships over time and gaining trust — something companies need now more than ever.

The power of a customized Black Friday/Cyber Monday plan

An effective Black Friday or Cyber Monday partnership campaign shouldn’t be plug and play — it requires planning, communication, analysis, and the right retargeting approach. This best practice guide breaks down key considerations for your influencer and affiliate marketing strategy during Black Friday and Cyber Monday, looking at the key steps you need to take before, during, and after. Find out:

  • How to prepare your influencer and affiliate partners for Black Friday/Cyber Monday
  • How existing product trends can inform your Black Friday/Cyber Monday campaigns
  • What steps you need to take to prepare for a surge in online traffic
  • How to optimize your campaigns in real-time and maximize return
  • Ways to nurture new customers during and after Black Friday/Cyber Monday
  • What to do next and opportunities for extended promotions and deals

Before Black Friday/Cyber Monday

Test, create, and communicate

It’s understandable that many retailers are hesitant right now: the world is in a constant state of flux with the COVID-19 pandemic and turbulent politics at the front of everyone’s minds. However, consumers are also understandably keen to save money and nab a deal this year, whether that’s much-needed entertainment for themselves at home in isolation or a holiday gift for their friends and family. To set you up for success, here are some best practice steps you can take before Black Friday.

Before Black Friday/Cyber Monday

Use existing performance data to predict popular products

Many shoppers are already online buying holiday gifts, so it’s a good idea to review the performance data on converting traffic from your current affiliate and influencer partnerships, but also review sales overall onsite to spot trends, and identify popular products. Isolation is having an effect on consumer purchasing behavior with the products below flying off the shelves:

  • Baking equipment: Remember all of those banana bread recipes that were doing the rounds in spring of 2020? With more time on their hands, many people at home are bread making and cake baking.
  • Laptops, TVs, gaming, and entertainment: Owing to huge discounts during Prime Day, top brands have sold out on Amazon, which triggered a series of “Alternative” and “Anti-Prime Day deals” across competitive retailers across the world.
  • DIY and home renovation: Being at home more has prompted many consumers to take on household projects, which means renovation items such as paint and fencing have been in high demand.
  • Face masks: Face coverings are understandably a new must-have accessory for safety and comfort during the pandemic. Fanatics also recently experienced a surge of sales and interest in sports team brand face masks.
  • Comfort wear: Recently, Impact’s partnership benchmarks revealed an early indication that clothing, shoes, and apparel were a popular purchase during lockdown. In fact, bulk purchasing reached new heights by the end of September with basket sizes 60% above the baseline set at the start of the year. Now many retailers are experiencing stock shortages on comfort wear in particular as people spend more time at home.

Get your tech ready — test and prepare for increased traffic

Given the current situation, fewer people will buy in store this year, so whatever your online traffic was for the past few years during Black Friday and Cyber Monday, forecast it out, and then double or even triple it for good measure. You need to make sure your tech and server capacity can handle this level of surge in concurrent online traffic — the last thing you need is a site crash midway through the biggest shopping event of the year.

  1. Forecast it out, and then double it
  2. Make sure you can handle the surge
  3. Chat with IT or your website provider
  4. Is an upgrade long overdue?
  5. Fine-tune your optimization

Do whatever it takes to get your tech ready, which could include a chat with your IT department or website provider, a long overdue upgrade, or simply fine-tuning optimization. The aim is not to overwhelm the technical team — it’s to prepare ahead of time, so that you can avoid any last-minute panic or unnecessary opportunity cost. Once you’ve secured sufficient capacity, consider offering your partners support with testing to ensure you don’t lose out on any referral traffic during Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Set up performance tracking and plan for high conversions

Your influencer and affiliate program will be pushed to its limits during Black Friday and Cyber Monday, which means you need to anticipate a higher volume of conversions and how that will impact your influencer payment schemes. Retaining top-performing partners is important, especially during the holiday season, so the last thing you need is to discover later that affiliates didn’t get attributed correctly for their conversions.

Double-check the full conversion journey, including tracking and tagging, across all of the relevant landing pages and microsites. You need to make sure that even with the added pressure of higher traffic and conversions, clicks are recorded with all their supporting parameters, which ultimately means the partner is correctly attributed for conversions.

You can track these using a number of methods, including JavaScript or first-party cookies (our UTT integrates this form of tracking directly into your site), server-to-server, FTP, promo code, and direct tracking. Whatever tools you have at your disposal, you need to plan ahead with a technical approach that will help you adapt partnerships to accommodate the increased traffic.

