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Coronavirus: Your online presence is now more important than ever

COVID-19 has brought about some drastic changes to the way we do business. One of the most noteworthy being brought about by “social distancing”. Physical contact, face to face meetings and group presentations are now limited or completely restricted.

By Tanja Lategan, CEO, Enlight Strategic

Discovery recently released a statement encouraging their clients to use their online tools instead, in order to take pressure off their call centre while their employees are working from home. Many business will have to follow suit, and rely on their online platforms to continue supporting their clients and customers during this time. 

As more people will rely on digital technology to communicate, source information and transact, your online presence will become critically important and continue to perform a key role for your business in the new post COVID-19 world.

The national lock down in South Africa has forced many businesses to close their doors for 21 days with a possible extension looming, while others have slowed operations in line with a lower demand during this time.

While most businesses and people currently have some spare time on their hands, we must try to use this time productively and get to the things that have always taken a back seat.

Yes, I am talking about company websites that haven’t been updated for years and social media accounts that have been created but sitting dormant, as well as that e-commerce strategy that gets shelved whenever physical demands are more pressing.

Businesses should use this time to relook at their digital strategies and ensure that they are still relevant. It is now more important than ever before for businesses to prioritise this. A new era has dawned and digital operations are here to stay.

Want to get started?

Here are 5 basic things that need your attention:

  1. Content: Re-evaluate the content on your digital platforms. Does it accurately reflect your products, brand’s personality and unique value proposition?
  • Information Architecture:  Ensure that the order in which information is displayed on your digital platforms is allowing users to find what they need easily and that every end goal requires no more than 3 clicks to be achieved.
  • User Experience (UX). Reconsider your user personas – are they still relevant? Are the user journeys catering to each of these user categories?
  • Customer Experience (CX) Rethink the customer journey. If your physical business is being affected, expand capacity for self-service online and digital sales. 
  • Enable remote experiences with a personal touch. Recorded video content, remote conferences, online learning. Not every product or service is 100% suited to self-service delivery. Sometimes the human touch makes all the difference to customers.

The decisions you make today will shape your business for years to come.


If you require more assistance with your online presence and platforms please don’t hesitate to contact Enlight Strategic on info@enlightstrategic.com or +27 72 744 7993.


Why digital transformation is vital to the future of retail

Traditional retailers around the globe are facing unprecedented pressure. With online competitors able to offer the same products, often at a lower cost and with a greater degree of convenience, consumers have come to expect more than the traditional retail experience can deliver.

By Tanja Lategan, CEO, Enlight Strategic

That’s as true for South African retailers as it is for their international counterparts.

While economic pressures have certainly played a part in the decline of several major brands over the past few years, there’s no doubt that failure to embrace changing customer expectations has also played a role.

If retailers are to ensure they don’t fall victim to the same issues, they must embrace customer-centric digital transformation.

While this is obviously something that needs to happen across the organisation, a marketing-led approach can provide the most immediate returns.

The state of play

For a long time, retailers have been laggards when it comes to digital transformation. Research from Gartner in 2018 showed that just three percent of retailers were seeing results from digital business initiatives. 

In the last couple of years, however, players across the industry have started to catch up and are embracing technology. A recent Gartner report found that as many as 77% of retailers plan to deploy some form of AI by 2021.

Far too many retailers, however, are investing in it solely from a warehousing and operational side. In doing so, they’re missing out on the potential impact digital transformation can have on marketing.


Is your business ready for transformation? Take our 5-minute Digital Maturity Assessment to find out and get a FREE report.


Digital-led marketing

Ironically, most retailers are ideally poised to take advantage of marketing-led digital transformation. Any retailer with a loyalty programme already has vast amounts of valuable customer data.

With the right data extraction and analytics tools, this data can be used to gain valuable insights about what individual customers are buying, how much they’re spending every month, and where they’re spending their money (in both the physical and online realms).

This can then be refined and used to provide customers with personalised marketing across the digital channels of their choice.

As well as individually-tailored, highly visual forms of storytelling, retailers can provide customers with personalised offers that improve their overall experience of the organisation.

This, in turn, means that they’re more likely to remain loyal to the retailer in question, spend more money with it, and recommend products to their friends.

