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Your Black Friday strategy has evolved, but has your online testing risk-reduction changed with it?

Black Friday Online Testing Strategy

Retailers everywhere are preparing their ecommerce platforms for that annual trial by fire — peak trading. The first salvo in this year’s battle to secure a bumper golden quarter is fired during Black Friday, which officially falls on Friday 29th November.

But Black Friday is no longer a one-day flash sale – recent research from Yieldify suggests that only 15% of online retailers treat it as a single day of discounting. And, as well as getting longer, this imported festival of shopping is also getting longer, with retailers expected to see an average revenue increase of more than a quarter, compared to last year*.

Rather than slowly fizzling out, Black Friday is changing. With most retailers now finalising their Black Friday plans, it’s important to ask if their online testing strategies have also evolved in lock-step, or if retailers are still focused on last year’s risks.

Deri Jones, CEO of Tribe, outlines what retailers can do to optimise their online performance and ready themselves for the opportunities that comes with Black Friday.

Preparing for peak trading

Thanks to advances in website design and scalable technology, websites hardly ever crash anymore. But that doesn’t mean retailers can take their foot off the gas when it comes to preparing for peak traffic.

Without an effective testing and optimisation regime, a whole host of website errors can lurk undiscovered, whittling away at margins, with the retailer blissfully unaware of the damage being done.

The latest Tribe research shows that a quarter of consumers reveal they are regularly frustrated by ‘buy’ buttons that don’t work, while a further 45% have abandoned their basket thanks to a broken promotion code. In both of these instances, customers have travelled the length of the sales funnel only to be denied at the point of greatest intent by a broken code. Instead, they abandon their basket and shop elsewhere, angered by the time and effort they’ve wasted.

A myriad of new risks

It’s not difficult to fall foul of similar problems. Since last year, retailers across the board have introduced a myriad of ways to introduce new risk into their ecommerce world. These risks stem from re-platforming and systems integration to increased online inventory, new functionality and a greater dependence on third-party customer experience plugins. Shopper behaviour is also changing, putting new and unexpected traffic and load stress onto systems.

New data from John Lewis Partnership Card, for instance, shows an increase in nocturnal shopping habits, with one-in-15 purchases now made during traditional downtime, between midnight and 6am.

The ability to mitigate these kinds of risks is important at any time, but in the crucible of Black Friday, when annual results often hang in the balance, they take on even greater urgency.

Take a customer-eye view

The most effective way to test a retail website is to take a customer-eye-view and examine the length of the buying journey. So many retailers use unrealistic customer pathways when testing their websites. They routinely use website entry points and links that are inaccessible to the public, effectively invalidating their testing regime. They also disregard website customisation and personalisation when testing, which again seriously skews results.

Instead, retailers are advised to consider real behaviour, and a realistic mix of end-to-end journeys including drop-off ratios, using real data from real events in their testing. There are lots of performance metrics out there, but customer experience should always be the number one goal for any retailer.

Don’t trust third-party plug-ins

Third-party plug-ins are a great way to access must-have functionalities such as personalisation, fulfilment and sizing solutions. They’re essential in elevating customer experience and ensuring Black Friday bargain hunters keep coming back when the sales buzz fades.

The risk here, however, is that plugin developers are constantly updating and renewing their plugin code. This means that a bug or incompatible line of code may be introduced into the retailer’s platform at any moment. On-going use of a third-party plug-in requires ongoing monitoring if a retailer is to be sure they won’t suffer a nasty surprise during a peak trading period, such as Black Friday.

Take a holistic view of testing

Don’t consider your website in isolation. Retailers are advised to test and optimise all their digital channels ahead of Black Friday — and certainly not just desktop. The goal should always be a uniformly high-performance and high-level customer experience for all customers across all channels and devices. This is the most effective way to elevate online customer experience.

There’s no escaping the fact that website testing is a complex and potentially resource-heavy necessity. Retailers need to honestly ask themselves whether they really have the technical expertise in-house to fully test their complex ecommerce platforms.

Add to this, ‘shift-left’ methodology which has placed even greater pressure on teams to deliver quickly. For some organisations this means taking risks with website load capacity and undiscovered bugs, but the proportion of online revenue is now too big for omnichannel retailers to take this kind of chance.

Black Friday has turned into a continually evolving shopping festival, with retailers adapting their platforms, inventories, merchandising and sales strategies to fit. Having managed to get their ducks in a row in every other aspect, retailers must not forget to evolve their testing and optimisation strategies if they are going to maximise their online experience and win customers loyalty.


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