With the biggest sale day of the year approaching, there’s one question that seems to be on every retailer’s mind:
What should we expect from Black Friday e-commerce in 2023?
The past couple of years have been anything but normal. Of course, exact sales numbers are hard to foresee, but…
I don’t think the prognosis for Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales around the world shouldn't be very promising. With inflation at an all-time high, e-comm brands are facing many issues caused by overly optimistic growth estimates, while shoppers are becoming more price- and environmentally conscious. In such a tough economic climate, high Black Friday e-commerce sales are not a given anymore.
"Pendulums have a tendency to swing back, and what we’re seeing now is that the surge we saw during COVID is actually settling and going back to levels that are more in line with the pre-COVID times."
Anders Ekman, Co-founder & COO at Ingrid
It doesn’t mean that there’s nothing online retailers can do to make the most of this year’s Black Friday (if they want to "celebrate" Black Friday at all). Improving the delivery experience, increasing shipping revenue, and redefining returns are just a few possibilities to look into to boost Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales.
How do businesses prepare for Black Friday?
There’s no denying that Black Friday and Cyber Monday are special for retail sales. Shoppers are feeling the pressure, looking to take advantage of Black Friday deals. For many, it’s now or never.
It’s a unique possibility to attract online shoppers, and in most cases, the best thing you can do is not to stand in a way:
- Make sure all checkout touchpoints are optimized for Black Friday
- When in doubt, A/B test your Black Friday e-commerce setup
- Offer multiple delivery options for Black Friday and Cyber Monday
- Give your delivery pricing strategy some thought before Black Week starts
- Make a reasonable delivery promise for Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales
- Don’t go all in on Black Friday deals and discounts
- Pay attention to customer experience during Black Friday and Cyber Monday
- Rethink returns for Black Friday and Cyber Monday orders
Make sure all checkout touchpoints are optimized for Black Friday
In the realm of e-commerce, there’s this misconception that the customer journey is a linear process in which shoppers go through certain stages. Usually, it looks like this:
- Land on a product page — either directly, through a home page, or via a search result page
- Add the product(s) to the cart
- Review the product(s) on a shopping cart page
- Provide billing and shipping information
- Make the payment
- Receive an order confirmation
Voila! Pretty straightforward, isn’t it?
The reality is — it’s rarely that simple. Nowadays, a lot depends on context.
Here's just one example: A shopper who’s using a search engine to look for something specific (but not in any particular store) will have a different experience than someone who knows the brand and goes directly to the homepage to find a product they've already seen around.
Instead of focusing on the best checkout flow for all your customers, you should offer multiple, well-optimized touchpoints along the way so customers can drop out and return whenever they like.
Remember that any friction during the checkout process can lead to cart abandonment and cost you a lot of money. On the other hand, even the slightest improvement can make a difference to your bottom line, especially with a large volume of orders.
The pressure is on, but don’t let it trick you into thinking that you have to change everything to prepare for Black Week. Keep it small. For an occasion like this, there’s no need to make disruptive changes, especially last minute.
Think ahead: look into analytics and customer feedback to see if there are any low-hanging fruits you can identify and optimize. Don’t focus solely on the checkout page — there are plenty of touchpoints that can make a difference for Black Friday e-commerce.
If you have doubts, you can always turn to e-commerce A/B testing to validate the changes before trying to improve any detail in your online store.
When in doubt, A/B test your Black Friday e-commerce setup
In simple terms, A/B testing is a way to determine which design, copy, or feature resonates more with your customers. Most people think it involves simple changes like button colors, but you can actually test anything — from product images and descriptions to delivery and payment methods.
Babyshop Group, for example, decided to test their shipping prices via Ingrid Delivery Checkout. The assumption was that raising the prices by 10 SEK for orders under a certain cart value would discourage customers from buying, and lower the conversion rate as a result. However…
Ingrid’s A/B Testing proved that setting a higher shipping price deviates negatively on conversion by 2.45%, but, it also showed an increase of 4.2% in average order value, resulting in a total of 11% increase in shipping revenue and 5.5% in gross profit per session.
It turns out that A/B testing is a fantastic way to make more informed business decisions and improve any metrics you like: Average Order Value, checkout conversion rate, or shipping revenue. Just set up the test and let your customers decide which option works best for them.
Speaking of delivery options and costs...
