Are you ready for Black Friday?

Overloaded websites, soaring customer numbers and delayed deliveries are just some of the challenges experienced last year on Black Friday. To avoid a repeat this year, Alan Watson, managing director of retail IT support specialists Barron McCann, gives retailers his suggestions for how they can make the most of Black Friday

Despite being just days away, the discussions about the effects of Black Friday continue to shape many discussions across the retail industry and there are mixed signals from some top names as to whether they even want to participate this year.

That said, with customers driving many of the current trends we see in retail, it is interesting to consider whether retailers really have much choice when it comes to providing Black Friday offers to their customers. I think it is safe to say that the majority feel that they need to embrace the initiative to remain competitive and favourable in the eyes of the customer.

So what can retailers do to benefit from the perks of Black Friday, but avoid the negative aspects? It is going to be a tough call and one that may take a few cycles to perfect. However, from a customer service and IT maintenance perspective, I would recommend the following…

Limit your Black Friday offers

While there is the temptation to slash prices across a range of items to ensure you target a wider customer demographic, it may be more practical to consider a limited range of products, so that you are still participating, but it’s unlikely to impact too many of your product lines and promotions.

Evaluate IT, store and logistics requirements ahead of time

Managing the influx of demand during promotions like Black Friday is essential to the smooth running of the campaign, so ensure you have fully evaluated your online and offline IT requirements ahead of time.

Keep customers informed

Managing customer expectations can be the difference between a good experience and a negative one, even if you can’t avoid IT downtime or delivery delays. If customers are kept informed and feel that you’ve done everything possible, then they are far less likely to feel disappointed or let down by the service.

Extend your marketing beyond Black Friday

Keeping your customers engaged throughout the year is key to sustaining sales, so make sure that you don’t put all of your eggs in one basket when it comes to Black Friday. Keep them engaged, interested and inspired with regular communications, loyalty incentives and special promotions that will entice them to shop with you all year round.

If handled appropriately, and in keeping with your current provisions and ability to maintain the required level of service during peak times, Black Friday 2015 does stand to provide a positive experience for retailers and customers alike.