7 Black Friday Mistakes to Avoid on Your Ecommerce Site

Sales results are not just about Black Friday. The battle is about access to the most insightful data that will convert consumers well into the new year.

According to Yahoo!, 40% of retail sales in 2013 were generated during the last two months of the year, with Black Friday and Cyber Monday continuing to dominate as the biggest shopping days of the year across physical and digital touch points. This means optimizing and personalizing your conversion funnel for holiday shoppers is critical.

1. Ignoring Diversity

Data-driven personas are quickly replacing traditional market segmentation. A one-size-fits-all approach to both marketing and digital merchandising will set you up for failure. Buyers are sharing an unprecedented wealth of digital signals you can use to radically personalize the shopping experience. Not only can you access geo-location data indicating where they are, you can also target shoppers based on a wealth of parameters, including specific device types, shopping history on the site, and previously viewed items. Consider a returning visitor who just looked at merchandise at a local brick-and-mortar location and Googled several types of fashion accessories on her smart phone. Several hours later, she is at home on her tablet. Even armed with this limiting information, you know she fits the profile of a digital browser gearing up for the buy in a friendlier environment.

2. Letting the cart abandoners go

Logging into your site from home, your customer identifies herself as Julia, digitally “confessing” to abandoning her shopping cart just a few days before. You now know Julia is dramatically more likely to buy. Do you really want to lose your super-busy buyer? Imagine how easy it would be to offer Julia an item she would literally find irresistible. Engage her by presenting a personalized promotional lightbox featuring the exact items she was looking for – complete with a discount just for her.

3. Limiting holiday specials to discounts only

Last year, over 60% of UPS deliveries were attributed to ecommerce purchases. While discounts are attractive, up to 20% of shoppers prefer free shipping. Interestingly, shopper response rates vary significantly across industries and times of year. Split-test several shopping cart versions – one offering to add just one more item  for free shipping, one pitching a personalized discount, and still another that proceeds directly to checkout.  While some users prefer free shipping, others may respond better to additional items on sale. Monitor the test and make adjustments on the fly. Automate the testing and optimization process so most of the traffic is always directed to the winning version.

4. Assuming your customers know what they want

Not everyone comes to your site prepared with a shopping list. Why not help them out with a list of recommended holiday deals?  A personalized shopping list with gift ideas will not only help buyers out, it’s a great piece of content you can use to generate more search and social traffic. On the other hand, your customers may find it easier to make a decision when given fewer options (“Decision Fatigue” was actually cited by President Obama in a recent Vanity Fair interview, in which he attributed a daily choice of blue or grey suit to the psychological phenomenon). A study conducted by Sheena S. Iyengar from Columbia University and Mark R. Lepper from Stanford University showed that participants actually reported greater subsequent satisfaction with their selections when given a more limited choice.

5. Focusing on holiday offers entirely

While making those holiday sales targets remains a top priority, the last two months of the year also present an unprecedented opportunity to start off the new year with a competitive edge. Use increased demand to split test offers not directly related to the holiday season, and use the results to tweak your campaigns in the future.

6. Underestimating digital convergence

While Black Friday remains a top target for in-store purchases, the rise of mobile and tablet usage is dramatically changing consumer behavior. Following consistent reports of buyers ditching the Turkey fest to get a “Gray Friday” head start, retailers are launching holiday shopping campaigns well into early November.

7. Tweaking just one piece of the holiday shopping experience

It’s no longer enough simply to make targeted offers on your site. No matter how strong your brand is, shoppers will start to seek out offers by searching or simply looking at social feeds. This means integrating your offers into search, display, and social campaigns, following up with contextual on-site offers and matching email marketing messages.


The holiday shopping season presents the single biggest opportunity of the year. It is also the optimal time to introduce testing and optimization initiatives into your conversion funnel.

Learn how you can take advantage of personalization and conversion optimization this holiday season.