With inflation driving up prices and retailers struggling to thin inflated inventories, the annual Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping season is poised to be more important than ever.
According to a survey conducted in September by the National Retail Federation, 45 percent of shoppers say they are likely to browse and buy on Black Friday. And 58 percent of consumers say that sales and promotions are more important to them when shopping for gifts and other holiday items this year versus 2021.
With so much riding on this holiday shopping season, being prepared for those savings-minded consumers—particularly online—is a major priority for home goods brands such as Studio McGee/McGee & Co.
During a webinar hosted by e-commerce discovery platform provider Syte, Josh Batchelor, vice president of technology at Studio McGee/McGee & Co., shared insights on the brand’s goals for this season and how it’s preparing to achieve them.
Batchelor told attendees Studio McGee’s biggest goal, aside from sales, is cultivating brand loyalty among new and returning customers.
“We want to collect more brand loyalists to build up our loyalty network,” he said. “We want to bring in more people on Black Friday, add them to our SMS texting list to build them as longterm customers and collect overall data about our web experience.”
For retailers like Studio McGee, Black Friday and Cyber Monday offer the opportunity to address other issues such as overstock inventory and capturing customer data.
“Sales will come in, but there is a place where we can find a marriage between the growth of sales and knocking off these different business goals,” said Aaron Ellis, the Syte senior customer success manager working with Studio McGee, the design studio run by “Dream Home Makeover” husband-and-wife power couple Syd and Shea McGee.
And to achieve those goals during the holiday shopping season, Studio McGee has made significant changes to its website, both on the front and back ends. One of the biggest updates is improving how it handles out-of-stock product and serves recommendations to customers.
“When an item is out of stock, we’re simplifying our out-of-stock product detail pages and putting recommendations higher so they’re seeing them immediately and not getting as discouraged,” Batchelor said. “Our hope is that it will delight the customer to see something similar and not send them away disappointed.”
In selecting similar items to recommend, Syte helped Studio McGee identify potential products most likely to elicit a positive experience for the shopper.
“If you’re trying to achieve brand loyalty, you want to recommend visually similar items with high reviews and low return rates—something you know will satisfy the customer when they get it in their hands,” Ellis said.
Knowing your inventory well is essential for effectively managing sales on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and doing the back-end work well ahead of time makes processes run much smoother on the actual shopping days.
“Really understand your catalog and know what’s moving and not moving,” Ellis said. “Segmenting your catalog is a great way to make these changes. If we segment our catalog beforehand and group the products and know the actions we need to take with each group, it’s very easy to respond on Black Friday when we have a million parts moving at full speed.”
Studio McGee enacts a code freeze in the days leading up to Black Friday and Cyber Monday to ensure no last-minute changes cause glitches or other issues on their website. Ellis said that’s a great strategy and suggested conducting a whole-site audit at some point before the code freeze to prevent an unforeseen issues from appearing.
“Once you have a plan, you have to clean up before the code freeze,” he said. “You have to make sure all of the front-end is working—point to the nooks and crannies of your website that aren’t always visited and make sure those areas are not only frictionless, but also making the call to action you want to deliver to your customers.”
Batchelor said Studio McGee analyzes its website data each year following Black Friday and Cyber Monday to identify trends that will help them prepare for the next year. The company noticed a few behavioral trends among its shoppers last year that it’s keeping in mind when preparing for this year’s sale.
“The bulk of our customers probably have already started filling up their shopping carts at this point, just waiting to find out what the sale’s going to be,” Batchelor said. “The trend we’ve seen is there’s a wave of people buying their items right away, and over the next few days they’re browsing more and finding things they weren’t looking for originally.”
And while it’s probably too late at this point to make major website changes in time for Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Batchelor advises other retailers to do the little things to make sure their customers are happy and then learn from this year’s experience to improve next year.
“Focus on what makes the customer happy and builds brand loyalty—those go hand-in-hand, as well as being transparent to customers,” he said. “When you’re out of stock, make sure you’re offering similar items, and if they do want that out-of-stock item, capture their email and let them know when you have it back. When you focus on the customer, that enhances loyalty.”