From Black Friday to Cyber Monday and beyond
It’s that time of the year again! As we close in on Christmas, the heat is turned up on the internet retailers to maximise sales during the peak period around Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Black Friday is the day after the USA Thanksgiving day and many non-retail workers are given the day off, kickstarting the Christmas shopping season. Traditionally in the USA, retailers put on special promotions and offers to entice shoppers into their stores. Cyber Monday is the Monday following Thanksgiving weekend, encouraging non-retail workers to stay in holiday shopping mode on their first day back at work. More than 50% of all online sales during Cyber Monday are done on work computers in the USA. In the UK, Cyber Monday happens to be the busiest online retail day of the year and the term has been adopted in recognition. As retailers like Amazon continue to use courier companies instead of Royal Mail in the UK, they are not restricted by early December deadlines when sending packages in time for Christmas. This has prompted many online retailers to extend Black Friday to an all week event dubbed Black Friday Week, spanning from the Monday before to the Sunday after. And some retailers have imaginatively extended Cyber Monday to Cyber Monday Week.
With the aim of driving as much traffic as possible to their retail sites, Social media channels have been a battleground to catch people’s attention and awareness during these busy periods. With a focus on Facebook, we have taken a look at the biggest online UK retailer, Amazon UK, which accounts for more than 40% of all retail visits for UK consumers. We have also looked at Argos, which is listed as the 3rd most popular online store behind Apple1, and the former online superstar Play.com, which is now the 10th most visited online store in the UK. We’ve also included the world’s largest online store Amazon global which is also the 5th most visited online store in the UK.
Facebook stats and apps
With a wide array of information already available on their retail sites, we had a look at what the e-commerce stores offered on their Facebook pages.
Amazon UK has a large page-like base of over 2.9 million people. In the apps section, they offer photo and video content, locations of “Amazon Lockers” where buyers can pick up deliveries in London and links to different Amazon websites. Unfortunately, the locations app is not well thought out and is not very user friendly. The app title doesn’t explain what locations it is going to serve either. Their community guidelines are a little dated and in the old pre-timeline Facebook format. There is also a customer service app which we will explore in the customer service section later.
Argos has just over half a million page likes which is good for a UK Facebook page. In the apps section, they offer photo and video content. Argos have a locations app which defaults to their physical London stores but it is not very user friendly. There is no postcode or town search functionality in the location app. There is a careers app in pre-timeline format but it feels really clunky with only four jobs displayed at any one time. It is a good idea, but there is obviously no focus on this app as it is not one of the top four displayed apps. The event app has not been used in 2012 making it a pointless inclusion. The featured app is a “like gated” competition to win a tablet computer which is very straight forward to use. The biggest omission here, that the other retailers have, is a customer service app. The notes app is used a lot but not many users have actually looked at it which makes it a less significant inclusion in the apps list.
Play.com have almost 400k page likes which is quite good for a UK Facebook page. The photo and video apps offer varied audio visual content. There is a newsletter and a charity app which are both in the pre-timeline format and consist simply of static images with a link that takes the user out of Facebook. Oddly, there are two “like gated” competition apps that serve the same competitions. Scroll further down to have a look at the customer service app.
Amazon global has a very large page-like count from over 14 million Facebook users. There is a photos app and a customer support and community guidelines app that are pretty much the same as the UK page. The locations app is equally hard to navigate and not very useful for most people. The careers app is a truly horrendous, nightmare user experience. It has to be one of the worst Facebook apps ever made. It is very clunky to use! The events app (which is the most featured app on Amazon Global) has only been used four times in the last three years.
Customer service apps
Amazon UK link out all of their most popular questions to their help pages on the Amazon.co.uk website. There is no functionality to search for questions or display answers on the Facebook app natively.
Most engaged posts during Black Friday and Cyber Monday
Amazon UK’s most popular post focused on a competition around Black Friday. Generally, Amazon UK post informational updates with a wide mix of content. The product linked status updates don’t get much engagement from people who liked their page.
