FEATURE: The Winners and Losers of Black Friday 2014
As the ringing of the tills dies down, the normal Christmas shopping spree has begun in earnest.
With consumer attention’s turned, Black Friday’s impact will not been forgotten however. What used to be a normal day in the calendar is now firmly a manic affair with British Shoppers alone expected to have parted with 200 million pounds more than an average day, according to Mintel.
With the media seemingly loving the panic and chaos surrounding it, and a desire for shoppers to find a quick bargain at all costs, are retailers really learning about the day’s long-term impact and its effect on brand reputation and loyalty?
A global phenomenon led by digital
With its routes steeped in US tradition Black Friday is now much more than just a US affair.
Looking at Google search statistics, many might seem surprised to realise that the second country most gripped by the day was Romania, where it has received borderline cult status; while places as far as Bahamas has also become transfixed by the excitement. Even in France, where discounting is highly regulated, major supermarket Casino slashed prices in what some call “Le Black Friday”.
This global “consumer consciousness” would simply not be possible without the exponential growth in digital. Retailers have a perfect vehicle to reach consumers through apps and websites, while social media whips up interest. Let’s not forget that Amazon (particularly in the UK) was responsible for driving its growth and introduction in 2010, with M&S and Sainsbury’s joining for the first time this year.
Looking at this in more depth, it is clear to see why the event continues to grow. For both of these points, increasing technological sophistication is enabling a closer relationship with customers; retailers are more aware of the value of developing an online experience and are allocating budgets accordingly, while advertising techniques to reach them (especially programmatic) are increasing the opportunity to engage them in the right place, at the right time, with the right offer.
Savvy consumers captivated by social media
This year clearly demonstrated the benefits of social media and its role as a marketing medium and it’s no surprise. Twitter is an emotional marketplace for trending thoughts and there is no better way of evoking a frenzy than a great bargain. In fact, social media interest more than doubled in 2014 compared to 2013, with 2,013,943 conversations recorded compared to 996,306.
For retailers looking to capitalise, recognising that controlling conversations online is challenging, is essential – it is more about stoking the flames than controlling the fire. An analysis from 2013 showed that 43 percent of the conversations were positive compared to 35 percent negative. Evaluating some of the recorded successes of Black Friday in 2014; Amazon, Etsy, Motorola and EA are all reported to have done well using this. Motorola drove interest in its $140 money off promotion of the Motorola X 2014 edition by driving retweets to receive the money-off deal.
A case of tactical bandwagon climbing
For retailers partaking, it was very much a case of tactical bandwagon climbing. Retailers need to assess the stock that they were prepared to shift or needed to shift and evaluate the effects on the brand value as a result. Taking the Motorola example, was such a large discount for a key smartphone a clear benefit to the brand? We have already seen that the PR gained will not necessarily be positive, so it may simply come down to the point of driving a spike in sales.
Clearly, for those that jumped on the bandwagon, the ones that were particularly successful were able to really assess the way in which they were being represented to consumers holistically. Understanding how to synchronise both online and offline touch points was essential, as well as the ability to drive interest from online to in-store and vice versa. A key point of success was the ability to present offers in such a manner that they didn’t look too cheap, weren’t simply offers that we available all the time, while ensuring that the highest levels of customer service were retained.
For retailers integrating sales both on and offline, a number of cracks quickly became apparent. Spending millions of pounds of creating, tailoring and integrating digital and in-store environments, errors in personalisation resulting from email blasts along with inconsistent user experiences and websites crashing all provided potentially more damaging consequences than the spike in sales could counter. In the UK for example, the websites of Tesco, PC World, Argos and Boots all went down. GAME which also tried to be a front runner by launching promotions at midnight also went down.
In some senses retailers could be forgiven for the sheer chaos overloading the system but something that they had more time to prepare for was the user experience. Once over the hurdle of whether to present offers for Black Friday or Cyber Monday, a key decision was how to enable consumers to navigate the online environment.
With Next in the UK as a key example, many decided to layer a sales framework on top of their current websites. This could therefore handle deals reasonably easily, but at the same time, deliver a poor user experience. House of Fraser as a point of comparison made it very easy for shoppers by clearly highlighting 'shop live offers' call to action to remove any confusion. By integrating offers into the current site, users were able to use the filter and search as normal.
So what’s in-store for next year?
Black Friday is now firmly fixed in the calendar, so the first point is whether retailers should or shouldn’t get involved. This will come down to understanding sales cycles but more importantly, it also about understanding brand values – the day is so heavily linked with ‘bargains’ that associating with it will may be a significant detriment to a brand positioning not centred on price.
Once a retailer has decided to get involved, the key point is to fully evaluate the consumer touch points to ensure that the way in which they learn about deals is reputation enhancing. So many retailers simply focus on which products to discount without deciding on the best way to communicate them – this is a mind-set that is set to change as Black Friday 2015 sells out to digital sophistication.
By Joe Morgan, Strategy Director from Brand Interactions agency, Matter of Form
Re-defining the economics of CX in the new customer journey
There’s no shortage of customer service channels for the enterprise to select from today. Regardless of the many new metrics that have emerged – such as customer success, or empathy – cost reduction is still a primary driver in selection criteria.
There are many articles dedicated to how companies can turn customer service and customer experience (CX) from a cost to a revenue centre. The problem is, if you stop there and don’t look beyond cost reduction, you’re limiting the scope for CX to become an even bigger economic contributor in the enterprise.