That’s a lot of advantage to be gained from retailers simply making the most of the tools available to them.

Factor in the potential for internet of things (IOT) technologies to dramatically improve the in-store customer experience and it’s clear that there’s no need for retailers to lurch into obscurity, provided they’re willing to embrace change.

Getting started

For many legacy retailers, however, even getting started can be a challenge. This is especially true for the largest ones, where getting the organisation to embrace change can feel like turning around the proverbial ocean liner.

Because retailers have been slower to digitally transform than most other industries, however, any movement can still produce significant results.

Before any organisation can get started on its digital transformation journey, it’s vital that it conducts a digital maturity assessment.

This allows the organisation to determine where it is in the present, so that it can define where it wants to go in the future and how to get there.

It’s important to note that, even with a proper assessment and plan in place, digital transformation won’t happen overnight. It’s a long-term game with gradual progression.

But by starting with one area of the business, or even with a single system, retailers can see the impact of digital transformation without upending the business in its entirety. Implemented properly, that success will filter through to the rest of the organisation organically.

Retailers still have plenty to gain from digital transformation, but if they’re to experience its full impact, they have to embrace it now rather than later.


Is your business ready for transformation? Take our 5-minute Digital Maturity Assessment to find out and get a FREE report.


Digital maturity is vital to profit growth: Here’s why

Organisations of all sizes and across almost every industry have embraced digital transformation and accepted digital maturity as an ongoing goal to work towards. Far too many companies, however, view it as a box-tick item. In doing so, they miss out on the significant return-on-investment opportunities that come along on the journey to digital maturity.

By Catherine Murray, Head of Digital Transformation, Enlight Strategic

Microsoft’s digital transformation overhaul, in response to disruption by companies like Amazon and Apple, moved the company into a more forward-focussed cloud-based business. This resulted in a whopping 258% stock price growth over 5 years. Over the period from 2014 to 2019 revenue increased from $93.5 billion to $122 billion.

Similarly, Nike’s ongoing digital transformation programme to reinvent its brand and supply chain and move into the ecommerce space has resulted in a 69% stock price growth in just 2 years. Its stock price was $52 at the beginning of 2017 – it’s now up to nearly $88. Revenue increased from $33.5 billion to $39.1 billion in that same time period.

Among the benefits that come with transforming digitally and becoming digitally mature are reduced business costs, improved customer experience, increased agility, and reduced time to market.

Combined, these benefits can play a massive role in growing a company’s profits. In order to understand how, it’s worth reminding ourselves what a digitally mature company looks like.

Constantly maturing

While there are a number of competing definitions for digital maturity, there are a few characteristics that the most mature companies have in common.

They will, for example, have a well-established transformation roadmap that effectively fends off disruption and evolves as needed. They also use digital technologies to run their business and have the ability to drive continuous change across the company.

Additionally, these companies realise that achieving digital maturity is an ongoing process rather than an end-point to be reached.


Is your business ready for transformation? Take our 5-minute Digital Maturity Assessment to find out and get a FREE report.


Analytical, data-based approach

A part of that ongoing process means organisations using their available data as effectively as possible.

For the organisations that get it right, the rewards are plentiful. According to research published by Entrepreneur in 2019, businesses that effectively use Big Data saw a profit increase of 8 – 10% and a 10% reduction in overall operating costs.

Getting to that point, however, is easier said than done. According to research from Gartner, as many as 80% of marketers will abandon their personalisation efforts in the next five years. It attributes this to a lack of real return on investment and the challenge of managing customer data.

In order to overcome those data-based challenges, it’s vital that the entire organisation buy into digital transformation as a mindset. In doing so, it will reap the benefits of a data-based analytical approach.

Customer experience and digital maturity

One of the biggest advantages of this kind of analytical, data-driven approach is that it allows companies to give their customers a hyper-personal experience.

And in a world where it’s increasingly difficult to differentiate on price and quality, customer experience (CX) can make all the difference. In fact, research from Gartner shows that more than 81% of companies are competing mostly or completely on the basis of CX.

