• The Essential eCommerce Checklist for Black Friday & Cyber Monday 2018

    Holiday eCommerce Checklist

    The holiday season is around the corner, and going by statistical facts, each passing year makes holiday eCommerce a brand new opportunity for spiked sales and revenue.

    When it comes to major sales holidays, few events can make or break the viability of eCommerce stores quite like Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

    News dating from 2017 (Reuters) stated that according to Adobe Analytics, US retailers made sales worth $7.9 billion during Thanksgiving and Black Friday in 2017, which is around 18% more than what they earned from the Black Friday 2016. The Cyber Monday 2017, on the other hand, made $6.59 billion in sales and was, by far, the biggest U.S. online shopping day till date,which is again a 17% increase from 2017.

    We may safely deduce from these figures that failing to take the holiday season seriously, especially Black Friday and Cyber Monday, can lead to lost revenue and sales potential.

    To help you avoid this unwanted outcome, we’ve compiled a comprehensive checklist that aims to improve your omnichannel eCommerce 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 this year’s Black Friday and/or Cyber Monday sales rush.

    #1: Provide Your Sales Audience with Product and Service Information as Soon as Possible

    Provide-Your-Sales-Audience

    “40% of customers begin researching and doing their holiday shopping as early as October.” – Corey Ferreira, Shopify

    Digital consumers start scouring branded sites for information about best Black Friday deals even before the holiday season begins. So, you need to be prepared for this incoming traffic that starts well before the events.

    During the lead up to this holiday shopping season, you should incorporate the following improvements to your site, in order to ensure  that the digital customers have an experience that is conducive to setting up a purchase once your Black Friday/Cyber Monday sale begins:

    • Revamped product information pages
    • Conspicuous and easily understood homepage navigational buttons
    • Pop-out overlay windows that trigger in accordance with consumer activity and interest
    • Once your site is upto the mark and ready to provide these “early bird” shoppers with the information they crave for, be sure to let them know about these improvements via your email contact list, social media profiles, and other channels that funnel into your greater digital customer experience.

    #2: Plan out Your Sales a Week Before the Event

    Plan-out-Your-Sales-a-Week-Before-the-Event

    When we talk about sharing this information with your digital following, a part of getting ahead of the curve comes in the form of planning out sales and promotions at least a before the arrival of Black Friday, Cyber Monday and even Thanksgiving.

    “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 is via a “planned sales map,” ensuring that the digital customer experience flows smoothly once the wheels for this holiday sales are in motion. Creating a grid that covers the following sales details can help simplify this process significantly. Make sure you include:

    • Sale Items
    • Regular Price
    • Sale Price
    • Sale Date Start
    • Sale Date End
    • Sale Type
    • Promotional Angle
    • Additional Notes

    Naturally, this is just a baseline in terms of an organizational approach. Your brand can always add to or remove from this grid of information as needed.

    #3: Test Your Site for its Ability to Handle the Incoming Surge of Traffic

    Once you have these interested shoppers flooding your site, it’s vital to the success of your holiday season campaign that the digital backbone of your domain is able to handle this surge of traffic. Otherwise, you run the risk of facing the worst digital customer experience nightmare possible – a crashed or unresponsive site during the biggest sale event of the year.

    Before the big rush on your website/app begins, test out your server load capacity by connecting with your trusted team of eCommerce development experts or via a performance testing tool. Two of the best options on this front include Loadimpact.com and Blitz.io.

    Incoming Surge of Traffic

    Loadimpact.com offers a free server test that gauges the durability of your standard desktop and mobile sites.

    Blitz.io offers similar testing capabilities, all from a cloud-based platform. Once your test is complete, 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: Think Mobile First and Ensure Your Mobile Experience is Functional across Multiple Devices

    According to a report by Statista, as of 2018, U.S. mobile retail commerce sales form around 40% of total U.S. ecommerce retail sales. The same is projected to be around 54% by 2021. Evidently, thinking mobile first is not only important but also inevitable.

    Think Mobile First and Ensure Your Mobile Experience

    Also, with such increase in demand from mobile users, ensuring your mobile offerings to be consistent and functional across numerous devices is also a big aspect of the digital customer experience for holiday ecommerce season.

