What We Learned from 110 Million Visitor Sessions During Black Friday & Cyber Monday
We’re entering the most hectic time of the year again — and it’s not even (officially) the holiday season. That’s because the holiday season doesn’t formally start until the holy grail of retail events. We’re of course alluding to Black Friday, the crème de la crème for boosting revenue.
Our globally-extracted data attests to the weight this pre-holiday season event holds. (Have you seen the stampedes and clashes over commonplace items on this day?) With strong expectations of drawing in higher volumes of customers who purchase, now is the time to make sure your digital CX is spot on.
We analyzed 110 million visitor sessions and inspected the performance of 600 million pages during the 2018 Black Friday season, stretching from November 11th to November 27th.
Our data validates the expectations of higher sales and shopping carts surrounding these retail affairs (in most cases). There was also less site abandonment — in some countries. Let’s look at some of the key insights we gleaned from those numbers.
Big Wins in the USA — Cyber Monday Rules
Black Friday — historically a brick-and-mortar affair — is today a major digital sales event. In 2018, Black Friday digital sales reached record highs, generating $6.22 billion in revenue. Cyber Monday, as its name suggests, has always been about promotions in the digital space, i.e, eCommerce.
The United States followed this rationale, as its largest sales were chalked up to Cyber Monday last year. Black Friday sales saw a 17% hike in conversions, but Cyber Monday sales trounced these, with conversion increases of 60%.
And conversions weren’t the only thing on the rise — in the US, average carts increased during Black Friday by 12%.
These heightened conversions were made possible owing to the checkout in particular. This was the case for not solely the US, but also in the UK. Let’s look at the stats we crunched on the checkout portion of the customer journey.
The Checkout: Higher Conversions, Lower Bounce Rates & Less Logins
The conversion rate among visitors who reached the checkout funnel was 25% higher during both Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Pre-holiday shoppers who reached the checkout appeared to be more inclined to go through all the steps necessary to complete their purchase, from selecting a product to entering their shipping address.
The checkout page spurred lower bounce rates in both the US and UK. In the US, the checkout bounce rate went down by 28.3%, and in the UK, it decreased by 32%.
In the US, the checkout bounce rate went slightly up again on Cyber Monday, but was still lower than the bounce rate in the lead-up to the holiday shopping weekend.
Despite the good performance of the checkout page, it also incurred some engagement issues. Retailers in the UK saw half the checkout logins during Black Friday, and in the US, the logging in rate was 61% lower.
It could be that Black Friday and Cyber Monday shoppers are in a rush to complete their purchase, or that they are already logged into their account.
In any case, optimizing the checkout step with a quick and easy login process (think one-click, social login, etc) will only encourage more sign-ins. Encouraging guest users to create an account after they convert is another long term marketing opportunity.
The Search Bar & Category Pages: Higher Global Usage, Yet Higher Frustration
In all the countries we analyzed, search bar usage saw a stark increase on both Black Friday and Cyber Monday. US shoppers browsing retail tech sites drove a 31% increase to the click rate on the search bar.
In the UK, specifically in the retail apparel sector, the search bar garnered a 3.16% click rate increase on Black Friday alone. The click rate rose to 10.01% on Cyber Monday.
Visitors also browsed fewer category pages in general — 5% fewer in the US and 27% fewer in the UK — confirming the theory that, by the time Black Friday rolls around, shoppers have a good idea of what they’re looking for.
The kickoff to holiday shopping season isn’t a time for idle window shopping, so brands should put their best offers on display well in advance of the big day.
Despite the seemingly good engagement coming from the click rate of the search bar, it can also be a source of frustration, as it drew in higher click recurrences across the board.
With an average of 2 clicks on the homepage search bar during Black Friday, the US felt the most acute wrath in high click recurrence. The UK followed suit, particularly in the fashion sector, where the search bar sustained a monumental 2,000% rise in click recurrence, from 0.08 to 1.78 clicks.
So while the search bar is a necessary element for possible conversions, it may not be very intuitive. It could be drawing up the wrong results or not pulling in products close to what users are typing in automatically.
Bad UX on the Add to Cart Button Globally
The search bar wasn’t the only element to incur a high click recurrence, as the add to cart button was racked by a similar fate.
In France, particularly in the apparel sector, the add to cart button suffered a click recurrence increase of 5.85%.
It was slightly bigger in the UK apparel sector, having risen by 8%. Most notably, in the UK tech sector, it shot up by 62%.
The US was dealt the biggest blow on add to cart buttons, as they racked up a heaping 50% in click recurrence increases.
The root of this international UX trouble-maker could be error messages springing up when users clicked on the button, either due to a technical error or issues with inventory.
The lessons to glean from this is to optimize the add to cart button and make sure you don’t run out of products. Pay special attention to best sellers and other popular items.
An Eclectic Set of Acquisition Sources
Traffic from emails was higher by a hulking 79% during Black Friday and Cyber Monday, compared with the prior period.
Contrary to the US, UK brands received a higher-than-average visitor flow during this season. On Black Friday, organic traffic, or traffic from SEO, was 33% higher, and direct traffic also increased by 24%.
Cyber Monday did not follow suit in the UK. Instead, brands piqued the interest of incoming visitors through paid sources and CRM. Email-based traffic was 160% higher, while social media garnered a king-size 310% increase in traffic.
Whether your brand uses paid sources or goes the organic route, make sure your copy is compelling. Add your best deals to captivate more interest.
And when creating SEA or paid social ads, make sure your landing pages are consistent with the messaging and offers mentioned in your ads.
Capitalizing on Black Friday & Cyber Monday in 2019 & Beyond
As the drivers of major retail events, it is incumbent upon brands to create good experiences — digital and otherwise — to attract customers’ attention and most importantly, retain them. As our data shows, Black Friday and Cyber Monday are key forces for higher revenue streams and fewer bounces. However, there is plenty brands can do to improve the UX, reduce frustration, and engage higher add to carts.
For example, product and CTA findability carries a great deal of weight in user experience. As do elements that appear to be clickable, but turn out not to be.
Read more about how The North Face leveraged granular customer data to optimize their gift guide.
Luckily, you can refer to a slew of hard data, including industry benchmarks and see how to improve your digital experience for this year’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday. But it doesn’t end here.
You’ll need a continuous stream of data to refer to — and we’re not only referencing industry criteria. You’ll need to have a sturdy set of data on your customers’ behavior. That way, you can determine where customers are struggling and where they’re having a good UX. Once you’re equipped with this data, you can proactively make optimizations so that for your customers, Black Friday and the holiday season will truly be times of giving, i.e., buying.