There is every opportunity for customer service and CX to significantly influence the front end of business, particularly amongst direct-to-consumer subscription-based products and services, such as popular streaming services like Netflix, Amazon, Disney+, as well as sports subscription services like DAZN.
In these products and services and others, there are new customer journeys that may drive business growth and revenue. They start earlier and may last a lifetime, so getting things right at the start of the journey is key so that customers have the best experience from day one.
Not only will this help in making customers less likely to reach out for issues-based support further down the line, but these customers will be much less likely to churn, and much more likely to take up new services as they are offered throughout the lifetime journey.
So, what does the new customer journey look like for these services?
Opportunity waiting for the likes of Netflix & Disney
While consumers may have previously regarded customer service as a way to mitigate the inconveniences in their lives, the customer journey is expanding in scope every day. Today there are many more touchpoints available that put CX in a position to drive revenue.
For one-off purchases, traditional CX deployments have not changed significantly in the past few years. However, if you look at the change in the CX relationships we’re seeing with subscription-based products and services, particularly media-based streaming services, it’s clear that these companies lead what quickly become very multifaceted relationships with their customers. These have serious potential to evolve over time for increased economic benefit.
For any sort of subscription-based business, customer lifetime value is paramount, and the requirement to actively manage a continued positive customer experience is critical.
Every interaction is an opportunity, and every data point is a chance to offer more value. Introductory offers can convert to longtime customers. Longtime customers may take up opportunities to upgrade to more premium products or services. They may also appreciate incentives to invite family and friends to become customers. Consumers who like a particular service, for example, may appreciate a recommendation for another similar or complimentary service.
It all starts with customer interaction, and the customer experience journey becomes an opportunity to strategically affect the user base and resulting revenue - which is a far cry from the limitations of call center cost reduction or churn metrics.
How do companies support the new customer journey?
More and more, customers look at the new customer journey as engaging with brands as part of their lifestyles. Many companies are making brand ambassadors available before the traditional customer journey even starts, which is a marked change from a purely transactional relationship associated with a one-off purchase.
These ambassadors, who are often independent users of products or services, are providing trusted pre-sales advice, and that same trusted advice can also function to nurture the customer journey in a subscription-based relationship. Call it ‘GigCX’ or ‘crowdsourced customer service’ or even ‘peer-to-peer customer service’ - it doesn’t matter.
The key is in providing impartial, trusted advice from real users. Think about it: who would you rather get advice from? Someone who has used a product or service extensively, or someone who has been trained to provide customer service surrounding that product or service?
For services such as streaming media, advice from trusted experts with real product know-how could be invaluable. This may not be limited to technical issues, such as what to do when you can’t access your favourite show, or how to access services across various devices. It could be parents helping other parents who are concerned about how to restrict adult content from child viewers, or simply customers who have similar taste in programming who can comment on the benefits of upgraded or premium products. The point is, these experts are easily available at any touchpoint in the customer lifetime journey, creating more chances to add value.
It’s also about tipping customers from ‘passive’ to ‘promoter’ in the NPS scale. It’s an opportunity to turn neutral customers who may be vulnerable to competitive offerings into loyal enthusiasts who will keep buying and referring others, fuelling growth. It may ultimately help drive even further revenue by creating customers that are helping to sell the brand itself.
And, while chatbots and automation may play a key role, they are often not able to handle the more complex support needed in the new customer journey. Conversational AI is rarely as conversational as it claims to be, and in the new customer journey, most companies are finding that a mix of automation and people-centric service is an ideal way to nurture the many new touchpoints created.
It’s no longer about trying to replace human capital with automation: it’s about orchestrating a uniquely personalised CX, and proactively engaging during the customer lifecycle to enhance the experience, and to create more long-term value.
At the moment, we’re only seeing the tip of the iceberg in terms of the power to affect the economics introduced by the new customer journey. We’ll no doubt see this evolve rapidly particularly amongst streaming companies as they use human-centric connections in CX to support the full potential of customer lifetime value.
About Roger Beadle
Roger Beadle is an entrepreneur and business leader who is reinventing how customer service is delivered via the gig economy. After establishing several businesses in the contact centre industry, Roger co-founded Limitless with Megan Neale in 2016. Limitless is a gig-economy platform that addresses some of the biggest challenges faced by the contact center industry: low pay, high attrition and access to new talent. Previously, Roger and Megan helped to build one of the largest privately-owned outsourced contact center business in Europe, before selling the business to the global conglomerate Hinduja Group. Roger is an outspoken proponent of digital ethics, worker’s rights and the ‘good-gig:’ which encapsulates gig work for incremental pay versus full time work, skilled gig work, no unpaid time/downtime and zero expenses.
Named a Rising Star at Deloitte’s Technology Fast 50 program, Limitless is a gig customer service platform, combining crowdsourcing and AI to help global businesses address their biggest customer service challenges – rising costs, increasing attrition, variability in demand and the need for diversity. Brands like Microsoft, Unilever, Daily Mail Group and Postmates are using Limitless’ SmartCrowdTM technology to connect with their most engaged customers, and reward them for providing on-demand customer service that can flex in line with demand. Limitless is one of the world’s first global tech platforms to introduce localised platform terms to protect the rights of its gigging workers. Backed by AlbionVC, Downing Ventures and Unilever Ventures, Limitless is empowering people worldwide to earn money for providing brilliant customer service for the brands they love.