Understanding your customers’ journey is key to creating a perfect experience for any holiday season – one that’ll keep them coming back.
For people looking to snag a bargain, annual retail events like Black Friday and Cyber Monday, are quickly turning into the biggest shopping days of the year. We can’t even call them ‘a day’ anymore as they’re starting earlier and lasting longer! Some retailers aren’t promoting Black Friday anymore, it’s now Black Week or even Black November.
But one thing’s certain; each year it’s a huge kick-off for the holiday shopping season. That’s good for consumers looking for deals leading up to (and after) Christmas and for retailers looking to cash in. Because, let’s be honest, when combining Black Friday with Cyber Monday, the amount spent is staggering. Nobody wants to miss out.
According to Adobe, $8.9 billion was spent on Black Friday in 2021. 42% of purchases on Black Friday came from smartphones, with the average conversion rate on mobile rising to 3.3% on Black Friday.
Adobe also reported that $10.7 billion was spent on Cyber Monday in 2021, with mobile purchases making up just under 40% of online sales, while Thanksgiving Day saw $5.1 billion spent. These amounts were part of the $33.9 billion spent online during the period from Thanksgiving Day through Cyber Monday, also known as Cyber Week.
But it’s now time to get ready for 2022
Today, as more people shop online because of the ongoing pandemic – and the convenience – 2022 is also expected to be huge for online retailers. Are you set to get your fair share?
Retailers looking for foot traffic are unlikely to be disappointed as well, but time will tell whether enough people will return to physical stores. The pandemic has disrupted many things, and this looks unlikely to change for some time.
Our article on e-commerce took a closer look at the issues faced by retailers as the coronavirus pandemic unfolded in 2020:
“This past year has proven how vulnerable traditional retailers are to one simple thing: Not having people shop at their place of business. The coronavirus pandemic, combined with increased online competition, has greatly affected the entire retail industry. 2021 will be no different – especially as lockdowns and social distancing rapidly change shopper’s behavior. Even those who were once skeptical about online shopping are now having to embrace it – and are seeing its benefits. This won’t change once the pandemic is over. For retailers, this presents a huge challenge. And a huge opportunity.”
As we quickly head into 2022, it’s obvious that we’re slowly returning to ‘normal’, but in many ways, we need to rethink what ‘normal’ is. Online shopping isn’t signaling the death-knell of bricks & mortar retailers, but it’s clear that consumer behavior is changing to embrace multiple forms of shopping.
Going forward, online will become more established, and traditional retailers must embrace it – by setting up their own sites, joining marketplaces, or integrating the latest smart technologies into their physical locations (creating the so-called ‘phygital’ experience of having intricately connected physical and digital solutions). There’s also the rapid rise of omnichannel business to contend with.
Everything will be connected and there’ll be more competition for everyone and fewer eyes on your online store. Each year, events such as Black Friday will put ever more pressure on retailers.
You’ll have to conduct thorough market research and seek out customer feedback to understand what people ‘may’ be looking for and get your processes and offers ready to go – perhaps months in advance – all while being able to quickly deal with your competitors as they offer aggressive loss-leaders.
Unfortunately, getting your share isn’t as simple as throwing new product images onto your website and waiting for the cash to pour in. You need to truly focus on, as we discussed in our recent article on Mystery Shopping, the experiences you give your customer.
“Customer loyalty, customer satisfaction, and service quality have always been vital factors in the retail and e-commerce sector. But there’s another aspect that’s becoming increasingly important: customer experience. According to Review 42, 75% of shoppers prefer to buy from brands that personalize the shopping experience. 54% of companies also understand that customer experience is the most important priority.”
It may seem obvious but providing a highly personalized shopping experience results in a true competitive advantage – as our article on e-commerce also mentioned:
“It’s proven that a customer will pay more for a better customer experience. Additionally, today’s customers are far better informed than ever before and have multiple sources of information to draw from, which means expectations are higher.”
Higher expectations? Well, nobody said it would be easy. Especially because the digital customer journey is so complex.
People expect (by some miracle) that you’ll instinctively know what they want. Your online store will be perfectly laid out to satisfy their needs. The programs and discounts you offer are perfect and directed straight at them.
But what customer journey touchpoints have an influence? What causes them to abandon their shopping basket? What in the world are they expecting on their shopping journey? Why did they give you a one-star review because the t-shirt they ordered wasn’t delivered on a public holiday?
“It is the story that matters not just the ending.”
― Paul Lockhart
As our story on mystery shopping also noted:
“It’s difficult to verify how the retail or e-commerce experience (whether in-store or online) is received by your target group, without the external help of testers.
How do I check whether my defined brand image and the perception of my customers match? What values and impressions does the layout of my store or the arrangement in my online store convey? Do my channels reflect the high quality of my offer and justify a high price point for my customers? How do I know if my delivery process works in Norway? Or whether my customers feel sufficiently informed about delivery and return conditions? A simple customer survey is usually not enough to answer these questions. What you need is a deeper, unbiased evaluation of your target group in your target market “
As customers assume more control in the products and channels they use, and which influencer or niche key opinion leader they get advice from, your ability to keep them focused on your online shop will become harder than ever.
