Black Friday’s Demise Transforms Shopping Experience Beyond the Holidays

Black Friday, as we have known it for decades, is the most impersonal, inconvenient shopping experience ever invented. With this holiday season’s in-person shopping prospects disrupted by pandemic risks, high-performing retailers are shifting to personalized digital commerce strategies that provide consumers with a seamless, holistic shopping experience. In other words, the antithesis of yesteryear’s Black Friday shopping norms.

According to IDC researchers, 65 percent of organizations will move to digital first through automated operations and contact-less experiences as physical interactions become an amenity of the past. Translated to the retail industry, timed product discount windows will not be enough to secure customer loyalty that turns into sufficient profits this season or after. Customer loyalty now comes down to understanding and managing the entire shopping experience, from the moment someone hears about a product, researches their choices, navigates the company’s website, and makes a purchase decision.

Connected Data Changes Customer Experience

While IDC surveys found that people are increasingly using self-service technology, what’s happening behind the scenes – from retail product sourcing through sales – is also driving shopping experience transformation. When a consumer purchases a product online, surveys and other feedback loops at any time can capture their experience, including satisfaction levels with the buying process, shipping and delivery, the product itself, and follow-up services. Bringing this data into the rest of the company, such as product development, supply chain, and marketing, transforms the relationship between customer and retailer in ways that last long after the crush of any Black Friday sale.

“Companies are becoming intelligent enterprises that are able to listen, understand, and act on what customers are experiencing,” said Francesco Rovico, senior business enterprise consultant at SAP. “By connecting customer experience X-data with operational O-data, retailers can differentiate by delivering more personalized shopping experiences to consumers for brand loyalty and revenue growth.”

Turning Data Into Targeted Offers

This transformed shopping experience upends a slew of Black Friday traditions, such as rushing into stores at midnight only to find the shelves devoid of the specially priced product we coveted. In fact, the point of understanding the customer experience and connecting data company-wide is to prevent supply chain shortages.

For example, retailers could collect and analyze consumer sentiment about purchasing an advertised product by incentivizing them with discounts to take a survey. When the consumer responds to the survey by scanning a QR code, retailers can securely capture their personal data from social media or sign-up information on the company website. Getting the answers to questions like whether or not someone was interested in a product – or if a discount would be valuable – and combining that data with inventory and supply chain data in SAP S/4HANA could allow retailers to better stock products aligned with projected customer demands. It can also help retailers personalize offers.

SAP Marketing Cloud allows retailers to analyze information from anywhere the consumer interaction takes place, including social media, the company website, texts, email, or even a support center phone call,” Rovico said. “Taken together, this data provides a demographic profile of the consumer that the retailer can use to dynamically create targeted promotions, down to the ‘segment of one.’”

From Social Influencers to Sales

Of course, the end of Black Friday also means customers can shop on their laptops, track their product shipments on their mobile devices, and return items by dialing into a call center. Retailers need to connect data from all these different places in order to deliver a satisfying shopping experience.

Consider social influencers, who share videos of products and explain how they are used. Viewer comments are a gold mine of information if retailers apply artificial intelligence (AI) to analyze consumer sentiment data and combine it with go-to-market strategies such as pricing and promotions.

“After watching a social influencer video, someone might post a comment that they like a product, but it’s too expensive,” Rovico said. “Using SAP Marketing Cloud and SAP Service Cloud, retailers can connect customer sentiment analysis from different social channels with data stored in SAP Customer Data Platform, combine them with the experience data from previous interactions and create personalized campaigns with SAP Marketing Cloud to help increase sales – maybe offering that consumer lower-priced, but comparable products.”

Experience Management is Here to Stay

There is no reason why retailers could not incorporate customer experience management strategies into everyday shopping. Suppose a customer leaves without emptying their virtual shopping cart but they have previously purchased a certain number of products. Retailers could automatically text or email a discount coupon with the most appropriate offer based on that consumer’s continuously updated profile to bring them back and even refer a friend.

Retailers can also collect feedback about the consumer’s experience at any point of the return process – whether by phone, text, chat, or online survey – triggering personalized discounts on related items. Using this information, retailers can better understand a customer’s likelihood to purchase a product and act on that feedback in near real time. And when in-person shopping returns, retailers will also need to bring that data into everything else they understand about their customer.

As for Black Friday’s demise this year, I have never viewed waiting in cold parking lots in the middle of the night or struggling to get through unruly crowds as shopping amenities. My holiday wish is that experience management moves from seasonal trend to shopping mainstay.

Follow me: @smgaler
This article originally appeared on SAP BrandVoice on Forbes.