Friday, 27 November 2015

How to Survive Black Friday

If you're starting to plan for Black Friday today, it's too late.  You've missed the boat.  Coming up with something off the hoof today is a sure-fire recipe for failure and here's why.

Black Friday isn't a one-off in that it's not going to be a panacea for a poor trading year.  Doing a blitz campaign a few days before will raise a modicum of interest but if it's not part of your annual marketing campaign and integrated into the rest of your trading plan it's ultimately worthless.  If you're participating in Black Friday with good effect it takes time to decide the best marketing approach, to research your customers and market segments, to determine what marketing channels you're going to use.  Having a solitary flash on your website doesn't constitute an effective and efficient marketing strategy.

Are your stock levels adequate?  Are your supply lines and distribution channels secure?  Have you chosen the correct items to be part of Black Friday?  Yes, there'll be the big ticket items such as sofas, TVs and white goods; what about smaller items?  Some outlets are offering greatly reduced cups of coffee for example.  There's the service industries too.  I've seen half-price membership of associations for today.  The latter is easier to manage, in that it doesn't require a physical transportation of goods but just because something is small, such as the cups of coffee, don't be fooled into thinking there's no need to consider your supply lines and distribution channels.  If you run out of coffee beans or paper cups, or the queues stretch around the corner because your staff can't cope with demand, you'll seriously damage your reputation.  If you're providing an on-line service, are the systems secure?  Can they cope with tens of thousands of people wanting to log-on to your website at the same time?  If you've not planned for all of this, your Black Friday offer will crash.

Customer expectations
It's always about managing customer expectations.  If the website crashes you've lost them not just for Black Friday; you've lost them for Christmas, New Year and Easter trading.  You'll remember the chaotic scenes from last year with mob frenzy as customers piled into the shopping centres.  Black Friday had been hyped to such a degree that it raised completely unrealistic expectations of what was available and how it could be obtained.  What's your strategy for managing expectations?  Of course, if this is something you've just thought about today, that won't be a problem because your customers won't know about your offers and won't have expectations.  In the case of the stores featured last year however the staff were overwhelmed.  Which leads us onto...

It has to be part of your larger strategy that you've anticipated the customer demand by carefully managing expectations, your stock levels are balanced against that demand, you've got the marketing right and now you need to ensure you have the correct staffing levels to effectively manage the buying process.  This equally applies to on-line trading.  Ensure they're adequately trained in customer care and managing crowds if it's a physical activity, and managing phone or internet queries if it's virtual.  It takes time to recruit additional staff and to train everyone.  You have a responsibility to ensure the safety of your staff and exposing them to mob frenzy with inadequate staffing levels or training isn't the best of moves.

What is your pricing policy?  Have you segmented your pricing appropriately?  If you run an incentive scheme, will this change for Black Friday?  Whatever policy you have it has to comply with the law so if you've said it's been sold for £x for x weeks previously, then make sure it has!  Be canny about your pricing.  If you've priced it too low and generate extreme levels of demand how is that going to affect your cash flow and profit margins?  A few years back a well known company got it spectacularly wrong and it nearly brought them to the brink of closure. 

Post Black Friday
It doesn't stop once Friday is over.  Inevitably there'll be customers who bought in extreme haste and will regret their purchases.  They'll want refunds, whether they're legally entitled to or not.  Keep your focus on after sales customer care and ensure your returns policy is water-tight.

And finally, the ultimate survival tactic is not to participate.  There's a recorded backlash this year with some shops closing down today, others are giving money to charity rather than offer discounts.  Some report that actually all it does is shift customer purchase from one part of the year to another, it doesn't actually add to their profit margin in the longer term.

And of course, there's Cyber Monday in just a couple of days!

For more ideas on how to manage your business go to

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