Roll back the clock a good fifty years and it’s likely that the term “Black Friday” would have been associated with the American stock market crash in 1869. However, since the 1960’s, in America, it has marked the unofficial start of the holiday shopping season.
Black Friday falls the day after the American Thanksgiving national holiday (the 4th Thursday in November) and each year more and more retailers recognise that it is a significant opportunity to boost their sales. In fact, it is now considered to be one of the biggest shopping days in the world alongside “Singles Day” in China, and the Saturday before Christmas, for those last minute buys from bricks-and-mortar stores.
While the UK does not celebrate Thanksgiving, over the last five years, Black Friday has grown in popularity, culminating in stampedes in some retailers in 2014, worse than the traditional Boxing Day sales. There was a shift in 2015 to curb this, especially by some of the larger retailers because of the dangers to the customers and some of the most shocking instore behaviour they have witnessed.
If your business is about to embark on a Black Friday 2016 campaign, here are a few strategies to ensure your event is successful:
1. When should you start to advertise your Black Friday deals?
Irrespective of your business’ reputation, unless you are very good at getting your promotional material seen, I recommend you advertise early and do your best to ensure your existing customers are aware of the campaign. It’s an ideal opportunity to create a very special “friends and family” offer with a discount code. This allows you to reap the benefit of customer loyalty plus the massive potential from social marketing. You’re already aware how much a good recommendation plays in a purchase, it’s virtually guaranteed.
You are competing with many huge names who are also targeting your customers, so it is essential to crank up your marketing engine, ensuring it is pumping out daily emails and posting on social media multiple times a day. Keep an eye on your analytics to maximize the timing of these marketing messages.
2. Check and double check your website capabilities
If your Black Friday sale takes place online, check that the website hosting package you have with your service provider will be able to cater for an increase in the level of traffic to your site. The last thing you need is for your website to crash because your site cannot cope with the spike in views and transactions.
Enhancements in smart phone / tablet technology and capability means more and more people are using their mobile devices to surf and make purchases from e-commerce sites online.
- How mobile friendly / mobile responsive is your website?
- Is your check out process via a mobile device easy to navigate?
According to the website portal Statasia, on Black Friday in 2015, ‘only 2.97 percent of mobile shopping sessions by U.S. online shoppers ended in a purchase’ and ’72 percent of all online shopping carts were abandoned before completing a transaction’ (this figure has increased year on year for the last 5 years).
So why do people abandon an online shopping cart? Here are few of the top reasons – could any of them be affecting your online sales?
- Expensive shipping charges
- Couldn’t find preferred payment option
- Concerns over transaction security
- No ‘guest’ check out option
- Payment process is not mobile-friendly
- Lack of customer support
While this may sound obvious, many stores work on a just in time policy with their suppliers rather than hold too much stock themselves. It’s always prudent to check and potentially lock down availability from your supplier chain to ensure they can meet potential demand and completed purchases from your website.
Shoppers are more impatient these days. Your ability to deliver on time is essential at times like this.
4. Follow up
In strategy number 2, I closed the section by mentioning the number of failed shopping cart transactions. If this event was to occur this year, do you have a backstop system? For any shopping cart transaction that failed, do you have an automated email to the proposed buyer setting up a second chance to complete the transaction by following a link?
Make buying simple for the shopper. If you add multiple steps they will walk away, so the message is to keep your system simple and as automated as possible.
For all completed purchases, this is your big chance to grow your customer base. Rather than think of each purchase as a one-time buyer, it’s much better to open the door to a frequent buyer that can be seen as a long term friend. Recognise that the back end sale can be significantly more profitable than the first sale. So, perhaps there may need to be an added incentive to capture the customer’s email address at the source. Amazon is excellent at recommending associated products when you have shown interest in just one product. McDonalds uses an up-sell policy by trying to add other products to your order or to get you to ‘go large’.
Your marketing engine must be primed to regularly keep in touch to ensure you retain their loyalty by visiting your store time and again.Is Your business Black Friday-ready? Check out these 7 strategies to help you check Click To Tweet
Off line sales are important too…
While this article has so far been geared to online sales, it’s important to recognise that offline or in-store purchases take place too.
5. Keep control
Having seen the ridiculous behavior of some shoppers, it’s important to recognise what panic-buying does to some people. Multiply this by the onset of a hoard of bargain hunters and it’s very easy for you to lose control. This is dangerous for shoppers and staff and should be avoided. Follow health and safety rules, complete the risk assessments. For example, how are you going to manage entry and exit points to ensure you control the number of shoppers in your store at any given time?
6. Speedy processing is essential
The key to a successful Black Friday weekend, is to ensure that buyers get what they want at the right time. Speed of purchases in your store allows the traffic to flow quickly. People will queue outside, but there is a breaking point.
How can you manage the queues?
People panic in queues because they are worried they won’t get what they want. Do you have the ability to have staff taking orders electronically outside so that goods are ready for them when they enter the store? Anything you do where you are thinking about your potential customer outside is going to be remembered. Is it possible for you to joint venture with a drinks provider so that your potential customers stay refreshed while waiting? Whilst it may seem a strange thing to do, it can go a long way to relieve any anxiety that may be building!
7. Staff training
At this time of year, stores expect to be busier and therefore gear up by taking on additional temporary staff. It’s imperative that you supply the best training and keep their tasks relatively low, especially whilst they are getting up to speed. The last thing you need is a newbie handling a till and making a complete mess because they panic due to the sheer pressure. Ideally, you should double up on tills with one handling the transaction while another completes any packaging requirement.
Your entire focus should be on ensuring your customers’ experience with your business is a good one, while protecting your staff. Every little thing you do to make this happen will go a long way to ensuring the customer will return. While it’s great if they return for another Black Friday, your role is to ensure that they return time again. To do this, the store must try and capture customer details quickly, especially their email address, so that you have the ability to sell to them again. Perhaps, capturing this at the till, with the excuse of registering warranty will help. This way, you know exactly what they purchased, which in turn opens up the option to sell increased warranty, similar or essential extras in the back end sale.
With Black Friday just a few days away, you don’t have much time left to be ready. So my advice is to do what you can to give your existing and new customers a great experience. Focus on making the sale happen as easily as you can and make sure you have back up plans in the event technology cannot cope with the volume of transactions.
But be warned, get it wrong and a Black Friday sale could turn into a publicity nightmare. In 2010, Amazon was accused of putting up ‘fake’ deals and shoppers claimed the deals disappeared so quickly they were impossible to take up. In 2014, Tesco, experienced issues across a number of stores including:
- around 200 shoppers refusing to leave, despite being told that the stock had all gone.
- fights between shoppers
- a woman suffered minor injuries after being hit by a falling television.
- a man was arrested after threatening to hit a member of staff.
So if you don’t think your business has the ability to handle it, don’t do it!