Grow your eCommerce: successfully handle the Black Friday shopping surge!


Despite rapidly sprouting out during the lockdown, the eCommerce markets across Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania still lag behind the global industry average, signaling there’s plenty of business value to unlock. Yet certain shifts became permanent.

Black Friday online shopping is one of them, and it’s growing in significance every year. With the returning restrictions to limit social activities, it’s expected to become even more popular this year.

We will discuss the top trends emerging from the data related to Black Friday in the Baltics, released by Google last month. 

Trend #1. Shoppers will start purchasing early this year, perhaps beginning in October.

Google search statistics show a sharp increase in sales a week before Black Friday. It doesn’t mean that consumers are actively buying but reveals their intentions to do so during the sales period. They start their research on what to buy early to take quick action when discounts strike. Adding to this, the study finds that four weeks leading to Black Friday generate 40% more searches than Black Friday’s actual week, and there is a noticeable trend that searching starts earlier each year.

Shoppers will start purchasing early

“1 in 5 is planning to purchase gifts two months before Christmas.” Source: Google survey, June 2020

What merchants could do:

It’s essential to act quickly. Be available to your shoppers at every touchpoint, regardless of when those moments occur. Ensure  your products are discoverable, personalized, and easy-to-find. Perhaps you should try and take a gamble to place customized offers to the most dedicated researchers. We’re sure some will place their orders immediately.

Trend #2. Mobile eCommerce is taking the lead.

The mCommerce is growing at a pace that’s never seen before. 87% of shoppers in the Batics use their mobile devices to engage with a product or merchant before placing an order; thus we see no reason why mobile shouldn’t become the main channel for online shopping too. You should provide customers with adequate shopping experience and tools to use the small screen most efficiently.

Moreover, the amount of searches using mobile devices is continuously growing. Last year, the searches conducted using mobile devices surpassed the ones placed in desktops. It means that a responsive eShop site is more of a necessity than a-nice-thing to have. 

Google search data reveals that mobile is the primary driver of overall traffic during Black Friday 2018-2019. 

What merchants could do:

Make sure your eShop is responsive and works well through all customer shopping journeys. Think of a perfect UX and efficient UI. What works on a desktop may be obsolete on the small screen.

Trend #3. Different countries have different preferences. Black Friday and Christmas shopping research are no different.

Looking through a developmental lens, Covid-19 has forced consumers to become more comfortable with shopping online. Yet 80 % of holiday shoppers aren’t sure they’ll return to a new brand or retailer they bought from this Spring.[1] 

According to Google, the top three categories (gifts, apparel & footwear, and beauty sectors) in Lithuania will peak during Black Friday. 

Google Internal Search Data - Lithuania

Source: Google Internal Search Data – Lithuania

Though buying gifts isn’t as popular in Latvia during the Black Friday (30% compared with 43% in Lithuania), general merchandise and apparel are between trending categories during Black Friday sales.

Google Internal Search Data - Latvia

Source: Google Internal Search Data – Latvia

In Estonia, customers spend most on general merchandise (48%) and gifts (33%) during Black Friday. Yet Christmas time is mostly for purchasing electronics (12%) and beauty care products (7%).

Google Internal Search Data - Estonia

Source: Google Internal Search Data – Estonia

To summarize the results, the Baltic states shoppers use Black Friday not only to buy gifts but also to treat themselves with new exciting stuff at bargain prices. Though Christmas shopping categories differ in several countries, the graphs show a growing trend among general merchandise, apparel, and food categories.

What merchants could do:

Based on your audience, select the products expected to receive the highest traffic before and during the holiday season. Prioritize and focus on promoting them in a timely and well managed way. Well-written product information and pictures are a must!

Trend #4. Omnichannel purchase journeys will be even more expected this year than previously were

Although numerous brick & mortar stores were shut down during the Covid-19, others continue to strive and don’t even consider exit strategies. They adapt to the new rules. Just because people search online, it doesn’t mean they won’t buy in-store and vice versa. Customers are shopping both online and offline, so seamless experience across both is crucial. 

