What is BFCM: How to Optimize Your Online Store (+ Checklist)
Black Friday, Cyber Monday (BFCM) is one of the largest and most popular shopping globally. Every year, shoppers scramble to buy all kinds of retail products at the lowest price all year.
BFCM begins the day after Thanksgiving (25th November 2022) and until the Monday after (28th November 2022), with discounts usually running through the whole week.
Quick key facts about BFCM 2022
- Black Friday, Cyber Monday sales totalled about $20 billion in 2020
- The average BFCM order amount (USD) is $100.70
- 94% of shoppers use online shopping for Black Friday/Cyber Weekend
- The average cart abandonment rate is 78% during Black Friday and Cyber Monday
While Black Friday was historically a shopping holiday for brick-and-mortar stores. However, the rise of e-commerce has been accompanied by an increase in online shopping during Cyber Weekend.
Without proper preparation and optimization, you stand to lose out on many holiday sales, which may very well result in your dissolution.
In this article, we'll show you 5 lethal mistakes online stores make that hurt their conversions and ways to avoid them.
At a glance, these 5 mistakes are:
- Unoptimized check-out process
- Neglecting the backend
- Lack of customer retention strategy
- Extra costs too high
- Failure to personalize the customer journey
1. Unoptimized check-out process
Failure to optimize the check-out process is one of the largest causes of cart abandonment and sales loss.
In fact, according to a study by Baymard Institute, 24% of shoppers abandoned their carts because they were required to create an account. On the other hand, 17% said they gave up because of a complicated checkout flow.
That's 41% of potential customers with high buying intention, cash in their hands, ready to pay, leaving the door just like that!
Or worse yet, customers are leaving your e-commerce store right under your nose, and you don't even know why!
But how exactly do you simplify your check-out process? What specifically needs tweaking, and how do you identify them?
How to identify checkout flow conversion leaks
You can find out what exactly is hurting your conversions using a user behavioural tool like Howuku.
These tools typically come with heatmaps that allow you to see the places with the most interactions. Most times, the tools also have visitor recordings -- watching what people do on your site, literally!
All that's required is to sign up for a free account and copy-paste a line of tracking code into Google Tag Manager, Shopify, or whichever platform you're using.
Equipped with this information, you can pinpoint exactly where conversions are leaking and make the required fixes before the holiday frenzy.
Checkout process optimization best practices and tips
Now that you've learned how to identify conversion leaks in your online business, we'll list 18 best practices when optimizing your checkout process.
It's a fairly long list but don't worry, because we'll give you a downloadable list for your convenience.
1. Guest checkout
As mentioned earlier, about 24% of shoppers abandon their carts because they must create an account. While customer accounts have their place, guest checkouts are highly effective for encouraging first-time buyers.
Guest checkout also speeds up the checkout process, which, again, boosts conversion rates! It also builds trust among buyers who may not be willing to give out their credit card information.
2. Encouraging email subscriptions at the end
Congratulations! Your lead generation funnels and irresistible BFCM deals have turned prospects into first-time customers. Now, you must convert them into lifetime buyers before they forget you.
But how exactly can you allure customers and turn them into brand advocates? Here are a few tips:
Retargeted ads: Highlight loyalty perks, early access to offers, or exclusive promotions using the surprise and delight strategy.
Enticing discounts: Encourage email subscriptions upon check-out by offering one-time discounts.
Loyalty programs: Provide exclusive perks while using collected information to personalize the buying journey.
3. 1-Click checkout/Express checkout
17% of shopping cart abandonment results from a lengthy checkout process. Allowing one-click payments significantly speeds up the checkout flow and reduces friction between add-to-cart and checkout.
4. Optimize for mobile
Only about 27% of online transactions are done through desktop devices. It stands to reason that failure to optimize for mobile will result in losing customers to your competitors.
Here are some quick pointers on optimizing your online shop for mobile users:
Online tools: Tools such as Google's Mobile-Friendly Test evaluates if your site's mobile page is web-friendly.
