This article was originally posted in November 2014 and was updated in November 2016.
The largest shopping weekend of the year is just around the corner. There may be no Thanksgiving in the UK, but Black Friday is fast becoming a tradition thanks to the public appetite for discounts in the run-up to Christmas.
Such an important weekend in the retailer’s calendar requires extensive planning, often months in advance, but that does not mean you can sit back and wait for the crowds to arrive.
If you don't yet feel prepared for Black Friday, there are some last-minute steps you can take to make the most of the big day...
Hammer social media
If you have a reasonable following on social media sites such as Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, then use these tools to promote deals and generate publicity. If you are not already on these sites, then get involved! They are steadfast way to advertise deals and promote offers quickly - and directly at consumers.
You can post pictures on Instagram, for example, of discounted products - use high ticket value items such as televisions or iPads which not only look good, but appeal to a broad spectrum of customers. You can also list items you are selling in Facebook and Twitter posts, but try to interact with followers as well. Look out for people posting on your news feed and reply to those who are looking for certain products you have in stock.
The next few days in particular are crucial as the Black Friday buzz grows. Try to dedicate at least one hour a day to promoting your business on social media and reap the rewards on the 25th November.
Incorporate a ticketing system
The crowds of Black Friday can be a dangerous thing. As customers scramble to get the best deals there is always the possibility that someone could get hurt.
To counteract this problem many stores in the US have started using a ticketing system for those wanting the hottest deals. By handing tickets to those waiting in line outside the shop, not only limits overcrowding but helps temper customer satisfaction and allows your employees to keep track of stock.
Alternatively, spread your best deals out around the store to prevent a single area from becoming too busy.
Extend opening hours and increase staffing
The busiest day of the retail calendar often leads to shops becoming overcrowded, with heavy queueing. To maximise sales for Black Friday it is highly advisable to extend your opening hours. Open your doors bright and early and stay open through to midnight.
Increasing your opening times requires more staff and longer working hours. Offer overtime to employees to encourage them to cover those extra hours and make sure you are well staffed for the entire working day.
Look to spread the shifts of your more experienced workers throughout the course of the day to support staff who are less seasoned.
It is likely that some customers will become agitated and frustrated as they try to find the best bargains and as stock becomes more limited, so having someone on hand with experience to handle these situations is crucial in ensuring everything runs relatively smoothly.
Make sure you have enough of the right stock
Your offers and discounts for Black Friday are no doubt set in stone. Ensuring you have a healthy level of stock for the right product is key to attracting the most footfall.
Certain items (particularly technology) will be the big ticket attractions for customers so keep an eye on your competitors and see what their biggest promotions are and assess where you can take advantage. Use your stock management software to keep a close eye on stock levels.
When your staff are stretched their limits and your managers are trying to control in-store chaos, something is bound to go awry. You've pumped incredible amounts of resources into this single day, so you can't afford to let one minor in-store disaster derail the entire day.
Therefore, it's smart to have plans in place to resolve problems, such as:
- What happens if a key employee calls in sick one hour before their shift?
- How will you deal with customer disputes?
- What will you do if/when you run out of stock on important items?
When drawing up these plans, the most important thing to include is which staff member is responsible for each task. Employees need to be aware of their roles when something goes wrong. This'll speed up resolution and let you get back to normal as quickly as possible.
Last year, it seemed that Black Friday was perhaps more of an online phenomenon than an offline one. With consumers wising up to misleading Black Friday deals, this year it might be a little trickier to secure such a boost in trade.
However, there are undoubtedly huge opportunities for your retail business - if you play your cards right, you should make a handsome profit.
There are only a handful of days until Black Friday! It's time to make one final push and prepare for a chaotic, tough 24 hours - for which you'll surely reap the rewards!