How Smart Retailers Are Approaching Black Friday This Year
Every year we hear the same warnings:
Prepare your website for unprecedented volumes of traffic!
Each Black Friday and Cyber Monday, more people turn on their laptops, smartphones, and tablets to seize online deals. While the importance of preparing your site to handle troves of traffic cannot be overstated, this is something you should already have covered, regardless of the upcoming holiday season. In fact, eCommerce traffic in June surpassed peak holiday season traffic in 2019 by nearly 2 billion shoppers.
While preparing for the upcoming Black Friday and Cyber Monday, there’s a far more complex and interesting challenge that online retailers must grapple with.
How will you hook, engage with, and convert both “veteran” online shoppers as well as the “newbies” who have just entered the world of eCommerce for the first time?
Capturing the attention and gaining the trust of all types of shoppers requires a sophisticated, fun, and personalized customer experience that makes product discovery memorable, boosts conversion, and builds customer loyalty.
Preparing for bursts in traffic on Black Friday and Cyber Monday is table stakes. Dealing with that challenge doesn’t change much year over year. What does change is customer behavior, and how your website or app responds to and engages with it.
Meet the Shoppers That Will Be Visiting Your Site This Holiday Season
There are two “levels,” or types, of online shoppers. “Veterans” are those who have been shopping online for years and know their way around the web. “Novice” online shoppers, or newbies, have been hold-outs in the world of eCommerce, but have opted in as a result of the ongoing pandemic and social distancing requirements.
Veterans know the ropes:
These experienced online shoppers are used to navigating a variety of sites, they have shopping apps on their phones, and are more likely to use shopping functions on social media sites such as Instagram.
Over time, this has helped veterans become more discerning customers. They see comparing products, prices, and the overall customer experience as part of the shopping process, and they’re willing to put in the time and effort to find the best option.
As an online brand or retailer, this means you may need to work harder to convince veterans that you’re worth more than just a quick browse.
Newbies are quickly getting up to speed:
Generally, we can assume that the majority of millennials and Gen Z’ers — the digital native generations — fall into the veteran category, while Gen X’ers and baby boomers account for most of the newbies. However, this is not to say that older, novice shoppers are less privy to a sophisticated digital experience.
Now that they’ve begun online shopping, novices are eager to take advantage of all eCommerce’s benefits — they just may need some extra support. On one hand, newbies may need help navigating unfamiliar website structures, search functions, menus, and checkout processes. On the other hand, they need to build trust in the process of identifying the right items and making payments online.
In many ways, winning over the wave of newbies that has just entered the eCommerce market is just as competitive as attracting veterans. Prioritizing them in your CX strategy is integral to seizing these high-potential loyalists.
Both Veterans and Newbies Will Arrive at Your Site for the First Time
Within both the veteran and novice groups, there is another swath of shoppers to prepare for: those that are new to you.
Indeed, both newbies and experienced shoppers will come across your brand or shop for the first time on Black Friday or Cyber Monday, which means you will need to find a way to hook, engage, and convert first-time visitors of different experience levels while standing out from the competition.
This challenge is made even more difficult by the fact that holiday shopping is “higher stakes” than usual. First, because many people are searching for gifts for others, and second, because many stores don’t offer refunds for discounted items.
Overcoming these challenges and converting shoppers requires a customer experience that not only makes the shopping process as seamless as possible, but one that also fulfills customers’ rising standards.
Shoppers Will Be Unwilling to Compromise on Their Standards
That goes for newbies too. Even those who entered the universe of online shopping a few months ago have quickly gotten used to the ease and simplicity of buying online. As eCommerce technology continues to evolve, shoppers have developed higher standards for the online shopping experience, and few will be willing to compromise them.
On a shopping holiday that is designed to provide irresistible sales, retailers face fierce competition. To seize all of the potential Black Friday and Cyber Monday have to offer (think: attracting new customers, increasing sales, and improving retention), brands and retailers must zero-in on how to meet rising expectations.
Elements like fast shipping, good prices, and high quality items will always be top priorities for shoppers. But the quality of the digital experience has become another primary distinguishing factor for veteran and novice shoppers alike.
Online Brands and Retailers That Provide a Suboptimal CX Will Pay the Price
During a highly competitive shopping event, that price is paid in customer churn and shopper drop-off.
The mission-oriented shopper will quickly become frustrated and look elsewhere if they can’t find what they’re looking for on your site. The casual browser will gravitate toward the competition if they provide a more inspiring and compelling experience. And the bargain hunter will readily abandon your online shop for another if it means getting a better deal.
The ‘Winners’ of Black Friday & Cyber Monday Focus on Product Discovery to Anchor CX
As we mentioned, Black Friday and Cyber Monday may be the first time many shoppers interact with your brand. Since consumers now expect a highly personalized, sophisticated digital experience, brands and retailers are tasked with building a CX strategy that delivers.
The best strategy for eCommerce companies to stand out and engage shoppers is to focus on the product discovery process, as this is where shoppers first meet your brand and have the potential to be completely wowed or incredibly frustrated. It’s where they find what they’re looking for or abandon you for a competitor. It’s where a shopper decides if they’ll be a one-time browser or long-time loyalist.
Advanced technology such as visual AI, camera search, and inspiration boards can be effective tools for introducing shoppers to the products they’re seeking (and more), but these capabilities must be implemented thoughtfully.
A stellar product discovery process is:
- Non-obtrusive: While product discovery technology should be easily identifiable and even emphasized, it shouldn’t feel intrusive or stand in the way of unassisted browsing.
- Intuitive: The tools must be easy for shoppers of all levels to figure out and fit seamlessly into their on-screen journey.
- Inspiring: Whether or not a shopper knows what they’re looking for, the product discovery process should introduce them to other relevant products that cohere with their style and fulfill their intentions.
- Personalized: Each individual shopper should feel like the items they see during the product discovery process were hand-picked for them.
- Fast: As basic as it sounds, load time can be a deal-breaker. When the sales are hot and time is limited, shoppers won’t wait more than a few seconds for search results to load.
Perfect Your Product Discovery Process to Out-Perform Your Competitors
A compelling and engaging product discovery process not only exposes shoppers to more of your inventory, it contributes to a positive overall customer experience. This is what ultimately helps you boost sales and retain customers long-term. This is how you win at Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
On these two days, you’ll receive visits from veterans, newbies, shoppers who know what they want, those that are open to suggestions, and those that are determined to find the best bargain. All of them are waiting to be impressed, and few of them have patience for “No results found” pages or recommendations that miss the mark.
By creating a cutting-edge product discovery process that both understands your shoppers’ tastes and introduces them to new items, you’ll achieve the full range of benefits these shopping events have to offer — and more.