Is your e-commerce business ready for Black Friday and Cyber Monday? Here are five things you can do to make sure you don’t miss out on your slice of this year’s holiday season spending.
Black Friday and Cyber Monday 2017 Forecast
The holiday season is always a great (if busy) time for retailers, but 2017’s Cyber Monday and Black Friday are looking particularly promising.
Bain & Company forecast online and offline U.S. holiday retail sales to grow between 3.5% and 3.9% in 2017. This is up from 3.5% last year, and way up from the 2.6% average over the past 10 years.
Why are they so optimistic?
- The holiday calendar is favorable this year. With an extra day between Thanksgiving and Christmas compared to 2016, shoppers have more time to make purchases. Christmas also falls on a Monday, which is sure to result in a lot of last-minute spending.
- Promising macroeconomic developments. Increased spending across all household segments this holiday season, stronger stock markets, and the lowest unemployment levels since 2001 are just a few of the factors Bain & Company mention.
- Consumer confidence is at the highest levels in 13 years. According to two different indexes, consumers are at their most confident since the early 2000s. It’s clear that the economic crisis is no longer a factor.
To make things a little more concrete: Cyber Monday 2016 was the biggest day for online sales in the U.S. ever, with $3.45 billion in e-commerce sales. Combine this with the especially positive outlook for 2017, and you have the perfect opportunity to close the year on a high note.
With such a potentially profitable period on the horizon, you want to make sure that nothing stands in the way of your retail business growing sales this holiday season — especially not an underperforming web store.
That’s why we’ve compiled a list of things you can do to make sure that your business is ready to benefit from this year’s booming Cyber Monday and Black Friday online sales.
1: Make Sure Your Web Store Is Optimized for Mobile
A web store that works perfectly on mobile devices will benefit your business the whole year round. But it’s particularly pertinent for the holiday season.
According to Statista, the share of mobile in online Black Friday sales has been growing steadily since 2014.
The mobile share increased by 10% between 2014–2015, and another 8% by 2016, meaning mobile accounted for almost half of all online Black Friday orders last year.
If growth continues into this year and your web store isn’t mobile-optimized, you’ll be at a disadvantage for well over half of all online Black Friday orders. So how can you make sure that your web store is a mobile asset instead of an obstacle?
- Make sure that your web store is responsive (in other words, that it displays properly on screens of all sizes).
- Avoid pop-ups. They’re harder to get rid of on smaller screens. The last thing you want is visitors clicking away your web store in frustration and going to a competitor.
- Prioritize speedy loading! As Neil Patel explains, mobile internet connections tend to be slower and user patience is an increasingly scarce commodity.
2: Increase Your Web Store Speed and Stability Across the Board
Patience might be a virtue, but it’s not one many online shoppers possess according to Kissmetrics:
- 47% of consumers expect a web page to load in under 2 seconds
- If loading takes more than 3 seconds, 40% abandon the website
- A 1 second delay can result in 7% fewer conversions
For online sales success, speed is of the essence. However, it’s not the only technical factor that can make or break your online holiday season sales.
Web store stability is even more important. A sluggish web store might make you lose 40% of your visitors, but an overloaded web store will lose all of them.
A web store that cracks under the pressure of traffic peaks isn’t just a risk for smaller companies, or companies just getting started with e-commerce. Last year, a number of major retailer sites experienced outages during the “Turkey Five,” the five days following Thanksgiving — prime holiday season selling time. According to Forbes, these technical issues likely cost retailers billions in lost revenue.
If it could happen to Macy’s, it could happen to you.
Ways to improve the stability of your web store include investing in a more powerful single machine that offers more disk space, memory and redundancy. If you don’t want to put all your eggs in one basket, you could also consider load balancing using multiple machines — or a combination of the two methods.
3: Consider Online Marketplaces
A completely different approach is investing not only in your own site, but in a presence on other online marketplaces.
Why should you bother if you already have a web store of your own? It all comes down to sheer traffic volume. Last year, Amazon accounted for 33.8% of total retail site visits during November and December. Walmart came in second, following at a distant 6.69%.
If you can’t beat them (and, let’s be honest, even Walmart can’t beat them), why not join them?
There are plenty of reasons to branch out to online marketplaces like Amazon and Alibaba, but there are also downsides to this strategy. Learn more about the pros and cons of selling through online marketplaces on our blog.
4: Provide Competitive Fulfillment Options
You’ve got the visitors on your site instead of one of the big-name retailers’ sites. They’re happily clicking through your fully functional, super speedy web store. They select their items, proceed to checkout, and…
They abandon their cart because of unexpected shipping costs.
Sound farfetched? Then you’re in for a nasty surprise: 28% of respondents in a Visual Web Optimizer survey gave that as their reason for not proceeding to checkout.
It’s essential that you communicate clearly about your shipping costs to prevent shoppers from getting cold feet. Or, if you want to be truly competitive, you could consider offering free shipping during the holiday season.
Research indicates that 9 out of 10 shoppers list free shipping as the biggest incentive to shop online more often. The same survey saw 69% of consumers listing one-day delivery as an incentive, and 68% listing free returns and exchanges.
Which brings us nicely to our fifth and final Black Friday and Cyber Monday tip.
5: Make Your Returns Process Foolproof
A paid invoice and a successfully delivered package aren’t always the end of your buyer’s journey, sadly. In the unfortunate event that their purchase isn’t what they (or their loved one) was hoping for, they want to be able to return the item with a minimum of fuss.
One way you could make the returns process as straightforward as possible is by letting customers authorize returns the same place where they placed the order in the first place: your web store. By keeping all your services in one place, it’s always clear for customers what they need to do in order to return their orders — without having to get hold of one of your customer service reps first.
So you’ll be helping give your staff a bit of a rest during the upcoming retail rush season, too.
Is Your Web Store Ready for the Holiday Season?
The holidays can be stressful all around — even for web stores. What are the main e-commerce scalability obstacles businesses like yours face, and how can you overcome them? Find out in our new factsheet!
14 November, 2017