Back in Black: Is Your Online Store
Ready for the Big Day?
By Tim Connolly
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
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
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
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 vividence.com.