black friday guide for retail

The Survivor’s Guide to Black Friday Sales

Friday the 13th is only the second most nerve-wracking Friday of the year. Black Friday — the name of which itself has become synonymous with chaos and disorderly queues — easily takes the cake.

But the thing about this exploding traffic? It brings in revenue. In 2016, Black Friday sales totaled $3.34 billion spent online — a 21.6% increase, compared to the year before.

Black Friday isn’t the type of holiday you can go in blind, though. That’s why we’ve prepared this definitive guide to Black Friday for retail owners, with quick tips to help you plan for this extreme shopping season.

To make this guide easier to digest, we’ve broken down all the quick tips into four distinct categories. Feel free to jump to any section you’re interested in:

  1. Store — how to prepare you location for high footfall and minimize hazards.
  2. Staff — who to hire, how to train, and which pitfalls to avoid.
  3. Marketing — social media, influencers, giveaways and other ways to spark the interest.
  4. Online shopping — how to take full advantage of online purchases.

Once you’ve looked through all our Black Friday tips, we’ll be glad to help you handle the heaviest customer footfall of the year!

Black Friday 2017

black friday 2017

First things first, when can you expect Black Friday? Is it a fixed date, or do we need to consult the calendar each year?

Black Friday as a term was first coined in the early 1950s and describes pre-Christmas shopping frenzy. Black Friday falls on the day after Thanksgiving Day, or the fourth Thursday of November.

Which means that this year, Black Friday kicks off in November 24, 2017.

To make matters simpler, you can add the Black Friday event to your Google Calendar thanks to our Retail Holiday Calendar 2017.

When to Start Preparing

As a matter of fact, it’s never too early to start preparing for Black Friday. Key retail players like Walmart, Best Buy and Target start advertising in the first half of November, two or three weeks in advance.

You may think that this is enough, but those are big retail chains we’re talking about, with thousands of employees. If you are an owner of a more modest business, perhaps you need more time to properly prepare for Black Friday sales.

It’s not just about making preparations at your location. There’s a lot of things that go into it: marketing, staff scheduling, website maintenance, etc.

So to answer the question “When to start preparing for Black Friday?” — as soon as possible. Which is why we publish this guide on November 1, 2017.

(You’re welcome!)

Prepare Your Store for Black Friday

prepare business for black friday

Ever seen one of those Black Friday videos where masses of customers storm the gate and cause chaos around them? You probably see these images in your nightmares.

Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered! Let’s make sure your store can handle the ticking bomb that is Black Friday.

Stock up on Products

Before Black Friday frenzy hits your brick-and-mortar store, check what you have in stock and order more products if necessary. (And trust us, it is always necessary.)

But that’s logical, right? You’ve probably have it all figured out already.

But what about sales inventory? Do you have enough shopping bags, receipt tape, and gift boxes? If you offer online shopping, you also need to stock up on packing and shipping materials.

Safety Concerns

It goes without saying that shoppers, especially Black Friday shoppers, need more space to move around. Lack of accessible pathways leads to dangerous situations.

Although we’ve said you need to stock up on products, don’t stack them too high. Your aisles need to be easily navigable, even for people with special needs.

Keep dangerous equipment — such as razors, box cutters, scissors, etc. — away from your customers. You don’t want any of your visitors to hurt themselves in the resulting chaos.

Crowd Control

Maintaining queues is like maintaining a relationship — it’s all about communication.

If you want to avoid the usual queuing pitfalls, be sure to embrace technology this Black Friday. Having a proper queue management system implemented in your store is the surest way to manage high footfall and keep your customers satisfied.

Otherwise, you risk scaring your potential visitors off with long wait times and unimaginably large queues. People tend to avoid stressful situations, so you have to do your damnedest to make your customers feel at peace when browsing your store.

Also, the quicker you serve your customers, the more you can serve. That’s the secret to great Black Friday sales — make buying easy and fast. So don’t be shy and get to updating your customer queuing strategy.

Encourage Impulse Purchases

Black Friday is a good time to take advantage of in-store merchandising. When customers lay siege to your shelves, they’re bound to notice — and purchase — some products they may not have been interested in otherwise.

You need to put your mind to it to pull it off, though. Impulse purchases don’t happen on their own. It’s more than just strategically placing products, you need to understand customer psychology.

Manage Your Staff on Black Friday

black friday employee plan

It goes without saying that there’s a lot of work on Black Friday — work that you simply cannot do alone. This calls for an all-hands-on-deck situation.

To make it easier to prepare yourself and your staff for Black Friday, we’ve come up with essential staffing tips. Let’s start from the very beginning.

Figure out Staff Schedule

Black Friday is a stressful period, and it takes a strong character to withstand the pressure. Be prepared for some of your employees to want to take time off around Black Friday.

And in case they do, be understanding.

Communicate the importance of this holiday period and if you’ve set benchmarks for your business, share them with everyone involved. Being on the same page in terms of Black Friday goals is how you create a feel-good working environment.

Last but not least, be clear with your overtime policies. It’s not uncommon for stores to stay open throughout the entire Black Friday to accommodate night-owl shoppers. If your employees are forced to stay late, provide reasonable compensation.

Hire Temporary Employees

Overstaffing is generally not a good idea, but in this case, every couple of extra hands can help you out. You can always fall back on family and friends — and if you do, be sure to reward them accordingly — but it’s better to have professional help on your side.

When hiring seasonal employees, be upfront about the reasons. Don’t try to dupe them into “doing a test period” and then letting them go once Black Friday ends.

