When it comes to major sales holidays, few events can make or break the viability of an organization quite like Black Friday. In total, this weekend accounts for $9 billion in sales annually in the U.S., with 55.1 percent of all holiday season shoppers making their way to physical and digital storefronts during this time period.
“… average spending over the weekend [in 2014] was “$380.95… Total spending is expected to reach $50.9 billion [in 2015]…” – Greg Sterling, Marketing Land
As these figures from Marketing Land’s Greg Sterling show, failing to take Black Friday seriously – as well as the digital customer experience your brand offers up during this event – can lead to plenty of lost revenue and sales potential. To help you avoid this unwanted outcome, we’ve complied a comprehensive checklist that aims to improve your omni-channel digital customer experience across your official website, mobile app, kiosks, other devices, and even in-store amenities. With this guidance leading the way, there’s no reason why you can’t make the most out of the coming year’s Black Friday sales rush.
#1: Provide Your Sales Audience with Product and Service Information as Soon as Possible
To start off this checklist the right way, let’s talk about the increased demand for early information from shoppers. In his look at this phenomenon, Corey Ferreira of Shopify explains that these digital consumers scour branded sites for sales details earlier than ever before, so you need to be prepared for this surge in traffic that starts well before Black Friday itself.
“40% of customers begin researching and doing their holiday shopping as early as October.” – Corey Ferreira, Shopify
During the lead up to this holiday shopping season, you should incorporate the following improvements to your site amenities to guarantee that digital customers have an experience that is conducive to setting up a purchase once your Black Friday sales begin:
- Revamped product information pages.
- Clear and easily understood homepage navigational buttons.
- Pop-out overlay windows that trigger based on consumer activity and interest.
Once your site is up to par and ready to provide these “early bird” shoppers with the information they crave, be sure to let them know about these improvements via your email contact lists, social media profiles, and other channels that funnel into your greater digital customer experience.
#2: Plan out Your Sales Before the Week of Black Friday
Ferreira goes on to note that part of getting ahead of the curve when it comes to sharing this information with your digital following comes in the form of planning out sales and promotions before the week of Black Friday arrives on your calendar.
“Look at all of your products and plan your sales ahead of time instead of putting on a sale last minute.” – Corey Ferreira, Shopify
One of the best ways to go about this process – and ensure that the digital customer experience flows smoothly once the wheels for this holiday sales event get moving – is via a “planned sales map.” Whether you use Microsoft Excel or map things out by hand, creating a grid that covers the following sales details can help simplify this process significantly:
- Sales Item
- Regular Price
- Sale Price
- Sale Date Start
- Sale Date End
- Sales Type
- Promotional Angle
- Additional Notes
Naturally, this is just a baseline in terms of an organizational approach; your brand can always add or subtract to this grid of information as needed.
#3: Test Your Site for Its Ability to Handle the Incoming Surge of Traffic
Of course, once you have these interested shoppers flooding into your site, it’s vital to the success of your Black Friday campaign that the digital backbone of your domain is able to handle this surge of traffic. Otherwise, you run the risk of facing down the worst digital customer experience nightmare possible – a crashed or unresponsive site during the biggest sales event of the year.
Before the big rush on your domain begins, test out your server load capacity by connecting with your trusted team of development experts or via a performance testing tool. Two of the best options on this front include Loadimpact.com and Blitz.io.
Loadimpact.com offers up a free server test that gauges the durability of your standard desktop and mobile sites. As one of the leading load testers on the web, this tool has already run over 1.6 million tests since its inception.
Blitz.io offers similar testing capabilities, all from a cloud-based platform. Once your test is completed, the team behind this tool can provide you with an in-depth analysis that covers the particulars of software stacks, hardware resources, and related service providers.
#4: Make Sure Your Mobile Experience Is Functional Across Multiple Devices
Speaking of mobile user demand, ensuring that your mobile offerings are consistent and functional across numerous devices is also a big piece of the digital customer experience this Black Friday season. Specifically, mobile traffic during this sales event accounts for 31.2 percent of all online traffic, according to the experts over at IBM.
