Avoiding Eight Peak Period Pressures On Your Website

by Susanne Wraight, Head of UX Consultancy, RedEye

With peak periods for online retailers scattered throughout the year, fom Black Friday and January sales, to the relentless end-of-season sales, we know the bog rushes your website sees. Here I explain how you can prepare your website for peak period pressures without breaking a sweat.

The most difficult thing about improving UX for sale users is acknowledging that things can, and do, go wrong. In this article, I analyse what could go wrong, so you don’t have to. Read on for ideas on how to ensure you provide the best experience to your users, even when things get tough.

1. Be Honest! Explain Crashes And Errors To Minimise Frustration

So, something’s gone wrong – what do you do about it?

If you want your users to trust you, acknowledge that there has been an error and explain what they should do next. Leaving users to guess if the issue was their fault or yours is confusing, but honesty can win you some goodwill.

Provide your customers with a clear next step to reduce frustration and give them less chance to think about going elsewhere.

2. Tick Tock: Handle Your Wait Times Effectively

There might be a chance that your customers will have to queue to get what they want this year. How you handle this wait can make the experience much worse. Don’t break wait times into smaller increments as this can seem longer than one single wait.

Make the time the user may need to wait realistic – a shorter wait time than expected can be a pleasant surprise. If you must leave the user looking at a screen at least make it something appealing.

3. Be Obvious: Display Discounts So Savings Can Be Easily Understood

Many Black Friday purchases are items that customers wouldn’t buy at full price. Make sure your discounts are easy to see and understand throughout the user journey. Being clear about the discount increases user confidence and avoids those “should I be buying this?” thoughts.

Big percentage discounts are attention grabbing, but typically customers want to be sure of what they’re spending and saving without having to do the maths to work it out. My advice: show the eye-catching 50% off but also let users know what the full price and discounted price is.

4. Avoid Disappointment: Show Up-to-the-minute StockLevels

Things move fast during a sale, even more so on Black Friday, in the January sales, and during the seemingly ever frequent end-of-season sales!

Displaying up-to-the-minute stock levels avoids customers putting items in their basket that they then can’t buy. If this happens repeatedly your customer is not just leaving your site but they’re leaving with the feeling that you cheated them.

5. Create Urgency: Utilise Scarcity Messaging To Push Conversion

The flipside to up-to-the-minute stock levels is letting users know when products are close to selling out. Scarcity messaging encourages users to add to their basket but during a sales period it also needs to push users to buying the items they have added to their basket.

If adding to the basket doesn’t guarantee availability customers may be pushed to complete their purchase when they are told that the stock levels on their items drop.

6. Be Quick: Pare Back Content To Speed Up Loading Time

A fast website is essential during peak periods. Users know they have to be fast and expect the site to keep up with them.

Do you really need that all-singing-all-dancing homepage on Black Friday? Consider replacing it with a single banner homepage that loads fast and gets users into the sale as quickly as possible.

7. Transparency Is Key: Make Stacked Discounts Transparent

Discounting can get particularly tricky once your customer gets to the basket. Multi-buy offers, product discounts and site-wide deals can get stacked, making it hard for your customers to see what they’re actually saving. Grouping products by discount helps clarify multi-buy offers. Product discounts should be displayed for each product, not just as a “You’ve Saved” total.

However, site-wide percentage deals are best shown off the basket total. While most baskets won’t have multiple discounts, take some time to see what a worst-case scenario looks like to your customer and take what steps you can to clarify discounts as much as possible.

8. Be Realistic: Consider Your Live Chat Service

More customers during heavy sale periods like Black Friday, January sales, and end-of-season sales means more questions – is your live chat service up to the challenge?

If you can, consider increasing your live chat support for the busy period (take a look at last year for some indication of when your busiest times are during the day). If you can’t cover the number of live chat queries then it may be best to take it offline temporarily to avoid frustration.