Customer experience strategy – did Black Friday meet customer expectations?

In America, Black Friday is the day after the Thanksgiving celebrations, where many organisations slash their prices in an attempt to lavish exceptional bargains on their customers. As most people in the UK do not celebrate this holiday, it is a tradition that has remained exclusive to those people living across the pond, until recently. In 2014, news websites were awash with videos of frenzied crowds as Black Friday offers began to appear in major retailers, with shoppers wrestling over televisions and tumble dryers in a desperate attempt to snag irresistible discounts. Whilst a lot of people looked on in surprise, there was little doubt in retailers’ minds that customers were excited at the prospect of a day of special offers, especially in the run-up to the busy Christmas period, with many incorporating Black Friday into their customer experience strategy. So, the question is – did the latest Black Friday ‘celebrations’ meet or exceed customers’ Expectations in 2015?

The writer and marketing consultant Roy Hollister Williams says that, “The first step in exceeding your customer’s expectations is to know those expectations.” For major retailers in the United Kingdom, this suggests that there needs to be something ‘special’ about Black Friday. The discounts must have an air of exclusivity about them, and tell the customer that they have a once-in-a-year opportunity to purchase that specific product at that specific price, and that it is worthwhile. The more vanilla promotional offers – such as a 10 per cent discount when you buy online – will likely prove ineffective. More often than not, the shopper will be savvy of the fact that the retailer is trying to use an American marketing convention to incite them to part with their pennies, and could, potentially, be deterred.

However, customers certainly weren’t put off from shopping at the online retailer Amazon. The brand reported its biggest day of sales in the UK, with over 7.4 million items being ordered. And many of these offers continued into Cyber Monday, with experts predicting a total of £943 million being spent online across all retailers. For Amazon, though, it is clear that shoppers trust the brand to meet their expectations. Their presence on the website is strong affirmation that they anticipate credible discounts from the company, and the fact that they ordered such a large number of products indicates that they have faith in these orders being fulfilled within a reasonable timeframe.

Unfortunately, last year’s disturbing scenes left an indelible mark on the minds of customers. For this reason, their expectations of retail carnage led to a shift in their Black Friday shopping habits in 2015. Such was the fear of passionate tussles and desperate stampedes, many customers opted to avoid the high street and make their purchases online, with internet traffic rising 12 per cent and footfall falling 9.6 per cent compared to the previous year. For Amazon, this proved to be a positive development, and yet for retailers like John Lewis, whose website buckled under the strain, it was an occurrence that was hard to accurately predict and cater for.

However, Black Friday notwithstanding, customer expectations are always going to be a ‘moving target.’ If organisations are going to enjoy any success in this pillar, then they need to pay close attention to how expectations are formed, and then devise a competent customer experience strategy for meeting them. Black Friday is still in its infancy in the UK, and the last two years have afforded retailers a fascinating insight into its customers’ feelings and emotional responses. Perhaps, when 2016 comes around, these companies will have a clearer idea of how to tailor their customer experience strategy to evolve these expectations.

Expectations is one of The Six Pillars of Customer Experience Excellence – visit here to learn more.

For more customer experience insight visit the KPMG Nunwood CEM blog.