- Tablets are the big winners during Black Friday, serving as the basis for 13.4 percent of all online sales.
- Smartphones tally in at 9.1 percent of sales generated.
As the HubSpot Blog’s Rachel Sprung points out, your brand can offer up a great mobile digital customer experience by incorporating the following “on-the-go” optimization techniques and assets into its mobile site:
- Large, easily clickable buttons.
- Simple and straightforward navigational paths.
- Clickable menus that expand out when needed.
- Smart usage of images and graphics that don’t detract from load times and touchscreen interaction.
By placing an emphasis on navigation and responsive design via these suggestions, there’s no reason why your shoppers can’t enjoy a great mobile experience.
#5: Optimize Your Branded App for Both Android and iPhone
The next point on our checklist to improve your digital customer experience before this year’s impending Black Friday rush keeps the mobile discussion rolling by turning the focus toward your branded app. Simply put, the holiday shoppers that look to your app desire a few key features and functions that make the most out of this mobile interaction:
- Functionality on both Android and iOS operating systems.
- Consistency from app feature to feature. (A grid design plan for your app can help on this front.)
- Convenience in the user experience.
The last point is clearly the biggest factor, as failing to provide a useful and expedient way to check out sales and claim deals can lead to consumer frustration – and ultimately app abandonment. As you lay out a plan to refine and optimize your app over the coming weeks before Black Friday, The Next Web’s Scott Gerber suggests asking yourself – and your team of development experts – the following questions:
- Can this app be used offline to review in-store sales and specials?
- What about simple and straightforward checkouts that mirror the mobile and desktop experience?
- Is there room for Integration with online and in-store features and services (gift registries, QR codes, etc.) that create a unified omni-channel experience?
By asking these questions now, you can lay the foundation for a mobile app that really wows shoppers and compliments the rest of your enhanced digital customer experience.
#6: Keep your Social Media Followings Informed and Engaged
In terms of elevating your omni-channel experience to a position that stands as the gold standard of your industry, few aspects of this process are as important – and impactful – as enacting a proper social media management strategy. As Jaxon Lam of the Hootsuite blog explains, customers are more likely than ever before to make a purchase based on how you conduct yourself within these digital channels.
“72% of people are more likely to make a future purchase from a business after they follow or interact with them on social.” – Jaxon Lam, Hootsuite
Grabbing the attention of your followers and creating a great digital customer experience on these networks starts with promoting your holiday sales early and often. Much like the previously discussed “early bird” site visitors, your social audience craves early access to these promotions, so drum up some interest by teasing out these deals as social exclusives.
From here, incorporate trackable links and calls-to-action (CTAs) within these promotional posts to funnel traffic back to your site. Aside from helping to bridge the gap between your social and website experiences, this practice also helps your brand gather highly valuable consumer data that can help refine future marketing operations and enhance retargeting efforts.
Finally, be as responsive as possible. Actively answering questions and replying to comments shows your audience that your organization is willing to make the social portion of the digital customer experience a value-driven and interactive affair during this – or any other – holiday sales season.
#7: Integrate Live Chat Functionality When Possible
Sometimes, your customers demand more in terms of expedient responsiveness than even what social media has to offer. In this case, the key to keeping your customer experience at peak levels comes in the form of integrating live chat functionality within your various digital channels.
Having a representative ready and able to answer consumer questions in real time is a powerful addition to your site or app and could serve as the difference between securing a sale and facing another wasted opportunity during the Black Friday sales surge. As the team over at Shopify explains in there look at what makes for a great live chat experience, customers value the following attributes when the chat windows appears on screen:
- High knowledge of products and services offered.
- A real person on the other side of the screen (not an automated response.)
- Expedient response times.
- A quick and efficient chat experience.
If your live chat can zero in on these major points, then there’s a great chance that your organization can pull away from the competition as eager and willing shoppers start reaching out for more information before committing to a purchase.
