With the busiest shopping day of the year ahead of us, retailers’ preparation should be well underway. Craig Summers, UK Managing Director at Manhattan Associates shares his top tips for surviving Black Friday and beyond.
With only a few weeks until Black Friday, many retailers will have been planning their strategies for months. And with consumers last year spending £1.23 billion you can see why this one day has such an impact on a retailer’s calendar.
But as consumers become ever more digitally savvy and the influx of Generation Z consumers only set to boom, are retailers ready to provide a seamless, joined up service across every touch point. And we aren’t just talking look and feel, we are talking empowering the store associate with the same, if not more, information than the consumers themselves, preparing for a surge in click and collect orders and of course a flurry of returns that run all the way into January. But are retailers ready and what can they do to make sure they survive and thrive this Black Friday?
Don’t compromise on customer experience
Busy or not, associates still need to embark upon meaningful customer engagement. And every Store Associate needs to be armed with at least as much information as the customer – the days of leaving the customer alone, while the beleaguered associate goes back to the point of sale to painstakingly search for additional information, are long gone. Instead, mobile devices that provide fast access to key information including an up-to-date picture of available inventory, delivery options, latest offers, product reviews and comparisons, are all a minimum requirement, even on Black Friday. It is still more important than ever to embark upon a truly personal interaction.
Make use of the data available
In order to make the most of Black Friday and the Christmas period retailers should leverage all the data available to them. By making informed predictions and looking at data in real time – on what’s selling quickly, stock on hand, replenishment lead times, capacity of fulfilment partners to deliver, etc. – retailers will be able to make educated decisions about which of the products they include in the promotion and which products will be added at a later date or not at all.
Facebook revealed that there were 13.6 million interactions related to Black Friday on Facebook and Instagram last year, showing that social media is becoming an increasingly important channel for consumers to shop and find the best deals. And with the Gen Z and millennial audience ever present on social media, it is the perfect opportunity for retailers to tailor Black Friday deals for this digitally enabled audience.
Turn the dial on promotions
It is really important that retailers not only focus on the promotion aspect of Black Friday, but also ensure that the service they provide is consistent. The skill is balancing both aspects in order to make the sale and retain or gain a loyal customer. To do this, retailers can monitor the promotions and sales of products in real time and decide which products they want to offer with certain promotions. For example, they may choose to turn the promotion dial down by having a 15% discount and keeping their 24 hour delivery window for a product selling well, but turn the promotion dial up by offering a 30% discount and extending the delivery window to a maximum of 10 days for products that they know are not as popular. Retailers that can harness the data available to do this in real time will be able to better manage and take advantage of the possibilities of Black Friday.
Increase flexibility to maximise sales
Once the orders are flooding in and the promotions and delivery times have been agreed, retailers need to deploy a flexible approach to fulfilling orders. Rather than having all ecommerce orders shipped from the main DC, retailers could allocate store inventory for click-and-collect orders where possible, as well as ship items from the store if it means a customer can receive goods quicker and it’s cheaper to dispatch those goods from the store. Extending the role of the store to become a mini DC in addition to its traditional role as a sales outlet, speeds up fulfilment and drives sales whilst also reducing total cost. Retailers just need to ensure that stores are appropriately reconfigured and staffed as the store’s role evolves or customers will be left disappointed again.
Thinking about these additional things can ensure retailers will be able to handle the surge in demand during Black Friday and into peak without compromising on the customer experience. And as it is fast becoming one of the most important dates in the retail calendar, retailers must be prepared and ready to match their competition, not only on price but also on experience.
UK Managing Director