November 16, 2020 | 5 Min

How to Deliver Amazing Digital Customer Experiences on Black Friday

Default hero

Originally posted on Myplanet’s blog.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday this year will be different. The pandemic has altered what and how people buy; most retailers have seen increases in digital selling. And with an uncertain holiday season ahead, retailers will need to lean in to digital and omni capabilities more than ever. Research from Cardify found that even though holiday spending is likely to be sluggish this year, the majority of spend will happen on Black Friday. That means brands have a huge opportunity to capture the energy — and dollars — flying around on Black Friday.

In a recent webinar, experts from Amplience, NewStore, Elastic Path, and Myplanet shared their predictions, ideas, and tips for a successful Black Friday 2020. In this blog post, we’ve distilled the key strategic tactics every brand needs to keep in mind as they prep for Black Friday.

Physical integration is a digital opportunity

Jamie Smith, the senior director of global partner solutions at Elastic Path, predicts that retailers could see anywhere from 40–80% lift in their ecommerce numbers this Black Friday. But this doesn’t make physical stores any less important. If anything, it creates an even stronger need for integration between physical stores and ecommerce.

Now more than ever, people are “shopping the brand, not shopping the web or the store,” says Jane Cannon, Chief Product Officer at NewStore. This means, bluntly, that customers don’t care how brands organize themselves, but they do expect things to be fully integrated and easy to use.

Customers still want the choice of having someone to answer their questions or shopping alone, just as they’d have in store. They still want to see how many items are left, as they could on a shelf. And they still want to know how quickly and easily they can get the product home, the same as they’d be able to in a physical location.

All of these issues can be resolved by working with in-store associates throughout your digital experience, leveraging their knowledge and brand ambassadorship to help online customers just as they would in-store. Integrate tools like web chat, a service inquiry page, or even video chats, so online customers feel connected to the in-store experience and to your brand.

“Store associates are the lifeblood of your brand,” notes Thom Armstrong, VP Solutions at Amplience. Meaningfully integrating your associates can lead to significant sales bumps both online and in-store.

The importance of transparency and fulfillment

One thing that’s taken for granted with in-store shopping is product availability. You can look at the shelves and know if something is there. If it’s not, you can ask an employee to check the stock room. Customers shop with that mentality, which means it needs to extend into digital. It’s critical to show product availability and fulfillment stream (in-store only, pickup only, delivery, etc.) with complete transparency.

“Communication and setting expectations is going to be key,” notes Armstrong.

Customers want to transact when and where it’s convenient for them. That means your business needs to carefully consider how it will incorporate things like endless aisle, buying online to pickup in store (BOPIS), reserving online to pickup in store (ROPIS), curbside pickup and returns, and delivery. With COVID in particular, contactless and distanced options need to be communicated clearly to your customers.

“The best thing retailers can do is keep inventory accuracy high and precise so they can fulfill the sale no matter where customers are,” says Cannon, adding that companies offering BOPIS and curbside saw 120% increase in sales over the summer, so there’s already clear justification for investments in integrated fulfillment.

There is no silver bullet way to do fulfillment anymore — instead brands should focus on giving customers as much choice as possible.

Make it about service

Black Friday is always a big day for brands, but this year will be more intense than ever with limited physical shopping options and a surge in ecommerce. To stand out in this crowded space (especially when switching costs are lower than ever for consumers), focus on experience and service.

“Consumers will remember the brand experience they had,” said Cannon. “Consumers will remember the service level they got. Consumers will remember how easy it was to return something.”

Despite a potentially sluggish holiday season ahead, people are looking to spend money, and they want to have a great experience doing it. Provide them that, and you win.

Personalization leads to loyalty

Even if you don’t have a huge budget for custom work, consider how to personalize the services you provide. Something as simple as geo-tagging someone’s online purchase so the confirmation email they receive is also an introduction to their nearest local store manager can go a long way to securing a customer for life. This kind of personalization helps customers connect with your brand and puts a face to the brand, which can be especially helpful for chains or big box stores.

“Focus on allowing the transaction to be immersive and as personal as physically possible,” says Smith.

After this personal experience, be sure to ask customers to join loyalty programs. When customers check out, give them a popup or follow up email explaining why joining your loyalty program benefits them (future discounts, advance notice of products, more personalized service, etc.). Even if you can’t afford a large custom membership site, something simple like email capture and discount codes can help supercharge loyalty in a digital world.

“Clienteling isn’t just for the $10,000 handbag anymore,” adds Armstrong. So make every transaction count.

Preparing for a different Black Friday

For years, Black Friday has been about the in-store experience. In 2020, that’s still true, but in a different way. Unlike previous years, winning Black Friday in 2020 is about taking the in-store experience and translating it into a digital world. Brands that focus on custom digital experiences — not generic ecommerce templates — will win Black Friday this year. As customers are more educated than ever and are willing to spend elsewhere if they don’t get the convenience they demand, it will be up to brands to meet customers where they’re at, not the other way around.

Interested in watching the whole webinar? Watch the whole webinar here.