Offer multiple delivery options for Black Friday and Cyber Monday
For many consumers, delivery options can make or break the whole online shopping experience. As already mentioned, a lot depends on the context: Some shoppers will be looking to have items delivered quickly, others as cheaply as possible.
If you already provide multiple options or can add a popular delivery method in time for Black Friday, you can easily meet various customer needs and gain a competitive advantage.
At Ingrid, when analyzing last year's Black Week sales in the Nordics, we found out that local parcel pick-up points and home delivery are the most sought-after options for the majority of online shoppers. Chances are, they’re going to work for your customers, too.
No matter the preferred options, you should keep adding new carriers and negotiating the best deals to truly deliver your products on the consumer's terms — during Black Week and beyond. If you're worried about a high volume of orders and want to narrow down the choices for less complexity, you can use a solution like Ingrid Checkout to "group" similar carrier products and display them to customers as, for example, home delivery or parcel lockers.
Then, you can use smart automation in your Transport Management System to book the best delivery service for every order (e.g. the fastest, the cheapest, or the most sustainable one). This way, your customers will still have a choice, while you can book a delivery option that makes the most sense for your business.
Give your delivery pricing strategy some thought before Black Week starts
Here’s one more reason why the delivery experience is important: Unexpected delivery costs happen to be the most common cause of shopping cart abandonment — causing half of the abandoned online orders(!).
It doesn't necessarily mean that you should offer free shipping on all your orders, though.
For special occasions like Black Friday & Cyber Monday, it might be feasible for your business to offer special delivery deals, such as free shipping for all orders for a limited time or for best-selling items only.
At other times, it’s worth setting free delivery criteria for a certain shopping cart value, combined with a fixed delivery rate across all products if they are fairly similar in dimensions, or groups of products.
Take IDEAL OF SWEDEN as an example. The global fashion and lifestyle brand for premium phone accessories was able to boost revenue by 7% in the Dutch market just by experimenting with the free shipping threshold via Ingrid’s Delivery Upsell and A/B Testing.
If you’re not able to show a Free Shipping Bar, there’s a workaround: you can use web push notifications or email messages to communicate the threshold and boost Black Friday e-commerce sales. Greg Zakowicz, Senior E-commerce Expert at Omnisend explains:
— Act based on the cart total. Say, there's a number of people who abandoned their carts and they're under the free delivery threshold. What do we do with our messaging? We want to prominently remind them of the remaining amount to spend to get free delivery.
Make a reasonable delivery promise for Black Friday and Cyber Monday orders
It's not only the price of delivery that counts for a great online shopping experience. Knowing when the parcel will arrive can also make a big difference for your customers.
The thing is: With high order volumes, a shortage of drivers, and a spike in fuel prices, deliveries might take longer than usual. As long as you communicate that with potential customers, it shouldn’t be a big issue.
After all, it’s better to be positively surprised rather than disappointed by the whole delivery experience.
Don't promise something that the carrier can't deliver and won't honor. Your customer service team doesn't like the "You ruined the holidays" calls. So, make sure it is communicated both internally and externally regarding shipping cut-offs.
Jeff Vogl, Owner of Classic Car Stereos
Make sure to sort out all delivery-related issues before Black Week — talk to your carrier partners or 3PL about the expected order volume to avoid problems and estimate realistic delivery times. Once you have carriers’ cut-off dates, give yourself a couple of days extra. You need to be focusing on 'when', not necessarily 'how soon'.
Don’t go all in on Black Friday deals and discounts
Shipping deadlines and delays can cause panic for any retailer, especially when offering made-to-order and personalized products. For this reason, carefully choosing what Black Friday & Cyber Monday sales to offer, or rotating the discounts can come to the rescue.
Rotating products that are on sale enables our jewelry team to vary their efforts and ensure that we are not backlogged with requests for something specific that we run the chance of running out of stock on.
Slisha Kankariya, CMO at With Clarity
Keep in mind that the BFCM sales cycle lasts for approximately a week. The sooner you start communicating the deals, the better: This way, you can bring more “qualified” shoppers to your website in the lead-up to Black Friday. Laurice Constantine, Founder of Casadar, advises:
— Start by organizing various pre-Black Friday sales and promotions, such as countdown sales as the week goes on, to entice customers to return to your online shops. Browsers will have many reasons to do so if you change things up and tease them with deals worth returning for.
