If it feels like the holiday shopping season gets longer every year, it’s because retailers usually start preparing for Black Friday Cyber Monday sales months before shoppers start making a list and checking it twice.
But there’s a good reason for their enthusiasm: in 2017, consumers spent more than $680 billion during the holiday shopping season. That makes it more important than ever that you’re prepared — making your own list and checking it twice — to capitalize on those dollars.
Black Friday Cyber Monday 2018 will be no exception: sales are expected to exceed $1 trillion for the first time in history. So, whether you’re launching your holiday retail strategy or putting the finishing touches on your preparations, here are a few important questions to consider to help you get ready for the busy season ahead.
1. Is Your Store Prepared For Increased Business?
You can make or break your season by the accuracy of your sales forecast: Overstocking can leave you with a lot of unsellable merchandise, while understocking can lead to lost sales opportunities.
Use your sales data from the past year, looking closely at the past few months to forecast demand. There are plenty of other variables that can affect shopper behavior, most of which you can’t control, like weather, consumer confidence, and the political climate.
Stay informed but focus on the factors you can control — the items you sell, how you market your brand, and continued customer satisfaction. And don’t forget to make sure your checkout counter is as well stocked as your shelves, with plenty of pens, bags, tape, gift boxes, gift cards, an extra float, and cleaning supplies (stores can get especially messy during the holiday rush).
The holiday shopping season also doesn’t end on Christmas Day: In 2017, Google saw 34% more searches on Christmas Day than it did on Black Friday. Google’s numbers also showed that about 20% of all December traffic in brick-and-mortar stores happened in the six days after Christmas. Searches for the word “clearance” spiked on Dec. 26, as shoppers looked to cash in gift cards, return and exchange presents, and find gifts for people they didn’t see before the holidays. So factor the post-holiday rush into your ordering plan.
Ecommerce stores also see a surge in traffic this time of year, so prepare yours ready by testing your site’s load time and checkout speed. If you’re not satisfied with your site, chances are your customers won’t be either: 40% of shoppers won’t wait more than three seconds for a page to load before abandoning a retail site. Give your hosting company a call and see how you can improve your store’s performance for the holidays.
FURTHER READING: Learn six surefire ways to get rid of your surplus inventory.
2. Is Your Staff Prepared To Handle the Rush?
You’ll probably want to increase your workforce during such a high-volume period. Start by offering extra shifts to your current employees, which should give you an idea of how many temporary seasonal workers you’ll need to add. Set yourself apart from the competition by writing a creative — but specific — job posting. (Also, ask your current employees for trustworthy referrals.)
FURTHER READING: Learn how to prep current staff for the holiday rush and bring on temporary employees to help out.
It can take up to two weeks to onboard and train an employee, so bring new hires on as soon as possible and remember to account for the slowdown in volume and operations that come with a learning curve.
Once your team is in place, plan and stay on top of the staff schedule: make sure you have people on the floor at peak hours and consider using a rotating schedule. Avoid worker burnout by not overscheduling any one person, and don’t forget to factor in enough time after your doors are closed to tiny the store for the next day.
3. What Types of Content and Promotions Will You Run?
Retail marketing is especially competitive during the year’s busiest season. Start planning your marketing efforts by creating a list of specific promotions, with start and end dates, and briefing your staff ahead of time.
If part of your best digital marketing tools includes sending out promotional emails, think about personalizing your effort. According to a sentiment survey by Autopilot, a marketing software company, consumers are four times as likely to respond to promotions if they receive a personalized offer, and 49% of the 1,200 people surveyed said they expect communications that are relevant to their interests.
Analyze your sales reports and analytics to find out what customers purchased last year, what types of promotions they responded to best, and what worked during previous holiday seasons.
Then segment your subscribers according to specific parameters, like demographics, location, and purchase history, so you can compose relevant messages for each group. Make sure to incentivize your seasonal shoppers to visit your store again by including discount coupons with an expiration date.
FURTHER READING: Learn how to segment your email lists with these four expert tips.
Consider launching sales or promotions planned for Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday. Don’t forget to schedule any necessary announcements, social media posts, and reminders.
Think outside the box and come up with promotions that provide unique value, like free gift wrapping or an in-store rest station with beverages and snacks. Provide customizable labels or engraving to let your customers add a personal touch to the products they buy from you. Even setting up extra registers to keep things moving can win you repeat business — customers will remember these touches more than they will a traditional ad (although those are important, too).
4. Are You Safe and Secure?
Shoplifting is a $6 billion problem. Larger-than-usual crowds filling your store can be good for sales, but can also leave you vulnerable to theft and fraud — from both shoppers and employees. Most consumers will use a combination of online, mobile, and in-store shopping for their holiday purchases, which means retailers need to secure both their brick-and-mortar locations and their digital assets.
Start by setting the appropriate level of user permissions for your point-of-sale system to make sure you know exactly what your staff can see and do with it. Be extra vigilant when it comes to who you allow to process voided sales as this is an easy way to steal products.
Next, get in touch with your hardware and technology vendors and talk to them about relevant updates. Take immediate steps to address any issues they point out to ensure you’re less vulnerable to hacks and breaches.
Finally, take note of your bricks-and-mortar store’s maximum occupancy and stay within its limits — overcrowding can make it easier for theft to occur. If necessary, implement staggered entry during busy shopping events to ensure your space doesn’t get too crowded and that you can keep an eye on the situation.
FURTHER READING: Learn how to put together a loss prevention strategy for your store to curb theft.
5. Do You Have Your Shopping Done?
Last but not least, remember that you deserve a break too. If you have highly capable staff in place, this should allow you to take a few hours during the holiday rush to attend to your non-work-related to-do list during the season — and to take a little bit of time out for you.
Everyone needs to take a step back and return refreshed and revived, ready to take on those holiday shopping crowds.
Moving Forward With Black Friday Cyber Monday 2018 Preparations
Now that you’re putting the finishing touches on your preparations for Black Friday Cyber Monday, you can have peace of mind knowing that all the pieces are in place for a successful holiday selling season.