Here too, the opportunities for increased profits are big. According to research from PWC, 49% of buyers have made impulse purchases after receiving a more personalised experience. Similarly, 66 percent of customers say they’ll pay more for a great experience, and experience-driven businesses see almost 2x higher YoY growth in customer retention, repeat purchase rates and customer lifetime value than other businesses.

Nike’s success is largely attributed to improving its connection with customers through membership opportunities, stronger digital marketing and powerful data analytics.

Nike started selling directly to customers and partnered with Amazon for an updated e-commerce strategy. This end-to-end focus on consumer touchpoints and data better allowed Nike to connect with customers more personally and recommend the right products.

The company also opened concept stores and improved its online and mobile app experience, and has since ended its relationship with Amazon to gain even more direct control over their CX.

Given that the interactions people have with companies now largely take place on digital devices and platforms, it’s clear that transforming digitally is vital to providing good CX.

A few simple changes can result in a massively improved digital customer experience, bringing with it significant profit growth. That makes taking the journey towards digital maturity a no-brainer.

Boosting productivity

Digital transformation doesn’t only boost revenue growth, it also impacts employee productivity. A recent survey by Zensar shows that a lack of proper technology tools can hinder productivity and lower morale.

53% of the surveyed employees said they would be more empowered to better manage workflow if they were provided with the needed tools. 76% also added that having the digital tools they need at work makes them more productive and more than half, 53%, said it makes them more successful.

Utilising digital technology to change traditional ways of working also results in lower business operating costs, as teams can work remotely and collaborate online. This also generates more employment opportunities which is critical for economic growth, especially in South Africa.

Opportunities abound

These are just a few examples of how taking the leap into digital transformation and embarking on the journey towards digital maturity can be vital for profit growth.

They are not, however, the only ones. If an organisation embraces digital transformation in its entirety, then everything it does will feed into improved efficiencies, better customer experience and reduced time to market.

This requires assessing the company’s digital maturity across all five main areas of the business: Leadership, customer experience, technology, operations and culture. All of these feed into one another and, ultimately, result in increased profits.  

Companies can then work with a consultancy to improve their digital maturity and get recommendations on how to address the problem areas to start their digital transformation journey.

Enlight Strategic offers a free online digital maturity assessment to help you get started. This will show you where the challenges and opportunities lie with taking your business to the next level.

Catherine is the Head of Digital Transformation at Enlight Strategic. She has over 13 years digital experience and specialises in customer experience (CX), digital disruption, platform and digital maturity analyses, research, and cutting though the noise, to find simple, pragmatic solutions to complex challenges.

4 important digital transformation questions answered

Companies across an increasingly wide range of industries are waking up to the need for digital transformation. Rightly so too. Digital transformation doesn’t just allow organisations to keep up with the changing world around them, it also gives them a distinct business advantage, especially when it comes to factors such as customer experience.

By Tanja Lategan, CEO, Enlight Strategic 

In fact, 56% of CEOs say that digital improvements have led to revenue growth. Research from Accenture shows that 75% of consumers are more likely to make a purchase from a company that knows their name and purchase history and recommends products based on their preferences.  

Digital transformation is, in other words, imperative. But knowing that you need to do something and knowing how to do it are two different things.

With that in mind, I’ve outlined some of the questions I’m most frequently asked around digital transformation as well as the answers to them. 

1. What is digital transformation?

Digital transformation is such a broad term and the definition can change depending on your context and focus area.

Digital transformation will therefore look different for each company, but essentially it is the process of using digital technologies to create new, or improve existing business processes, culture, and customer experiences to meet the changing business and market requirements.

This could be driving efficiencies through robotic process automation, upgrading your IT infrastructure or improving sales through better customer experience and data analytics tools. 

Enlight Strategic believes in a holistic approach to digital transformation that covers five main areas of business:

  1. Leadership
  2. Customer
  3. Technology
  4. Operations
  5. Culture

In order to achieve true digital maturity, all these aspects need to be assessed and considered.


Is your business ready for transformation? Take our 5-minute Digital Maturity Assessment to find out and get a FREE report.


2. Why do companies need to embrace digital transformation?

The incentive is to remain relevant, survive and thrive. It’s basically do or die. If your company does not adapt, you may experience the same fate as some companies who had to close their doors in the retail and media sectors when they were disrupted by Google, Facebook and Amazon.

