• Conversion Rate Optimisation

5th Nov 2015

7 min


Right now we may all be thinking about Movember, but what comes after Movember…that’s right…a roller-coaster of sale madness wrapped up into marketing parcels and labelled Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

“Should we test on Black Friday and Cyber Monday?” is a question we at PRWD have been hearing a lot recently, so I’ve decided to list some pros and cons on testing during one of the heaviest traffic days of the year – plus some extra activities that you could be doing alongside your current optimisation efforts.

Now this post assumes you’ve already prepared a bullet proof promo calendar with audience appropriate deals running seamlessly across multi-channel and cross device. If not, a quick Google search would provide what you need if you’re looking for help there.

This post is written from the perspective that you are running an optimisation roadmap and are currently questioning how you can ensure you both manage your existing tests through the turbulence of Christmas whilst also taking advantage of the increased traffic volumes.

Yes, you can test

Yes, you can A/B test on Black Friday

The number one attraction of running tests on days like Black Friday is that you’ll bucket all that additional traffic into A/B tests and those tests will reach statistical significance much quicker than you would in an ordinary retail period.

So what’s going to happen to your traffic over this period? To put simply, these are the changes you can expect:

  • Influx of new visitors
  • Conversion intent driven by availability and pricing
  • Increase in multi-line orders and cart size
  • Increased AOV due to more expensive seasonal purchases
  • Unexpected traffic sources i.e. Word of mouth

It’s easy to get excited about the influx of new visitors that will be landing on your site but it’s also important you are running the correct tests for these visitors. They’ll provide great insight around interaction and site architecture, but remember that they may not necessarily be your target audience. Learnings about their buying behaviour may not be relevant for the other 364 days of the year.

If we think about this logically, there are areas of your site that should remain stable throughout the promotional season – that is receiving increased volumes of traffic but from your expected target audience. If you can plan ahead you can still capture insights that will be valid if ran again in a not so turbulent season.

Top tips

  • Focus efforts on running tests outside of the primary purchase funnel

Increased traffic through a data capture form will enable you gather insight quickly and identify UX issues that are not necessarily related to purchase behaviours.

  • Test on segments such as returning visitors, previously purchased visitors and specific traffic sources

The learnings you take from these visitors will be more valid seeing as they have demonstrated they match your audience profile and the learnings will be valid if taken forward.

  • Capture a large enough volume of data to be able to segment

Increased seasonal traffic also means increased abnormalities and you’ll want to discount those from your results – or maybe learn from those separately through segmentation.

No, you shouldn’t test

No, it's not worth A/B testing on Black Friday

If we’re honest with ourselves, we haven’t been very accurate with our forecasting if we’re expecting sales peaks to not interfere with our conversion rate optimisation.

There’s going to be some less desirable changes over the sale season:

  • Increased bounce rate on landing pages
  • Reduced margin due to discounts
  • Reduced conversion rate to increased unqualified traffic
  • Unexpected tech issues due to increased traffic volumes
  • Crazy sale mentality that one simply can’t explain

As Black Friday and Cyber Monday traffic is primarily driven by price and availability, if your site has that one Star Wars figurine that no one else is selling, you really won’t need to do much work to capture that sale! So there is the question of whether your time is best spent trying to run predictions on unpredictable traffic, or whether it should be spent more intelligently.

It could make more sense to adapt your testing roadmap in the run up to Black Friday to ensure the site is well optimised in advance of the big event. Therefore providing a bullet proof experience online and increasing qualitative research offline throughout the turbulence of December.

Here are our top tips to ‘get optimal’ in advance of seasonal peaks

  • Utilise pre-tested templates

Make sure the page templates and element positioning is optimal before using as custom landing pages for your acquisition.

  • Identify your USP and communicate it well

The whole marketplace will be discounting, therefore communicate why the consumer should pick your discount over others.

  • Treat all promotions as a hypothesis

For each promotion ran over this period, have a process in place to gather all the data so that you can carry those learnings forward into the next years roadmap.

  • Get heat mapping software in place

Gather insight before and after the season peaks to gain insight into how hover and click behaviour changes when purchase intent changes.

What else you can be doing on Black Friday

Whether you decide to continue testing or not, there are many non-test activities that you can be doing to increase conversion – not that you’ll be sat around twiddling your thumbs on one of the biggest days of the year!

Here are a few suggestions from our experience as to how you can maximise potential insight and conversion optimisation across Black Friday and Cyber Monday:

  • Collect user insight from your call centre

Those guys are on the ground and will be the first to know if something is hindering your conversion. Plan a way of working with the customer service team that enables real time feedback.

  • Get your delivery proposition up to scratch, current and communicated well

Theming your delivery content with Black Friday/Cyber Monday graphics will give the visitor a sense of ease in that you’ve taken into account increased demand into your delivery promise.

  • Create fresh and engaging content for repeat visitors

Your target audience is likely to visit your site in the run down to Christmas so provide content that is engaging and makes your site look more like a shop window than a flat web page.

  • Optimise for the audience you expect to receive

Get your mobile game up to scratch as we expect to see a much greater volume of research browsing time spent on mobile than any other previous year.

  • Scarcity messaging is a must

Not just because it’s a powerful psychological trigger but stock levels are a primary consideration during sale peaks. Go to town and make sure the consumer is informed.

  • Capture customers for retargeting

Give all those new visitors a reason to return and capture their details for future opportunities. You could use Voice of Customer tools to get feedback on their user experience too which feeds nicely into your optimisation research.


With the recurrence of big ‘deal’ days such as Prime, Black Friday and Cyber Monday, we can at least plan our optimisation efforts in advance of these spikes in traffic.

If you have the traffic volumes required and feel you can utilise the data captured from testing during these periods then why not go ahead and learn as much as you can.

We would suggest that it’s also important to understand the traffic mix at these times of the year are very different and when running your analysis, make sure you either exclude or account for the changes in behaviour that affect your ongoing testing efforts.

Now there’s just the daunting task of Black Friday itself…

Ready for black friday

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