Black Friday; a term once used to describe the heavy and disruptive pedestrian and vehicle traffic that would occur on the day after Thanksgiving, is now a yearly event for retailers to offer promotional sales and kick-start the beginning of Christmas present shopping.
The phenomena has spread worldwide, with UK retailers now taking part in Black Friday since 2014. However, it is often now associated with mass hysteria, seen in embarrassing video footage of customers fighting over discounted TVs in Asda. Surely, there must be a better way to find the best deals without being physically injured?
It’s a good thing we have the internet. Alongside in-store promotions, e-commerce sales have boomed since the introduction of Black Friday. £1.4bn was spent on online sales in the UK on Black Friday 2017 — up some 11.7% on 2016. E-commerce websites with a Black Friday area allow customers to view all available promotions, compare savings across retailers and order from multiple retailers from the safety of their home. No need to camp outside for store openings, the deals online last all day.
So, as both a website user and developer, I decided to take a look at five e-commerce retailers on Black Friday and review the user experience of their Black Friday offerings.
Forget about “The Boy and Piano”, John Lewis has bigger things to promote. The black background brings attention to the list of offers available, with quick links to brand promotions. In fact, the whole home page is dedicated to Black Friday, making it impossible to not click on something Black Friday related.
Sadly, the excitement of Black Friday is left at the home page. Once clicking into ‘Shop all offers’, the journey reverts back to a typical e-commerce experience. In fact, you would forget you were looking at Black Friday deals if it weren’t for the small breadcrumb and the red text under products. Also, whist I am discussing products listings — it’d be much easier for people to understand how much they are saving by showing ‘Was X, now Y’ instead of the newly discounted price.
Very is a large e-commerce only retailer that has found great success in Black Friday’s past. In the build-up to Black Friday, they have filled their home page with the latest deals, making it easy for customers to view the deals that matter most. This is supported by having a ‘filter deals by category’ on the home page. Very is also taking advantage of an economics rule called the Scarcity Principle — where the rarer or more difficult to obtain a product, offer, or piece of content is, the more valuable it becomes. People are more likely to purchase a product if they think it will soon be unavailable, which Very does with wording such as ‘Going fast!’ and ‘Only X left in stock!’. Creating urgency of Black Friday deals will make customers more likely to complete a purchase. Very does a great job servicing the needs of Black Friday shoppers instantly, which I give it massive kudos for.
Argos has dedicated above-the-fold real estate (is this still a thing?!) to Black Friday. They also have a separate area for finding Black Friday deals, teasing customers to view more.
Shopping Black Friday sales on Argos.co.uk is straight-forward. You can find deals by category, price, customer rating — you also know how much you are saving without having to work out 33% of £293 (take note, John Lewis!).
The Debenhams’ homepage is covered with Black Friday offers from all departments. However, the use of asterisks on EVERY ‘deal’ leads the customers to be wary of how much of a good deal they would be getting, especially as most of the offers are also ‘up to X%’, which we all know means nothing will be the maximum percentage.
Heading into the Black Friday section of the site, the design is unappealing. It’s clear Debenhams went for a ‘quick and dirty’ approach to Black Friday, not bothering to use imagery or filtering to entice users to click through. Instead, customers are presented with a barrage of offers in an order which doesn’t make sense. The lack of imagery doesn’t help either, as customers on a retail website will not be expecting to have to read so much to find what they want.
The Lakeland landing page takes the cake (no pun intended) for Black Friday. How can you not smile when you see this? The whimsical imagery presents Lakeland perfectly, making it hard not to click through to see what deals they are offering. You can also use the top navigation to find Black Friday deals, so no matter where you are on the site you know where to find the best offers.
The landing page of Black Friday offers presents customers with all the products under promotion. This is useful for customers who may not have a specific item in mind, but would rather be inspired. I am already a fan of Lakeland’s UX, so it’s no surprise that the range of filtering and sorting options are carried through to Black Friday, although I would suggest one of the sorting options should be ‘discount % high to low’.
Black Friday UX conclusions
By putting myself in the shoes of a Black Friday customer, I have seen what works and what doesn’t when it comes to e-commerce Black Friday UX. Retailers need to ensure their landing pages pack a punch, promoting the biggest savings. They need to cater for the two types of Black Friday shopper; one who knows what they want and is looking for the best saving, and the other who is happy to browse offers and seek inspiration. Using techniques from the Scarcity Principle help to move customers down the purchasing funnel. Lastly, Black Friday is perceived as retail madness, so make the online experience as simple as possible.