From a community and economic perspective, we might not be able to change government policy or end load-shedding, but I believe it is every organisation’s responsibility to embrace digital transformation.

Companies must position themselves to contribute positively to the economy and the employment rate.

3. What does digital transformation mean for job creation?

A recent survey published by the ManPower Group predicted a very gloomy outlook for employment. It’s acutely the weakest it’s been in 5 years and down 3 percentage points compared to this period last year.

It is, however, encouraging to see that industries experiencing major disruption and companies that have subsequently undergone digital transformation are showing an uptick in hiring.

This shows a positive correlation between digital transformation and job creation and means that the strongest opportunities for job seekers will be in the Finance, Insurance, Real Estate, Business Services sectors where the net employment outlook is +9%.

Companies also need to place more focus on Augmented Humanity and consider how technology can support rather than replace their human capital.

4. How does a company go about getting digitally transformed? Where do they start?

You can start by knowing your digital maturity and understanding what it means on a practical level.  A digital maturity assessment can help businesses to not only understand their own digital maturity but also how it compares to that of their competitors and industry as a whole.

Companies can then work with a digital transformation consultancy to fast track their digital transformation journeys, improve their digital maturity and get recommendations on how to address problem areas.

Enlight Strategic offers a free online digital maturity assessment for example, so there is really is no reason not to do it.


Is your business ready for transformation? Take our 5-minute Digital Maturity Assessment to find out and get a FREE report.


Tanja is the CEO and co-founder of Enlight Strategic, a digital transformation consultancy. She has more than a decade’s worth of experience as a senior executive in the digital publishing and agency space and is passionate about the role technology can play in transforming businesses.

The 5 stages of digital maturity: How does your organisation rank?

One of the most common misconceptions about digital transformation is that it’s about the implementation of cutting-edge technologies and IT systems that optimise operational processes. While technology plays an important part in digital maturity, it doesn’t give us the full picture.

By Catherine Murray, Head of Digital Transformation, Enlight Strategic

Many companies implement new digital tools and platforms only to find that they remain unused or unable to deliver the intended transformative impact due to low digital maturity levels within the organisation.

In fact, research into challenges companies face adjusting to the faster pace of digital business, from MIT Sloane and Deloitte, indicates that digital transformation constitutes a culture and mindset change first. Rethinking technology happens further down the line.

Digital transformation is better defined as a process of adopting new or different business processes and ways of thinking that help an organisation adapt and compete effectively in an increasingly digital world.

This means that companies need to understand how digital affects and can transform all aspects of the business, including leadership, culture and customer experience in addition to technology and operations.

Understanding readiness to transform across these areas is also critical, as differing levels of digital maturity require different approaches – there is no one size fits all solution.

But what is digital maturity and why is it important?

Digital maturity is simply a measure of how ready an organisation is to both understand and adapt consistently to ongoing digital change.

Higher-maturity organisations are nearly three times more likely than lower-maturity organisations to report net profit margins and annual revenue growth that are significantly above the averages in their industry, according to research by Deloitte.

Digital maturity models evaluate how well companies have incorporated digital into their operating models, how effective they are at executing on digital initiatives and their ability to adapt to disruptive technology, events, market trends, competitors or other major factors – both culturally and operationally.

Performing an assessment of an organisation’s digital maturity levels across all aspects of the business is the best place to start a digital transformation journey. It allows you to determine where you’re at in the present, so that you can define where you want to go in the future and how to get there.


Ready to transform your business? Take our 5-minute Digital Maturity Assessment and get your FREE report.


What are the 5 stages of digital maturity?

In my experience, organisations fall into one of five broad stages of digital maturity:

1. Traditional: These are companies stuck with legacy systems, processes and outdated ways of thinking. They make little use of digital technologies and lack the ability to drive change across the business. Activities that support digital transformation are usually accidental and not a result of strategic intent. They are likely being disrupted by competition and must act quickly to build a strategic plan and organisation-wide awareness of why digital transformation is critical to save the business.

