Back in Black: Is Your Online Store Ready for the Big Day?
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November 2003 | Vol. II - No. 11

November 2003 | Vol. II - No. 11 TDmonthly SEARCH

Retailing Tips

Back in Black: Is Your Online Store Ready for the Big Day?

No, it’s not a Vincent Price movie. “Black Friday” is the name anxious retailers have given to the day after Thanksgiving, when holiday shoppers hit the malls in greater numbers (we hope) than on any other day of the year. The “Black” stands for black ink—handy for warding off blood-thirsty creditors. While it doesn’t actually rank first in sales—most industry analysts place it fifth—Black Friday draws the most traffic retailers will see all year, and that’s no less true for Internet retail.

According to a poll by Nielsen//NetRatings, 2002 saw online shopping on Black Friday jump 36 percent over the previous Friday, with the Toys and Games category seeing a 39 percent increase. ComScore Networks Inc. reported total Internet sales for the Friday after Thanksgiving reached $151 million, a 40 percent increase from 2001.

According to Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst for The NPD Group, “The power of the day depends on the category of business you are looking at. Some products, such as toys that are the hot item, will tend to sell heavily on Black Friday. If the consumer is not brand/product specific, they will wait until the key items go on sale.”

In Internet retail, the concept of a “sale” is made moot by a retail environment where prices fluctuate moment-to moment, and shoppers have a global selection at their fingertips. However, good service can make the difference in cyberspace just as it does in the harried realm of face-to-face holiday shopping. Vividence, a consulting firm specializing in improving the online shopping experience, compiled 10 tips for creating a retail site that will make e-shoppers glad to have skipped the mall frenzy.

1.) Save Customers’ Shopping Carts. Many online shoppers place something in an e-basket, then get cold feet or decide to check out the competition before buying. Many will return to your site looking for that special something that—as they now know—only your store offers. Save your customers’ shopping cart items for 30 days to make it easy for them to continue shopping where they left off.

2.) Offer Promotions or Incentives to Purchase. Most specialty stores can’t match mass retailers on price, so use your ace in the hole: service. Free shipping, gift-wrap or cards can make the difference.

3.) Display Shipping Prices Early. Shipping costs are one surprise no one wants to unwrap. Let customers choose a shipping option with their purchase, and have the cost clearly visible in the shopping cart.

4.) Make Site Registration Optional. Time is short during the holiday frenzy -- who has time to fill out a tedious registration form? Let them go from cart to checkout without interruption.

5.) Offer a Charitable Donation Tie-in. We all feel more generous at this time of year. Customers will feel better about maxing out their Visa if they know part of their debt is going to a good cause.

6.) Replenish Stock. No one has the time to check back in a week to see if your site has finally restocked the item they’re looking for. Make sure your top sellers are on the shelves, or give customers a date that the item will ship when it arrives.

7.) Provide Order Tracking. It will give your customers piece of mind and reduce the number of “Where’s my Stuff?” calls to your store.

8.) Shorten the Checkout Process. Don’t make them go through five pages of entry fields -- one is more than enough.

9.) Be Clear About Delivery Time. Shoppers need to know whether their procrastination has necessitated overnight or two-day delivery.

10.) Provide Paper Gift Certificates. Customers prefer paper to e-mail, and gift certificates often influence purchases.

For more information on improving Web service, go to


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