As a result of all the issues surrounding Black Friday, customers were left more disappointed than usual.

But will the customer accept Black Friday as an excuse for poor website performance in future?

The use of attitudinal analytics is rooted in the idea that customer experience drives customer satisfaction which in turn influences their future behaviours. 

In other words; when a visitor logs onto your website, how they perceive (and ‘experience’) that site will influence how satisfied they are.

If the visitor manages to achieve everything they set-out to do, and encounters no problems along the way, then they are likely to be highly satisfied - and will be more likely to return to your site and carry out a purchase! Simple notion right? 

In November 2014 there was a dramatic rise in the number of customers visiting websites with the intent to purchase.

So many, in fact, that November’s traffic rivalled December’s volume with so many punters looking for bargains ahead of Christmas. This was down to Black Friday.

But isn’t buying online, and buying early meant to be less stressful?

Typically a period that sees the most traffic by far, you would expect shoppers in December to record the lowest yearly satisfaction. However, purchase intenders’ satisfaction was at its lowest during November.

Perhaps that’s why they call it Black Friday?

Since the weekend of Black Friday came over from the United States, November has become an even more important month for businesses to consider.

With lots more customers flowing into their websites intent on bagging a quick bargain, it becomes ever-more important to sustain a high level of customer experience - otherwise you’re going to be upsetting a lot more people a lot more than usual.

Famously Black Friday was the cause for much upset within IT departments (and board rooms!) across the country last year.

With a massive increase in traffic and purchase intenders, basket services and bargain pages were clogged up; they were simply unable to cope with the activity.

The weekend of frenzied deals caused November to be the biggest month for customer’s being unable to complete their purchases.

A whopping 12% experienced technical issues, from slow loading times to full page crashes.

In general, we used to put up with slow loading times but, as many reports have highlighted, the demand for smooth and reliable websites is ever increasing. All of a sudden then, these technical disasters could mean abandoned baskets, lost conversions and a damaged reputation.

A customer that is unable to achieve what they set-out to do, or suffers significant resistance along the way, is going to be less satisfied. As a result of all the issues surrounding Black Friday, customers were left more disappointed than usual. B

ut will the customer accept Black Friday as an excuse for poor website performance? 

Evidently not. These two examples reflect a common trend across the retailers that participated in Black Friday.

Their customers not only had a less satisfying experience, but were less likely to return. What’s more – the more the satisfaction decreases, the more their likelihood to purchase next time decreases.

Of course, this has to be weighed up against the increased short term revenue jump.

In a brick-and-mortar shop, if you can’t get down the discount aisle or access a till you wouldn’t consider sticking around. The difference? On the web you don’t have to smile awkwardly to the cashier on the way out. 

In addition to all this, some online sales suffered in December due to sales success from Black Friday which resulted in a backlog of orders, where the backlog extended delivery times of up to 10 days.

Black Friday 2015? 

Bosses in the industry are split over Black Friday ever happening again. The head at Marks & Spencer says Black Friday is here to stay, get used to it.

However, John Lewis managing directors have said it is not in the industry's interest to focus so much trade onto one day – they want more steady trade and more at full price.

The Entertainer recently revealed that it has already ordered stock ahead of this year’s November rush. It is clear Black Friday shifted seasonal selling patterns and requires careful balancing of sales and margins.

So, what should retailers do ahead of the coming storm?

1. Support

If a retailer plans to open their doors to Black Friday they must be prepared to support whatever issues they face as a result of it.

Supporting purchase intenders in different areas will reduce their likelihood to abandon a purchase – perhaps a live chat function or a holding page in times of technical issues.

Where and how a retailer supports their customers and infrastructure will be unique.

2. Listen

Only through listening to the voice of customer can a retailer hope to improve their customer’s future behaviours.

By prioritising problems with the customer experience the savvy retailer will address issues most relevant to the customer during this busy period, and thus have the greatest impact on customer satisfaction.

Perhaps complete transparency when your website is expecting technical problems would stop purchase intenders exiting the site in frustration, or maybe it’s worth investing in a more reliable payment page.

When it works, the more satisfied customers will be more likely to return to your site in the future. Of course you will need to measure what works and what doesn’t…

3. Review

Retailers should employ measures to evaluate and review Black Friday’s impact on their sales and customer experience year-on-year.

This doesn’t just apply to the digital space – it is important to consider the multiple channels your customer can interact with your business. With Black Friday looking to become more popular as the years go on, all channels will suffer as a result (click & collect, in-store, call centres etc.)                           

The fact is - Black Friday reshaped the Christmas trading period for retailers who took part.

Those who pay attention to the customer experience, and iron out existing issues which could be exacerbated during peak trading, will be actively preventing themselves from the problems associated with Black Friday.

Ultimately, this may determine the difference between success and failure.

Ben Stroud

Published 10 April, 2015 by Ben Stroud

Ben Stroud is Marketing Coordinator at ForeSee and a contributor to Econsultancy. 

3 more posts from this author

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Comments (2)

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Peter Cunningham, Product & Marketing at Buyapowa

I don't think customers will boycott retailers' sites just because of temporary outage problems. Especially as the reasons for these outages were extensively covered in the press. However, retailers will probably have lost sales after having paid for the clicks on Facebook or Google, or paid for the same click twice as a customer just came back later. Beyond this I don't think retailers will suffer long term damage from the outages as the blips in the graphs shown in the article were minor and returned to the average thereafter. The longer term damage has been done by dumb discounting, scatter-gunning discounts to everyone and emptying their purses just before Xmas selling low or no margin products. It is the march of the lemmings to the cliff. We at Buyapowa have long argued that discounts should be targeted at a retailer's best customers and rewards should be offered for those who bring in more customers. This is smart Social Customer get Customer rather scatter-gun discounts.

over 3 years ago

Stephen Keable

Stephen Keable, Customer Experience Designer at Allies Computing Ltd

We spoke to one of our customers (Merlin Cycles) about Black Friday, they made improvements to servers and warehouse processes to be able to handle 3 times the usual level of orders.

https://www.alliescomputing.com/blog/2015/01/how-merlin-cycles-handled-black-friday-2014

over 3 years ago

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