The winter holidays should be a boon for online retailers. Thanksgiving and Christmas bring hordes of online shoppers onto the internet, and with the right strategy they could be persuaded to spend time on our sites. With the wrong strategy you could have a social media crisis on your hands.
If you're reading this then you managed to survive the shopping holidays of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Congratulations! The period following Thanksgiving has become an enormous marketing event that's continuing to increase in size each year, and not everyone emerges unscathed.
When it goes wrong
American department store Sears has been singled out for particular criticism for the way they conducted their Black Friday campaign. A miscoded online countdown clock, order cancellations, uninformed store staff, and a Facebook Page unprepared for a surge of complaints conspired to give shoppers a poor experience at one of the company's most important times of the year.
At every step of the story it's clear that there were good intentions and the potential for a successful campaign. A working countdown clock would have built excitement. The promise of great deals for the store's VIP members would have made membership valuable, had the company been able to deliver. Even the much-ridiculed social media response isn't entirely without merit.
The brand's effort to reply to everyone is admirable, but sending the same message to every customer, 'Romper Room' style, is impersonal and looks bad on the Page.
How could this have been avoided?
The event demonstrates how easily a good idea can become a social media crisis without a well organised approach. A strategy encompassing Sears' employees and representatives in each stage of the process, keeping everyone on the same page, could have made the campaign as successful as its planners had hoped.
With better communication and oversight of the campaign, mistakes like having a countdown clock count down to a different time in each time zone could have been avoided entirely or spotted and fixed before publication. Excitement about the most popular deals should have been noticed, allowing social media managers to manage expectations of stock levels. This information could have been shared with store staff to inform them of demand and enable to them to answer questions from customers intelligently. High interest in the Black Friday sale should have been anticipated, and extra resources allocated for the social media team to spend time preparing more varied standard responses, or to have more staff online to answer questions personally for the duration of the campaign.
Online shopping forces companies to conduct more of their business publicly and very visibly on their own sites and social network pages. Ten years ago the world wouldn't have known if you'd been inundated with phone calls and letters of complaint, but the medium of today's aggrieved customers is the product review sections on your site, the comments on your Facebook posts, and easily retweetable hashtags.
Black Friday vs Cyber Monday
Black Friday sales figures have increased by 8% in the last two years. In the same time Cyber Monday sales have increased by 41%! With so many of these sales being made online, surely more time and money has to be invested in the planning and management of online campaigns to keep up with the increasing number of people doing their holiday shopping online. Take a look at this infographic to see how online and social shopping are where it's at:
This infographic was conceptualized and brought to you by myhosting.com.
Christmas is terrifyingly close. If you're running an online campaign this Christmas, have you established lines of communication between all the departments involved? Has everyone been fully briefed? Is someone responsible for oversight and coordination? It's never too early to get the plans in place.