COVID-19 has completely changed the world, permanently. Yet these challenging times have also presented an opportunity for innovation, especially in the realm of eCommerce. In particular, Black Friday 2020 is predicted to be a shopping season of dramatic change and movement to entirely online. These shifts are the result of significant changes to our habits, expectations, and routine. Specifically, 92 percent of shoppers say that their shopping habits have been impacted due to COVID-19.
Gone are the days of queuing up at 12am to claim the latest entertainment devices from your favorite electronics retailer. No more elbowing. No more crowds. So no more…retail doorbusters? That’s what I’m here to discuss with you today.
How will today’s ‘new normal’ impact Black Friday 2020? How can you, as a retail brand/online store (whether it’s your first move to the eCommerce realm or you’re a longtime veteran) prepare well in advance for this never-before-seen shopping season? I did some digging, consulted with leading eCommerce agencies and trend-savvy friends, referenced current and previous eCommerce data (like a good marketer should), and put on my human psychology thinking cap. The result? A list of key eCommerce trends and Black Friday predictions, paired with actionable tips that you can apply to your own store. So let’s see what’s in store…
Trend #1: A Major Turning Point for Mobile
Mcommerce sales in 2019 broke records on both Black Friday (US$ 2.9B) and Cyber Monday (US$ 3.1B). To reiterate, this was last year– before the coronavirus struck our world. Mobile and mCommerce are showing absolutely no signs of slowing down. According to Statista, by 2024 approximately 187.5 million U.S. users will have made at least one purchase via web browser or mobile app on their mobile device, up from 167.77 mobile U.S. buyers in 2020. Currently, mobile buyers account for 60.9 of the U.S. population (and that number is changing while I’m writing this). With COVID-19 we are already seeing more users than ever breaking consumer inertia against spending high sums on mobile, and are overall spending more time and consuming more on their mobile phones.
And what is the blessing and curse of mobile phones? They are always with us, especially given our more homebound lifestyle. They’re next to our bed serving as our morning alarm. They’re our friend for absent-minded scrolling while sitting on the toilet. Our indoor workout buddy or cooking guide. They’re our means for connecting with friends/family who we would normally see in person. This reality presents major opportunities for online retailers during Black Friday 2020 and beyond.
Arm yourself with strong, cohesive mobile offerings. Double-check, triple-check every aspect of your mobile UX from slow loading times due to non-optimized images, mobile checkout processes, login flow etc. Fully commit to mobile- because your competitors, especially the ones with more eCommerce experience, are doubling down.
Michael Chammas, founder of Markro, one of Canada’s leading eCommerce agencies, emphasizes, “A quick and easy tip to speed up the checkout process would be to enable checkout payment methods such as Paypal and Apple pay. The last thing you want is a user to have the intention of buying, but then realize that they don’t have their credit card on hand, or aren’t in the mood to manually fill out their information and go through a lengthy checkout process.”
Plus, for those online stores that also have mobile apps, he recommends exploring opportunities with iOS 14’s app clips. With app clips, the app experience will be tailored to a better and faster shopping experience that should result in better overall conversions.
And since mobile is the present, not the future, our friends at Charle agency also had some powerful advice regarding the mobile customer experience. Nic Dunn, CEO & Founder, shares, “On average for most our brands, over half of all website visits come from mobile – so you really should adopt a mobile-first approach when tackling design and UX of your website. Consider the design as one of the most important parts of your store. Easy to navigate, clear call-to-action buttons and images that are appropriately sized for mobile.”
Trend #2: Mirroring the In-Store Experience
Many shoppers are likely breathing a sigh of relief considering the fact that they won’t need to physically fight crowds to grab the best deals this Black Friday 2020. However, this does not mean that consumers won’t long for other aspects of the in-store experience.