2. Emerging: These organisations embrace digital slowly and have modernised some aspects of their business but are largely reactive and only make changes when they have to. They are unable to outpace digital disruption. These companies must start addressing digital transformation seriously and avoid creating more legacy issues that will make it difficult to scale and compete in the future.

3. Engaged: These businesses experiment with some critical elements of a winning digital transformation strategy. Limited foundational activities and pockets of innovation are in place, but often siloed and lacking focus or leadership. These companies need a plan for driving adoption of a singular digital vision. Key stakeholders must be engaged to develop a structured and sustainable transformation roadmap that delivers measured business value.

4. Competitive: Companies in this category have a digital roadmap in place and are starting to combat disruption. They compete effectively in the current market but need a strategy for future growth. These companies should start optimising, and address any remaining blockers preventing them from launching and supporting new digital products or services that leapfrog competitors.

5. Maturing: These companies have a well-established transformation roadmap in place that effectively fends off disruption and evolves as needed. They use digital technologies to run their business and have the ability to drive continuous change across the company. These companies must develop a roadmap for continuous transformation and delivery, in order to realise their full potential and become leaders in their industry. Finding ways to remove friction enables them to react swiftly to market trends and speed up delivery of new digital experiences.

I prefer the term “maturing” to “mature”, as the nature of digital requires transformation to be an ever-evolving process without a finite end.

Digitally maturing businesses are always transforming, and never transformed. These organisations constantly move forward on the digital continuum by regularly assessing and adopting new technologies, processes, and strategies.

How do we rate an organisation’s digital maturity?

There are varying digital maturity assessment models, but broadly all involve scoring an organisation’s digital maturity performance across several pillars of the business, including but not limited to: Leadership, Customer, Technology, Operations and Culture.

Analytics and data should be included as a measure of performance within each of these categories as it is critical to the success of any digital transformation programme.

Comprehensive digital maturity assessments typically involve several months of stakeholder interviews, surveys, research and analysis by digital transformation experts immersed within the business.

That’s great, but where do I start?

Start by completing an initial short, high-level online digital maturity assessment. This will provide you with helpful indicators and an initial appraisal of where your organisation stands, which be used to motivate your company to undertake a full audit.

Keep in mind that digital transformation doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a long-term game with gradual progression.

Starting small with one sector of your business or examining one system is also a great way to show proof of concept and test out new ideas.

The pillars of your business that score lowest for digital maturity could be an initial focus for your digital transformation programme, as they are still developing and may require immediate remedial action. Understanding exactly what this means for your organisation and developing a clear action plan is an important first move.


Ready to transform your business? Take our 5-minute Digital Maturity Assessment and get your FREE report.


Catherine is the Head of Digital Transformation at Enlight Strategic. She has over 13 years digital experience and specialises in customer experience (CX), digital disruption, platform and digital maturity analyses, research, and cutting though the noise, to find simple, pragmatic solutions to complex challenges.

How to supercharge your e-commerce sales

E-commerce offers its practitioners a lot of advantages over traditional brick-and-mortar stores, but one of the biggest is the massive amount of real-time customer data they can lay their hands on. More important than collecting that data, however, is making sense of it.

By Tanja Lategan, CEO, Enlight Strategic

Fortunately, there are more data analysis tools available than ever before. And, used correctly, they can help e-commerce stores of all sizes supercharge their sales.

Here’s how to set yourself up for success:

1. Know which metrics matter

When it comes to e-commerce analytics, it can be all too easy to focus on sales as the only metric that matters. In reality, there are a number of other metrics that are equally, if not more, important.

These include purchase amounts, billing locations, product performance, transactions (revenue, tax, shipping, quantity), and time to purchase (days and sessions to the transaction).

But you also need to know how well your marketing and advertising efforts are working, which platforms are helping you generate more customers for your business, and what are the best traffic sources, not just in terms in quantity, but in terms of quality.

Remember, the goal is to grow your customer base, not just increase sales. Knowing these metrics and why they matter is vital.

2. Embrace automation

For small-scale e-commerce players especially, unravelling all of this analysis can be challenging.

Fortunately, the best analytics tools increasingly provide automated insights into the metrics that are most important to your store.

It’s therefore worth getting as familiar as possible with whatever tools are available and to what kind of automated reports they can give you.

