Bargain buying has begun: is Black Friday under threat?

Person holding credit card while shopping online
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After two years of COVID-19 dominating public consciousness, 2022 has been coloured by inflation, recession and rising energy costs. The atmosphere of uncertainty is impacting consumer shopping habits. 

Consumers are still willing to spend this holiday season. In fact, 2022 shopping budgets are up 8% from 2021. The unpredictability of the economic climate, however, means that consumers are looking to spread the financial strain in the run up to the holiday season, with more than half of the UK population having already started shopping for gifts. 

About the author

Meghan Stabler, Senior Vice President (Marketing), BigCommerce EMEA.

This means that we may not see sharp spikes in spending around key shopping dates such as Black Friday, with consumers already seeking out discounts. Many brands have already started reducing prices in order to meet this changing consumer demand.

To win a greater proportion of the consumer wallet, brands need to do more than offer promotions. Customers are seeking brands who offer them a personalized shopping experience.

Meghan Stabler, senior vice president at leading global Open SaaS ecommerce platform, BigCommerce (NASDAQ: BigC), shares her thoughts on how merchants can consistently offer customers a seamless shopping experience to build brand loyalty, drive revenue and influence repeat business.

Retailers must show customers that they care

With less money to spend, consumers are exercising increased caution and consideration with their purchasing decisions. Importantly, customers are seeking brands which offer a human touch. Consumers want to feel understood, whether they are shopping in-store or online. Merchants should look to  become “customer-obsessed” and invest in digital tools which can convey that they care even when human interaction is absent. 

The freedom to choose a tech stack best suited to fit business needs helps retailers deliver a personalised experience. In order to feel secure, 70% of consumers are opting to buy from brands which offer flexible order fulfilment, delivery options, order changes and returns. For this reason, it’s imperative that brands invest in a tech-stack which can cope with shifting stock availability, multiple payment gateway solutions and marketplace integration. Monolithic ecommerce platforms, where both front-end and back-end functionality occur under one virtual ecommerce roof, can no longer meet the needs of the modern consumer. 

Composable commerce solutions offer retailers the opportunity to tailor and customise their online store to their customer’s specific and changing needs. By combining best-of-breed commerce components and technologies, retailers can deliver a cutting-edge shopping experience at every touchpoint.  

A crucial benefit to a composable commerce platform is its headless commerce feature. A decoupled front- and back-end means that retailers can quickly make changes to their store in line with customer needs. This capability equips merchants with full control of their website’s architecture for an unparalleled level of flexibility to create high-quality content and unique customer experiences on the frontend.  In the lead up to the holidays, when regular changes in pricing and stock availability are likely, it’s essential that brands have the adaptability to offer customers consistent real-time updates that mirror in-store shopping.

The brand experience must transcend platforms and channels

Post-pandemic, in-store shopping remains steady in 2022 according to forecasting by Statista. However, consumers no longer see online and offline shopping as distinct experiences and instead expect seamless interconnection between the two. As such, it is more crucial than ever for retailers to adopt an omnichannel approach, which allows them to integrate in-store and online shopping and improve the overall customer experience. 

The gold standard of ecommerce solutions are those which match in-store human interaction. Brands should think of their website, social media and online marketplaces as different departments rather than separate stores. As they would when moving around a brick-and-mortar store, consumers want to be able to transition from an Instagram like-shop to a website payment page with minimal clicks. 

A sophisticated omnichannel marketing strategy means retailers can meet customers where they are and take them on an efficient transaction journey. By syncing inventories and merging sales data, brands can present honest, real-time stock availability information to the consumer. With ongoing supply-chain uncertainty, this helps to build consumer loyalty that will future-proof their sales as we move into 2023.

What does this mean for Black Friday?

Although the premature commencement of holiday shopping this year means that we may see less of a spike in sales around Black Friday, this does not mean that retailers should neglect to prepare for the period. 

The weekend will be an opportunity for retailers to position themselves as a trustworthy and secure platform for online spending. Delivering a seamless front-end consumer experience, with real-time stock availability and efficient payment solutions whilst website traffic is high will be essential for building consumer trust. 

Ahead of Black Friday, retailers should look to invest in an intuitive user interface and a checkout experience which offers multiple payment options, including digital wallets. Features such as cart abandonment notifications are especially useful during this period when shoppers are navigating across websites and windows. Mobile functionality will be essential, with more consumers beginning their purchasing journey on social media and on the move. 

Ultimately, retailers should be using this holiday season to future-proof their stores for the economic uncertainty that lies ahead. With consumers prioritising a personalized, connected shopping experience, brands should use the period of increased spending to build consumer trust that will see them remain loyal as wallets tighten. 

Investing in digital tools which deliver an efficient and innovative online experience will greatly help retailers to cut through the noise of a saturated retail market and meet consumers where they are. With so much unpredictability and change on the horizon, the time to invest in a flexible and agile ecommerce solution is now.

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Meghan Stabler, Senior Vice President (Marketing), BigCommerce EMEA.