Tips for Increasing Sales on Black Friday

split-test

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are almost here, and that means retailers are already fretting about how to maximize online revenue and steal customers from competitors. According to Forrester Research, U.S. online holiday sales will exceed US$95-billion in 2015, up 11% over last year. For Black Friday (the day immediately following the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday on Nov. 26), that means more shoppers will be clamoring to get the best deals online than any other time of the year.

Recently, Get Elastic participated in an online Twitter chat with Optimizely. We discussed the best ways retailers can capitalize on Black Friday and Cyber Monday traffic by using A/B testing and personalization techniques, and what pitfalls they should avoid.

Q: What are the most impactful marketing tactics to drive #BlackFriday sales?

One of the tactics retailers can employ is to offer unique, personalized services to complement a sale. For example, hand-written notes are popular options if you can scale it across your business. If not, reserve it for repeat customers and high-margin orders. Loyalty can be a powerful driver of repeat business, so retailers should encourage it whenever possible.

During the Twitter chat, other experts offered advice such as creating gift guides by for different demographics or shopper behaviors.

Q: What is the biggest mistake you see online retailers making during holiday time?
Performance, performance, performance. If your online store isn’t loading quickly, or worse isn’t loading at all, then you’re pretty much doomed. Customers will quickly leave for a competitor.

Of course, mobile plays a big part here. When it comes to optimizing online stores for mobile, retailers are still delivering sub-optimal results. The entire customer experience should be optimized for mobile.

Q: What’s the number one thing retailers can do to improve their site today?
Similar to the biggest mistake above, the answer here is also performance. Most retailers have dozens of 3rd party scripts loading on their site, dragging down speed. Measure and tweak should be the correct course of action here. Managers should ask themselves if they really need that extra JavaScript to rotate a banner. And if your CSS and JavaScript files aren’t minimized, you need to go back and talk with your web dev team. Every little bit of speed matters, so tweak your site, measure, then tweak again.

Q: What are the special considerations for testing during #BlackFriday?
A/B testing can yield significant findings. Just remember to compare apples to apples. Visitor behavior is unique and unusual during this high traffic period. Test results from holidays like BlackFriday are unique due to the frenzied shopping activity. Results may not apply to non-holiday periods.

Another tip: Run A/B tests on pages that will receive enough traffic to drive valid results in a single day. If you need a primer on statistics for A/B testing, Optimizely has a great ebook available.

Q: What do you think are the most impactful A/B tests retailers can run with this holiday traffic?
The most impactful tests that you can run are the ones that will address a customer’s FUD — fear, uncertainty, and doubt. Test value proposition and urgency messaging. Experiment with different banners and featured categories.

Experts agree that you should avoid running tests that involve radical changes to store structure or backend functions. These test will just slow performance. Saves those test for another less critical time of the year.

Q: How do you keep sales momentum going after #CyberMonday?
While it’s true that the bulk of online sales will be realized during the holidays, that doesn’t mean you should stop testing your store throughout the rest of the year. A/B testing should never end, and you should always be looking to squeeze out more performance.

As e-commerce is now almost two decades old, the playbook for success is well established. Delight your customers, focus on the online experience, speed matters, and constantly test your store to maximize performance.

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