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How to ruin Black Friday in three easy steps

Potential pitfalls await retailers on Black Friday.

Black Friday can be a bleak day indeed if retailers make a few key mistakes.

In the past, I have written columns previewing Black Friday weekend with helpful tips on how to ensure success. This year, I’m taking a slightly different approach and looking at how retailers can guarantee poor Black Friday performance (with some advice on how to avoid this fate).

Don’t have advertised products in stock

Out-of-stocks are the bane of every retailer’s (and shopper’s) existence – but the magnitude of their negative impact is amplified during major holiday sales events such as Black Friday. 

What could be more annoying for a customer seeing a promotion for a Black Friday discount, planning to shop that specific retailer for that specific item, and then discovering it isn’t available? Online, clicking a sale product and getting an out-of-stock message will surely drive a customer to one of your competitors to find that item and anything else on their holiday gift list.

On the brick-and-mortar side, the frustration of making the effort of physically visiting a store and finding an advertised item out-of-stock is far more severe and damaging, possibly resulting in permanent loss of a customer as well as negative word of mouth and social reviews.

Retailers can avoid this step by aligning their promotional and supply chain systems to help ensure that products with a high anticipated demand are readily available in warehouses and stores. In addition, technology that provides real-time or near-real-time supply chain visibility enables retailers to save out-of-stock sales by finding desired items in alternate locations, such as other stores or possibly even with supply chain partners.

Have your site go down, or no help in your stores

No matter how many sale products you have available in stock, if your e-commerce site or app crashes, or your store has a shortage of associates, customers are going to be angry and once again likely to bolt for a competitor.

To avoid digital commerce failures during Black Friday, retailers should ideally have cloud-based scalability and backup functionality in place. This enables them to flexibly adjust e-commerce infrastructure as demand surges and also shift traffic to alternate servers if needed. 

Store staffing has been an issue for retailers since the COVID-19 pandemic and is not likely to go away during Black Friday weekend. Labor management systems that streamline and optimize tasks such as scheduling shifts and anticipating customer demand patterns can go a long way toward minimizing the risk of having too few store associates on hand during holiday traffic peaks. 

In addition, maximizing associate efficiency with apps such as The Home Depot’s Sidekick app, which the retailer bolstered for the holidays by adding a machine learning (ML) algorithm to guide associates to prioritize the highest-demand products and machine vision to identify shelf issues, helps ensure each individual employee is productive and responsive.  

Have an inconsistent experience across channels

Another great way to ruin Black Friday for your customers is by failing to align your physical and digital shopping experiences. This includes things like having different pricing online and in-store (excepting specific promotions like in-store doorbusters or online lightning deals), as well as offering omnichannel services like BOPIS, curbside pickup and ship-from-store but not properly coordinating them.

Ideally, retailers should have enterprise pricing, merchandising, CRM and supply chain systems in place that ensure channel-agnostic consistency in how products are promoted, sold and fulfilled. 

A cloud-based POS system can serve as the linchpin for this type of omnichannel alignment. For example, specialty children’s fashion brand Janie and Jack uses the PredictSpring Modern POS solution in its stores. The omnichannel platform is designed to unify the online and in-store shopping experience, with a microservices-based API architecture that integrates with the retailer’s CRM platform and other back-end systems.

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