Heatmaps and session recordings: See how users behave on your site through user behavioural tools such as Howuku.
5. Alternative payment methods
Having a variety of payment options is no longer a unique selling point; it is now a necessity.
The preferences are as numerous as the number of payment methods, so it is best to provide all of them during checkout:
- Prepaid cards
- Loyalty programs
- Realtime bank transfers
- Buy-now-pay-later (BNPL)
6. Visual summary of cart contents
Showing the order summary and small visuals about the cart contents is an effective way to remind customers about what they're purchasing. It allows them to quickly have an overview of what they have, and lack, leading to a quicker checkout process.
7. Social logins
According to LoginRadius' Consumer Identity Trend Report 2020, 70.69% of 18-25-year-olds prefer using social logins -- signing in using their social media accounts.
As stated earlier, one of the largest contributors to cart abandonment is requiring to create a new account to complete a transaction. Social logins completely bypass that, reducing the checkout flow steps and, in turn, improving conversions.
8. Obvious calls to action (CTA)
According to a survey by Baymard Institute, 17% of customers reported that a complicated checkout process was their main reason for cart abandonment.
Moreover, ease of use of technology is a significant factor affecting purchase intention, according to consumer behaviour theory. That is, the easier it is to navigate through your entire e-commerce site, the higher the intention to purchase a product.
To that end, ensure that your checkout flow follows UX design best practices combined with usability testing.
9. Address fill-up shortcuts
Dropdown menus and other fill-up shortcuts will shorten the transaction time, reducing the risk of cart abandonment.
10. Form autofill
Similarly, allowing customers to autofill forms will make the checkout process more seamless.
Microcopy is the small text beside buttons or fill-up forms that guide users on what to do next. Common examples include "find out more" CTAs and "Enter the billing address associated with your credit card".
That said, you shouldn't insert microcopy everywhere simply because you can. The more guidance provided by microcopy, the smoother the checkout process, right?
Wrong! The key is to strategicallyplace microcopy at common interaction points and guide them to the next action. Common placement examples include:
- Search bar (e.g., "Try Berlin")
- Call to action (e.g., "Shop accessories")
- Fill-up forms (e.g., "221B Baker Street")
- Scarcity marketing (e.g., "Running out soon! Only 3 left.")
Learn more: A Mini Guide to Microcopy
12. Concise error messaging
People always make mistakes when signing into an account or filling up address forms. Error messaging that clearly shows the problem helps users to find a solution without hit and trial.
For example, when users input the wrong login details, microcopy should specify the problem, such as "The password you entered is incorrect."
Overall, error messaging should concisely show the problem, as well as provide specific solutions.
Learn more: How to Write Good Error Messages
13. Flexible cart updating
Customers should be able to update their cart contents anytime, even on the checkout page. People change their minds all the time and may want to remove or add new items.
Pro tip: Provide an intuitive cart that allows customers to update the quantity, size, and other product specifications.
14. Recommend complementary products within budget
The checkout page is the best time to cross-sell complementary products. Let's take a page from Amazon (apologies for the pun), the largest e-commerce retailer on the planet.
Amazon's complex algorithm recommends related products based on:
- Products frequently bought together
- Browsing history
- Alternatives in the same category
While it's not feasible to replicate Amazon's impressive recommendation system, starting one will benefit both shoppers and your business. In fact, 35% of Amazon's sales come from their recommender, according to McKinsey.
15. Accessible promo codes
Nobody likes having to search high and low for promo codes. Keep promo codes within reach of customers with a drop-down menu next to the promo code box.
16. Clear delivery details
An effective shipping strategy involves providing clear delivery details throughout the checkout process. Aside from the expected delivery dates and cost, you should also include potential shipping delays, as well as alternative delivery options.