    As pointed out by Rachel Sprung from HubSpot Blog, your brand can offer 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 when needed
    • Smart usage of images and graphics that don’t detract from load times and touchscreen interaction

    And not just this, it’s also important to optimize experience across platforms – majorly, iOS and Android – to ensure that your target audience is not missed. A grid design plan for your app can help on this front.

    You must also ensure consistency in app features on both platforms, at the same time keeping the user interface as well as the user’s convenience in mind.

    #5: Go High on Advertising Holiday Sales with Graphics

    Advertising Holiday Sales with Graphics

    Create a visual experience for your users. Adding sale banners and/or changing the header image on the homepage is an extremely effective way to keep your audience informed, and even better, curious.

    Brands, such as Amazon, use these graphics most intelligently to keep their users coming back for holiday season sales.

    #6: Keep your Social Media Followers Informed and Engaged

    In terms of elevating your omnichannel experience to a position that stands as the gold standard of your industry, a few aspects must never be overlooked. A well-thought-out social media management strategy is one of them.

    Social Media Followers Informed and Engaged

    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.

    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 early bird site visitors, your social audience craves early access to these promotions. So drum up some interest by teasing out these Cyber Monday/Black Friday online deals as social exclusives.

    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 engaging as possible. Actively answering users’ 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 an interactive affair during this (or any other) holiday sales season.

    #7: Integrate Live Chat Functionality when Possible

    Integrate Live Chat

    Today, customers demand more in terms of expedient responsiveness even more than what social media chats 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 response at the ready and being able to answer customer questions in real time, are powerful additions to your site or app and could serve as the difference between securing a sale and facing another wasted opportunity during the Black Friday online shopping sales surge.

    This is where chatbots come to the rescue. Chatbots are, in fact, revolutionizing CRM. With AI making such immense advances that benefit so many aspects of a business including customer relationship management, chatbots are the most close-at-hand application of AI that businesses can use to their advantage.

    #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.

    A surprising fact from Brilliance – the mobile cart abandonment rate during Black Friday sales witnessed an increase of 15.9% in spite of improved US and overall shopping experience.

    Abandoned Carts via Email Marketing Retargeting

    The best way to go about this process is via an email marketing campaign, that shows those customers who abandon their carts on your website; that your brand does care about its business; and that it is dedicated to providing an intertwined and cohesive omnichannel 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, which can make or break this strategy:

    Since Black Friday and Cyber Monday have shorter purchase cycles than usual sales, it’s perfectly fine to send 2 to 3 emails over 2 to 3 days.

    Keeping this interaction to one or two emails total and accepting the fact that not every remarketing effort will end in a sales conversion, ensures that your brand doesn’t come off as overbearing or “spammy.”

    #9: Build an In-store Experience that Completes the Omnichannel 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 on various devices and interfaces.

    Digital Customer Experience

    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 important to invest in customer journey optimization for omnichannel retail.

    Understanding customer journeys through customer analytics is the key to managing an omnichannel setup. Because how customers interact and deal with digital channels is dynamic and extremely demanding, especially during holiday sales. The aim should be to meet their needs right when they need, and more importantly, where they need.

    #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/Cyber Monday digital customer experience is in assuming that the process ends once shoppers have wrapped up their transactions at the digital checkout.

    In reality, maintaining the holiday season eCommerce checklist is a never-ending and constantly evolving commitment to providing the best services and features possible to your audience.

    Digital Customer Experience Improvements

    Thankfully, tracking sales numbers, engagement on social media, in-store and online customer surveys, etc., provide your business with valuable insights into the digital customer experience.

    Consider 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 insights offered by these metrics and feedback can serve as the basis for future optimization and continued refinement, thereby ensuring that each holiday sales season is better than the last for your business.

    Conclusion

    The holiday season is just around the corner. Make sure you have a plan in place to make Black Friday and Cyber Monday the best time of the year for your business.

    From merging functionalities 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 the hard work that goes into this process.

    Black Friday & Cyber Monday 2018 CTA
    Lalit Singla

    About the Author

    Lalit Singla is working as Project Manager at Net Solutions since the last 5 years with over 10 years of experience in LAMP Stack. His expertise lies in Enterprise eCommerce and custom database driven development. In his free time, he enjoys listening to classical music.

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