Ecommerce During
the Holiday Shopping Season

Getting ready for Black Friday and Cyber Monday

01Introduction

The Holiday Sales Season is just around the corner. When November comes, shoppers will head to online stores to buy gifts and take advantage of all the amazing deals. If you want to know what that means for your ecommerce website, we’re about to answer all your questions.

We took a long, hard look at the data from the previous year and the previous Sales Season. We studied over 1,400 ecommerce companies and the difficulties they faced.

Using this data, we are able to tell you what to expect, what kind of service levels will be expected of you and how to make this year’s Holiday Season a roaring success.

Let’s dig in!

02About the data

Before going straight to our findings, a couple words about the data. The data comes from 1,400 companies using live chat to contact customers. This comes to around 8.8 million customer service chats on ecommerce websites.

We’ve collected the data over the period of one year, from 01.01.15 to 12.31.15. The selected segment includes only ecommerce companies that had at least 30 chats with customers.

We’ll showcase metrics for two different periods: the Off-season (January – October) the Holiday Sales Season (November – December). We’ll also show how the metrics look like for the two hottest sales days of the year: Black Friday (11.27.15) and Cyber Monday (11.30.15).

03Key findings

Businesses can expect up to 120% more website visits on the busiest days of the Holiday Season.
Black Friday and Cyber Monday will see the biggest demand.
On average, you get 63% more visits.
This means that you have an extra 63% chances to make a sale in November-December.
Be ready to offer at least 30 minutes of additional service each day.
With the huge demand, you will need some overtime to answer more customers questions.
You should also consider getting more agents to man the stations.
This can be even up to 77% more agents necessary to handle the Cyber Monday traffic.
Bigger demand leads to slowers answers as agents may need up 10 seconds more to make a reply.
More cases and customers means that the speed of service will take a hit during the Holiday Season.
Each chat in November-December is also longer by an average of 1-1.5 minutes.
Agents need to handle more chats at once but the customers are also more motivated to make a purchase.
Customer satisfaction stays relatively the same at 86.4% during the Holiday Shopping Season.
All the extra traffic is no excuse for poor service.
On the busiest days like Cyber Monday, the average queue can increase up to a staggering 264%.
There’s still a lot of untapped potential as there are plenty of customers who wait for contact.
The number of tickets rises during the Holiday Season by around 67%.
Customers that don’t want to wait will be more eager to leave a ticket.
An ecommerce company can see around 25% increase in revenue in November-December.
There’s a lot of extra revenue to be earned if you can offer decent help to customers.

03.1Number of cases

Let’s see what kind of traffic you can expect. We all know that the Holiday Season brings in a lot of potential customers to retail locations as well as ecommerce websites. How big of an increase in traffic is it?

During the Holiday Season, ecommerce websites see 63.3% more website visits than usual.

When we look at the data for Black Friday and Cyber Monday, the difference is even bigger: 120.4% more visitors during Black Friday and 104.3% more website visits during Cyber Monday.

During the Holiday Season, ecommerce websites see 63.3% more website visits than usual.

On average, businesses get 2.3% more chats, which doesn’t seem like much. However, this metric is much higher for Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

The number of chats starts growing from the 1st of November and continues to do so until the Black Friday and Cyber Monday peak.

Online businesses get 63.5% more chances to sell via chat on Black Friday and a staggering 80.6% more on Cyber Monday.

After that, the number of chats falls, with a very sharp decline on Christmas. The trend will remain the same until the traffic comes back up in the week following Christmas when shoppers want to grab some discounts during the after-Holiday sales.

To sum up, the average conversion from a visit to chat falls during the Holiday Season, with around 0.31% visits ending with chats. It increases on Black Friday to 0.37%, and even more on Cyber Monday to 0.44%, but it’s still lower than the off-season average of 0.50%.

This suggests that businesses could get even more chats if they fully utilized all the extra traffic they get by setting up automatic chat greetings and making their chat more accessible.

03.2Answering the demand

How do ecommerce websites answer all the extra attention they are getting during the Holiday Season? Let’s take a look at chat availability and the number of customer service agents.

Agent availability during the Holiday Shopping Season

On average, businesses provide an additional 30 minutes of customer service during the Holiday Shopping Season.

A typical ecommerce website provides customer service for 6 hours and 24 minutes. The service hours are even longer for Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

On average, businesses provide an additional 30 minutes of customer service during the Holiday Shopping Season.

Ecommerce businesses offer customer service for an extra hour on Black Friday (6h 54min) and an extra one and a half hours on Cyber Monday (7h 26min).

To cover the extra hours and the increased numbers of visitors, ecommerce companies get 36.1% more agents on customer service duty during the Holiday Season. And the numbers are even higher for Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Number of agents during the Holiday Shopping Season
There are 53.3% more customer service agents working on Black Friday and 77.5% more on Cyber Monday.

Longer service hours and more agents manning the stations seems like a step towards more customers receiving quick help.

