When the traditionally American phenomenon of Black Friday first appeared on the UK’s high street, stories about this new start to the Christmas season were all over the media. As well as the bargains to be had, there were numerous reports of huge queues around shops, mayhem as people scrambled for discount TVs and some rather less than festive scuffles among customers.
Hard to believe this was all only five years ago!
Today, Black Friday in the UK has eclipsed Boxing Day as the biggest shopping bonanza of the year. Love it or hate it, with the population spending around £2.5 billion on the day, Black Friday is an opportunity that no retailer can afford to miss out on!
The good news is that, as well as growing in size, Black Friday seems to be ‘growing up’. The chaos and carnage of those earlier years has all but disappeared and, in its place, we’re starting to see a much more sophisticated approach that fulfils the desired sales boost for retailers while also retaining a positive shopping experience for customers.
So, how has this transformation come about and what can you do to ensure success?
The simple answer is that it’s all down to preparation – making sure your Black Friday deals are suited to the scale of your business and that your systems, strategies and operational decisions can handle the rush.
With this year’s Black Friday taking place on 23rd November, here’s a few pointers to consider in the build-up.
Get in early
More often than not, by the time the actual day comes around, most Black Friday shoppers will already know where and when they can get the deal they’re after.
Use what you learnt about last year’s sales to select the products you’re going to offer, stock up and then be sure to get those sale pieces in front of your customers well in advance of the event itself. Use emails, social media, window displays, apps and messages at point of sale to create a hype.
Ask a retailer to name their worst Black Friday nightmare scenarios and we’d guess that a technical glitch at the till would feature high on that list.
While most modern-day POS systems are fast, efficient and robust enough to handle the Black Friday peak in trading, it never hurts to run a few checks.
Ahead of your promotion, why not give your EPOS partner a call to schedule some maintenance, tease out any performance issues you may have noticed or just to get another opinion on your POS strategy during Black Friday and into the holiday period.
Prepare your staff
Whether you’re running your Black Friday event as a single day or for a week or more (as some retailers are starting to do), coping with higher footfall has obvious implications for staffing levels.
Be sure to inform staff of their schedules well in advance, along with your expectations of them during this busy period – e.g. addressing areas such as the number and length of breaks, cover arrangements, security duties and performance-related rewards.
Another thing that can greatly affect your Black Friday performance is how well your staff have been prepped. They need to know what the deals are, how much discount is applied, what stock levels you have, whether there are item-per-person limits, whether any further reductions will be made and so on. Use your POS to store all this information so that every member of staff can access up-to-date data in real-time.
Make your store a ‘no chaos’ zone
As we mentioned earlier, many of your customers will research Black Friday deals long before they come into your store. They know what they want and so just want to find it quickly, pay up and leave.
It’s generally a good idea to position your sale offers near the front of your store or in a dedicated aisle, however, if you have a particularly ‘hot offer’ that you think will draw in the crowds, you might want to consider spreading that item around the store, thus avoiding a frenzy!
Other ‘no chaos’ techniques include limiting the numbers of people allowed into your store at any given time (e.g. using a one in, one out system); making sure your products are clearly labelled and that staff are available to help customers on the shop floor; and equipping staff with mobile POS tablets so that, as soon as they’re ready, customers can pay quickly and efficiently.
Play a game of spot the difference between the early and today’s Black Fridays, and the glaringly obvious answer would be the domination of online sales, hence the creation of Black Friday’s counterpart – ‘Cyber Monday’.
Using their smart-phone as a kind of shop window, the tech savvy customer is more likely to place their Black Friday or Cyber Monday order online, only visiting the store if they want to get a closer look at their chosen product first or to pick up an order via a click/ collect service.
To deal with this, retailers need to be sure that their EPOS, eCommerce and inventory management is fully integrated and there must be practical solutions to fulfilling orders and managing collections. One idea is to dedicate a specific POS to internet collections at the busiest times. This way, online buyers know exactly where to pick up their items and other customers are not affected by increased waiting times.
When this year’s Black Friday is all over, don’t forget to take whatever time you need to analyse your store’s performance. We know you’ll be in the thick of the Christmas season by then, but your smart POS can give you all the insights your need via accurate sales and stock reports, and putting in the effort now will ensure you’re halfway ready to tackle the planning again next year!
Contact us to find out more about how the Good Till’s POS system can support your Black Friday deals.