This Holiday Season, Be Thankful For A Great Customer Experience

Richard Howells

Is it just me or has Black Friday turned into Black November?

Before the pumpkins rotted, before Halloween candy was devoured, before the ghosts and ghouls were put back in the attic, we were already deluged with Black Friday adverts and mailers.

Of course, this onslaught of promotion is entirely predictable. The fact is, no retailer can afford to sit out Black Friday – not when it’s the day that pulls them out of the red (in accounting terms) and into the black. For retailers, Black Friday can literally make their year.

More than a day

Traditionally, we think of Black Friday as the day after Thanksgiving here in the United States – when throngs of people flock to the malls. Increasingly, though, the term is being broadened to refer to the full five-day period that starts with Thanksgiving Day and runs through Cyber Monday.

The cyber part of the extended Black Friday shopping weekend continues to show its strength. Yes, you can still expect jammed parking lots at your mall of choice, but by some estimates at least, brick and mortar store shopping on Black Friday was slightly down last year. On the other hand, online sales for Black Friday more than compensated, jumping 23.6% from 2017 to hit $6.2 billion.

Indeed, online sales now must be seen as the main show for the Black Friday weekend. Take Cyber Monday, for example. Once the laggard in terms of sales, Cyber Monday won the weekend in 2018 with a $7.9 billion haul that weighed in as the highest U.S. e-commerce sales day in history.

The idea of Black Friday (or something akin to it) is not exclusive to the US, of course. In the UK, shoppers spent £8.29 billion during the Black Friday weekend. In France, they spent £5.99 billion.

Neither is it limited to Christmas. In China, the big shopping day comes on Singles Day – which is sort of like Valentine’s Day on steroids. This year, Singles Day broke records again, raking in $38.4 billion. Reportedly, Alibaba reached $1 billion in sales in its first 68 seconds and $13 billion in its first hour!

Toward thankful customers

So yes, there is a lot at stake for shopping days (or weekends) like Black Friday. But let’s remember that here in the US it all starts with Thanksgiving, which isn’t about shopping but about … well, giving thanks.

Thankfulness is a powerful human emotion, and companies that can engender it in their customers are likely to keep those customers over the long term. But how do you move forward? It all comes down to delivering a great customer experience.

Keep in mind, though, that a great customer experience doesn’t end when you place the order. In fact, it doesn’t even start there. Great customer experiences are woven into the entire end-to-end process of designing, making, and delivering the products you sell.

Companies should create experiences that make their customers want to say thank you in the following ways:

Thanks for thinking of me with a great design experience:

Great customer experiences start by designing and manufacturing products that the customer actually wants. What a concept! But understanding what customers want can be difficult. Leading companies are mixing data from sales and social media with advanced analytics and machine learning to detect shifts in demand patterns and customer preferences. To meet these preferences, companies are also designing highly configurable products that make it easier to make exactly what customers want.

Thanks for making it easy for me with a great ordering experience:

With so much of sales shifting online, companies need to find ways to make ordering as simple as possible. This starts with understanding who the customer actually is, remembering their past interactions, and prepopulating ordering data as much as possible to make the checkout process painless. Nowhere is this more important than with mobile. Customers want tap-tap-buy capabilities on their phones – and customers who get it will keep coming back.

Thanks for bringing it to me when and where I want it with a great delivery experience:

According to Adobe Analytics, 2018 saw a 73% increase in customers choosing the BIOPIS (buy online, pick up in store) option – with 64% making a further in-store purchase while picking up. So, what’s the downside of making it as easy as possible for customers to get what they want when they want it? I can’t see one. But to get there, companies need omnichannel visibility of customers, orders, inventory, availability logistics carriers, and more. Integration across all phases of operations is the key.

Thanks for remembering me with a great after-sales service experience:

Remaining attentive after the sale is critical for maintaining customer loyalty. Wherever possible, leading companies are using IoT sensors and greater connectedness in general to more effectively monitor usage data and post-sale customer experiences. Some companies are even using predictive analytics to detect issues before they arise – enabling them to take action ahead of time to ensure the best customer experiences possible.

So, when it comes to Black Friday or any other kind of high-stakes shopping day for retailers or manufacturers, keep in mind that thankfulness pays. If you can create experiences that make life easier for your customers, you may very well be showered with thankfulness expressed by your customers with their ongoing business.

Happy Thanksgiving and good luck on Black Friday.

Be thankful for a free whitepaper from IDC about how to drive a great customer experience from design of new products, through to their operation at a customer.

This article originally appeared on Forbes SAP BrandVoice.

About Richard Howells

Richard Howells is a Vice President at SAP responsible for the positioning, messaging, AR , PR and go-to market activities for the SAP Supply Chain solutions.