Your holiday shipping strategy is not confined to on-site; it also extends to off-site -- emails. Consumers are bound to make many holiday purchases from various stores during Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
Send them an automated follow-up email to remind them about their incoming order. This email should contain the purchased products, cost, and expected delivery time.
17. Clear return policy
Your checkout page should clearly state the return policy and process. This includes the cost, days allowed for returns, and other terms and conditions.
Moreover, the return process should be hassle-free. According to a study by Baymard Institute, 12% of US shoppers have abandoned an order due to unsatisfactory returns policies.
18. Urgency tactics
Urgency marketing is one of the best conversion strategies frequently used by marketers. It capitalizes on the inherent fear of missing out (FOMO) that prompts consumers to take action quickly or risk losing out on a perceived valuable deal.
This deal can be anything from a promotion, product, or an e-book.
What does this mean for e-commerce business owners? You should frame your marketing messaging in a way that highlights the limited quantity of your products. This will urge customers and site visitors to buy your products before it's too late.
Some ways you can do that:
- Highlight the limited stock during checkout
- Promoting flash sales via email
- Countdown timers
Learn more: Shopify's guide on using scarcity and urgency
2. Neglecting the backend
One of the most neglected aspects when preparing for Cyber Week and the following holiday period is the website's backend.
According to a survey by Baymard Institute, 18% of the participants stated a lack of trust with their credit card information as the reason for cart abandonment.
Meanwhile, 13% stated their reason as the website had errors or crashed, which is quite common during the holiday surge.
Mobile shopping sales, too are affected by your website's performance. According to Google, 53% of mobile visits are abandoned if the site takes longer than 3 secondsto load.
That's more than half of the potential sales lost to your competitors!
There are three main components when optimizing your e-commerce business ahead of Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and the holiday stretch.
- Loading speed
Numerous studies have proven that page load time significantly correlates with conversions and sales.
According to Google, a one-second speed improvement increases mobile shopping conversions by up to 27%. And according to Portent, website conversion rates drop by an average of 4.42% with each additional second of load time (between seconds 0-5).
While the exact optimal second differs from study to study, the general consensus is clear: faster site load times lead to higher customer retention and overall bottom line.
So how can you accelerate your e-commerce site's loading speed? Here are a few tips.
1. Optimizing visuals
All visuals on your website need to be optimized, be it images, videos, or GIFs.
Compressing your site images with free tools such as Optimizilla will improve loading times by up to 10%. You can reduce video size by using HTML 5 tags (<video>) and compressing them using tools like VEED.
While GIFs are salient among online businesses for delivering information, they are chunkier than videos and slow down your website.
That does not mean that GIFs do not have their place in online businesses. All you need to do is reduce their file size by eliminating unnecessary frames and extra space around the GIF. As with videos and images, you should also compress GIFs using tools like Ezgif.
Learn more: Lifewire's guide on reducing GIF file size
2. Choosing the right hosting and e-commerce platform
According to a study by Tooltester, the fastest hosting providers are GreenGeeks, A2 Hosting, GoDaddy, and Cloudways. While WordPress was not included in the study, an independent analysis by Review Signal showed that WordPress.com is the fastest WordPress hosting service.
Furthermore, Shopify consistently performs reliably across multiple studies by EcommerceGold and Ecommerce CEO. On the other hand, Wix and BigCommerce are among the slowest digital shopping platforms.
3. Removing unnecessary third-party integrations
All online businesses need third-party software to function properly. For example, email marketing, live chat, payment gateways, user behaviour visualisation, and more.
While they help you manage your business easier, installing too many apps will bring more harm than good.
With each app installation, your website will be slightly heavier and loads slower. Although the impact from each app is minimal, it quickly apps up.
So, it is crucial to disable or completely remove unnecessary third-party apps on your site. You can also eliminate unnecessary software by streamlining several functions into an all-in-one app.
For example, Howuku lets you see your customer's buying journey, conduct surveys, conduct A/B testing, and customize your web content according to each customer segment. That's almost 5 apps, all in one app!