Argos had by far the lowest engagement rate for their most popular post. It was also their largest and most expensive giveaway. Generally, content on the page is varied and lacking cohesion. Their most popular series has centered on a charitable Toy exchange but engagement levels have been consistently very poor.
Play.com usually have average engagement levels on their Facebook page, but this post giving away 250 hoodies caused a stir. Engagement is always highest around their giveaways and competitions. Beyond these perks, there is not much reason to be a fan of the page.
Amazon Global have fairly poor engagement ratios for the very large page like size. The content is very focused on current deals on their website. Discounts on less inspirational products suffer form low engagement and cool or inspiring products get shared around a lot and very quickly.
Amazon UK have chosen not to manage their Facebook community in any way, paving the route for disgruntled customers and activists to takeover their Facebook page with negative comments.
Argos are very selective with responding to questions and comments. They have held Q&A sessions on very narrow subject areas like which tablet to buy for Christmas for a very short duration of 45 minutes. There is obviously a lot of potential for interactivity for Argos.
More focused content equals more traffic to buy
The apps that the retailers chose to create, build and display for use were generally poor, outdated and an obvious afterthought. Functionality like the Amazon location app were simply horrible and offered nothing new or additional to what was already on offer on their website.
All the retailers lack a killer customer service app on their Facebook pages, opting instead to omit customer service from their apps. They only respond to a selection of frequently asked questions or link out to their websites. Simple additions like a call back button, Skype integration, video chat or any form of live chat would probably draw welcome attention and traffic to their Facebook page and therefore raise awareness of the brand which in turn aids traffic to their e-commerce platforms. Engagement appears to be experimental or non existent for the retailers and could be improved dramatically. Happy customers equal more loyal customers and would have a higher propensity to buy from their chosen retailer in future.
Amazon UK have a lack of focus with their content which results in very inconsistent engagement levels. There appears to be a lack of strategy when it comes to tone of voice and, as previously mentioned in this post, there is a real lack of community management. As Amazon UK have been in the news a lot recently about questionable tax management, activists have effectively spammed their Facebook page. A clear escalation policy and a clear tone of voice would help Amazon UK go a lot further. Extending their call back service from their website to their Facebook page would help win over disgruntled buyers.
Argos does not appear to have as much price movement on their products as the other retailers. As such, there aren’t many deals on offer and not much going on with competitions vouchers or giveaways compared with the other outlets. This has resulted in a real mixed bag of content and messaging. An absence of answering customer queries shows that Argos has not synced up their customer service communications with their marketing department yet. They will surely benefit when they do.
Play.com have an over-reliance on using competitions to attract an audience. I find the use of “like gating” to be a terrible user experience. This would help explain their relatively low engagement ratio with Facebook posts as people are initially attracted to the page to win something, like the page, enter the competition and never come back ever again. Play need more than just a simple competition and sales strategy and actually look at the communications strategy. This will help boost their dwindling traffic rankings.
Amazon Global have very focused messaging with deals firmly centred in their Facebook communications strategy. Whether it is a discount, a coupon or information that a sale will happen in the future, people who have liked the page know that if they come back to the Amazon Global page, they will find a deal. For many companies, this would be a horrible communications strategy, but in this case, it’s on brand. The other part of what Amazon is well known for is customer service and that is where their Facebook presence could benefit greatly. A human presence to politely answer queries and problems along with a proper help app would give them even more page likes than they currently have.
To wrap up, it’s very important for e-commerce sites to remember that the customer facing element is part of the success of driving repeat sales and creating brand loyalty. Social media channels offer the most human digital format for companies to engage with their consumers. Retail brands need to start building in Social strategy into their overall communications strategy, working for customer service as well as marketing. If retailers want to recruit via Social media, then the platform should be user friendly and robust enough to maximise the likelihood that the best people will apply. Once retailers connect the human element with the unbeatable deals, they will really be a force to be reckoned with.