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Are You Ready for The New Black Friday?

Are you ready for “the new Black Friday”? Black Friday as we know it is 31 days from today. Even before COVID, the face of Black Friday had already changed. It wasn’t nearly as busy as it once was for two reasons, (1). Many stores started opening on Thanksgiving, pulling traffic and sales away from Black Friday and in some cases, even into the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving and (2) The steady increase from Brick and Mortar to e-commerce shopping. Some retailers intentionally drove customers online with deeper discounts than their stores offered. When online offers a better assortment than in store, it pulls sales as well.

Starting earlier, Lasting longer.

This year, due to COVID, many retailers will be closed on Thanksgiving. And that’s a good thing. Will this drive more traffic back into Black Friday? Probably not. Sales are predicted to start earlier, some as early as last week’s Prime Day. Competition will be fierce for share of wallet this year and retailers are all worried about increased traffic with the ongoing need to social distance. From curbside pickup, to same day delivery, retail has gotten very convenient for consumers.

But what do all these new methods of shopping mean to the customer experience? For one, if your brand is offering curbside, same day delivery or even buy online, pickup in store, there are many operational demands required to get it right. More of that in a minute.

Regardless if Black Friday is one big day or there are 59 days of shopping (until Christmas), you have to have a rock solid plan that will help you deliver your goals.

A goal without a plan is just a wish.

Antoine de Saint-Exupery

It’s Gone Forever.

So what does the new Black Friday look like? Well here is a hypothesis for you…Black Friday has already started. An email popped up as I was writing this blog. Express starts their Friends and Family sale at midnight. What’s the offer? 50% off entire store. Now that has been their Black Friday offer for a few years. Black Friday for me starts at midnight tonight.  JCrew went 50% your purchase this past weekend.  Macy’s is already offering deep discounts.  For many retailers, Black Friday deals have begun.  Others are waiting.  Either their sales are strong and they don’t need the discount or they don’t have the inventory to allow for these deep offers.

What we once knew to last one long day will now run 59 days. Will your brand be ready? Black Friday will still be busier than your average day however your retails success is hinged on every day this season, not just one big day.  Be prepared, looking at your “LY” numbers won’t work either.  It just won’t be an apples to apples comparison this year.  Or next year.  

Does it really matter if Black Friday is gone forever?  Probably not.  The goal is to be prepared to be there for your customers, wherever they decide to shop.  Everyone appears to be putting their money into e-commerce.  Caution for all of us…don’t forget about brick and mortar.  That will be a H-U-G-E mistake.  

Preparing for the New Black Friday. 

It start’s with a new mindset.  Don’t long for the days of old.  Adjusting how you think about BF is crucial. What used to be preparing for a busy day of long lines that required manic hiring, fast cashiers, strategic line management, replenishment to the selling floor to ensure sales weren’t lost and conversion was maximized is now something completely different. How are you preparing your store, district, region, brand?

Start with SWOT.

Completing a SWOT analysis is the absolute best way to build an executable plan to win. This analysis helps you consider your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. The first 3 are easy, it’s usually threats that stump people when completing a SWOT. You know a threat to consider? Retail competitors who have a better plan to execute than you! If you want to win this holiday, you cannot over prepare!

There are 3 big categories to consider, some predictable and others brand new and pandemic driven. This blog will cover what I believe are the new requirements for this holiday season for every brick and mortar retailer: Safety (Associate and Customer), Joy-filled Customer Experiences and Operational Excellence.

Safety First (Associates & Customers)

You know its 2020 when safety tops the list of every retail discussion. Making the store teams feel safe is vital to ensuring you have the staff necessary to meet the customers needs and its just the right thing to do.

Are Current Protocols the Right Ones?

1. Evaluate the protocols in place since stores first reopened in May and determine if they are the right protocols for holiday. Is an associate at the door talking about COVID related items the best way to communicate or could it be handled effectively by a well worded easel sign  allowing the associate to engage customers about your amazing brand instead?

Take Care of your Associates.

2. Reinforce how important their safety is and ensure temperature checks, constant sanitizing practices and relaxed attendance polices are in place. Relaxed attendance, what? At holiday? Has she lost her mind? I really haven’t. You cannot penalize associates for not coming into work if they don’t feel well. If you want to keep customers and associates safe, you have got to let them stay home! Require it in fact!

Know your Customers Wants and Needs.

3. There are customers who are nervous about getting sick and want to see constant cleaning and others who are just plain over it. Look ,we all know we can’t give everyone what they want. So what are the basics? Wipe surfaces down between customers and do it fast. Keep the line moving. Keep your masks over your nose and under your chin. You might be tired of it, we all are, Do it anyway.