Also, hire early. You’ll need some time to properly train your new hires. And speaking of…

Train Your Staff

We’re talking not only about new hires but also your regular staff. A well-trained team is a must on any given, but Black Friday calls for no less than the A-Team.

Make sure all employees are aware of what’s on sale and are able to inform customers. Staff at brick-and-mortar shops should also be familiar with all of the items in store, or in the store section they oversee.

Again, customer safety is paramount. As other shopping seasons, Black Friday is prone to thefts. Update and run your store’s security protocol through your staff.

In-store customer experiences rely heavily on the attitude of your employees. To better prepare them for every potential interaction, run through different scenarios. (At the very least, this can help you discover your inner actor.)

Marketing for Black Friday

black friday marketing

Don’t expect tides of people to flood into your store without you making any effort. Customers grew more picky by the day, and to attract their attention, you’ll have to roll up your sleeves and crank up your marketing.

Newsletter Marketing

If you want your customers to take note of incoming Black Friday sales, good ol’ newsletter is not a bad choice. It targets your existing clients, so you can better adapt your message to their needs.

Also, by sharing information with them ahead of all the other customers, you create a sense of exclusivity. Even something as simple as telling them of changed opening/closing hours can communicate your level of care and respect.

Social Media Marketing

Social media is more than just a hot commodity — it has become synonymous with modern marketing. So take full advantage of it!

Social media ads are one way of promoting your store and special offers. Be sure to have something that could catch your customers’ eyes. Simply stating that your business will be open for Black Friday won’t do.

Offer giveaways, contests and promotions. (We’ll get to that in a minute.)

You can market your store without spending a dime, too — by embracing the power of hashtags. #BlackFriday is one of the hashtags you should watch out for to attract potential customers and track what other retailers are doing.

Influencer Marketing

Paid brand evangelists is a more nuanced type of online marketing, but one that garners more and more following.

The gist of it influencer marketing is, you pay an online personality for spreading the word about your brand. This can come in the form of sponsored blog posts, banner ads on their websites, guest posts, or simply letting them share promo codes with their followers.

A word of warning: there is a difference between macro-influencers and micro-influencers. The former may have a larger audience, but the latter usually boast higher engagement.

Whoever you choose, make sure they’re the right influencer for your brand. Check whether their audience, aesthetic and attitude matches that of your brand.

Giveaways, Contests, Promotions

Want to incentivize your potential customers to turn into actual customers?

Plan out your giveaways, contests and special promotions. Needless to say, people already expect favorable deals on Black Friday. All you need to do is to give a sense of urgency to your sales.

“One-time deal”, “last-minute offer”, “limited quantity” — these are phrases that make us all salivate. A good brand needs to appear open-handed with its products.

But it’s not just about potential buyers. Special offers are also the way for you to engage your existing customers. By the by, this is how you improve your brand’s customer loyalty.

Online Shopping on Black Friday

black friday online sales

Going to an actual store on Black Friday is such a chore! That’s why more and more people are choosing to shop online, from the comfort of their home. At least one third of all sales are mobile sales.

Want to boost your sales? Invest in digital shopping!

Your Brand Website

You can no longer ignore your lack of online presence. Your business needs to have not only social media accounts but also its own shopping platform, stat!

Having a website can pay off in surprising ways, but be ready to sink hours into this venture. There is quite a number of pitfalls to account for.

For one, people are expecting no website failures on your end. Make sure your website can handle high-volume user traffic; otherwise, you may cause dissatisfaction and frustration in your customers.

If you provide online shopping, check whether the process is clear. You don’t want any of your customers to abandon a purchase because the layout of your website was too confusing to navigate.

One-click checkout is what customers are expecting of your webshop platform.

Mobile Shopping

Most of the online purchases on Black Friday take place on mobile devices, with the number of mobile shoppers increasing every year.

Mobile shopping sits atop two pillars: Browsing and Buying. In short, people use mobile devices to not only make purchases but also research products, compare prices and find alternative brands.

For mobile shopping to succeed, you need to, at the very least, invest in the mobile version of your website. Having a store app wouldn’t hurt, either. The ability to pay for items at a single touch is the perk that gives mobile shopping an edge.

Free Shipping or In-Store Pickup

Online shopping raises an interesting question for your brand: do you offer free shipping or in-store pickup?

In theory, free shipping is a logical way to go. For a majority of consumers, availability of free shipping is a deciding factor between different store locations.

You need to research whether free shipping is something feasible for your business, though. It can easily raise your profit, but it can just as easily cost you revenue if too many customers end up abusing the system.

One way out of this situation is to set a minimum order value eligible for free shipping. Calculate the costs and set the amount that agrees with your sales goals.

In-store pickup is another, albeit less popular, option for online purchases. Although customers need to be physically present to collect their items, they don’t have to wait as long.

Click-and-collect can also have a pleasant side effect on your profit. By entering your store to pick up their items, a customer can get tempted to buy something off your shelves — especially if this something is relevant to their purchased item.

It’s Not Over Yet: Cyber Monday

Think you’ve got everything figured out already? Be warned: Black Friday is always followed by Cyber Monday.

Cyber Monday is usually treated as an extension to the Black Friday weekend, and it’s an entire day of purely online deals and internet offers. This year, Cyber Monday falls on November 27.

But that is a story for another time.


Think you can handle Black Friday on your own? We’re sure you could use a helping hand. Sign up for a 14-day free trial, and surviving Black Friday will be a cinch.

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