Get BFCM Ready: How to prepare your customer experience now

These days, customers are shopping earlier and earlier for the holidays. And one of the biggest opportunities for them to grab some great deals ahead of the season is Black Friday weekend. You’ll have all those customers shopping for both themselves and gifts, making for a pretty great acquisition opportunity. Over BFCM it’s essential that your customer experience is up to scratch so you retain all those customers who discover your store over the event.

Today we’re going to look at what matters to customers in their experience with your store over BFCM weekend so you can get your customer experience primed, ready, and raring to go.

What matters to customers most on Black Friday weekend?

The best way to improve your customer experience before Black Friday is to think about what’s going to matter most to customers as they browse and shop your store. The way people shop over BFCM weekend is different to how they normally would. The key difference being the faster pace, and they’re typically looking at multiple different brands. They may be comparing your deals to competitors, or maybe they have a few different stores they want to target over the weekend. 

This means that the most important factors are:

  • They want your store to be easy to navigate
  • They want simple, user friendly product pages 
  • They want to buy products quickly
  • After purchase, they want clear and efficient communication

Every optimization should then reflect these needs. By doing this, you make your customer experience more efficient and appealing to customers. And it will serve your store in the weeks before and after Black Friday/Cyber Monday.

What matters at each stage of the customer experience

Let’s get further into the detail of what matters to customers and how it applies to your customer experience. It can often be easier to think of it in stages. You may already be familiar with customer journeys and journey mapping, but we’re going to keep things simple. Let’s look at BFCM customer needs in three stages: Discovery & Research, Purchase, and Post-purchase.

#1 - Discovery & Research

The journey begins with the customer discovering your brand, and then doing some research. Whether it’s reading reviews, doing off-site comparisons, or just reading a product page, there’s always an element of decision making and research. So what’s important here is finding your store, and learning about your products

To help them find your store, you need to think about how you plan to promote it. That means looking at things like SEO, how you plan to use social media, email marketing, and any in-store promotion if you have a physical storefront. As for learning about your products, that’s going to relate to navigating and browsing your store for information. How your site’s navigation is set up is vital - it needs to be super easy for a customer who’s never visited before to find everything. Then comes the actual content - product pages, FAQs, brand information, product care info, and more should be up-to-date, in-depth, and provide customers with everything they need to know.

It’s worth remembering that many customers will do research and discovery ahead of Black Friday itself. So having your experience ready will be vital.

#2 - Purchase

Once a customer has made the decision to purchase, they have even more expectations from their experience. Especially over BFCM, they expect that the process will be fast, efficient, and straightforward. If you have time limited offers, low availability, or any other special deals, they want to snap them up!

What matters in this phase then is that your site loads quickly, they have all the information they need to order, and the checkout process is simple

Optimizing your site’s speed ensures that they aren’t left waiting for pages to load - the longer it takes, the less likely they’ll be to purchase. Nearly 70% of consumers admit that load speed influences their willingness to buy from a retailer. When they want to snap up a good deal, they don’t want to wait. As for information, it’s important that they have all they need that will be relevant to their order. This can be done with in-cart information on shipping and delivery, or as a site banner letting customers know about processing and dispatch times. It could also include things like how far they are from incentives like free shipping - they’d hate to miss out on another great deal!

#3 - Post-purchase

The work isn’t over when the customer successfully places an order - in fact the post-purchase stage can often have the biggest impact on retention. After all, no matter how great a deal is, it can be spoiled by a poor delivery experience or difficult support interactions. 

What customers want in this phase is great communication, easy access to support, and a smooth delivery and unboxing experience. 89% of customers are more likely to make another purchase after a great support experience, and 85% say a poor delivery experience would make them less likely to make a future purchase. Customers want to know where their order is at all times, and when they need some extra help they want it to have a super positive experience. 

Thankfully, these are areas you can easily improve upon with the help of some new apps and a little extra care with email and SMS. It doesn’t take much to make a customer feel more supported and in the loop.

What you can do now to enhance your BFCM customer experience

Now we know what customers want from their journey over BFCM, let’s see what we can do right now to improve your CX.

#1 - Find ways to improve your site speed

Speed can be a conversion killer at the best of times, nevermind when customers are trying to make the most of your Black Friday deals. While you still have time left, it’s a great opportunity to audit your site’s performance. This gives you plenty of opportunity to find, fix, and test anything that might affect your site speed.

The first step is to surface any slow loading pages. You can test pages using tools like PageSpeed Insights, which will also give you suggestions for improvement. You may start to notice some common issues such as large image file sizes, or apps which may be causing your pages to slow down. 

Once you’ve identified slow pages, you can start to go through things which may improve their speed. This might be minifying code, removing bulky elements like animations, optimizing images, or removing unnecessary apps.

