The Conversion Chronicles, resources for improving your online conversion rates

Black Friday: How online retailers can learn from brick and mortar stores to tap into the 7 billion dollar pot of gold.


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For many early years of our marriage, I slept through the morning of the biggest single shopping day of the year. I knew of the preparation and planning my wife, her sisters and her friends went through. Only since our move to the big city, having been called upon to be the driver and bag touting companion to this shopping hoard, did I realize just how easy ´ yes easy ´ it is to gain the attention of this of the coveted US holiday bargain shopper.

Since over half of the Conversion Chronicles readers are from outside the US, here is some background. The National Retail Federation expects 130 Million US people will shop on
Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving in the US). Spending is expected to rise above last years $7 billion dollar daily total. Even with gains in the Euro you can agree this is a day of retail heaven. In his The Macro Investor column, Steve Liesman of the wsj.com´s is calling for congress to adopt Black Friday as an official federal holiday of prosperity.

Now, my wife Michelle is no rookie, she has years of holiday bargain shopping experience and a wealth of education passed down from her mother and older sisters. It isn´t easy to convert her to a buyer, she´s no push over. She works for her money and doesn´t part with it frivolously. If she was 40 years older you would think she was a child of the Depression. The key is in her choice of store and in which order she shops them. Who is 1st is a big advantage. The choice to shop at an online vs offline retailer has started to become invisible. It is the personal connection and invitation to value that wins the customer.

This year Michelle chose to shop at an online store for the first time. The relationship that the website has established with her is very similar to the approach this year´s winning Brick and mortar store made.

First let´s start with the brick and mortar store

This morning we left the house at 5:20am, arriving for what was to be a three hour shopping event at the regional department store Kohl´s. They have been advertising on TV and placed fliers in the local newspaper like most stores. But, that´s not it. They mail sale event information to Michelle. And---here is the clincher´staff in the store let Michelle know of upcoming and current bargains and sales while she is shopping. This isn´t an isolated event. I have witnessed this in two cities at three stores. Kohl´s won the 1st stop prize black friday morning by offering 55% off of their name brand toys. They also offered special pricing on ´new´ selections of Christmas decorations and ornaments. Michelle plans to give each co-worker an ornament this year.

So how does that work online?

The online site which Michelle looked at this year and she has purchased from, established a similar relationship. It is a small retailer of music and books, which will remain nameless. (Until I can get them some help with their website delivery, they don´t have it all right). They asked Michelle of her music interests and now focus their attention to her around those interests with concert notifications and reviews of her favorite artist. They share release dates of new material, and even a book of photography by the same photographer who authored a book she purchased. Simple emails and interactive web pages of communication ´ establishing this online store as the leader for value in her specific interests.

Like Kohl´s department store this type of visitor building success is done on a massive scale. Working from a position of asking for her interests Kohl´s staff then demonstrated their expertise and value and she chose the store over its clutter of competitors. At the check out line, which wrapped around deep into the store, a Kohl´s representative came by to tell us what to expect so we wouldn´t abandon the store. Aboavista´s Assessments call for the same thing online, tell people what to expect and they are far less likely to leave before completing the sale. Some people left Kohl´s without buying, they didn´t see any value in waiting. Most did not.

Who lost the attention of my favorite shopper this year? Last year´s winner Target Stores, emphasized electronics that when compared by the prepared shopper, didn´t measure up. Michael´s Arts and & Crafts and Radio Shack Stores may not make the to do list at all next year. Michael´s promoted 50% off but upon arrival delivered only 25% off, losing a customer just like so many websites who fail to convert visitors who don´t easily see what they came for and expect. Radio Shack, offered a deal that we drove out of our way to find but it was a mail-in rebate offer with the manufacturer. Totally useless to us and a waste of our gas money!

I wont know how much of the $7 billion Michelle personally contributed until credit card bills arrive later in the month. However, Kohl´s gave Michelle a $10 dollar off coupon for use anywhere in the store in the coming week. It´s not over yet between Michelle and Kohl´s because of that freebie, and you can bet she´ll spend more than $10. It´s easy, talk to your customer ´ one at a time and you like Kohl´s will be rewarded with a bigger chunk of that $7 billion Black Friday prize.
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Mike MohanAuthor: Mike Mohan, President - Aboavista USA

Mike Mohan is a contributing writer to the Conversion Chronicles and president of Aboavista (USA) based in Detroit. Mike has 20 years experience in a wide range of marketing roles and 10 years developing online marketing strategies for some of the world?s fastest growing companies.