Plan your deals, creative, and landing pages

Once you know the products and deals you plan to run for your campaign on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, it’s time to curate the creative and gather the relevant product photos for your partners. It’s also a good idea to create custom Black Friday and Cyber Monday landing pages to optimize conversions and also to showcase complimentary products that could lead to additional sales from new customers. For example, if a partner has directed a new shopper to your page to buy a coat, serve them suggested complimentary products on the same landing page, such as a matching bag, shoes, or accessories.

Your influencer and affiliate partners will need a heads up too, so start assigning segmented audiences to the relevant campaigns and fire out personalized messages to your partners to get them on board early. Once you have your creative ready and the designated landing pages, make sure your partners all have access to what they need to promote the deal, including tracking links, the relevant custom deal (if applicable), and product photography.

Create specific payment incentives and bonuses

To get the best out of your influencer and affiliate partnerships during Black Friday and Cyber Monday, use the tools you have to create custom payouts and incentives during the holiday.

Once you have these incentives planned, communicate them with your partners as soon as possible, and get them set up and ready to promote your campaign. To do this effectively, you need to go beyond traditional payments based on CPC (cost per click) and CPS (cost per sale) and use partnership automation to customize payouts and contracts across Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

If you don’t have automation tools to do this for you at scale, shortlist high-performing partners on the chosen product ranges that reach the audience most likely to buy them, and work with them to create an appealing proposition that sets you up as a priority, ahead of competitors.

Examples of partnership incentives can include:

  • Snooze deals: Extended deals exclusively offered to partners and their followers
  • New customer acquisition: Commission incentives for driving new customers
  • Pre-Black Friday awareness incentives: Incentives for sharing early teaser content
  • Unique discounts: Exclusive deals just for partners and their direct mail list
  • Early release codes: Provide partners with first access to deals to purchase

As an added incentive, why not give your partners the chance to nab a deal early? After all, they are your customers too. Better yet, you can offer them an additional sponsored post commission if partners share your deals early with follow-up photography of them wearing or using the product they purchased using the early discount.

Whatever incentives and payouts you come up with, remember to leverage your full network with personalized messages and make sure discounted products for Black Friday and Cyber Monday match the preferences of your network.

During Black Friday/Cyber Monday

Monitor, support, and respond to trends

Lights, camera, action — any live show needs an entire production team behind the scenes to make sure everything runs smoothly. The same goes for your Black Friday and Cyber Monday partnership campaign.

During Black Friday/Cyber Monday

Incentivize partnership teams to be active throughout Black Friday/Cyber Monday

Technology can take you most of the way, but having the partnership team behind the scenes ready to respond and react to any unexpected trends or stock shortages will help you get the best out of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Consider implementing incentives, such as extra time off or a performance bonus, to motivate them to be active throughout Black Friday and Cyber Monday. If you use third-party partnership technology or an affiliate network, get them to set you up with everything you need to get the best out of the campaign throughout, even after hours.

Consider implementing incentives, such as time off or a performance bonus.

Optimize the campaign in real-time

Using real-time data, the team can spot trends and react accordingly to shift product deals or promote new products when stock runs low. Increasing payouts to partners in real-time could also help keep the momentum going on products getting less attention during the campaign. Not got the technology that offers this level of data? It may be a little late for Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but consider investing in tools that can help you optimize your partnerships for the remainder of the holidays or set you up for success next year. Walmart, for example, is optimizing on an hourly basis during the Thanksgiving holidays.

Real-time optimization:

  • Spot trends and react accordingly
  • Shift product deals when stock runs low
  • Increase payouts to partners on products getting less attention
  • Invest in tools that can help you optimize your partnerships

Support your partners when they need it

Communicating with partners through the weekend, from Black Friday to Cyber Monday, is essential to continue the momentum. If you notice that a partner is less active, reach out and find out what they need to drive more traffic. If you notice one is performing particularly well, offer them more product deals and opportunities to promote, especially if stock is running low on the existing promotion. Consider offering technical support to your partners during the campaign, so they can reach out if they have issues onsite or need further creative to promote the products effectively.

Activate alternative options when stock runs out

When stock runs out on popular products the traffic doesn’t stop. To avoid frustration for customers that arrive too late, either automate alternative similar product listings or add in additional deals for products the same customer would be likely to purchase. In addition, you could set up snooze deal waitlists and wishlist options for users that can enter their details to take a raincheck on Black Friday and Cyber Monday deal when there is more stock.

Avoid frustration for customers that arrive too late by automating alternative similar product listings

After Black Friday/Cyber Monday

Review, retarget, and keep the momentum going

Once Black Friday and Cyber Monday are over, it’s time to evaluate and reflect. Run performance reports, analyze the data, and consider how you can build on what worked to continue the momentum through the holidays. Whatever you do, don’t take your foot off the pedal — chances are you now have a new stream of customers primed for retargeting and reactivation through the holidays and beyond.