#2 - Review how easy it is to navigate your store

There will be a good number of customers over BFCM weekend who have never visited your store before. And if they’re shopping for the holidays they may know very little about your products and niche. That means it’s vital that your store is super easy to navigate through, regardless of which page a customer is on. 

Start by reviewing your primary navigation - how many options are there? There can be both too many and too few. Too many may overwhelm the customer, so consider how you may be able to condense these down. Perhaps you can achieve this using a sitemap, or rethinking your use of sub categories. Too few may mean that instead dropdown menus from the top level options are too cluttered. 

As well as sitemaps, internal linking and breadcrumbs can also make navigation easier for customers. These can offer useful options so they can find their way around your site without too much clicking back and forth.

#3 - Enhance your product page experience

Your product pages are your opportunity to turn a site visitor into a customer. Crafting a convincing, well laid out product page is easier said than done. Before BFCM rolls around, you want to be certain that your product page experience is optimized. 

You may want to involve some human testers, to go through product pages and see how they feel about their experience. This can give valuable feedback into what your product pages might be lacking. You should also look to your competitors, to see what unique features they may have included in their product pages. Equally, you may find that their product pages don’t have all the features you believe are valuable to customers, and so you can ensure your pages do have them.

Create a checklist of everything a customer needs to know about your product - description, additional info, dimensions, materials, etc. Then what they need to know about ordering - shipping, returns, FAQs. Finally, what else might enhance their experience - how-to videos, additional info about materials used, unique selling points. Start going through this checklist, and enhance any areas where you can add value for your customers and their experience.

#4 - Audit your checkout process

We’ve already mentioned that speed is everything on Black Friday, and the same applies to how fast customers can complete checkout. They may have other deals they want to take advantage of, or they simply just want to secure their order with your store quickly. Whatever the case, your checkout should be optimized for speed. 

Things that can slow down your checkout process could be too many fields in checkout forms, the need to create an account to complete checkout, or too many steps to checkout. These are all things that can be easily optimized. 

Look through your process both on desktop and mobile - how many steps are there? How many fields are there? Could anything be cut down? Where cutting down isn’t an option, can you enable auto-fill or tools like ShopPay or Apple Pay that can make it faster? If you typically ask customers to create an account, consider instead adding a quick checkout or guest checkout option. Once the order is complete, you can send an email asking if they’d like to create an account along with its benefits - order tracking, order history etc. They can then browse this when they’re not in the heat of finding a deal!

#5 - Give customers additional support options

Customers have high expectations for support these days - in one survey, 78% of customers said they have backed out of a purchase due to poor customer support. Over BFCM, there could be a number of reasons why someone needs a helping hand - maybe a discount code isn’t working, or perhaps they have a quick question about a product that isn’t covered on the product page. 

In these cases, how easy is it for customers to get in touch with your support team? And how quickly can they expect a response? Look at the channels you currently offer, and the time-to-respond and time-to-resolution for each. There may be ways you can speed it up with a chatbot to respond to common queries, and a live chat option available over Black Friday weekend. You could also offer support via social media, if you don’t already. Clearly communicate when customers can expect to receive support responses over BFCM. If you aren’t offering support over the weekend itself, this should be something they’re made aware of. 

#6 - Boost your post-purchase communication

The hard work isn’t over when the customer clicks “checkout”! Post-purchase is a crucial stage that can have a serious impact on retention in the long-term. After all, you want to make the most of all those newly acquired customers come the new year. One of the biggest frustrations many customers have post-BFCM is that they don’t get enough communication. They know that the time of year is a logistics nightmare for ecommerce, and are all too familiar now with what happens when the supply chain is under stress so close to the holidays. 

Find ways that enhance your post-purchase communication to alleviate those concerns and keep customers informed and happy. An easy way to do this is with improved order tracking capabilities. Self-serve options are favored by many customers - 73% prefer to solve issues on their own. Plus, depending on which courier you use, you can’t control what their tracking experience looks like. Apps like Order Lookup make it easy to offer a branded, self-service, real-time tracking tool for your customers. You can even add notes to the order, just in case there are any issues you want the customer to be aware of. They can then access this information any time they want to know what’s going on.

Don’t just stop with the tracking tool - bolster those email and SMS messages as well. Say for example you won’t be dispatching orders until mid-week after Black Friday - add this to order confirmation emails for any orders placed over BFCM weekend. When an order has left the warehouse, let customers know via email along with support options and a link to tracking tools. And when it’s due for delivery, set up a quick SMS automation that gives them a heads up a day in advance.

The opportunity of Black Friday weekend is something every merchant and retailer will be very aware of. And that means even more competition than usual. The best way to stand out isn’t always by what the deepest discount is, but who offers the best experience that speaks to the needs of customers shopping over BFCM. If you can provide that speedy, informative, and efficient experience customers need, you’ll see even more success this Black Friday.