The times, they are a-changin’
That’s why it’s never been more important to understand your customers’ end-to-end shopping experience. Or to ensure that your technology doesn’t negatively impact it.
In fact, beyond the emotional component of their journey, it’s technology that determines whether they purchase or not. As highlighted in our article on Performance Testing:
“If you look at the numbers, a well-performing and, specifically, a fast-loading online shop effectively means higher revenue. When we look at the past year, overall sales in Germany increased by 202% on Black Friday alone. The traffic on German online shops nearly doubled compared to the usual average. This means that not only are there more visitors, but they’re also willing to spend more money than usual. For 2019, Statista published a study that shows that 38% of the people asked, plan to spend 101-300€ on Black Friday. You don’t want upset customers in general, but what you really don’t want is upset customers on Black Friday!
When it comes to load times, according to a study on BigCommerce, a mere 1 second delay in page load time can lead to a conversion decrease of 7% because people just don’t want to wait. Especially the ones shopping on their mobile device.”
Put simply, that means: “I want that now, but I need it yesterday.”
As we saw in our article on Smart Retail:
“Convenience, ease-of-use, and tailored experiences are becoming more of an expectation than a nice-to-have.”
If your shop has a confusing interface, has an unclear point of sale, looks outdated, is incompatible with different technologies, or doesn’t provide options (such as mobile), it’s not going to leave a great impression for those skimming websites looking for the latest Christmas sales. First impressions count.
Especially when you want to build a long-term relationship.
That’s why trust is also such an essential element of the customer experience. It’s not just that your technology does what it’s expected to do, or that your user interface is second-to-none, it’s that they view your business as serious, credible, and dependable.
Our article on making your webshop ‘trust-worthy’ took a close look at what the Nielsen Norman Group viewed as the four main design factors that impart trust:
- Design quality (that your site appears legitimate and professional) – though we might add, ‘appear’ should be ‘is’.
- Upfront disclosure (with all information that relates to the customer experience – that is “Be open about the things you offer and about the things you don’t. The more potential questions are answered at first glance, the more your users will trust you.”)
- Content is comprehensive, correct, and current (“It should be crystal clear, from the very beginning, what products you offer and for whom.”)
- That you are ‘connected to the rest of the Web’ (and not an isolated website ‘that does not link to and cannot be found on third-party review sites, social media, or news outlets’).
We then asked the question:
“How do you know where to start? What do your customers think when they visit your webshop? Do they like it? Can they find everything they’re looking for and – most importantly – do they trust you?”
So, where do these high consumer expectations leave you? How can you even begin to fully understand your customers? How do you even know if they trust you when everything they do seems to disappear into a black box – unless they’ve got a complaint?
How can you encourage repeat business, loyalty, brand stickiness? Even get your customers to promote your business through their social media connections?
We’re on this journey together
It’s all about joining your customers on their journey. Showing that you are invested in meeting their needs.
And an extremely effective way of doing this is through continuous Customer Journey Testing with the use of crowdtesters who closely match your customers – demographically, culturally, psychologically, emotionally, and economically. This ensures you can cover virtually any shopping situation and quickly scale up to meet any scenario.
For example, at Testbirds we have 1,000,000 testers around the world, using over 1 million devices.
Customer Journey Testing isn’t a standalone solution. It complements other types of testing, including A/B Testing and UX and UI Testing. It is, however, ideal for looking at tangible and functional factors (ease of use, access, functionality, etc.), along with more abstract elements such as their intrinsic personality and emotional intelligence.
At every touchpoint with you.
A simple use case for Customer Journey Testing could be following a tester (or hundreds of testers) on a routine purchase:
- Could they easily access your store from a specific device?
- Were products logically listed and findable?
- Was the information relevant and culturally appropriate?
- Did they experience a seamless ‘check out’ process? Did it give them joy?
- What did they do after the purchase? Keep browsing your shop? Regularly check the delivery times? Talk to their friends about it?
- How long did it take for their goods to arrive? Was it a pleasant experience?
- What about the moment of unboxing? Did it meet their expectations?
- When returning a product and receiving a refund, how did that go?
- When they shopped at a competitor (for comparison research), how did that experience differ from shopping at yours? If some things were better, that information can be used for self-improvement.
Depending on the level of understanding you’re after, this can be as detailed as needed. Testers can film their reactions using Unmoderated Usability Tests. Create detailed diaries about each interaction. Be interviewed to gain greater insights.
The point is, they’re human beings. Real people that match your customers who think, feel, and act exactly as they do.
There is no better way to receive a true, unbiased understanding of what your customers want, what they expect, what makes them happy (or not), and what will keep them coming back.
With that information, you can develop an online shopping experience (and a range of offers) that nobody shopping on Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and all the days leading up to Christmas could refuse.
Start your testing today and make sure that 2022 puts you back in black.