Like Halloween before it, the UK is embracing the US phenomenon that is Black Friday. There is some bickering about which US owned retailer first brought the event to the UK, but it is clear that once a retailer like john Lewis are on board it becomes a moot point. The reality, if you speak to any of our team, is that the name might be new but the phenomenon has been around since salaries became the norm. You see it is merely the last pay day before December, where available pay and a pressing gift purchase (Christmas !) collide.
The offers in place for Black Friday have been planned into the retail strategy months ahead with many lines bought to sell at a great price as well as discounted standard lines. The margins will be lower than average but the traffic that Black Friday will generate more than compensates. As retail consultants though, we are also looking at the future sales opportunity which is there as long as the retailer can capitalise on it.
Yes, the lead message is price and that will attract traffic in the first place but once in store or online it will be how customer service is managed that will give the retailer the opportunity to maximise on future sales and get those customers coming back again to finish their Christmas shopping.
In store, customers need easily accessible stock: great marketing is wasted if the stock isn’t on the shop floor where customers can grab their bargain. And if grabbing is expected then get security staff positioned to avoid the headlines that Asda suffered last year.
Online, customers don’t want to be frustrated by slow performing websites due to heavy traffic and cumbersome checkout pages that crash. Nor do they want to get all the way to the checkout to discover the product they wanted is out of stock. The winners online will be those that have live stock positions, where the customer can see the virtual shelf is bare before wasting time adding the product to their basket.
Where online purchases meet in store service, at the click and collect point, extra staff hours need to be scheduled to easily process collections. The peak will hit between 24 and 48 hours after Black Friday and stores need to be ready to process all those extra orders. We have all experienced queues at collection points and the frustratingly slow and antiquated paper-based collection processes, but that is a whole other blog post.