3. Use the right tools

When it comes to choosing tools, the choices have, by and large, never been better. Most of the big e-commerce platforms, such as Shopify and WooCommerce, provide a fair amount of raw data as well as some base-level analysis.

What they won’t tell you how, however, is how to grow or scale a business year over year. For that, you’ll need to understand a host of factors, including the trickle-down effect from changes in SEO rankings to traffic fluctuations and conversion rates.

you really want useful analytics and analysis, therefore, it’s worth using third-party tools.

Analytics product Oribi, for instance, recently launched an ecommerce analytics tool which allows Shopify users to, among other things, better test the connections between different product purchases, evaluate which product combinations are the most popular, test the impact of UI changes, and gain insights into individual customer journeys.

4. Don’t forget the human touch

Focusing on data and gaining as much insight as possible from analytics is important. This approach works best, however, when it’s combined with a human-centred understanding of the customer experience. While conversions and customer journey profiles can tell you a lot, so can individual complaints and compliments.

Key to getting this blend of data and humanity right is working to understand what your users are going through when they buy from your store and along the pathways they use to get to it.

Data and analytics can tell you what’s working and what isn’t, but it’s only once you really put yourself in the customer’s shoes that you’ll really understand why those things are and aren’t working.

5. Keep playing

As much as e-commerce can feel like a data-driven science there’s still an element of artistry required to get it right. That artistry comes from using the data available to make smarter choices, launch more inspired products, and continually improve the customer experience.

Get it right and you’ll end up supercharging your e-commerce sales.


What digital transformation means for customer experience in 2020

By Tanja Lategan, CEO, Enlight Strategic 

By now, most companies have at some level realised that they need to embrace digital transformation. For the most part, however, these efforts are still limited to upgrading IT infrastructure, with very little thought given to the rest of the organisation. 

A more holistic approach to digital needs to be adopted and “the customer” should be given more focus in an organisation’s digital transformation efforts. It is, after all, customer experience (CX), more than any other factor, that sets an organisation apart from its competitors. 

Marketing, CX, and digital transformation

In fact, research from Gartner shows that more than 81% of companies are competing mostly or completely on the basis of CX. The same Gartner research also found that marketing departments own the budget for and drive the execution of CX in most companies. 

That should hardly be surprising. Marketing departments typically possess customer data and the platforms needed to analyse and understand customer wants and needs. And, increasingly, what customers want is hyper-personalised, hyper-relevant, interactions on the digital channels of their choice.  

Any marketing department that understands this and has the backing of senior leadership within the organisation is ideally poised to play a leading role in its digital transformation. 

With a wider array of digital channels, and higher levels of customer expectation than have ever existed before, Digital Customer Experience will only become more critical in 2020 and beyond.  

Breaking down silos

That’s not to say that digital transformation should be left to the marketing department. Far from it. Instead, the customer-centric approach to digital transformation should be adopted across the entire organisation. That means breaking down the silos between Marketing, IT, Finance, and various other departments that make up a business. 

After all, a customer will likely interact with several departments during their relationship with an organisation. Using the right data in the right way, organisations can ensure that every customer gets a consistent experience with relevant, personalised messaging.  

Digital maturity 

But before any organisation embarks on a digital transformation journey, it is crucial that they understand their digital maturity level in the area of customer experience. 

While many companies will say that customer experience is their primary motivation for enhancing their digital communication, the truth is that they see cost efficiency as the goal and customer experience as the nirvana. Trouble is, starting with cost efficiency as the main business driver seldom results in a good customer experience. 

It’s also vital that companies regularly assess how digitally transformed their marketing efforts are and how effectively they’re helping the organisation meet its wider business goals. With digital tools becoming increasingly democratised, what was cutting edge in 2019 may be old hat in 2020.


Contact Enlight Strategic at info@enlightstrategic.com for a free digital maturity assessment to see where your company stands.


5 lessons learned from a Black Friday customer experience fail

Black November is upon us and retailers, both online and offline, are gearing up for the biggest shopping event of the year. To ensure smooth sailing, it’s critical to pay close attention to customer experience, both good and bad.

