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For retailers and brands alike, Black Friday and Cyber Monday are by far the biggest shopping days of the year. While Black Friday in July, Green Monday, and Panic Saturday have entered the holiday shopping mix, the days bookending Thanksgiving weekend are still the two most popular days for consumers to purchase holiday gifts.

According to our network data of over 6,200 brands and retailer websites, last year’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday orders were more than triple the orders we see on a typical day in the U.S. – 317% on Black Friday and 314% on Cyber Monday. Black Friday’s impact was even greater in Europe – order volume increased by 427%. 

All signs point towards Black Friday and Cyber Monday being even bigger this year. Are you ready?

Earlier this year, we surveyed 2,500 consumers from around the world to better understand their plans, preferences, and pain points while they holiday shop. Using this research along with our network data from last holiday season, we came up with a list of 10 ways to make sure you’re prepared for the Super Bowl of the shopping season: 

Collect ratings and reviews on products with no or few reviews

Shoppers struggle with the sheer amount of options they have when shopping during the holidays – especially when seemingly every brand and retailer is hosting a sale. According to our survey, 38% of shoppers’ biggest complaint about shopping online during the holidays was that it was difficult to decide between brands and product options.

While amping up your marketing efforts may help garner some attention, hand the mic over to your customers to advocate for your products and your brand, and help other shoppers who are struggling with purchase decisions. Be sure to collect ratings and reviews on products that have none or few, so that shoppers can hear from their peers and feel confident purchasing from you.

Make sure your product pages include customer photos and videos

Over 60% of consumers say they are more likely to purchase a product if a website has pictures and videos from real customers. Similarly, brands and retailers reported that visual UGC creates a more engaging shopping experience, increases discoverability, deepens brand trust, and increases conversion.

A great way to collect consumer photos is to run a hashtag campaign on social media. Choose a relevant hashtag for a product or a line of your products and ask your customers to tag their photos on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. A hashtag makes it easy to find your customers’ photos and (with their permission!) curate and display these images on corresponding product pages and across your website.

Include UGC throughout your entire marketing mix

In addition to ensuring there is UGC on product pages, be sure to include UGC throughout your marketing mix. Ratings, reviews, and consumer photos can be displayed across in-store environments, online search platforms, advertising campaigns, and social media.

In our annual client survey, more than half of respondents say consumer reviews drive in-store sales and increase brand loyalty. Almost all (98%) of brands and retailers we asked plan to either keep the same tactics or increase the amount of effort they put toward consumer content this year. Don’t limit your UGC to just your online presence!

Answer customer questions on your product pages

In 2018, questions submitted across our network increased by 98% on Black Friday and more than doubled to 110% on Cyber Monday, with over 14,000 consumer questions asked that day. This makes sense, as asking questions on product pages is part of the final stage of product evaluation and what customers do shortly before deciding whether or not to buy a product.

Responding to customer questions early can help shoppers make more informed, quicker decisions and can help prevent a mass influx of questions on what will already be very busy days. In 2018, our best-in-class clients saw a 114% lift in conversion and a 120% lift in revenue per visitor or higher when shoppers engaged with product page Q&A. Be sure to respond to any outstanding customer questions before the Black Friday/Cyber Monday weekend begins and have members of your team ready to answer questions in real time during the sales events, as they increase exponentially, and shoppers are looking to buy day-of.

Use brick-and-mortar to your advantage

If you sell products in a brick-and-mortar location, whether your own or at a retailer, you have a competitive edge over large online retailers like Amazon because you can reach shoppers in two distinct places: online and in-store. According to our research, while the majority will shop online, a third of global consumers will do their holiday shopping in-store, and 41% will head to the mall specifically to complete at least some of their shopping. Furthermore, while 38% of consumers indicated that they struggled to decide between products and brands online, only 16% had the same issue when shopping in-store. The ability to see, feel, and compare products against each other in person makes it easier for shoppers to make a decision.

But while a physical presence can be an advantage during the holidays, it must be done right. The influx of shoppers also means longer lines, bigger crowds, and messier shelves. Two out of three consumers (68%) said that long checkout lines were their biggest complaint about the in-store experience during the holidays, and over half (58%) said messy, crowded stores. Be sure to staff stores appropriately in preparation for the holiday crowds, and keep your aisles and shelves clean and easy to navigate.

If you don’t have a brick-and-mortar location or don’t sell your products at another retailer’s store, consider how to experiment with a physical presence during the holiday season — seasonal pop-ups, unique partnerships, and holiday-inspired in-person events can all generate holiday purchases and provide opportunities to engage with your customers.

Celebrate the spirit of the season

One in five shoppers said the number one  way for brands and retailers to improve the holiday shopping experience is to offer entertaining in-store holiday experiences and services. Moreover, 35% of consumers shop on Black Friday and Cyber Monday to get into the holiday spirit, and 25% say shopping on major holiday sale days is a family tradition.

Whether it be setting up an opportunity for photos with Santa, giving out holiday goodies, or setting up Instagrammable in-store backdrops, be sure to create festive experiences in your store, on your website, and on your social media channels to get customers in the holiday mood.

Anticipate emergencies

On the busiest shopping days of the year, some brands and retailers lack the technology infrastructure to meet the demand. In our survey, 34% of shoppers indicated that slow websites and cumbersome checkout processes were their biggest annoyance when shopping online during the holidays. When online shoppers find load times lagging, 79% will avoid returning to the site, and 44% will warn off a friend. Be sure to learn from holiday seasons and major shopping days of the past to avoid worst-case-scenario situations and provide the online shopping experience consumers expect.

Optimize e-commerce for mobile

Mobile is the fastest growing channel when it comes to Thanksgiving weekend shopping, as many consumers use their phones or tablets to shop online from the comfort of their family living rooms to take advantage of holiday sales. Between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday in 2018, mobile accounted for 47% of all revenue and 62% of all page views and, for the first time, more orders (51%) were placed via mobile than desktop.

Given this increase and shoppers’ reliance on their phones, it is critical for brands and retailers to ensure that their mobile shopping experience is fast and easy to navigate. The mobile experience has not only become a crucial component of online shopping but also the in-store shopping experience. Many shoppers now use their phones in-store to compare prices, check item availability, and read customer reviews before they make a purchase.

Invest in search and display advertising

Consumers are bombarded with hundreds, if not thousands, of products during Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and discoverability is difficult enough on a regular day. Fresh product page content will improve your search ranking and help shoppers find your products, but if you need an extra boost, consider investing in paid search and display advertising in the weeks leading up to the busiest weekend of the shopping calendar.

Analyze your business’ shopping data from last years’ holiday season and so far this year to learn how consumers research and purchase products in different categories. This can inform when and where you should place your ads across different tactics and product families to drive traffic to particular product pages.

Take advantage of the rush to get even more ratings and reviews

Use the uptick of sales during this weekend to increase the number of ratings and reviews you can display on your product pages. By no means does holiday shopping end after Black Friday and Cyber Monday – over 20% of global shoppers from our survey are still holiday shopping in early-to-mid December, and 5% even wait until right before Christmas.

Ask your customers to review your products post-purchase, so that you can continue to collect and display fresh review content throughout and past the holiday season. Be careful about the timing of your post-interaction review requests, as shoppers are inundated with promotional emails during this high-traffic shopping time.

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Although Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales hours have extended over the years, the window for deals is still relatively small. Be sure to equip your website and physical store with the tools your shoppers need to feel confident in quickly choosing your product amongst the thousands of others. To learn more tips to prepare for the holiday shopping surge, download our Holiday Headquarters ebook.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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