ecommerce tips

Later this November, many ecommerce sites will experience their busiest shopping periods of the year. A period that will test some sites to the very limit, but one that also represents a fantastic opportunity to drive revenues.

I’m referring of course to Black Friday (November 23) and the days around it, with Cyber Monday (November 26) being another major retail event.

In the US, online sales on Black Friday last year reached $5.03 billion, and even more was spent on Cyber Monday ($6.59 billion) making it the biggest single online shopping day in history.

It’s also the biggest shopping period in the UK, with £1.59bn spent on Black Friday last year.

In this article, I’ll look at the importance of operating a smooth user experience during Black Friday, and how retailers can maximise conversion rates from all the extra shoppers.

Why is UX more important in busy periods? Well, the chart below illustrates this opportunity for retailers…

The bottom grey line represents the average shopping day, with the peaks in the blue and black lines representing Black Friday and Cyber Monday. This shows just how many more sales retailers can generate at this time.

Higher sales volumes are partly a result of shoppers’ greater intent to purchase than on normal shopping days. They know that Black Friday deals are time-limited so they are determined to make a purchase there and then. This is shown in lower abandonment rates on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. The average cart abandonment rate in retail is around 75%, but this falls to roughly 67% on Black Friday and 70% on Cyber Monday.

This is where good UX can help. Shoppers are looking for deals, while working quickly as they know the best deals will disappear fast.

They need to be able to find what they want quickly, find all the information they need about the product, key details on delivery and returns, and they want to checkout quickly without any hassle.

The sites that do all these things right are in a greater position to convert extra traffic into sales around Black Friday.

Here are a few user experience tips to consider:

Makes sure your site is fast

The faster a page loads, the better the user experience. There are plenty of stats that highlight the importance of speed. Basically, the longer a page takes to load, the less likely customers are to convert, and the more likely they are to bounce.

If a site feels slow, then it frustrates customers, and doubts begin to form in their mind about whether it’s worth continuing shopping.

With many sites under pressure around Black Friday, and even some big retailers sites crashing, it’s vitally important that sites can withstand extra traffic volumes and continue to provide fast loading pages.

The best approach is to load-test in advance to find out how your website handles surges in traffic. There are free tools that can simulate traffic spikes, allowing you to see how your site responds.

Make your deals easy to find

There’s an urgency to Black Friday shopping behaviour, and helping visitors find deals quickly matters.

Don’t make users hunt around the site for deals, having to figure out your navigation as they go. Instead, make it nice and simple and save them time.

Put your best deals (or those you want to push hardest) on your homepage, have a clear link to sales in your top nav, and create dedicated landing pages for Black Friday deals.

Dedicated pages like this make it easy for customers, but they’re also great from an SEO perspective, as search terms like ‘Black Friday deals’ are some of the most popular.

Make sure customers can find key information fast

To help customers speed up the decision making process, provide clear and easy to find information on product pages.

Good product pages should do much of this already, with excellent product imagery, clear information and features like average user review ratings, which help customers make a decision.

Key messaging around delivery and returns can be shown around the site to  make sure the proposition is clear to customers. Here, AO.com highlights its free 30 day returns policy:

Here’s a good example from Smyths. The product page is simple and clear and it also conveys key information on delivery and local stock availability in a prominent position on the page.

Speed up the purchase process

Once customers have selected items and added them to shopping carts, it’s all about speed and simplicity. Allow shoppers to complete checkout with the minimum of effort and you’ll reduce your abandonment rates.

Smooth checkouts make it easy for customers to complete forms quickly and enter payment details without having to tear their hair out.

Having a guest checkout is a must as it’s an obvious way to move customers into checkout more quickly, and removes one possible barrier to conversion.

Another thing to think about here is faster payment methods, especially those which use customer’s saved payment and address details.

They shorten the form-filling process, are convenient for shoppers, and can be especially useful for mobile shoppers.

Lowe’s (shown above) has guest checkout and also uses Visa Checkout. It works in a similar way to PayPal and alternatives like Masterpass, in that users need only enter a username and password to complete payment. Address and payment card entry is therefore bypassed.

For mobile shoppers, providing digital wallet options like Apple Pay can reduce checkout to just a touch or face ID, so checkout can take a matter of seconds. With lower mobile conversion rates tied up with checkout issues, shortcuts like this are a great way to simplify checkout.

In summary

Good UX for Black Friday is no different to good UX on any other day.

The key here is that an easy and simplified user experience can make a real difference on some of the busiest shopping days of the year, maximising the conversions that come from spikes in traffic and interest from shoppers.

To understand the current state of UX research in 2018, download our brand new State of UX in the Enterprise 2018 survey report. 
state of ux 2018
Main article image by Andre Tan