You should therefore keep in mind that despite customers use a wide range of online shopping channels such as retailer/manufacturer’s direct site, online marketplaces, or a reseller’s direct sites, a substantial part – still consider the physical store close to their home as preferred option.  Integrating your store with a marketplace may be a quick and obvious solution to the problem.

physical store close to their home

Source:The Smart Shopper Research Google/Kantar 2019 – Home & Garden eStore

Speaking about product search before purchasing, according to Google search data, comparison shopping sites are more used in Latvia compared with the results in Estonia and Lithuania. Although retail websites are the second choice for searching product information among customers in both Estonia and Lithuania, search engine is still a number one option in Baltics states. That means that each product on-site search optimization should be the key focus among all merchants 

Google Internal Search Data

Source: Google Internal Search Data

What merchants could do:

Focus on providing a safe and customers-orientating approach in-store. Introduce unique experiences such as various discount codes, both online and in-store. Include multiple offers, such as trying out the product before buying it online or returning the product for free by post, etc. And remember: there will be lots and lots of customers who’ll want to return the purchased goods or look for an exchange. Quite a lot of them would be happy to visit a store and place a return there. Statistics indicate that the ones who do so, almost certainly buy something else once there.

Trend #5. Shoppers expect new payment methods in-store and online

Based on Google Search’s physical store data, customers want new payment methods. While bank cards are amongst the top choices-to-pay, mobile and smartphone payments are experiencing rapid growth over the last few years. These include standard smartphone payment options like Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Samsung Pay and are also known as contactless payments or mPOS. 

There are many reasons for that growth, but chief among them: mobile payments are faster and easier for consumers who typically have their phones out anyway. The same applies for refunds: the quick refund increases a chance of an additional purchase. Last but not least – the financial services are on the brink of transformation. We bet we’ll see it drifting away from traditional banks, cash money and credit cards towards the smart apps which will seriously disrupt the whole sector end-to-end.

What merchants could do:

Introduce contactless or advanced payments through various integrations. The payment methods should be consistent across online and offline channels.

Trend #6. Higher loads will inevitably slow the deliveries.

According to the Bazaarvoice survey, before the pandemic, respondents’ main preferences when purchasing were quality (48%), price (47%), and brand (24%). Now, they’re mostly focused on availability (49%), price (36%), and quality (34%).

Among the biggest challenges, this holiday season for eStore owners will be logistics. The delivery time during the pandemic was way slower than usual, and some customers lost their goods. It’s expected that this year majority of Black Friday fans will buy online as governments around Europe might be limiting the numbers of shoppers in physical stores. So assume the orders’ load will be higher during this time of the year still. 

Various solutions could tackle this issue. It could be as simple as integrating more service providers to choose from or sometimes may require smart fulfillment to increase physical proximity to your customer. Depending on only one provider might cost you lost and, most importantly, dissatisfied  customers. 

What merchants could do:

Customers need to be sure they get their goods on time. Keep them well informed. If you’re not able to guarantee on time delivery – provide them with an option to change the delivery address (for example from home delivery to pickup in a locker or in-store). Ensure your eStore has at least a couple of high-quality shipping integrations. Integrate your store with the ERP, reduce the clutter on the back-end. Think not just about your customers but also your staff. The better tools they have – the more efficient they’ll be.

Trend #7. Even a few seconds of downtime might become deadly.

Few years ago, Amazon calculated that a page load delay of just one second would cost a whopping $1.6 billion in sales each year. That figure is undoubtedly higher now. 

On Black Friday/Cyber Monday 2019, 24.3% of merchants experienced downtime over 5 minutes (compared to 23.9% in 2018), while 6.6% of storefronts crashed for more than 30 minutes (as against 5.5% in 2018) in 2019. 

While you won’t have Amazon’s volume, there’s no question that your sales will suffer if your site is slow or unavailable.

“9% more users add to cart when a brand speeds up its shopping site by 0.1 sec.” Deloitte LLP Report ‘Milliseconds make Millions’ commissioned by Google

What merchants could do:

This Holiday Season will undoubtedly be different

2020 Black Friday trends

Source: 2020 Holiday season trends by Google.

As companies have been working hard to improve their shopping experience – whether from improving delivery times, updating goods descriptions on web pages, or utilizing products’ reviews – it will be interesting to see how the holiday season will shape eCommerce this year. 

One thing is for sure, brands that provide a seamless, accessible, and personalized online experience are poised to succeed during the fastly approaching holiday season. This ‘new normal’ will require market-leading technology and continuous innovation, collaboration, and visibility to deliver a customer promise for many businesses. 

And if you need professional help, we’re here to help you grow.

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