#8: Plan for Capturing Lost Sales and Abandoned Carts via Email Marketing Retargeting
One of the most overlooked facets of a great digital customer experience is understanding – and accepting – the fact that even the best sales deals will leave some shoppers on the fence. However, by acknowledging this reality, your brand can plant the seeds for a smart and effective plan that aims to convert these uncertain digital customers.
Specifically, the best way to go about this process is via an email marketing campaign that shows those who abandon their carts on your website that your brand does care about their business and is dedicated to providing an intertwined and cohesive omni-channel experience.
If you plan on remarketing to cart abandoners during Black Friday, you need to understand that timing and acceptance are the two key factors that can make or break this strategy:
- Reaching out within the first 12 to 24 hours of an abandoned cart event provides you with the best chance to convert a wayward customer.
- Keeping this interaction to one or two emails total and accepting that not every remarketing effort will end in a sales conversion ensures that your brand doesn’t come off as overbearing or “spammy.”
With these two ideals guiding the way, your email marketing retargeting tactics can help foster a better and more complete digital customer experience for shoppers who aren’t quite ready to take the plunge when it comes to your Black Friday sales offerings.
#9: Build an In-Store Experience That Completes the Omni-Channel Digital Customer Experience
Part of providing a great digital customer experience on Black Friday comes from blurring the lines between your brick-and-mortar store and your online products and services. Sample devices and in-store kiosks that show off the features and functionality of your mobile app or site is a great way to immerse these customers in the digital experience, all while enhancing their ability to garner information about your products and services.
Additionally, requests for online feedback after a sale, as well as harvesting customer email addresses, allows your brand to lay the foundation for repeat site traffic and a growing email marketing contact list. To maximize the potential of this approach, it is well worth the time required to train your staff to handle and receive questions about Black Friday deals that come from “online only” channels like social media, promotional emails, etc.
#10: Track or Measure the Success of Your Digital Customer Experience Improvements
One of the biggest mistakes your brand can make when it comes to optimizing its Black Friday digital customer experience is in assuming that the process ends once shoppers have wrapped up their transactions at your digital checkout. In reality, maintaining this checklist is a never-ending and constantly evolving commitment to providing the best services and features possible to your audience.
Thankfully, tracking sales numbers, engagement on social media (via key performance indicators like follower growth and Facebook insights), and in-store and online customer surveys provides your business with valuable insight into the digital customer experience. Specifically, Sarah Burns, guest author with Boost Media, suggests keeping an eye on the following metrics during this holiday season:
- Cost Per Click (CPC)
- Cost Per Thousand Impressions (CPM)
- Return on Investment (ROI)
- Customer Retention Rate (CRR)
- Customer Complaints
The insight offered up by these metrics and feedback can serve as the basis for future optimization and continued refinement, thereby ensuring that each Black Friday sales season is better than the last for your brand.
Wrapping up the Black Friday Digital Customer Experience Checklist
Naturally, this is a lot of information to digest in one sitting. From merging functionality and services across multiple channels, to preparing for next year’s Black Friday frenzy, creating a great digital customer experience requires plenty of time, effort, investment, and energy. However, the benefits and gains of truly winning over your audience during this crucial period is well worth all of the hard work that goes into this process.
To help wrap up the discussion, keep the prime points of this checklist (listed below) in mind as you start planning for the lead up to November 27th’s big rush:
- Provide your sales audience with product and service information as soon as possible.
- Test your site for its ability to handle the incoming surge of traffic.
- Make sure your mobile experience is functional across multiple devices.
- Optimize your branded app for both Android and iPhone.
- Keep your social media followings informed and engaged.
- Plan for capturing lost sales and abandoned carts via email marketing retargeting.
- Build an in-store experience that completes the omni-channel digital customer experience.
- Track or measure the success of your digital customer experience improvements.
As long as you’re able to key in on all of the various suggestions and tips we’ve offered up within this checklist, there’s no reason why your brand can’t excel within the modern marketplace – both in-store and within the digital world.