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Black Friday 101 for Retailers: Best Practices

Posted July 23, 2020 by GottaDEAL Staff

We realize that we get many visits from employees of the retailers that we post Black Friday ads from. Some come here to get the scoop on their competitors' ads. Others come to see if we've posted their ad yet. Others come for the same reason that most of our visitors do - because they want to see what the best deals will be this year.

So given that potential audience of decision-makers within the retail industry, we thought we'd try to help out all of retailers during this very crucial holiday shopping season by making their customers' Black Friday experience as good as possible.

Having covered Black Friday online since 2004, and with many of our visitors and forum members having decades of Black Friday experiences of their own, we've compiled a list of best practices that retailers should follow for a successful day - Black Friday 101 for retailers.

NO MORE LEGAL THREATS: We're admittedly a little biased with this one, but the legal threats when your Black Friday ad is leaked and posted (or in some cases before it even happens) need to stop. Sites like this one are giving you free advertising and promotion and so you shouldn't threaten us with legal trouble. Embrace Black Friday sites - send them your ad the moment it's done and earn good will from the millions of shoppers who use sites like this one.

KEEP YOUR WAITING CUSTOMERS HAPPY: For many stores, Black Friday begins hours or even days before the doors open when customers begin lining up outside the door. These are die-hard shoppers who you should respect enough to offer them a few things to make their wait more comfortable. Serve coffee or hot chocolate. Give them snacks before doors open to fuel them for the rest of the morning. Maybe bring in temporary restrooms if customers traditionally line up more than a few hours. Gestures like these will make those shoppers instant fans of yours, and they'll spread the word elsewhere about their good experience in line at your store.

USE A TICKET SYSTEM FOR HOT ITEMS: If you are a store that has several highly anticipated items (such as electronics) in your ad, consider using a ticket system to keep everyone happy. Give tickets for items to those who were first in line so there isn't a mad scramble with the potential for injury. It will also prevent line jumpers from causing havoc. These tickets have proven to be successful at some retailers, so we suggest that more stores follow their lead.

HAVE STORE MAPS AVAILABLE: Print up maps of your store layout clearly showing the various departments as well as where the more popular Black Friday ad items will be located. We've heard countless times of customers rushing to the electronics department only to find the TVs on the front page of the ad were located in the women's clothing department instead. This is a very inexpensive way to eliminate frustration from your customers.

ENFORCE PROPER CROWD CONTROL: If there are hundreds of people in line, there are bound to be incidents of unruly crowds, line jumpers and other negative elements. Have enough employees or law enforcement officials to handle crowds. We've seen in the past that a good strategy to use is to line up carts in front of the store, so nobody can go directly into the store without going to the back of the line first.

INFORM & TRAIN YOUR EMPLOYEES: This is the biggest shopping day of the year. Make sure your employees are informed of all store policies, know where all of the Black Friday ad items are located and are prepared for the massive amount of shoppers that tends to overwhelm the system at times. Remind your employees that while they are likely under high stress on this day, so are the shoppers. A smile and a pleasant attitude will go a long way.

HAVE MORE CHECKOUTS OPEN: There is no excuse for stores not to have the maximum amount of checkout lanes open the morning of Black Friday. Many shoppers plan on hitting many different stores on this day, and having to wait in line to checkout for an hour or two can ruin their plans (and their entire day). Do whatever it takes to staff your stores with employees so these problems do not happen.

DEFINE YOUR PRICE MATCHING POLICY: Whether you do it in the actual printed ad or via a sign on the door of your stores, let customers know in advance what your price matching policy will be on Black Friday. Don't leave it up to individual managers or stores. Set a company-wide policy and make sure it is followed. Do not annoy your customers with inconsistent policies when it comes to price matching.

POST DOORBUSTER QUANTITIES: If at all possible, give your customers an idea of how many of each of your popular items you plan to have in stock. Do this in your actual sale ad, by posting a sign on the door, or handing out flyers (perhaps on the other side of the store map you will hand out). Let your customers know so they don't wait in line behind 50 other people if you only have 3 of the laptops they are looking for.

MAKE ONLINE SHOPPING EASIER: For stores with e-commerce sites, have the same deals in-store also available online, ideally a day or two before Black Friday. Also, shipping costs are a major deterrent for many online shoppers when it comes to Black Friday. Offer free shipping with a minimum purchase. Most shoppers would gladly accept free shipping even if it means you take an extra week or so to ship orders, since many purchases will be for holiday gifts anyway.

OFFER FREEBIES TO EARLY RISERS: Many of our visitors mention that they tend to go to stores that offer free items for the first group of customers. Perhaps the most popular of these giveaways is the yearly snow globe given away at JCPenney stores. In the past, stores have also offered gift cards or discount coupons for the first people to get to the store.

OTHER IDEAS TO CONSIDER: Consider having a set of afternoon "doorbusters" to get shoppers who might have missed your store in the morning back later in the day. Another idea is to allow customers to bring reusable grocery-type bags to put their items in while shopping instead of carts. When stores are crowded, carts become an obstacle and letting customers use bags (either their own or ones you provide) will let them get around the store quicker and with less hassle and injury from wayward shopping carts.

We hope these tips and suggestions have been helpful to the retailers out there. Please use them as much as you possibly can, and we won't even mind if you take credit for them yourself when you present them in a pre-Black Friday planning meeting.