Customer Feedback Can Provide a Competitive Edge on Black Friday

By: Susan Ganeshan

November 24, 2015

The most lucrative day of the year for many retailers is just around the corner. Black Friday is a competitive, high-stakes game and your customer feedback can give you a leg up on your competitors. Embracing customer feedback to provide a consistent omnichannel experience gives retailers the edge to win big during this critical kick-off to the holiday shopping season.

Although the holiday shopping period has become more spread out in recent years, Black Friday provides a window into how retailers are navigating these challenges and how taking a truly customer-centric approach can improve operations and drive revenue.

Last year, customer analytics experts at Clarabridge analyzed over 2 million social media mentions on Black Friday.  Our researchers pinpointed the topics that were generating the most chatter, and then looked at the sentiment attached to those conversations. The customer feedback revealed a few best practices retailers should put into place this year to make sure that you’re providing a consistent, enjoyable customer experience, no matter how your customers interact with you.

  • Get creative to stoke engagement and drive in-store traffic: Last year, Kohl’s dominated engagement on Twitter with a clever contest using the hashtag #blackfriday. Amazon captured 41% of the Black Friday conversation by tweeting and posting about Black Friday deals more than a week earlier than any other retailers.

Nordstrom and Costco were creative with their opening and closing hours, achieving overwhelmingly positive customer sentiment by listening to customer preferences that they remaining closed on Thanksgiving. This year, Staples has followed the lead of these retailers and announced that it will be closed this Thanksgiving, after it had opened its doors the last two years. And early returns show highly positive consumer sentiment towards REI following its decision to close its stores and website on Black Friday.

  • Make your social channels into customer care hubs: Getting up early the day after Thanksgiving to wait in line for Black Friday deals is an emotional decision. If your customers’ expectations aren’t met, their reactions can range from disappointment to frustration to anger—so you need staff ready and able to take quick action.

For example, last year Best Buy was faced with a high-profile website crash at the height of Black Friday shopping. However, the retailer actually won customer hearts and minds by successfully responding to more than 90% of customer comments made on social media. Other retailers can take a page from Best Buy and staff up so customer inquiries and complaints delivered on social channels are responded to quickly and effectively.

  • Be willing to make changes—over time, or on the fly. Keep a keen eye on social conversations for tweaks that can be made through the shopping weekend. For instance, if your Black Friday shoppers say they have trouble redeeming a mobile coupon, you must provide alternatives to make sure they can get their deals.

Change doesn’t have to be ad hoc, however. Remember that online retailers like Amazon have trained consumers to expect ease and efficiency. Online shopping on Black Friday and Thanksgiving grew 32% and 26% year-over-year from 2013 to 2014, while physical visits dropped 5%. Those trends are projected to continue in 2015. To compete, big box retailers from Best Buy to Walmart to Target experimented last year with omni-channel efforts, like ship-from-store or buy online/pick-up in store, with the intention to better serve customers.  Hiccups with those services led to low sentiment regarding check out, delivery, and pricing, but as in-store retail declines, it is important for stores to embrace all methods of driving customer loyalty.

Black Friday is a tough shopping event to pull off. Most brands experience negative sentiment, just because of the challenges of accommodating so many shoppers and so many deals on a single day—or even a single weekend, as the holiday shopping period has spread out to include Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday. Still, if you have the tools to collect, analyze, and then use customer feedback effectively, it can make all the difference.

This post originally appeared in Multichannel Merchant on November 9.