By Catherine Murray, Head of Digital Transformation, Enlight Strategic

Originally a Thanksgiving holiday sales ploy imported from the US, Black Friday and Cyber Monday are now reshaping consumer behaviour in South Africa. With 30% growth on 2018 sales predicted, and promotions extending days and weeks earlier into November, the shopping marathon is set to be bigger than ever in 2019.

When retailers get it right, Black Friday can provide a major revenue boost from both ecommerce and brick-and-mortar sales. Takealot reported record sales for the day in 2018, at R196m — a 125% year-on-year growth. The group sold R11.5m in merchandise before 01:00am that day, a major boost up from the R1m generated from Black Friday in 2015.

If companies get it wrong however, it can result in major reputational damage on top of crippling revenue losses.

HubSpot research found that 80% of consumers would stop doing business with a company because of a poor customer experience. To avoid this, it is absolutely critical to focus not just on making sales on the day, but on the entire journey customers experience throughout the period.

A Black Friday customer experience disaster

Last year my iron broke a week before Black Friday. I tend to avoid big sales events as I find the marketing noise and shopping chaos overwhelming, but on this occasion thought I would likely get a good deal on a grudge purchase. Like most customers, I spent the days leading up to Black Friday comparing models and prices between major ecommerce stores, before settling on a couple of options.

Retailer A is my go-to ecommerce store and offered the model I wanted with overnight delivery at a higher price. Retailer B offered a similar model at a lower price but displayed a warning on their site stating that deliveries on Black Friday orders may take longer than usual.

I’d already had a frustrating experience with Retailer B, as the UX on their site was poor, it was slow, and they provided no useful product descriptions. I wanted to give them a chance however and decided I could wait a bit longer to save some money, so opted to purchase from them anyway.

After waiting over 7 days with no order status communication from Retailer B, I called the customer service centre who were difficult to get hold of and only offered scripted responses that my order was being processed. At this point I was irritated and starting to really need the iron. I gave them another couple of days, and after hearing nothing went back to Retailer A and purchased the more expensive iron which I received the next day.

When I eventually received the product from Retailer B, nearly 3 weeks after the purchase date, I headed to the nearest branch to return the iron. After experiencing further incompetent service in-store, I vowed never to purchase anything from them ever again.

The outcomes of this customer experience failure are that the transaction likely cost Retailer B more than they made on it, and my loyalty to their competitor was only reinforced.

5 ways to improve your Black Friday customer experience

Here are 5 key lessons ecommerce retailers can learn from Retailer B’s mistakes to ensure that they have a solid customer experience strategy in place for Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

1. Don’t skimp on infrastructure

The most critical place to start is the reliability of your online shopping experience. Increased website and app traffic loads on Black Friday and Cyber Monday put pressure on retailers to keep infrastructure stable, operational and error-free.

Website downtime and slow page speeds can result in major revenue losses as users abandon ship and shop elsewhere. Amazon’s July 2018 “Prime Day” started with several hours of site outages, costing the ecommerce giant over $72 million in lost sales and thousands of unhappy customers complaining on social media and support channels.

Retailers can prepare for this by optimising technical infrastructure to cope with excessive demand:

  • Load test all aspects of the online experience well ahead of time.
  • Review checkout page and mobile load times – Google’s research shows that 53% of mobile visits are abandoned if a page takes longer than 3 seconds to load (in reality the average page load time on 3G connections is 19 seconds).
  • Put technical checks and alerts in place to monitor performance so that remedial action can be taken in real time.
  • SaaS ecommerce platforms and cloud hosting solutions offer more agile infrastructure that scales up and down with traffic fluctuations.
  • Know when to expect traffic spikes – data from Black-Friday.global and BankservAfrica shows that the intensity of shopping was at its peak between 8 and 11 am in 2018.

2. Optimise the user experience

There are two main types of shopper: 1) Those who know what they want, and just want to get in and out as fast as possible, and 2) Spontaneous shoppers without a plan, browsing for something that catches their eye.

Streamlining the experience of both user types browsing your site and apps during both research and purchase stages can massively improve your chances of making a sale.