As our partners at Milk Bottle Labs (Ireland’s top experts on Shopify and Shopify Plus) affirm, “Existing bricks and mortar stores who have shifted online should attempt to re-create the in-store experience. Focus on a cool unboxing experience so the customer remembers the entire experience. Don’t ship a box. Ship a reason for the customer to return and even share the purchase.”
This coincides with the reality that COVID-19 has accelerated the evolution of the shopping experience: calling for the creation of viable, digital in-store alternatives. Ash Ome, the founder of Motif, a leading eCommerce agency, expands, “Mostly fashion and luxury businesses can benefit from using these kinds of technologies to craft a totally unique experience which will delight their customers and increase the average site spending times and average order value over the period.” Luxury brands such as Burberry and mainstream brands such as Kohls are already leveraging AR and VR to try to “mirror” the in-store experience. These technologies were already gaining traction before COVID-19, and are now being adopted at an accelerated rate.
Leveraging these technologies is undoubtedly an innovative, strategic step, however, this is not something that is easily accessible for the standard online store. In addition, many large brands might believe that AR and/or VR is just not the right fit for their customer base. So how can eCommerce stores still provide elements of the in-store experience?
For most online stores, the key to increasing revenue during this unique shopping season will be to tap into UGC, in the form of photo and video reviews. These reviews capitalize on one of the strongest forms of social proof, require zero ad spend, and help customers get a true sense of your products and brand.
Example of a beauty store that is leveraging happy customer content.
Thousands of Shopify stores are using easy, professional apps, like Loox, which is rated first in the app store,to drive conversions from happy customer reviews. Ultimately, no matter how advanced your AR or VR technology is, the power of the “bandwagon” effect cannot be ignored. This is a social psychology concept which states that people are more likely to engage in an action if other people are doing it. This why leveraging real customer reviews, photos, and videos is a top best practice in the industry.
To provide some extra actionable advice on how to leverage videos in particular, we spoke to Brent Godkin, from Only Growth. Brent advised, “A great way we have seen store owners provide better product visualization is by including a video demonstration of how the product works on the product page. Now that a lot of people aren’t going in store to purchase they aren’t able to test the product for themselves or be educated by a sales rep so by having a video demonstrating how the product works, its benefits and how to use it can be extremely helpful.”
Trend #3: Distrust is at an All-Time High
As the coronavirus has rapidly spread across the world, so too have related consumer scams. With consumer trust already being one of the most challenging KPIs to increase and measure, eCommerce store owners will need to make an extra effort to incorporate elements of trust into every aspect of their consumer experience. For example, according to a report by McKinsey, right as COVID-19 began to strike the USA, consumer-trust levels were noted as being low overall but varying by industry. Two sectors—healthcare and financial services—achieved the highest score for trust: 44 percent. Notably, customer interactions in these sectors involve the use of personal and highly sensitive data. Trust levels were far lower for other industries. Only about 10 percent of consumer respondents said that they trust consumer-packaged-goods or media and entertainment companies.
So what should you keep in mind on Black Friday 2020 when it comes to distrust? We sought out advice from the eCommerce gurus at House of Cart. Anna Tillotson, Owner and Operator of the recognized agency emphasized, “Ensure your store tells YOUR STORY, this builds trust and respect! Make sure when they land they see a beautiful banner image relevant to the product range with a POWER CAPTION stating exactly what you offer and who you are straight away! You have 5 seconds to capture their attention to keep shopping. ALWAYS include a CTA (Click to action – SHOP NOW/BUY NOW) Button on the hero banner!”
Shopify wizards at Fuel Made also had some interesting trust-building tactics to share with us. Lisa Oberst, Fuel Made’s Director of Email Marketing, suggested the strategy of gift-giving for building email lists and loyalty. She elaborates, “Although you might be tempted to throw together a simple pop-up with a discount to gather emails, chances are this may not be the most effective offer. Try a gift instead. Not only does it have a high-perceived value, but it’s not costing you margin. Make it relevant to the season by giving away gift wrapping, or go physical with a free low-COGS add-on with purchase, such as a product sample.”
