Sale season can be a mixed bag for retailers. On the one hand, it’s a great time to get rid of old wares; on the other hand, sale periods can be tough to manage. When you put together bargain-hungry crowds and great deals, the result often is less than ideal: that is to say, competition between customers, aggressiveness and chaos.
Black Friday sales - the day after Thanksgiving which traditionally opens the holiday sales season in the US – have become a sort of cautionary tale for many retailers. Every year, tales of customer aggressiveness, confrontations, and –at times- physical violence during the Black Friday sales fill the news. We have put together the lessons we have learned from the past Black Fridays and come up with our top 5 tips to manage a successful, trouble-free sale – one that won’t end up in the papers for the wrong reasons.
1. Promote your deals online
Make sure that shoppers are aware of the great deals your offer. Post your offers on all your social platforms, and don’t forget to link back to your site so that it’s easy for your customers to find all the information they need – and to buy your products, too! Today, social media like Facebook offer sophisticated promotional features that enable you to target a large number of potential customer with your ads. You can set a number of parameters, such as location, gender, age and preferences. If you know your target market very well, the opportunities are great. When creating offers, keep it simple! You want your deals to be clear and memorable. If your offers sound something like “Buy one and get one free – plus a free item if you spend over $20! And 10% off if you pay with loyalty card”, you risk confusing your customers rather than enticing them.
2. Prepare your staff
Sales can be stressful times, in particular for temporary staff, who may not be prepared for the chaos. Prevent meltdowns by providing your employees with tools to tackle unpleasantness. Make a plan so staff members know how they are supposed to react if faced with uncomfortable situations. Have clear guidelines on how to deal with difficult customers and clarify to your staff that when problems arise, they are not alone, and can ask a manager for help. Give your staff all the information they need to answer questions from customers: when everyone knowns what’s where, what the terms and conditions are, and who is responsible for what, service will be much smoother and faster. Having a ready-made script with answers and information will also make your staff more comfortable with promoting and selling your wares. Make sure your staff stays hydrated, and always give them time to eat and get a break. Keeping your employees relaxed and smiling is crucial in order to get through the toughest sale times. Stock up on water bottles, give staff members enough time for a solid lunch and have snacks or fruits ready in case your employees feel their energy levels dropping.
3. Don’t let hygiene go down the drain
As any seasoned store worker could tell you, mishaps can happen. Every year, unfortunate Black Friday store workers have the undesirable job of cleaning up after customers who used the store aisles as their restroom. Don’t let your store become the butt of a “most awful customers” joke: make sure that there are clear and visible directions to the restrooms, and that your facilities are cleaned often and kept well stocked with toilet paper, soap, and all the other essentials. If your store does not have a restroom for customers to use, make sure your staff can provide customers with clear directions to the nearest one.
4. Keep the lines straight and moving
After having been waiting in line for a long time, the last thing a customer wants is to have other people cut in line. During Black Friday 2012, a line-cutting incident in a mall in Texas degenerated into punches being thrown and the pulling out of a handgun. Ouch! When people start fighting for their place in the queue, chaos will most certainly ensue – and the line will probably slow down even more, causing further dissatisfaction in the crowd. Prevent problems and recriminations by having a few employees dedicated to directing people in line, and firmly send line-cutters to the back of the queue. By bringing some needed law and order, you will be able to offer customers faster service and a better shopping experience for everyone.
5. Make sure your tech doesn’t let you down
The last thing you want to see in your store during sales time is a long line of customers who cannot be served because you have not invested in proper technology. Make sure that you have enough POS devices to keep the lines moving. The best retail management software solutions enable retailers to grow and shrink the number of POS devices based on need, so that they can face peak season confidently. Truly flexible systems also insure that the extra POS devices can be connected easily and seamlessly; this means you save the many hours of paperwork that would be required when aligning sales data from disconnected devices. Always have a backup plan in case something decides to stop working! Is your Point of Sale equipped to deal with network outages? The best POS systems work both online and offline, so you can keep on selling your products and serving your customers even when the network connection is down. Sales periods can be chaotic and nerve-wracking, but if everyone (tech included!) does their best, it can become a time to look forward to.