Expert
commentary

by Jeff Toister

Customer Service Expert,
Founder of Toister Performance Solutions

It’s too late to staff up with seasonal employees if you haven’t done it already.

It can take up to 12 weeks to hire and train a new support agent, and you don’t want to cut corners. Hiring the wrong people or giving them less training than they need will just amplify your customer service headaches.

So, what can you do instead?

One option is to designate some all hands time. This is when people from other departments help serve customers. Just make sure they have the appropriate training to do a good job!

Another suggestion is to set up a triage system. Get as many people as possible focused on real-time contacts like chat and phone so your queues don’t get out of hand. Consider designating an experienced agent to focus on solving more difficult, time-consuming problems so more agents can stay available. Hold daily or even twice-daily check-ins with key stakeholders to understand how support volumes are impacting your operations.

Finally, take time to provide your team with some extra recognition. They’re feeling the stress of the holidays at work along with the stress we all feel in our personal lives with shopping, writing cards, and family commitments. Try to help them maintain their holiday cheer so they can pass it along to your customers!

03.3Contact quality

Does the increased demand affect customer service quality in any way? Let’s check how long it takes to get a case sorted on chat during the Holiday Season.

It takes around 7 seconds longer to answer a chat for agents. This may not seem like much, but it’s a 12.2% increase when compared to the off-season.

Agents need an extra 10 seconds to answer chats on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Surprisingly, chats are also longer. Chats last a minute longer during the Holiday Season, and last 11 minutes and 10 seconds on average. Chat duration stays the same for Black Friday (11min 11sec) and is even longer for Cyber Monday (11min 23sec).

Chat length during the Holiday Shopping Season

How does this affect customer satisfaction?

Customer satisfaction stays more or less the same during the Holiday Season – it dips only by 0.7% to 86.48%.

Even during the busiest days, it falls only to 84.5% on Black Friday and 85.8% on Cyber Monday.

All in all, considering the time customers have to wait for a response, the time it takes to finish a case and the customer satisfaction, it seems that the extra demand doesn’t affect service quality in a meaningful way.

It’s worth noting that customers will have a bigger motivation to get an answer and are also aware of all other customers looking for deals during the Holiday Season, which explains why the dip in customer satisfaction is so small despite longer wait times.

03.4Missed opportunities

How well do online businesses utilize the Holiday Season? We’ll take a look at how many cases go unanswered.

Visitors in the chat queue during Holiday Shopping Season

On average, 56.5% more customers have to wait in a queue to chat with an agent. For Black Friday, the queue increases by 204.3%. Cyber Monday sees the biggest number of customers in queues with an increase of 264.9%.

Longer wait times mean that customers can get impatient and leave your website. Here’s some advice from Shep Hyken on how to deal with that:

Expert
commentary

by Shep Hyken

Customer Service Expert,
New York Times bestselling author

Shoppers will expect more information and they want it quicker.

For the customers, time is precious, so keep hold and wait times to a minimum. Technologies that can help are automatic call backs, chat bots for instant chat and self-help service options. YouTube videos are great for answering “how to” types of questions.

When it comes to your employees, proper training to prep them for the holidays will go a long way in building confidence and motivation.

Not all businesses use the queue to handle the extra contact requests. Some offer a contact form through which customers can create tickets for their cases.

The number of tickets grows by 66.9% during the Holiday Season.

The number of tickets is considerably higher on Black Friday (138.4% more tickets) and Cyber Monday (142.8% more tickets).

The number of tickets grows by 66.9% during the Holiday Season.

Considering the discrepancy between the queue and tickets numbers and the average conversion rates, we decided to look at another metric: chat coverage.

Chat coverage is the time agents spend chatting during the customer service hours. Since this metric falls by about 14.5% during the Holiday Season but rises by 4.6% on Black Friday and 16.8% on Cyber Monday, it seems that businesses should use their resources more efficiently on the hottest days instead of covering the whole two months equally.

03.5Ecommerce predictions

The untapped potential of the unanswered contact requests could have a huge impact on the bottom line of ecommerce companies. To find out how profitable the season is, we asked our customers what kind of revenue increase they are expecting.

During the Holiday Shopping Season, businesses will see a jump in revenue of around 25%.

This is the the most popular score we’ve seen but certain over-performers reach 5-7 times higher revenue as well.

An average business will see a 25% jump in revenue during the Holiday Season.

On the other side of the spectrum, we have a group of companies that don’t really sell any consumer goods related to the holidays, e.g. office equipment resellers. These companies are likely to see a slight slowdown and a potential decrease in revenue.

Consider this: if ecommerce businesses see a quarter more revenue during the Holiday Shopping Season, how big of an improvement it would be if they managed to handle the majority of cases and tickets in one touch? Decreasing the queue size and the number of tickets could lead to even bigger jump in the November-December revenue.

04Conclusions

There’s a lot of untapped potential in the Holiday Sales season.