Trend #4: Enter New Online Personas
In-store shopping on Black Friday has always been a crowded spectacle. It draws in many consumers who love the sprint for a good deal or are simply less excited about shopping online. Yet due to COVID-19, consumers’ comfort levels and attitudes towards in-store shopping have rapidly shifted. In a survey conducted by Qubit this past July, two-thirds of consumers have increased online shopping because of the coronavirus and only 28% of consumers feel comfortable returning to stores.
Now that the show has been moved to the online road, eCommerce newbies and veterans need to be prepared for a wave of “new” personas with different expectations and usage behaviors from the more experienced online shoppers. We reached out to the Shopify growth pros at Media Carry to obtain their key tip for how to tackle this specific reality. Ben Murray, Founder & CEO at Media Carry shared this mantra with us, “Superior customer support and accessibility should be a merchants main focus when coming to online for the first time. The merchant also needs to focus on branding and telling a story.”
On the same thread of superior customer support and accessibility, store owners should aim to supply “too much information”. This does not mean cramming your site with piles of text, but instead embracing your new personas and considering how they might want to consume content/information about your product. Teresa Harris from Pixel Union, the industry leaders in Shopify themes, elaborates, “One of the best things stores can do is provide “too much” information, or more than you typically would consider adequate. This includes photos of the product from multiple angles, color variations, close-ups, in-situ photographs, and – in the case of clothing – photos of different sized models wearing the items.”
She adds, “In addition to visual information, it’s also important to think about how a visually impaired person might usually experience a product in-store. Write detailed product descriptions, answering questions like: how does the material feel? How much does it weigh? How might the item be styled? By providing “too much” information, you’re ensuring that the customer will be left with no doubts as to whether or not your product is the right fit for them. This will hopefully increase your customer’s satisfaction and reduce your return rate.”
Trend #5: Curbside Pickup is Not Going Anywhere
COVID-19 has made curbside pickups a norm few would wish to return from. Not only has it become a lifeline for restaurants and grocery chains, but it is also extremely relevant for other businesses. Curbside pickup serves two key functions (both providing peace of mind to consumers). First, it can serve as a great alternative to having a product shipped to one’s home. Customers can use local pickup to buy a product online and pick it up at a convenient nearby location, like your store or warehouse. This is especially relevant for Black Friday 2020 as consumers’ instant gratification mode kicks in. Due to a predicted major increase in online shopping, many consumers will want to bypass the wait for a product shipment and pick up their orders themselves. In addition, curbside pickup helps prevent package theft, which has seen a dramatic uptick in the past year. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, thieves have even gone as far as to dress up as nurses in order to steal packages from citizens’ doorsteps. Second, it ensures the safety of your consumers and your employees. As the name states, customers can pull up to your brick and mortar store’s curb or your warehouse without ever having to get out of their car.
As a Shopify merchant, you should thoughtfully examine your consumer persona(s) and consider whether curbside pickup is right for you. If you decide to proceed, luckily you can get up and running with curbside pickup pretty quick. Having already identified this important trend in the industry, Shopify has created a collection of tips for getting started with curbside pickup and also offers a selection of curbside apps in its app store. Essentially, COVID-19 and adjusting to curbside pickup has increased the need (more than ever) for brands to embrace an agile approach to eCommerce. As the eCommerce pro, Martijn Wijsmuller at Ask Phill simply puts it, “Your brand should always be as flexible as possible and ready for the next big thing to come. The advantage of being a digital native brand is that you are able to experiment and implement new features much quicker than the established brands.” This is your strength- play to it.