The user’s path to purchase needs to be as frictionless as possible. Ensure that:

  • Products are properly categorised and tagged in detail, and users have quick access to navigation menus, filters and keyword search functions.
  • You invest in third-party user testing across your site ahead of time to obtain an honest, objective view of your online shopping experience – sometimes just small tweaks can make a huge difference.
  • You do everything you can to prevent shopping cart abandonment. The most common reasons this happens are:
    • Product out of stock after adding to cart.
    • Long load times.
    • Inability to access user account.
    • Losing spot on page after adding item to cart.
    • Search doesn’t deliver items user is looking for.

Historically, the most popular categories of products among South African Black Friday shoppers are clothing, shoes, groceries, electronics, and home appliances, in that order. Think about how to surface these products and categories more prominently on the day.

Also consider that the sale is not complete once the customer completes and pays for the order – you also need to ensure that they keep the item and don’t return it.

Providing detailed product descriptions and customer reviews that help customers compare products effectively, understand exactly what they’re getting, and judge fit, can really make a difference here, especially for clothing and shoes. Superbalist does this particularly well by providing size conversion charts and measurements of the clothing model pictured.

3. Take a long, hard look at order fulfilment

In the age of instant gratification, taking more than 7 days to deliver online orders just doesn’t cut it anymore. Even with an optimised online experience, competition is fierce and inefficient supply chain management and order fulfilment processes will put retailers at a severe disadvantage.

  • Using specialist ecommerce predictive analytics software to monitor user behaviour in the lead-up to Black Friday can help you understand which products customers are interested in purchasing and plan ahead of time. Track which products they search for, view, compare and add to wish lists in advance, and ask your customers for input on what they want.
  • Spread the load by offering promotions days or weeks ahead of Black Friday and Cyber Monday to encourage purchasing in more manageable chunks and secure the sale before your competitors do.
  • Consider click-and-collect as an option for order fulfilment – it not only takes the pressure off your delivery system, but also gets consumers into your stores where you have the chance to make another sale.
  • Don’t over promise and under deliver – if you are likely to experience delivery delays over the Black Friday period, warn your consumers but stick to the deadline extension and don’t leave them wondering by being uncommunicative.

4. Prepare customer service staff

Emotions run high on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, consumers are stressed and expect hassles, and generally don’t have much time to waste. Angry, tired, and impatient consumers demanding unreasonable things will also take their toll on employee morale, and you need to make sure your staff are adequately experienced and prepared.

  • Ensure customers feel that you care – address them by name, personalise communication, pay attention and show that you have listened and understand what their issue is.
  • Take responsibility and consider offering incentives to return when things go wrong .
  • Offer VIP treatment to loyal customers – access to exclusive flash sales, extra discounts, or early access to promotions are all great examples.
  • Empathise with customers and understand the emotional need states that drive their behaviour in order to surprise and delight them – consumers are increasingly placing more value on their time and pleasant experiences than on simply getting what they paid for no matter what.
  • Provide prominent and easily accessible customer service channels.

Excellent customer experience 100% starts with your employees. Their attitude toward customers both online and offline is a major factor in how they perceive your business, especially if it’s the first time they’re engaging with your brand.

Prioritising a short-term growth in sales at the expense of customer happiness during Black Friday will ensure you’ll be investing money into the business just to stay in preservation mode.

5. Make automation your friend

Utilising the right technology to elevate customer experience and save money is imperative in the age of digital transformation. Advances in automation and artificial intelligence (AI) can offer ecommerce retailers significant competitive advantages.

Predictive personalisation software uses AI technology to provide a layer of personalisation to an e-commerce site by tailoring each user’s visit using their unique preferences and real-time purchase intent. The software ensures customers return for the experience, not just pricing or products alone, and customers now expect it from their online shopping experience.

Automated merchandising uses AI to help businesses put the right product in the right place at the right time. Algorithms map complex relationships between products, and consumer behaviour is monitored through site-search tools and added to the algorithm through machine learning. This automates website search processing, creating a self-operating, consistent, accurate, scalable and efficient system that gets more intelligent with time.

Consider investing in marketing and CRM software that enables an omni-channel customer experience. Hubspot defines this as a multi-channel approach to marketing, selling, and serving customers in a way that creates an integrated and cohesive customer experience no matter how or where a customer reaches out.