Marketing & Advertising

Try a Dwindling Discount for Black Friday Ecommerce Sales

A dwindling discount that starts high and diminishes every few hours from Thanksgiving through Black Friday can create urgency and drive sales.

There are few retail sales opportunities like Black Friday. Shoppers are more impulsive than at other times of the year. “They apply emotional judgment rather than logical judgment to their purchase decisions,” wrote Liraz Margalit in a 2015 Psychology Today article.

So it can make good sense to market to a shopper’s emotions leading up to and during Black Friday. Your ecommerce store could create a sense of urgency as consumers fear they will lose out on a great deal. One way to achieve this is to reduce your company’s Black Friday discount throughout the day.

Shoppers are more impulsive than at other times of the year.

Product Selection

The first step is to choose the products to discount for Black Friday. Look for high-margin items that work well as gifts.

A direct-to-consumer electric bike company, as an example, might focus on its e-bikes rather than its accessories. A kitchen supply store might feature appliances instead of spatulas. And a toy store could choose items $59.99 or more rather than $1.99 stocking stuffers.


Once you have selected the products, determine the deepest percentage-based discount you are willing to accept. You will sell at this price only for a short period — perhaps four hours.

Whatever discount you choose, be prepared to reduce the price of every item on your Black Friday list by that amount.

Next, assume each price drop will be 5 percent off the original price Take the overall discount percentage and divide it by five.

Here is an example. If you determined you could offer as much as a 30-percent discount, you would divide 30 by five.

30 ÷ 5 = 6

You now know that you can have six discount periods with a discount that dwindles 5-percent each time.

So if you took 24 hours — think Black Friday — you would assume an overall 30-percent discount, and reduce the discount by 5 percent (of the original price) every four hours. At 12:01 a.m. on Friday, a shopper would get 30 percent off of your discounted Black Friday items, but at 4:01 a.m. the discount would be just 25 percent. At 8:01 a.m. the shopper would save just 20 percent, and so on.

You could start your store’s Black Friday sale on Thanksgiving Day. Here is an example, below, of a diminishing-discount schedule starting at 8:00 p.m. on Thanksgiving. The first two discount periods are only two-hours. The remaining four discount periods are six hours each. (We will extend the first period a bit when we promote the sale, but more about that later.)

Thanksgiving Day8:00 p.m.30% Off
Thanksgiving Day10:00 p.m.25% Off
Black Friday12:00 a.m.20% Off
Black Friday6:00 a.m.15% Off
Black Friday12:00 p.m.10% Off
Black Friday6:00 p.m.5% Off
Saturday12:00 a.m.Sale Over

Promote the Sale

Your dwindling-discount sale on Black Friday will have three distinct marketing periods.

1. Lead collection. In mid-October, start collecting email addresses and mobile phone numbers. Make it clear that shoppers who sign up for “Black Friday Notifications” will get early access to your Black Friday deals. The idea is to get folks to sign up for Black Friday notifications in exchange for early access to the sale. The image below could represent a pop-up on your website or a display ad on another site.

Capture Black Friday "leads" with a pre-sale promotion.

Capture Black Friday “leads” with a pre-sale promotion.

Promote these Black Friday notifications in just about every way you can imagine. Here are a few suggestions.

  • A pop-up on your ecommerce site.
  • Promotional ads on your site and in your email newsletter.
  • On all of your social media platforms.
  • Via a direct mailer to a list of likely customers.
  • Pay-per-click ads on search engines and social media sites.
  • Described in an ad on Pandora.
  • With a video ad on YouTube.
  • In banner advertising on popular sites.
  • Via a commercial on Hulu, CBS All Access, or IMDB.

Set a crazy goal for this list. If you wanted to make 1,000 sales on Black Friday, build your notification list to 5,000 subscribers.

2. Presale notifications. Next, start explaining the diminishing-discount sale. Make a video that describes how the discount works. Include visuals and a clear schedule, so that folks know exactly when each discount will be offered.

Create supporting graphics and copy, too. How the sale works must be crystal clear.

A link to your video landing page should first go to everyone on the Black Friday notification list. After all, you promised these folks they would be the first to know.

Wait a day, then post the video on the home page of your ecommerce website. Link to the Black Friday landing page from every other page. And share the sale in every available channel, including social, PPC, display, and video ads.

Your call to action will still be for folks to subscribe to the notification list.

As a final push, send an email or text message to the Black Friday notification list about two hours before the official sale starts. Include a special coupon code for early access to the deepest discount. They can start their Black Friday shopping ahead of the rush and before anything sells out.

3. During the sale. During the sale, keep the urgency going. Display a Black Friday sale countdown clock at the top of each page on your ecommerce site. This clock should tell site visitors how much time they have left before the discount drops.

A countdown notice can maintain a sense of urgency during the sale.

A countdown notice can maintain a sense of urgency during the sale.

About an hour before each discount reduction, send a message to notification subscribers warning them that they are about to miss out. (Be careful sending text messages at midnight.) Be certain to programmatically remove any folks from the notification list once they make a purchase.

You should also send out a social media post just before each discount drop.

The combination of building a list upfront and creating a sense of urgency should help drive your store’s Black Friday sales.

Armando Roggio
Armando Roggio
Bio   •   RSS Feed