Black Friday/Cyber Monday weekend is perhaps the biggest date in the ecommerce calendar, and for good reason. In 2020, total ecommerce sales over Black Friday alone topped $9.03 billion - a 21.3% increase from 2019. It’s a huge opportunity for merchants, offering a big boost midway through the holiday shopping season.
That’s why it’s such a focus for every facet of the ecommerce industry. From merchants planning promotions to agencies helping with store updates to experts offering advice. The lead up to BFCM starts as early as April and May of that year right through to when the clock strikes 12 on Cyber Monday.
While we may all breathe a collective sigh of relief when it’s over, there is more still to be done. After all, while your sales may look great after Black Friday weekend there are still plenty of customers still to go through your checkout process. In fact, 79% of holiday shoppers leave at least some of their purchases to the last-minute and plan to finish shopping within the last 2 weeks before Christmas. That leaves a huge opportunity for merchants to ensure that momentum carries through the rest of the holiday season. This alongside providing an excellent experience to all those BFCM customers, is the key to a truly successful season.
Let’s look at strategies you can use to provide that excellent experience, all while navigating the usual festive chaos.
#1 - Communicate order deadlines and delays
Communication is always important, and the holidays are no exception. Especially once Black Friday weekend has passed, customers become even more sensitive to order deadlines and delays that may affect their chances of securing that perfect present. Excellent communication is the expected standard, with 83% saying they expect regular communication about their order. Not only that, but being on top of communication around deadlines and delivery could net you bonus retention points. 53% of customers say they won’t place an order if they don’t when it’ll arrive as opposed to 54% who say they’d give repeat business to retailers who can accurately predict when an order will arrive.
Use each of your channels to engage your customers and give them all the information they need to know about ordering and delivery after BFCM. Different channels will capture different audiences with various levels of engagement therefore it’s important to cover your bases across on-site, email/SMS, social media, etc.
There’s a limited amount of time between Black Friday and various holidays, so customers want to know:
- When is your order deadline? Does this depend on shipping method?
- How long will processing and fulfillment take before the order leaves the warehouse?
- Are you experiencing any delays that impact delivery times?
If you are experiencing any delays due to supply chain issues, then you’ll want to detail what this means in practice i.e. how many days this adds on to your usual delivery times. Having all this information clearly communicated on all your most relevant channels will ensure it reaches your customers, manages expectations, and improves their overall experience.
#2 - Create gift guides and temporary collections
The holidays always bring about a very common situation - you’re looking for a gift for a friend or family member who is notoriously difficult to buy for. You know some of their hobbies and maybe some of their favorite brands, but you don’t necessarily feel confident enough to pick something specific. That’s where gift guides and temporary collections can be a godsend - 57% of shoppers say they look for helpful recommendations or suggestions for gifts.
Creating gift guides solves a problem for your customers, and when they’re in the home stretch between Black Friday and the end of the holiday season they’ll be looking for all the help they can get. Focus on the kinds of gift ideas someone purchasing for your usual customers would be looking for and the language they may be using, rather than that of your typical target audience. For example, if you sell hiking shoes it may be “Gifts for expert hikers” or “What to buy for someone who loves hiking”.
Complement those gift guides with temporary collections in your store that collate the products you recommend in an easily navigable way. Rather than going to browse your catalog which they may not be familiar with, they can simply navigate through the collection that closely matches the recipient they’re purchasing for. As well as creating collections to complement gift guides, create some aimed at other factors important to gift buyers such as price, e.g. “gifts under $50”.
#3 - Implement a gift card strategy
Gift cards are experiencing a boom - more people are interested in not only buying them, but receiving them as a present. They tackle a number of issues for holiday shoppers from supply chain problems causing shipping delays, to last-minute purchases - 44% of last minute shoppers say they plan to buy gift cards. There are a few different ways you can implement gift cards that engage your customers beyond simply having them as an option hidden in the background.
With tight time frames comes more decisive purchasing, and if a customer runs into an out-of-stock product with only a “back in stock” notification prompt they may be more likely to leave the store altogether. They know it’s highly unlikely that the item they want will be restocked before order deadlines start to close in. That’s why it’s so important to have a plan in place so that you can minimize the impact of an out-of-stock, and deliver a good experience. Using Govalo’s out-of-stock integration, you can display the option for a customer to purchase a gift card instead when their desired product is out of stock.
Sometimes you spend so long looking for the ideal gift that you run out of time. Perhaps you missed an order deadline, or you simply couldn’t decide what to buy. Whatever the case, gift cards are there as a good option for those last-minute shoppers looking for something flexible yet still meaningful to give as a gift. When your order deadlines for physical products have passed, promote your gift cards across channels highlighting them to this audience still in the market.
The people who purchase gift cards over the holidays more often than not will be giving those to someone else to redeem. This gives you ample opportunity to engage either someone completely new to your brand, or to deepen your relationship with an existing customer. When the gift card is redeemed, engage new customers with brand education and product knowledge, and existing customers with what they may have missed since their last purchase and thanking them for their repeat custom.
#4 - Returns, exchanges, and customer support
Returns are an inevitable part of the holiday season for ecommerce merchants. On average, 30% of customers will return what they bought online from you during the holidays, and the vast majority will do so within the first month of the post-holiday season.
There are a variety of reasons why a customer may want to return or exchange an item after the holidays. Perhaps they purchased the wrong size, or the intended recipient already had a similar item. Other times it’s simply that they ordered more than they required, concerned about shipping and delivery times. In any case, it’s in your best interest as a merchant to make that return and exchange process as simple as possible for them. 96% of shoppers would return to a business that offered an “easy” or “very easy” return policy.
Highlight your returns policy on your site using a banner and links on product pages to draw attention, and include it as part of any email marketing campaigns. When a customer places an order, ensure you send them a separate email detailing your returns policy. Include information such as:
- How long your returns period lasts and if there are an extension for over the holidays.
- How to initiate the returns process.
- The steps involved i.e. do they need to pay for shipping or is this provided, if so how is it provided.
- Who to contact if they have questions or issues with their return.
- How exchanges are processed.
Include this information again in an email after the holidays also; if they ordered in early December and do need to initiate a return in mid-January they may not have the original returns info email to hand.
Returns and exchanges are part of the wider customer support experience that you need to deliver to a high standard over the holiday season. 96% of consumers say customer service is an important factor in their choice of brands to stay loyal to. However during the holiday season, your support team will likely be under pressure - one study estimated that this year retailers should expect to see an 18% increase in enquiries compared to the rest of the year due to the holidays. To mitigate the impact of this on support teams and deliver an excellent service in a timely, manner, merchants should:
- Create seasonal FAQs to address holiday related enquiries e.g. shipping times, order deadlines, restock dates etc.
- Make use of AI and chatbots to field common queries around order status.
- Add extra emails and SMS into automated flows for order related communication to add additional info about returns, order tracking, etc.
These are easily implemented, and will not only save time but also potentially secure a new customer who may have otherwise abandoned their purchase due to slow response times.
The holiday season can be stressful for both merchants and customers alike. Once Black Friday weekend is over, it can feel like a crazy dash to the finish line for customers who haven’t yet finished their holiday shopping. By communicating more and giving them additional resources, you can set your store apart from the competition and deliver an experience that will bring customers back long after the holidays are over.