Consider extended deals to a selection of partners

The deal-sharing love doesn’t have to stop on Cyber Monday. Consider extending deals for specific audiences or partners over products with higher stock or high value that need to be sold. For example, when you review the data, you might discover that there was a significant level of traffic to a product without a deal over Black Friday or Cyber Monday and decide to offer an extended deal on a previously excluded product. Alternatively, If one of the deals was particularly popular and you have enough remaining stock, extending that deal to the partners that drove the most clicks and sales to that product would be a smart strategic move.

Restock fast on the most popular products

If your most popular product is now out of stock, replenish the stock and fire out a new exclusive deal to your partners for first release on that stock. The data over Black Friday and Cyber Monday will also help you to replenish and manage stock on products over the holiday period. If they were popular during the sale, the interest is likely to continue, so stock back up and get ready for further interest over the holiday.

Alternatively, if you’re now battling high stock levels on a product that wasn’t so popular, consider how you can optimize the campaign and drive sales on that product. For example, you could raise the commission rates on selling the high-stock products to your partners and even consider further incentives for creating unique and fresh content for those product lines.

Retarget and nurture those new customers

Retargeting is also key through the holidays. If you attracted new customers with your Black Friday and Cyber Monday partnership campaign, retarget those new customers with complimentary products (if they purchased) or offer them another chance to get the same product on a deal for an extended period.

Use analytics and performance data from referred shoppers over Black Friday and Cyber Monday to optimize your influencer and affiliate program. Consider:

  • Which partners drove the most traffic? What was their propensity to purchase?
  • Were the landing pages effective? Any findings for user experience vs. conversions?
  • How many new customer referrals arrived on-site? Driven by which partners?
  • What products were unexpectedly popular? Which fell flat?
  • Did the partners with early teaser content perform better?
  • Did additional incentives and deals improve the campaigns performance?

Get to know your new customers

Everyone loves a good bargain, right? While the influx of traffic and additional sales is always welcome, many Black Friday and Cyber Monday shoppers may also be one-off shoppers. Through the holidays, continue to use performance insights and tracking tools to dig deep on the types of customers your partners drove to site during Black Friday and Cyber Monday. You’ll need to:

  • Identify partners good at driving new customers that later become repeat customers and have higher LTVs over the shopping season
  • Incentivize partners to get some of these new customers to keep coming back and build up a habit of returning to shop at your store, or online

Once you have that data, you then need to decide what value you attribute to a partner good at driving one-off, non-repeat customers, which may not be as profitable in the long-run.

Analyze the data and decide what value you attribute to a partner

Take care of your partners and keep them engaged

Whatever you do, don’t ghost your partners now that the sale is over. Pay them on time and continue to communicate. If they did a good job, tell them. Give them the same level of personalized care and attention you did before and during Black Friday and Cyber Monday. After all, influencer and affiliate partnerships aren’t just for Black Friday and Cyber Monday, they’re for life. At Digital Summit Seattle last year, Impact CPO Max Ciccotosto put it best when he said:

“Technology helps you break the ice a little bit. But it’s called ‘partnership’ for a reason. You’re talking to somebody. It’s not the Google algorithm. You cannot just throw more money at it and just expect it to grow. You actually have to nurture it like you would a relationship.” Max Ciccotosto, Impact CPO

Take a load off and think about what you learned

Like any project, there is a time to take action, and a time to reflect. Breathe and take a moment to stop and consider what you can learn from the things that didn’t go well: how do you optimize your influencer and affiliate program now, with this new information at hand? As consumer behavior evolves, a sales event like this is a great opportunity to test the waters and get a handle on what to expect for the year ahead. Speak to your teams and encourage them to share any new ideas and strategies on the back of Black Friday and Cyber Monday that could impact the business thrive in a new world.

The partnership-centric approach in a new normal

Influencer and affiliate partnerships have always been an effective channel to leverage on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and now — even more so. Retailers are navigating an entirely new world where the majority of shoppers will buy online and expect timely and socially distanced delivery.

Don’t wait for competitors to test the waters — leverage your full network of influencer and affiliate partners, and act now. Influencers and affiliates are a trusted source for recommendations and deals, which means they are primed to attract cautious consumers who may be overwhelmed right now, but as eager as ever to get a good deal over Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

“It’s about figuring out how to reach the customer in the most valuable segments and being creative in how you reach them.… This might include ramping up influencer campaigns, advertising more on social media, or generating awareness earlier in the year.” – Nate Shenck, Managing Director of North American retail at Boston Consulting Group (BCG)