Why “shopability” makes the crucial difference on Black Friday and Cyber Monday

How “shopability” is the key to getting it right this Black Friday and Cyber Monday weekend

Neilson Hall, Head of eCommerce EMEA, Reprise

As we head to the key festive eCommerce sales period – and one which poses some new and unprecedented challenges – there’s a fundamental mindset that retailers need to have in mind when it comes to optimising their Black Friday and Cyber Week strategies.

At a time when CPCs are driven up by aggressive advertising strategies, combined with big discounting and consumer expectations, Black Friday and the ensuing weeks can create big headaches for retailers as they look to preserve both customer margin and lifetime value. But as consumers clamour for those big-ticket discounts, the concept of “shopability” could be the key to ensuring that retailers take the right approach with their festive promotions.


The concept of “shopability” is about ensuring that we are optimising the necessary signposts and touchpoints to make it easier for our consumers to find and purchase our products.

When we talk about shopability in the context of the traditional ‘bricks and mortar’ retail store, we’re typically starting with very visual and obvious cues that are clearly there to drive the consumer to purchase. The signage, the product displays, the demonstrations, the positioning of products, the availability and behaviour of the staff and the psychology that goes into the whole in-store layout and experience and how products look on the shelf; all factors that are very obviously and carefully designed to make the right products stand out, allow the customer to engage with the products, and make it easy for the consumer to buy.

When it comes to those same products on the digital shelf, the dynamics are somewhat different. Whilst web presences, like the in-store experience, are carefully designed and crafted to facilitate purchase, consumers in the digital environment are much less captive; they behave very differently, their expectations are different and, perhaps most crucially, they’re much more price conscious.

And it’s those dynamics that makes eCommerce such a difficult environment to be in, particularly as we enter those core sales periods where competition intensifies, and consumers expect big discounts. Sales periods like Black Friday and Cyber Week tend to allow discussions around price to dominate the conversation, whilst attributes like brand provenance, quality and sustainability struggle to be heard. That type of discourse is what makes eCommerce such a difficult sector to operate in. It’s a discourse that has an upwards pressure on cost-per-click and cost-per-acquisition, whilst at the same time, putting a downwards pressure on margin and customer lifetime value.

Shopability is one way for retailers to, if not change that discourse and narrative, at the very least try to engage customers without engaging in that melee of advertisers who find themselves spending more on ads to attract consumers who are worth less.

Standing out from a crowd of discounters

Just like in the physical retail stores, digital shopability is about ensuring that we are optimising those important touchpoints to make it easier for our consumers to find and purchase our products, and to make what we offer stand out on the ‘digital’ shelf. The aim is to deliver that optimal customer experience, using media and content to engage the right audiences and to eliminate customer friction. In doing this, we enhance the performance of our media buying, we attract and hold the attention of our audiences and we make it easier for them to convert throughout that customer journey.

Because when we may ordinarily only have a few lines of text and some keywords to really ‘stand out’ on that digital shelf, it becomes a lot more difficult to get your messages across. That makes brand elevation so much more of a challenge and as a result, price and discounting comes in to fill the void as that big, differentiating factor.

One of the ways to combat this is to map out the eCommerce system for your brands and products to visualise and work out which products and parts of the experience are “shopable” (ie, where it is very easy for consumers to engage and buy) and which products and part of the experience aren’t shopable (where there may be friction that prevents a consumer from converting). And in mapping out that eCommerce system, you’re taking into account factors such as product availability, trading patterns and logistics and once that is in place, it allows us to understand how those factors can influence profitability, and how we can use and optimise the different consumer touchpoints for the products that we are trying to push.

So even though the consumer may not be able to go into store and ask an assistant for advice or a recommendation, we can use content to alleviate that friction. Even though a consumer might not be able to have that sensory experience of touching and holding the product in their hands, we can try to replicate that experience by building unboxing video content into our media plan. We can use content to try and inspire our audiences around what the product can do for them. These are all important touchpoints, and this process is about ensuring that we make them all as shopable as possible; not so much that the content becomes aggressively sales-focused, but so that it helps to guide the consumer through that customer journey.

This makes our content activity and our media activity so much more effective and, crucially, it moves the conversation away from price, and towards more of a brand-led narrative.

Shopability is a long game

That notion of shopability is incredibly important in ensuring that your brand doesn’t end up on a treadmill of discounting that can be notoriously difficult to stop, especially around these heavy discounting events.

Whilst Black Friday and Cyber week has become something of a short-term surge of consumer spending, it’s important to find a way to capitalise on that peak in activity without exposing a brand to the sorts of cost pressures that this period brings.

That means thinking about how you can engage with that customer over various points in time, not just during that promotional frenzy. What we want to see more eCommerce brands doing is to take more of a long-term approach, keeping their audiences ‘in market’ for longer, keeping them interested in the products, using their data and insight to personalise the messages that they are delivering, and being much more tactical about the promotions they do deploy.

When brands take that approach, they start to see how that shopability mindset can underpin much more effective eCommerce tactics and deliver much greater customer lifetime value.