GSMA: How retailers can turn Black Friday web traffic in sales

By Ana Tavares

Love it or hate it, Black Friday is the main event in the American shopping calendar. The rush to the shops on the day after Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the Christmas present hunt and, with some outlets cutting prices by over 50%, people flock to their favorite on and offline stores to get the best bargains.

Despite this surge, many retailers still struggle to convert the immense amount of web traffic, caused by the hype of Black Friday discounts, into sales.

Although outlets have done their best to remove friction at checkout, many are still falling at the last hurdle – shoppers ditching their baskets just before making a payment. The rate of shopping cart abandonment reached an astounding 73.4% in 2016, according to research by Barilliance. In part, this increase has been driven by the growth of mobile browsing and shopping. Mobile phones have an even higher rate of shopping cart abandonment – 77%.  

Retailers are doubling down on their mobile strategy, but innovation is outpacing progress. When Facebook launched Chatbots last year it provided a fantastic new opportunity for brands to interact directly with consumers. The immediate challenge for retailers was how to turn those conversations into transactions. Enter PayPal, which recently announced it would become one of the first payment options for Facebook Messenger. 

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These new services are fundamentally changing the way we shop on our mobile phones. But the biggest problem for retailers still hasn’t been addressed. Consumers are looking for the most convenient journey from browsing to purchase – the route that takes them the least amount of time, with the minimal amount of hassle. To combat shopping cart abandonment during the biggest sales period of the year, retailers must ensure they are making every effort to provide that fast, smooth service shoppers crave.

In the US, each person has, on average, 130 online accounts. Filling in the same long, repetitive forms with personal details is time-consuming and frustrating, especially when using a mobile phone. Even when someone has already registered all their details with a website, remembering different username and password combinations presents its own challenges – 37% of consumers admit to forgetting a password at least once a week. It’s no wonder that so many impulse purchases end up being cancelled at the last minute.

What customers need is a new way to verify their identity. They need a simple, secure authentication service that makes it easier to log in and faster to check out.

These services exist today. For example, Mobile Connect from the GSMA uses already-verified information that the individual originally provided to their operator when signing up to their mobile phone contract, such as their passport number or proof of address. The service then simply asks the customer to input a PIN or biometric – like a fingerprint – on their registered mobile device. If everything matches, the service can instantly confirm to the retailer that the shopper is who they claim to be. The process takes seconds, and removes the need for customers to fill in lengthy forms, or remember reams of login information.

In the run-up to peak shopping periods, retailers must make sure they have the right services in place to cope with demand. Authentication is a key moment in the customer journey that can make or break a potential purchase. By using a method like mobile authentication, retailers can save themselves from the doom and gloom of abandoned seasonal shopping baskets.

Ana Tavares, Head of North America, GSMA


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