Trend #6: “Blind as a Bat”
With more consumers shopping online, we are going to see more online stores, which means more deals, meaning more ad spend. Not to mention, thanks to Shopify “arming the rebels“, every online store whether using Shopify or not will be competing intensely for consumer attention. Our friends at smile.io (a leading shopify app for building customer loyalty) elaborated on this major challenge. Tim Peckover notes, “One of the main reasons why ecommerce stores are having conversion rate issues it that so many customers suffer from banner blindness – they’re completely ignoring all of the hero images and promotional offers you have on your website. With the right tools though, you can inject engagement into the custom experience in the moments that matter. The right prompts at the right time can help start turning first time visitors into loyal brand advocates.”
This means that your potential consumers are going to exhibit banner blindness on a whole ‘nother level during Black Friday 2020 as competition skyrockets. Luckily, there are two key ways that you can cut through the noise: personalization and UGC.
There are many different ways that you can leverage personalization on and off your eCommerce store. One of the best Shopify apps for personalization tactics, is Privy. For example, many Shopify store owners utilize Privy’s pop-up functionality to deliver personalized pop-ups based on user behavior. For example, if it’s your customer’s second visit on your site, you can welcome them back with a special pop-up and even give them a discount to help them complete their order.
Example of personalized pop-ups with Privy.
When it comes to combatting banner blindness and drawing potential customers to your site, one of the most economical yet effective methods for reaching new customers is UGC- specifically in the form of shared photo reviews. Loox’s photo reviews app enables you to easily tap into your current customers’ audience (their friends, colleagues, and additional connections) by providing discounts for their shared photo reviews. By utilizing their review sharing as focused audience targeting, you can quickly scale brand discovery, drive value, and encourage sales directly via organic shares. Yes, I might work for Loox, yet as a marketer myself, I can confidently attest to how user-distributed photo reviews have saved my marketing budget and boosted my CR and LTV.
Extra tip: For Loox merchants that are already encouraging customers to share photo reviews, you can automatically tag your store in every share on Twitter. Learn how to set it up here.
Trend #7: More than a Month-Long Event
Black Friday has already become more than a month-long event, so we’re expecting it to be even longer this year (hence why I am writing this post now). Take Amazon for example, who will reportedly offer early Black Friday campaigns starting October 26th. Not to mention Prime Day, which will last from October 5th to 9th. With no physical limitations, retailers have the ability to go wild with different deals. So if you think “you’ve got time to plan ahead”, plan earlier.
Bogdan Chertes, Chief Stratigist at Adfix, was kind enough to make my life a bit easier and supply a few key pointers (especially when it comes to preparing your promotional assets).
Here are some of the fundamentals to make sure you check off at least 1 month before Black Friday 2020:
Ensure you stock up on your top-selling products
Prepare creatives at least 2 weeks ahead. Everyone will be submitting their promo ads in a very short time frame. Both Facebook & Google had delays in approving BFCM ads last year because of the huge queue of ad reviews.
Creative tips: keep text on images to a minimum to avoid rejection by the ad platforms, if you can, prepare a video as well – it can even be a slideshow with some product shots (videos tend to do well on social). You can review the ad requirements for Facebook and Google here.
Consider a super early start or cover 2 promotional periods. That’s because Amazon Prime Day will be between Oct 5 and Oct 9. “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush”. It’s recommended that you do a promo in October and another one for BFCM.
So what’s the theme for Black Friday 2020? Change. Customers have changed – growing accustomed to remote, digital, and low-touch options – even in traditionally less tech-savvy populations. Retailers have changed- adapting to new standards for shopping and adopting new technologies. We are moving into totally unchartered territory, a territory that presents opportunity yet also major challenges for eCommerce stores. I hope that these eCommerce predictions and tips can serve as a compass through this foggy ‘new normal’ and enable you to tackle Black Friday 2020 head-on.
Hannah Levenson is the Senior Marketing Manager @ Loox. In addition to being an eCommerce and UX enthusiast, she loves to share her knowledge of digital marketing as a guest lecturer at The Interdisciplinary Center, Herziliya, IL. When she's not writing about the psychology of eCommerce, you can find her practicing pilates or traveling around with her DSLR camera.