Create Joy-Filled Customer Experiences.

Does your brand bring joy to every customer interaction?  Truth is, most retailers will respond to that questions with  “it depends who is working”.  What if you could create joy-filled customer experiences with every interaction?  Oh boy, your retail store would be the talk of the town!  

What is a joy-filled experience?  It is an experience that always exceeds  expectations, creating delight, amazement, wonder or awe. 

So how do you go about setting this expectation in your brand and training your teams to deliver?  

Hire People Who Care.

Hire people who care.  People who don’t care about the customer will never be able to deliver your expectation.  How do you find people who believe service is a noble purpose?  Ask them to give you examples of customer interactions.  If they can’t, they might not be the right ones.  People who love delivering joyful experiences can’t wait to tell others about them and look for every opportunity.

Empower Your Team to be Kind. 

1. Empower your associates to be kind to customers.  This starts with training them on what helpful and considerate look like.  Allow them to bring their best selves and recognize them every time they provide joy-filled experiences.  It doesn’t require money.  It means being attentive and then praising them in the way they most prefer (some prefer it in private while others love public praise).  You cannot over appreciate your team!

Measure the Right Things.

 2. What gets measured gets done.  If you only measure the speed of a transaction, you will not get empathy from your associates to the customer.  True empathy can’t be rushed.  You may think you don’t have the payroll model to truly provide joy-filled experiences or think this is holiday, it has to be about speed.  

But perhaps the beauty of the COVID holiday is that we have more time to spend with our customers and with time comes the ability to create experiences that will make them year around customers, not just holiday customers.  Now more than ever, each associates is interacting with customers who may not ever have shopped your brand before.  Making holiday feel wonderful for each customer will make them come back again.  When you complete your SWOT analysis, observe the team in action.  You will identify things the team excels at and things you can coach to.  Examples include:

  • Are there associates standing around, talking to one another who could be helping customers?
  • Are we sending associates on break during our busy times resulting in low service?  
  •   Do you have the wrong associate working in the wrong zone?  Not everyone should be a greeter!  Place associates where they are excited to work and watch them bloom.
  • Do your managers recognize good performance?  

Operational Excellence

3. For all of you who personally know me, you know I cannot talk about holiday readiness without beating the operational excellence drum. Nor should you. Customers may not be able to articulate what they like or dislike about your store, but it usually comes down to operational hits and misses. COVID hasn’t changed this aspect.  Running a great store or showroom means nailing the fundamentals.  No dust rolling around in the windows, clean fitting rooms (if they are open), lights on (no burned out bulbs), clean glass doors/mirrors, organized and neat fixtures.  

What does it get you?  For one, it’s a great way to maximize conversion.  Maximizing conversion is the strategy that drives everything else.  So if increased conversion is the result, then what is the behavior?

Talent.

  • Hire the best talent you can who care about making the holidays amazing for every customer and see it as their noble purpose to do so.
  • Train the new hires with compelling onboarding.  Invest in them like your season depends on it.  Because it does. 
  • Evaluate your management team and determine what training they need to deliver a successful holiday.

Set Targets.

  • Set realistic and stretch sales targets for your team.  Don’t penalize when they are missed.  Focus on the behaviors!
  • Curbside, BOPIS and other new conveniences.  If your brand offers these conveniences, it is important to ensure you get it right.  Train every member of your team on the process and commit to flawless execution.  Getting it wrong annoys customers and they might not give you another chance and will definitely tell more people.  None of us can afford this!

Nail the Fundamentals.

  • Fast Cashiers. 
  • Full and abundant assortment of product.  Even with social distancing that turns into fixture distancing, take the extra step and make it look amazing.
  • Goods flowing out of the backroom. Prepare as if the traffic and sales will be like the old days used to be!  Saying it again.  You cannot be over prepared.  There is no such thing.  You can be under-prepared and that will cost you.
  • Associates available when customers need them.  You need to have the right amount of associates working.  With less customers able to be in the store, you don’t want to fill it up with so many associates that you cannot fit customers.  So it goes back to the first bullet in this list, you have to hire the best people, train them and then let them do what they do best. 

It’s Your Turn

I think Holiday is the best time to be in retail.  Don’t let COVID steal your joy.  Determine to make this holiday amazing for every single customer who walks into your store.  Success begins with diligent preparation.  If you need help, you know where to find me. 

Wishing you an amazing holiday season,

Rachel

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