As Cyber Monday and Black Friday approach once again, both online and in-store retailers are preparing for intense shopping—both digital and physical—across the nation.
For online retailers, preparation means hours of unglamorous, behind-the-scenes preparation, endless performance testing, countless iterative tweaks, and thorough user research to ensure that websites, apps, and electronic systems can withstand heavy traffic.
Meanwhile, in-store retailers engage with Black Friday consumers on a personal level, relying heavily upon customer service and in-store-only deals to drive revenue.
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The origins of Black Friday date back to 1939. That year, Thanksgiving fell on November 30, effectively shortening the holiday shopping season—which occurred from Thanksgiving to Christmas—to less than a month. Prior to 1939, retailers preferred a longer shopping season but rarely promoted holiday sales until after Thanksgiving, mostly out of tradition.
Once retailers realized how the short shopping season would hurt end-of-year revenue, they petitioned President Franklin D. Roosevelt to change the date of Thanksgiving to support sales. FDR, faced with a hard-hitting recession, agreed to the idea and changed the date of Thanksgiving from the fourth week of November to the third week. It wasn’t until 1960 that the term ‘Black Friday’ was coined to describe the kickoff of the holiday shopping season, and in 1980 it was recognized as a national shopping holiday.
The term Cyber Monday is, obviously, much more recent. The National Retail Federation coined it in 2005 to describe the Monday after Thanksgiving when consumers would continue to browse and shop online upon returning back to work. Today, smartphones, tablets, and wearables provide consumers with the convenience of browsing and purchasing items sans the 4AM-door-busters and hours-long lines. Many businesses even offer exclusive Cyber Monday deals that are separate from their Black Friday offerings.
Over the past few years, a very interesting pattern has developed: Mobile traffic and sales have spiked higher and higher during Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday, with nearly one out of four sales occurring on a mobile device in 2013. Of those devices, sales from tablets represented nearly half a million dollars with smartphones producing sales of over $120 million. This resulted in a 118 percent increase of sales year-over-year coming from these wireless devices.
Now, in order to continue the increase in mobile traffic and sales, online retailers should take some key items into consideration. This includes the performance of their websites year-over-year, customer experience, service content, and exclusive offers. Last year may have been a record-breaking year with Thanksgiving Day mobile traffic accounting for 52 percent of all online traffic, but convenience and a great user experience are what keeps online customers returning throughout the holiday shopping season. Following these tips will not only enhance the customer experience but help boost potential sales and increased traffic:
Cyber Monday will become Black Monday for your company if your site can’t handle the high traffic volumes of the holiday season. Superior performance is essential and all retailers should prepare well in advance. Test the speed and responsiveness for different locations; monitor content load times and ensure optimization; test site performance across all platforms and devices. A great marketing campaign can start the race by driving traffic, but it is the site performance that will bring the revenue at the finish line.
Avoid Disruptions to the User Experience
Holiday shopping is stressful for all customers; shoppers want to be able to find products easily and check out fast. Do not create any barriers to the process. Rushing to roll out new functionality and/or code changes can run serious risks: A drastically altered site can cause confusion, frustration, and lead to abandonment for customers who are unfamiliar with the new layout. Focus efforts on optimizing site content, offers, products, and marketing messaging to enhance the customer experience while avoiding any disruptions.
Personalization has been proven to increase loyalty, site visits, purchases and AOV; there is no better time than the holiday season for retailers to kick their personalization programs into high gear. Rewarding loyal customers through targeted, personalized, campaigns is a sure win. Analyze customer behaviors and purchases from the last holiday season and serve up relevant products and offers. Invite customers to exclusive offers such as early sale shopping, additional discounts, or free gifts with a purchase.
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Plan For An Emphasis On Service Content
Nothing is more frustrating than not knowing where your online shopping cart went. Promoting the omni-channel services that you provide every day that will help your customers during the holidays, as well as distinguish you from the competition.
Examples of services that communicate an easier, customer-focused experience include additional payment gateways, holiday shipping calendars, mobile-friendly gift lists, return policies, and store pickup options that customers seek during the hectic holiday months.
Retailers now have the ability to impact customers at every touch point. Those who take advantage of the immense opportunity will reap the rewards.