3 essential tips for ensuring a successful Black Friday 2016

This time last year, retailers were gearing up for one of the most anticipated shopping events of the year: Black Friday. What followed was arguably the biggest indication as to the rise of eCommerce in recent memory, as shoppers forewent the infamous in-store ’crush’ in favor of grabbing deals online from the comfort of their own home.

Fast forward to 2016 and the growing popularity of eCommerce shows no signs of abating, with some retailers already making preparations for Black Friday, not in-store, but online. So what can physical retailers do differently this year to make sure that they aren’t left flat-footed after the dust settles on Black Friday and its digital counterpart, Cyber Monday?

Here are three key preparation strategies that can help retailers ensure they are agile enough to meet the needs of today’s shoppers during the peak promotional period:

Don’t let standards slip

With a flash sale, it can be easy to get swept up in a one-off purchase mentality. However, the lifetime value of a customer is far more important than securing a sale on Black Friday. In fact, given the discounted nature of Black Friday, subsequent sales will be more profitable.

Equally, just because deals are cut-price, doesn’t mean that customers’ expectations will drop during peak trading. The sheer volume of deals actually makes customers more discerning than ever, and issues with the ordering and/or purchasing process can impact not only whether they convert on the day, but their brand perception.

The huge volumes of business during times of peak trading can put systems under undue levels of stress. Websites can crash, order systems can fail, and supply chains can fail to match spikes in demand.

Appropriate investment in a scalable eCommerce solution will ensure that customers can always check out at their convenience and robust. Additionally, connected in-store technology will make sure that customers never leave frustrated, as an item that has sold out at the shelf edge can still be ordered if it is available somewhere else in the business.

Be prepared to stay agile

If last year’s behavioral shift taught savvy retailers anything, it was “always have a plan B”. Retailers shouldn’t bank on a single fulfilment channel delivering the bulk of their sales. Remember that modern shoppers don’t think in channels; they simply champion convenience.

Preparation can make a world of difference here. Whether streamlining the website checkout process or cutting down Black Friday waiting times by arming in-store staff with mobile point of sale devices, staying aware of customer behavior can help retailers better serve their customers, even with higher than usual traffic volumes.

However, there also needs to be flexibility within this plan, to account for the fact that consumer behavior is often unpredictable. Whether online or in-store, retailers must respond to shopper demand, and optimize their Black Friday experience at all times – however, whenever and wherever people choose to shop with them.

Offer the right incentives

As retailers may expect from such a large retail event, competition is fierce, so understanding shoppers is absolutely key for retailers that want to outsell their rivals on Black Friday.

Delving into data and loyalty programs can help get a better understanding of shopper behavior and make sure that retailers tailor offers to each customer to maximize their impact and incentive.

Remember that peak trading times are not only a great opportunity to win new customers with fantastic offers, but also to reward valuable customers with personalized deals that will definitely be of interest.

Whatever your hopes are for Black Friday 2016, I’d encourage you to plan meticulously, have a contingency plan and have the right retail technology in place to enable your business to remain agile in light of customers’ behavior. Good luck!

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