The key dates

The now yearly tradition of crash sales, an American invention has traditionally marked the start of the Christmas shopping period. This weekend sales period is referred to as Black Friday, which runs from Friday 27th November to Cyber Monday (30th November) marking one of the busiest periods for retailers across the UK.

How can retailers avoid in-store disruption?

It’s very hard not to! Based on the experience of previous years, trying to manage and control in-store customer rampages proves to be a nigh-on impossible task. As a result, a number of retailers including Asda have now taken heed by not offering Black Friday deals in-store this year.

black_friday_2014

How to deliver a successful online user experience?

With often unprecedented numbers of consumers visiting online stores during Black Friday, it is crucial that retailers start to develop their online propositions and understand consumer behaviour.

With ample technology available for retailers, this approach to observing online behaviour can be much the same as observing in-store behaviour.

Tip 1 – Understand existing customer journeys

  • Are retailers using insight and testing tools to measure the existing sales funnels and to optimise the conversion rates?
  • Have insight and testing tools led to smart design tweaks to adapt the site in time for Black Friday?

b&oheatmap

*Heatmap showing customer interaction and engagement

Tip 2 – Planning

  •  What offers are you planning, have you decided how to execute these across your site?
  •  Warming existing and prospective clients to the idea of shopping with you on #blackfriday and #cybermonday through social channels
  •  Have the designs and photography for the website been completed in advance of Black Friday?

Tip 3 –Direct traffic to relevant landing pages

User experience (ux) teams should consider SEO to deliver optimised landing pages which are contextual to Black Friday. This should support consumer journeys through landing on the appropriate page directly from the search engines rather than having to navigate through the website from the homepage or elsewhere. Below is an example of Currys landing page for Black Friday.

currys_landing_page

Tip 4 – The stress test

  •  Is the load speed of the website as quick as it can be or can elements be optimised to accelerate performance? According to a Harris 2015 poll, 46% of shoppers have said that they will never return to a slow site. One way of checking your website speed is to download a free tool such as YSlow.
  •  Can supply meet consumer demand? Research by IMRG revealed delivery backlogs from Black Friday 2014 resulted in only 85% of orders being delivered in time for Christmas. Supply chain issues can be minimised according to Nigel Greenslade (Director of BisS spaceXchange) by retailers planning enough warehouse space in advance of these long anticipated sales crashes.

Tip 5 – Create effective holding pages to manage queues

By online stores having holding pages for Black Friday sales, volumes of traffic can be handled in a far more orderly fashion than within the stores.

As evident from the screenshots below, Currys managed this process more effectively than Argos; giving consumers a chance of reaching the website with a progress bar.

currys_holding_page

With Argos, the traffic light approach with no progress bar would have stifled most attempts to access the Argos site. This would have served as a deterrent to many customers, only serving to direct customers away from the site.

Argos_holding_page

Learning from the images above, implementing a page similar to Currys may at least serve to prolong, but nevertheless support users rather than restrict site access altogether, as was the case on the Argos site last year. By taking a similar approach to designing a holding page, rather than Argos’s example, or worse a 503 “service temporarily unavailable” error page (god forbid) this may help to retain prospective customers.

Online powerhouses Amazon and EBay were two sites which were not affected by the levels of traffic, however not all online retailers have the luxury of commanding such technological might to compete. For many other retailers the trick is to identify the bottlenecks restricting the volume of visits, which is easier said than done!

Tip 6 – Retaining customers 

  •  Social media is a key channel nowadays to building community and engaging customers. Twitter is a particularly popular channel for consumers to engage with brands and vice versa, as indicated below.

Asos_tweet

  •  The advantage for retailers of eCommerce over in-store is that the email opt-in rate is higher online due to customers creating accounts to check out their products. This opens doors to email marketing through the delivery of newsletters and offers.

To summarise…

With some of the points above considered, the results and outcomes will hopefully deliver improvements from the likes of Argos and other retailers, as well as influencing smaller eCommerce stores to learn to develop their online propositions.

Currys succeeded in delivering one of the best experiences for their users last year, so it will be interesting to witness any developments with their offering this year. It will also be interesting to see Asda’s online proposition for the Black Friday sales bonanza, in light of their recent announcement to direct their efforts online.

Original post appeared here