4. Testing your site ahead of the holiday rush
Your site has to be prepared to handle the sudden influx of Cyber Weekend shoppers. The surge of traffic will inevitably throttle your online business' website loading speed, which, as mentioned, will affect conversions. Test your website's loading speed and ping using Google PageSpeed Insights and Uptrends.
Aside from website performance, your online store must be capable of hosting countless customers from various devices and web browsers. Here are five tests you should conduct ahead of BFCM 2022:
Load testing: Assess whether your website has the capacity to sustain large amounts of traffic with tools like LoadView. You should also ensure that your marketing channels (email, SMS, etc.) can handle the holiday frenzy.
Usability testing: Usability refers to testing the ease-of-use of a website, and can be done through visitor recordings (recordings of users' website usage) and in-person with participants.
Accessibility testing: Test your e-commerce store's accessibility for the visually impaired using screen readers such as NVDA.
Functional testing: Check if every button, page, and element works as intended by browsing the entire website.
Cross-browser compatibility testing: Many users still prefer alternatives like Safari. While uncommon, cross-browser compatibility issues arise, especially during periods of high traffic. Thankfully, you can avoid that using free tools such as Lambda.
According to Baymard Institute, 18% of online shoppers abandon their cart due to reluctance to provide their credit card information. This mistrust is well-warranted, considering that holidays are a hotbed for cybercrime.
The first step is to engage with a PCI-DSS compliant e-commerce platform. PCI-DSS is a set of security standards that ensures companies maintain a secure environment to process credit card information.
3. Lack of customer retention strategy
Black Friday & Cyber Monday is the perfect opportunity to attract brand-new customers to your store. However, without a retention strategy, they will come and go like the wind, resulting in a loss of precious customer lifetime value (LTV).
There are three main strategies you can employ to keep these new customers. They are remarketing, direct marketing, and loyalty programs.
Remarketing (also known as retargeting) is the practice of sending marketing messages to previous visitors or customers of your online store. Usually done through Facebook and Google ads, its main goal is to convert them into returning customers.
Editor's note: Some sources differentiate remarketing and retargeting as two distinct strategies. However, this article will be using them interchangeably for convenience's sake.
But nowadays, retargeted ads are so ubiquitous that they have become annoying. Just one Google search about garden plants, and suddenly you're bombarded by ads about flower pots and fertilisers.
There is no magic strategy for remarketing; the most successful retargeting campaign is built on a deep understanding of your customer's needs along their buying journey. That said, here are a few pointers to remarket for various customer types along the conversion funnel.
Cart abandoners: Offer free shipping or remind them that the sale is ending soon.
Pricing page visitors: Schedule a free demo or provide tips and other information to help them evaluate alternatives.
Previous buyers: Cross-sell complementary products to existing customers or highlight exclusive perks of joining a loyalty program
Cyber Weekend is the best time to attract first-time purchasers and obtain their contact information. But the holiday sales journey does not end after the order fulfilment, you need to keep in contact with your new customers.
Enter direct marketing, which refers to sending marketing messages directly to the emails, SMS, or mail of customers or leads.
Whichever channel you use (which depends on your target segment's preferences), the goal is to continuously provide them with value, and nurture them until they hopefully convert into loyal, brand advocates.
This value can be promo codes, exclusive rewards, informative guides, or even a new product launch. Think about what your newly acquired customers will love, and don't be afraid to get creative!
It is well-known that acquiring new customers is substantially more expensive than serving existing customers. However, lavishing returning customers with exclusive rewards is not new.
For example, small business owners seem to intuitively know to capitalise on any opportunities for increasing customer loyalty.
Think back to when your local grocery store reserved the freshest fruits, or when your go-to salon offered a free massage. Chances are, you recommended them to your friends because of their excellent service. And this extraordinary service is only provided to regular customers like you.
Modern loyalty programs take it one step further by segmenting customers and customizing a delight package for each segment. However, many e-commerce business stores make the mistake of treating it as simply a promotional giveaway.