Pay attention to customer experience during Black Friday and Cyber Monday
Unless it’s a discount code or a nice gift, customers don’t really like surprises. Finding out mid-purchase (or even worse, afterward) about the desired items being out of stock, experiencing delays or additional costs are the kind of surprises to be avoided. And there are ways to do just that.
If possible, open a line of communication with your customers right after the purchase. Use your order confirmation page, tracking page, and email/SMS notifications to keep them informed and up-to-date throughout their experience with your store.
Transparent order tracking and communication don’t only affect shoppers’ trust and satisfaction, but also help to “relieve” your customer support team.
An example? IDEAL OF SWEDEN launched Ingrid Tracking right before Black Week to avoid unnecessary stress for their team members, and it turned out to be extremely useful for both consumers and staff.
Thanks to a great tracking experience, the number of delivery-related support tickets decreased from 37% to 4%. Usually, the better and more predictable the post-purchase experience, the fewer support issues (especially dreaded WISMO inquiries) coming from customers.
If that sounds like something worth implementing in your online store, book a demo to find out more about Ingrid.
No matter how great the post-purchase experience is, though, you need support reps to handle unexpected issues. Make sure your team is prepared for a high workload, and have a contingency plan in place in case something goes wrong. Jeff Vogl, Owner of Classic Car Stereos adds:
— If the customer pays for overnight shipping and it doesn't make it there overnight, then what? Come up with the plan and strategy now. UPS and FedEx aren't going to pay you back because they didn't deliver on time, but the customer is going to expect a refund unless it was clearly communicated ahead of time.
There’s an added benefit to exceptional customer service, too: improved retention. In the long run, providing customers with information and service after a purchase shows your commitment to providing a great experience. Black Friday e-commerce or not, it really pays off to go the extra mile.
Rethink returns for Black Friday sales
Black Friday/Cyber Monday returns are pretty problematic. On the one hand, they don’t exactly contribute to sustainable e-commerce. On the other, they do encourage purchases that online retailers strive for — on Black Friday and Cyber Monday especially.
Technically, if you have a generous return policy, you don’t necessarily get more returns. It may just be a source of comfort for those who are hesitant to purchase without having any guarantees about product quality or customer satisfaction.
Use your product pages to increase trust and tackle any objections regarding the product’s quality, size, or use, for example. To do so, you can feature relevant images, show the product in use, and provide exact measurements, care instructions, as well as customer reviews.
The more detailed the descriptions, the lower the chances of shoppers being disappointed and returning the products.
You won’t get rid of product returns completely, though. Luckily, you can choose to minimize their impact on your business and the environment with innovative services like Turnr, or by introducing a return fee.
This holiday season, we’re bound to see different return policies. A few popular retailers, including H&M, are already testing paid returns.
Brace yourself, Black Week is coming
On this occasion, you might be tempted to try implementing as many changes as possible. The thing is: Black Friday or not, conversion rate optimization is an ongoing process for every online retailer.
Don’t go for any last-minute adjustments: set a deadline for your team instead, and make sure to keep it. Usually, e-comm brands tend to get everything ready by the end of October to avoid any mishaps on Black Friday and Cyber Monday:
✓ Checkout optimized right on time for Black Friday / Cyber Monday
✓ A/B testing to maximize Black Friday sales
✓ Multiple delivery options for all Black Friday orders
✓ Well-thought-out delivery pricing strategy for Black Friday / Cyber Monday deals
✓ A reasonable delivery promise for Black Friday and Cyber Monday orders
✓ Relevant Black Friday deals and discounts
✓ Great customer experience during Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and beyond
✓ Product return policy for Black Friday sales
No matter how well you optimize your checkout experience, it won’t really matter if fulfilling orders, booking shipments, and printing labels all fail somehow. Or, if your site crashes due to the increased traffic (heads up — at Ingrid, we’ve seen that 8-9 pm was the peak hour for online shopping in the Nordics).
If that ever happens, make sure there’s a plan for handling such issues. To eliminate them, though, partner up with trusted technology providers that can accommodate high website traffic and order volumes.
If you’re searching for a reliable partner to handle and improve your delivery experience, look no further. Book a demo to learn how Ingrid can help your e-comm business during Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and beyond.