How To Increase Conversions During Peak Online Shopping Days

By: Sangeetha Narasimhan

Conversion rates are higher on peak days such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but are merchants really profiting? This article will discuss how to boost conversion during peak periods in online retail.

Each year, new annual sales days rise above others, adopted by retailers across the globe looking to cash in on ‘quick-and-easy’ wins. Black Friday, an American phenomenon that spread across the Atlantic and then moved online, is the most well-known sales day in the Western calendar. It has transformed peak shopping for consumers and retailers, offering extensive sales both in-store and online.

The idea is to attract more customers and more spending. Yet, if merchants are too quick to jump onboard before thoroughly preparing their systems to cope with operating way above normal capacity, peak shopping days could turn into a disaster for retailers’ annual profits. 

A win-win for merchants and consumers

Peak shopping days are expected to be a guaranteed life raft in the otherwise choppy waters of today’s retail economy. More consumers participate in these commercial holidays than any other day, determined to find bargains from the comfort of their own home.

In previous years, the initial success of sales days was evident. For example, last year, we processed 29 percent more online payments during the Black Friday weekend compared to the same period in the year before.

Transaction volumes were so high that, over the course of the weekend, we not only broke our record for the most payments processed in a single day, but we broke it twice. In total, the UK’s overall online retail spend on Black Friday hit 330 percent higher than a typical Friday. In comparison, US consumers spent 167 percent more on Black Friday than any other Friday, as momentum shifted to Cyber Monday (almost double the Black Friday growth).

Playing on the fear of missing out

The increases in sales can be explained in part by changes in consumer behaviour. Gallery Rouge’s Impulse Purchasing Survey found that the average person has begun spending over £1,000 on spur-of-the-moment purchases every year. Nearly 60 percent of respondents admit to as many as five impulse purchases per week, totalling a staggering 260 snap-purchases a year.

Urgency drives conversion rates. Online sales play on the consumer fear of missing out on an attractive discount or limited availability. If an item is running low in stock, consumers feel an urge to buy the product, reassured that it’s worthwhile because of the attention it’s already received. 68 percent of consumers aged between 18 and 30 make a reactive purchase after experiencing fear of missing out (FOMO).

The newfound compression of time between thought, desire, and purchase, combined with FOMO, often results in high sales for retailers. Ultimately a countdown deal plays on the active consumer’s mind, encouraging them to make the purchase before it’s too late.

Traffic doesn’t equal customers

Although the hype surrounding the day will lure consumers to more sites than usual, more traffic doesn’t necessarily equal higher conversion.

In its Black Friday 2016 online sales performance review, IMRG confirmed that the number of visitors to online sites on Black Friday grew further than in previous years, but that the actual growth in sales revenue was held back by a lower-than-expected increase in the percentage of visitors converting into buyers. It’s clear that to secure more transactions, retailers must not just concentrate on the traffic coming in, but they should plan how to turn these browsers into buyers.

Tackle barriers, remove friction, and increase conversion

There are numerous variables that determine if a consumer will drop out during the payment process. When identifying their own barriers, merchants need to examine their payment data forms and methods. If payment pages are complex, consumers will seriously doubt if the purchase is worth their time.

Since impulse spending is integral to short-term sales schemes, and one-click payments have been proven to increase conversion, it’s worth investing in ‘invisible’ payments for a seamless, secure payment customer experience.

Additionally, if a consumer’s preferred payment method or local currency isn’t offered, they are less likely to go ahead with the purchase. Providing consumers with their local payment method is vital retailers looking to grow across borders.

Finally, it’s crucial to maintaining conversion rates that merchants give consumers a safe and secure payment page that is accessible from any device. Financial Fraud Action found that potentially 15 million online shoppers put themselves at risk of financial fraud on Black Friday by chasing deals. However, genuine retailers using a recognisable logo and user-friendly design enables consumers to feel comfortable completing their purchase, whether on mobile, tablet or computer.

From trust comes repeat purchases – a brilliant feat for merchants on days such as Black Friday where an array of customers will be new to the store, lured in by marketing efforts planned up to a year in advance.

Peak day pitfalls

While hitting record sales figures is seemingly a great win for UK retailers, exclusive Ingenico ePayments data reveals that 50 percent of refunds from Black Friday are processed by mid-December, hitting 75 percent by Christmas Eve. Although customers are more eager than ever to complete the payment process as soon as possible, high returns suggest that consumers are getting swept away by the promise of a great deal and aren’t considering the necessity of their purchase until it’s too late.

I attended the IMRG Peak Connect Conference in June, where I had the opportunity to listen to experienced retailers from the likes of Hotter shoes and New Look discussing the importance of the customer experience at this vital time of year. Attendees also debated how to overcome challenges, such as progressing indifference or hostility to Black Friday into untapped potential that can be converted, if only it is approached in a different way.

Retailers should offer their customers not just the best deals, but the best services to have them coming away from the day feeling victorious. Whether it’s the initial payment, the delivery, or the returns process, each step needs to be focused on the customer experience.

Don’t forget: Preparation is key

It’s easy to forget that payments systems need to be up to scratch for peak sales days. Retailers should look to provide customers with a platform to check out safely, securely, conveniently and efficiently, even at the most demanding of times.

Pressurised sales, paired with buyer’s remorse, can mean mayhem for merchants who are unprepared. A seamless and efficient payments system must be able to cope not just processing sales, but large quantities of refunds. Although a secure sales processing system may seem an obvious move, merchants often forget they could potentially lose customers with a poor refund experience. If retailers aren’t processing returns efficiently, they risk losing more customers than they gain by promoting the sale to begin with.

In 2017, we anticipate record numbers of transactions across Europe on Black Friday, and retailers need to prepare now to ensure they take advantage of each opportunity to boost profit and increase their conversion rates.


By: Sangeetha Narasimhan - Marketing Manager at Ingenico ePayments


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