The most successful loyalty programs are built for long-term relationship building. Moreover, they focus their resources only on the most profitable customer groups.
Collect valuable customer behavior data from your sales channels this holiday season, and identify which customers have the highest spending power. Then, find out their value drivers and craft a reward system to entice more frequent patronage to your store.
Doing so is easier said than done, so here is a quick checklist for creating a winning loyalty program by Harvard Business Review:
Cash value: The reward must be a convincing percentage of the spending amount required to earn said reward.
Choice of redemption options: Should be preferred by customers and not what you think is good.
Aspirational value: The rewards should evoke high-arousal emotions such as excitement.
Relevance: The rewards should be attainable and relevant to your customer base.
Convenience: Consolidate your rewards system in one spending channel whenever possible.
4. Extra costs too high
A study from the Baymard Institute shows that 48% of cart abandonments are caused by extra costs being too high. These costs include shipping, taxes, and additional fees that alter the final checkout price.
All large retailers know that free shipping has become essential during the holiday shopping season.
You may argue that free shipping is reserved only for large companies because they can bear the cost.
But that is not true! Smaller businesses can provide free shipping, too, by transferring the shipping costs to customers. You can do so by including delivery costs in the profit markup before adjusting the prices accordingly.
Then, you'll want to frame your pricing to highlight the "free shipping" benefits throughout your email marketing campaigns, online store, and every sales channel.
Framing your free shipping strategy the right way
Even though prices are higher, free shipping will still attract customers because of a psychological bias called the decoy effect.
Long ago, The Economist wanted to increase membership subscriptions, so they offered three different types. They are: web subscription ($59), print subscription ($125), and web & print subscription ($125).
And no, the web & print subscription price is not a typo.
As expected, 84% of the study participants picked the web & print subscription because it was a better bang for their buck. Then, they removed the second option, and the results were shocking.
With the absence of the print subscription, 68% of participants chose the web subscription at $59.
This is because the web subscription served as a "decoy" when the participants assessed the subscription with the most value. A web & print subscription is worth more than a print subscription at the same price, even though the final spending price ($125) is much higher.
For e-commerce businesses or digital marketers, you can utilize a "decoy" to highlight the free shipping included in the products. You can even have tiered options by providing free shipping after the cart total exceeds a certain amount.
5. Failure to personalize the customer journey
The busiest shopping day is no excuse for lacking a customized purchasing journey for every customer segment. Successful personalization programs increase customer engagement, customer satisfaction, and conversion rates.
Online retailers must create highly personalized experiences at scale, starting with the most loyal customers, which are also the most profitable.
In a perfect world with unlimited time and resources, every page and content on your store will be optimized at the granular level for each individual customer.
Thankfully, there are affordable tools available to help you begin personalizing your online store. For example, with Howuku, you can automatically showcase different content according to their country, traffic source, etc.
A dashboard will show the best-performing variant to aid in decision-making. Then, you can use the data to improve your e-commerce website and plug conversion leaks.
BFCM (Black Friday, Cyber Monday) is one of the biggest shopping events of the year, and it begins on the Friday after Thanksgiving. Every year, customer demand during Cyber Week can go up to the billions, leaving retailers scrambling to accommodate the influx of customers.
However, amidst the chaotic preparations, many business owners often neglect their checkout process, system infrastructure, customer retention strategy, and personalization strategy.
They also offer shipping costs that are too high (or any shipping costs at all), which are repulsive to the modern consumer.
Without the right strategy and tools for effective implementation, your digital business is at risk of losing precious customers to competitors. However, many solutions are costly and do not scale with the holiday traffic surge.
Using Howuku, you can use heatmaps and session recordings to see how your user journeys through your site. You can then use this valuable information to segment your customers, identify stoppage points, and showcase personalized content according to their demographics.
Stop the revenue bleeding today by trying Howuku for your business, no credit card required.
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