In the competitive landscape of retail shopping, there’s no greater priority than Black Friday. It is traditionally the busiest shopping day of the year, kicking off the critical holiday season. This shopping season can bear as much as 30% of the annual retail sales for the year. While numbers of people actually going into stores over the Black Friday weekend (inclusive of Thanksgiving Day) may be decreasing, the weekend still hosts around 100 million shoppers who spend an average of $300 each.
Retailers must get this weekend right for their buyers, or they risk losing them (churn). This entails pricing, inventory, service, and, above all delighting their customers so that they remain loyal. If a customer can’t get what they want (or is trampled on by other customers on their way to get it), then they will go elsewhere. Retailers need to finely tune their offerings and shopping experiences to facilitate success for their shoppers. Minimizing friction for shoppers is the key to customer success for retailers over Black Friday weekend.
Customer Success is all about helping customers reach their goals. In the shopping season, those goals are straight forward: find the best deals on gifts (and perhaps a few personal buys) with the fewest headaches, and the most delightful experience. Though we haven’t yet been asked by Macy’s (or anyone else, for that matter) for our advice, we have some suggestions for all retailers about how they can minimize friction for their shoppers, and optimize buying.
Let’s start with the things that can impede customer success – the friction points, if you will:
- Lack of efficiency
- Too many options
- Too few options
- Wasted time
- Competing demands
In the world of holiday shopping, these points of friction ring true, as well.
Lack of efficiency. Considering that Thanksgiving and the Friday (and weekend) after it constitute the longest consecutive days off for many people, it’s imperative for people who shop on these days to get done as much as they can. If they have to spend time searching for what they want, their experience will not be positive, and they could churn.
Too many options. While retailers want shoppers to buy more than what they came into their store for, it requires a delicate balance of having what they need without sending them into options-overload. If customers have too many options, many of them will experience indecisiveness, become overwhelmed, and may choose not to buy.
Too few options. It’s a delicate balance, for sure. If retailers don’t have what the buyers came for, they will obviously lose the sale.
Wasted Time. There are lots of ways retailers can manage to waste their buyers’ time. Retailers love to front load their stores with impulse-buying options. Some shoppers are lured in to buy, while others regard these items as obstacles to getting to the items they want. Similarly, long lines to check out, lack of availability of help when needed, and confusing layouts for stores can contribute to shoppers feeling as though their time is being wasted.
Competing Demands. Shoppers are typically buying for a variety of people, and they may also be hosting out of town guests or heading out of town. Even though they have the time off work, Black Friday (weekend) shoppers are busy. They have a lot on their plates. While a single retailer can’t solve all their problems, they should be aware of their buyers’ other demands on their time, and be accommodating.
Some of the advice we share with our SaaS customers can be relevant for the holiday retailers, as well:
- Be efficient with your touchpoints. Don’t bombard customers with too much information. Rather, be concise and relevant. Customers need to know where to go to get what. Make sales information clear, and store layout intuitive.
- Don’t be shortsighted in your innovations and offerings. Quick answers and “innovations” often solve immediate problems, but don’t anticipate future needs. In the retail space this entails knowing your customer’s seasonal (trending) wants, but also anticipating their own personal needs (like headache medications, snow shovels, and sunscreen).
- Be empathetic with your customers. Know that they need more than just your platform (store). Find ways to support them in other areas of their business, building a relationship of trust. Remember Santa Claus in Miracle on 34th Street when he sent parents to other stores, and Macy’s ended up gaining greater customer loyalty.
- Create consistencies. Your customers need to know that they can rely upon your platform (store) to meet their anticipated outcomes. Know your customer. Know your brand. And don’t try to reinvent the wheel to be anybody’s everything. But DO what you do best, so that your customer knows they can rely on you for what you say you do.
Just as trampled customers aren’t likely to remain loyal, SaaS customers who have to work too hard to meet their desired outcomes are more likely to churn. Whether you’re a Black Friday retailer or a SaaS organization, minimizing friction for your customer in their buying/using experiences is critical to creating and preserving a stronger feeling of loyalty and commitment.