Black Friday: The devil’s in the details

The peak season is a pivotal time for retailers, offering a golden opportunity to maximise sales and create lasting customer impressions. However, success during this period requires meticulous planning and flawless execution, says Gekko’s Rupert Cook…

Peak season is upon us. With Black Friday just around the corner and Christmas not far behind! Being unprepared in retail at this time can lead to missed opportunities and dissatisfied customers; so, to ensure a successful peak season, retailers need to lay the groundwork well in advance.

With the rising cost of living, high inflation, closing stores and staffing difficulties creating a challenging time for all in the sector, retailers should adopt a strategic approach to ensure a successful golden quarter. By focusing on adaptability, customer engagement and operational efficiency, they will be able to cut-through and compete at a time when consumers are cutting back.

Retailers should start planning and preparing well in advance. This includes pricing, promotions, staffing, marketing campaigns, and any necessary operational adjustments, which could include digital transformations or building supply chain resilience.

First and foremost, embracing an omni-channel approach that seamlessly integrates online and offline shopping experiences is an important foundation. By providing customers with the flexibility to research, purchase, and receive products through various channels, helps ensure a cohesive and convenient shopping journey. This needs to be a long-term strategy rather than a quick fix – but in doing so provides a platform for attracting, converting and retaining customers.

Investing in technology will, of course, play its part in enhancing the online shopping experience and could be a massive boon for retailers, especially if the improved website functionality or optimised mobile responsiveness can be used to create that seamless omni-channel experience that we’re seeking. And new tech can expand this even further by providing AI-powered assistance, virtual try-on functionality or even AR options to help consumers visualise products in their own home.

Offering targeted promotions and discounts to incentivise purchases during the golden quarter is a tried and tested way to bring in business, but it is important to know when to and when not to embark on discounting! Retailers could consider bundling products, providing exclusive deals, and utilising loyalty programs to encourage repeat business instead. However, these deals could increase demand, so it is important to plan and have a strong, stable supply chain in place to mitigate disruptions.

Supply chain resilience is vital in ensuring retailers have the products to sell and meet customer demands, so where possible, consider diversifying your suppliers.

For retailers offering online sales, much consideration will have gone into their delivery and returns policy. But as we head towards peak, does it need to adapt? Were there any lessons from last year?

Offering free returns is important for many shoppers, so could give you the edge over your competitors but dealing with the rise in orders presents many challenges, putting a strain on customer service teams. Whatever the approach, it needs to be clear to customers and streamlined to provide a smooth and integrated returns process.

When it comes to customer service, it is critical to equip staff with the necessary skills to provide excellent service, whether in-store or online. Empower sales advisors to impress shoppers with their knowledge, advice and recommendations. Indeed, looking after your team and ensuring that staff feel fulfilled at work will not only help with retention but assist in making their interactions with shoppers all the more positive, enhancing the customer journey and hopefully encouraging repeat business.

Finally, retailers should also look to see what support is on offer from their suppliers. Brands are often eager to assist with product training, promotions or supplementary brand ambassador staffing knowing it will help drive sales of their products – but also helping you in the process.

Consumers are certainly going to have plenty of choice as to where to spend their cash this Black Friday, and retailers will have to do all they can to make sure they stand out from the crowd. Engaging marketing, whether it be store representatives, training or merchandising activities, can ensure that the consumer knows who you are and why they should be choosing your products. Once that is achieved then loyalty and success will follow, and not just for Christmas!