Love it or loathe it (and many retailers do loathe it) but Black Friday has become an immovable object in the retail calendar.
Big retail chains, supermarkets and e-commerce giants drove Black Friday’s entry into the UK and Irish market. But its sweeping success meant independent retailers had no choice but to jump into the fray or risk losing their share of the annual retail bonanza.
It’s easy to see why retailers hate Black Friday (which this year is the 26th of November). It creates an expectation of enormous discounts in the crucial “golden quarter,” when many stores are fighting to get into the black.
Retail has been especially difficult in the past two years due to the global pandemic. So the idea of cutting margin when you look set to finally see a bounce in your footfall is heartbreaking for many.
But all is not lost. There are positives and negatives to Black Friday and whatever your opinion of it, it is here to stay (in some form).
Here’s our guide to getting the most out of the Black Friday phenomenon.
Get selling – focus on sales knowledge and technique
As always in retail, a well-trained salesperson is your greatest asset. Make sure your team is ready to engage with price-driven customers by training them to:
- highlight the time-limited nature of your offers
- draw attention to the scarcity of your most heavily discounted products
- be confident in the limits of any negotiation they can offer on prices
- recommend products that will enhance a sale purchase with items that are still at full price (or at least at lower discount levels)
Selling a suit at a 40% discount isn’t as heartbreaking if you get full price for the perfect pair of shoes to go with it!
Expert Tip: Make the most of this tactic in your visual merchandising displays too. Many shoppers will buy straight ‘off the mannequin’ or other grouped product displays, as it helps them to visualise the products together. An attractive discount from the main product will still persuade a price-conscious shopper to pay full price on the perfect item to accompany it and will boost your mark-up.
Get smart – discount wisely
A discount is only a bad thing if it does not achieve a set objective for your business.
The core goal of all commercial businesses is to increase profitability. So, Black Friday requires some mental gymnastics (and clever accounting) when you are focused on protecting your margin.
Consider stock depreciation and consult your accountant on how to make your inventory more tax-efficient. This can often open up the level of discount you can offer.
Secondly, consider the reduction in your margin as an investment in attracting new customers or retaining existing customers. Thinking of it in this way can save your sanity when you’re attaching all those red tags!
Finally, Black Friday started as a one-day-only sale but has grown and grown to become a month-long festival of discounting! Long term price cuts in such a valuable time can be difficult for independent retailers to maintain, so consider a smarter response.
Expert tip: Start your Black Friday discounts at the beginning of the month with a ‘Black Friday Deal of the Day.’ Apply an attractive, out of the ordinary discount to a specific category or even an individual high-value product but only offer it for 24hrs. This allows you to take part in the hype of Black Friday and build plenty of excitement in-store and on social media for what each day’s discount will be and save your store-wide discounts for the week of the event or the day itself.
Get loud – promote your sale locally and online
While many retailers enter Black Friday reluctantly, there’s no point running a sale if you’re not going to tell anyone you’re running a sale. This is an opportunity to clear stock, attract new customers and drive your average transaction value upwards.
Think about how you can maximise the value of that discount.
- Make the most of local media opportunities
- Reach out to local influencers and offer special or early access to the sale in return for publicity
- Consider a run of well-located outdoor advertising (booked well in advance!)
- Promote your sale to your loyalty scheme members
- Run cost-effective ads on social media and
- Keep communicating to maximise the potential behind the sale.
Get creative – create visual appeal with visual merchandising
Black Friday is discount-driven but that doesn’t mean sweeping cuts to everything. Creating bundled products with attractive packaging can create a higher perceived value, which in turn, means your discount doesn’t need to be as severe.
Also, get creative with your window displays. The Christmas kick-off is the perfect opportunity to add twinkling sequins, flashing fairy lights and other attention-grabbing devices to your windows. Check out this article for further visual merchandising ideas for window displays.
Expert Tip: Don’t forget to align your in-store visual merchandising and signage with your online store. If there is a visual theme to your store displays (a particular colour of Christmas decoration or sale tag), echo that design element on your online store and social media.
Get a grip on your stock – take inventory
As the autumn season continues, do a complete inventory of your stock and highlight the unsold stock that has to move as a priority. This stock can be a loss leader and form the basis of your big headline discount.
It is common practice to offer a “headline discount” and, if worded correctly, you can benefit from the impact while still protecting your margin on the in-season stock.
Wording such as “Up to 50% off across the store” infers that there are discounts on everything in store with the highest level being 50%. Wording such as “50% off selected items” immediately implies a very limited number of items will be discounted to this level and many items will be at full price.
However, you choose to frame your sale, make sure that your top-level discount is well represented in-store. Shoppers will have a negative reaction if the only items discounted by 50% are three neglected scarves you’ve found at the back of your stock room!
Many bricks and mortar retailers who have launched into multichannel selling struggle to align their stock between online and offline stores
If your online store is on Shopify or if you’re thinking of launching an online store, you should check out our free EPOS-Shopify integration. AirPOS and Shopify sync online and offline sales from one inventory meaning no more double-sold products, no more disappointed customers and no more unnecessary work running two inventories!
Finally, if you’re a multi-location retail business, now is the time to consider re-distributing stock ahead of Black Friday to make the most of your inventory.
Get selective – structure and optimise your discounts
While some form of shop-wide discount is advisable, it’s good practice to have a headline discount and a structure of lower-level discounts.
If you’re running Black Friday over more than one day and are agile enough to review sales stats daily, you can move stock from lower to higher discount bands to help clear odd sizes and remnants
Having an EPOS system with a real-time inventory management function and good analytics is essential. Access to this sort of software can make all the difference in beating Black Friday.
Finally, while it risks bothering some of your regular shoppers, you can always remove newly arrived stock from your shop floor for the period of the promotion.
Get exclusive – reward loyal customers
The increased attention around Black Friday is a key opportunity to build a community around your store and a great opportunity to gather contact information to boost your marketing efforts.
Black Friday is a great time to focus on moving your in-store customers onto your e-commerce platform (and vice versa).
The Shopify platform allows you to create Members Only stores or, with an access management app plugged in, designate certain pages as available for Members Only. With some planning, it is possible to create a sale that only your registered customers can access.
Early access to a sale for your registered customers/loyalty scheme members or VIP list is a great way of rewarding regular shoppers while maintaining in-store pricing for passing trade. Click here for more ideas on how to create a powerful customer loyalty scheme.
Creating omnichannel customers gives you the best chance of taking your customer’s spending. And your customers get the best of both worlds, enjoying personal service in-store and the convenience of online shopping.
‘Get’ the Black Friday shopper.
Black Friday might bring a different type of shopper to your business but understanding them presents an opportunity.
Independent retailers have built their businesses by differentiating themselves from the big High Street chains and their regular price promotions. But, Black Friday presents you with an opportunity to impress a new set of customers with your in-store experience.
Shoppers who buy once are 32% more likely to buy again and your conversion rate is likely to be higher in a promotional period such as Black Friday. So make the most of this new customer – the cost of retaining an existing customer is significantly less than acquiring a new one.
Don’t downgrade your in-store experience because it’s sale time and think of ways of tempting those new customers back during peak season.
With all of that said, we’d love to hear from you about your attitude to Black Friday. And we always love hearing any of your top tips for surviving and thriving during this controversial promotional period.
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