Despite the best efforts of online businesses, a lot of customers have to wait in a queue or create a ticket during the busiest days like Black Friday or Cyber Monday.

Instead of focusing equally on the entire period, it might be better to throw some extra resources and manpower at the two busiest days when the demand for contact is the highest. This will be both Black Friday and Cyber Monday as well as the weekend in-between them, which sees even up to two times more traffic than a normal weekend does.

Customers still seem to be fairly satisfied with the received service. It stays at a level similar to the off-season despite longer wait times, slower responses and longer chats. Customers motivated by great deals will be more forgiving and won’t react with a poor grade even if they need to wait a bit longer.

It’s also worth extending the increased customer service coverage to the week right after Christmas. Many customers will be on a lookout for post-Holiday sales and discounts and you can expect quite a few chats from them.

05Things You Should Do to Prepare for the Holiday Season

Get more agents to help
Although throwing more people at a problem won’t always help, it can in the case of too many contact requests. More agents means more chats handled, less customers waiting in the queue or creating tickets, which leads to higher overall customer happiness. And the happier your customers are, the more they will buy!
All hands support
Since you need a fair bit of time to hire and train a new agent, it may be a good idea to have people from other departments help with customer service during the Holiday Shopping Season. A bit of customer service training and they should be able to handle the simplest cases.
Ramp up seasonal hiring
This one comes from Anthony Ramirez from Mixbook. One alternative way to get more people on board to help is to get a few seasonal hires. Here’s what Anthony has to say about that: “Every company has a sweet spot and target date when seasonal employees should be handling live issues. If you get them in too early, you could be blowing your budget. If you get them in too late, you could be in serious trouble as Black Friday and Cyber Monday come fast!”
Set up a triage system
The difficulty of questions you receive during the November-December period will stay relatively the same. The sheer number of them is the problem here. To maximize the number of questions you can handle, you can focus on those that you can solve within one touch. At the same time, you can designate a couple of more experienced agents to handle the most difficult cases. This will allow you to avoid clogging up the whole system by focusing on a few difficult cases while there are hundreds of easy questions waiting in the queue.
Offer extended service hours
You should offer longer-than-usual service hours for two reasons. First, you want to maximize the number of contact chances you get. Each contact can end with a sale so getting as many as possible seems logical. Second, customers who are scrambling to finish gift-buying will appreciate the extra effort as not everyone can do it during your normal service hours.
Close chats quickly (but without rushing)
Agents need to be aware of the time constraints. It would be great if we had all the time in the world to delight customers, during the Holiday Season there are ten more waiting in the line. It’s important to understand that and aim for a quick case resolution. Just make sure you’re not rushing your customers as it will have the opposite result.
Open up an extra, less-demanding channel
If you can’t handle the influx of chats or calls, how about going for channels that can take care of themselves? Going for self-service and setting up a knowledge base will allow you to take care of a lot of popular questions without involving any agents. It’s important that these resources are easy to find on your website. Agents can also use them as ‘shortcuts’ to avoid having to type in the same answer over and over.
Make sure your website can handle it
Performing a website stress-test might not be a bad idea, especially if you’re planning on offering really good deals. Having hundreds, or even thousands of customers trying to reach a particular page is great as long as it won’t crash your entire website. Talk to your IT team or consult a 3rd party service to make sure your website won’t go under the load of potential new customers. It’s also worth making sure that the deals, your orders processing and the general ecommerce UI of your shop works without a hitch. It would be a shame to lose all those potential customers to a stupid website mistake!
Remember to have some fun
Another piece of advice from Mixbooks’ Anthony Ramirez is something really easy to forget during this stressful period – have fun: “Be sure to budget for extra pizza and dinner parties for your holiday season. You can also create contests around positive customer surveys, and schedule adherence with prizes like movie tickets, gift cards, etc. The most beneficial thing you can do is publicly acknowledge positive interactions/feedback in front of the team. Even if you have a team in different parts of the world, you can do this with tools like HipChat, Slack, and or Google Hangouts.”
Get live chat on your website
Live chat allows yout to easily get in touch with multiple customers at the same time – a perfect tool for this busy period. Take advantage of a limited 20% off deal for your first LiveChat payment. Includes a free 30-day trial!

The Authors

Jacob Firuta, CSM at LiveChat

Jacob Firuta

Jacob writes reports, blog posts and other pieces of content to help businesses offer better support and sales services. You can check his latest articles on the LiveChat Blog and in the Resources section

  

Filip Jaskólski, Web Developer at LiveChat

Filip Jaskólski

Filip takes care of the technical side of preparing and publishing LiveChat content online. Whenever you see something new added to our website, there’s a good chance that Filip had something to do with it.

Julia Wójcik, Graphic Designer at LiveChat

Julia Wójcik

Julia Makes sure that everything we do looks really good. Sometimes that means creating an amazing graphic for one of our materials. At other times, this means smacking us for over complicating things.

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