Black Friday is a day of numbers. Last year, 133.7 million shoppers worldwide spent nearly $52.5 trillion in store and online, according to the Statistic Brain Research Institute. Most of 2015’s numbers have yet to come in, but there’s one in particular merchants should keep an eye on: The days left until consumers’ biggest shopping day of the year.
With time at a premium, consider these three actions that can help your business take Black Friday in stride and start a successful shopping season:
Form a Black Friday task force
Organizing a project team is an effective way to make sure Black Friday events run as smoothly as possible and get all employees on the same page. Consider selecting a healthy mix of participants from different divisions such as IT or tech support, floor associates, customer service personnel and management. This group would coordinate in-store operations, promotions and merchandising, and act as the point of contact with payment partners to ensure connectivity across all your sales channels – in-store, online and mobile.
It’s risky for stores to rely on an ad hoc holiday plan. Forming a task force centered on holiday strategies specifically allows merchants to take the holidays into their own hands and proactively decide the best courses of action for themselves and their customers.
Prepare a backup plan
CMO.com reported November and December bring in just under half of the retail industry’s annual revenue. Black Friday and the ensuing holiday frenzy can cause POS servers to go down, websites to crash and apps to become overloaded. A lot is at stake and merchants who aren’t prepared risk losing sales and brand credibility. Retailers can be ready for the unexpected by keeping a few traditional tools on hand. Manual “knuckle buster” credit card impression machines, pads of carbon paper and calculators make for a reliable Plan B or C until Plan A is up and running again.
Staffing and scheduling updates can also help to manage the holiday rush. Bump up the number of associates on call, particularly technical and customer service staff, to prevent significant lapses in ecommerce traffic. Consider implementing an in-store “roaming cashier” rotation as well, where personnel act as a mobile POS. Associates can carry iPads or tablets to shorten checkout lines, meet customers on the floor for easy credit card payment and get them on their way. This will simplify the checkout process and customers will be grateful for one less holiday headache. A quick call to your trusted payments partner can confirm that your business has the technology in place for a program like this.
Use EMV to your advantage
Since the Oct. 1 EMV (EuroPay, MasterCard and Visa) liability shift has come, its impact will be felt this holiday season. The boost in card-present security will be met with a boost in confusion by some customers who are unsure of the changes and unaware of the benefits. In the midst of the holiday rush, merchants who can clear up confusion and provide answers will stand out from the rest.
Since chip-card transactions take longer to process, hold a training session prior to Black Friday to educate employees on potential questions from customers and the best ways to answer them. Also, consider putting up signage outlining the new checkout model for customers to look at while waiting in line. This information will ready them for present and future transactions and provide information that will be relevant long after they leave the store.
Also don’t forget about your mobile app this year. Since EMV-compliant terminals are increasingly equipped with NFC capabilities, contactless programs to redeem coupons or make payments can help merchants gain extra momentum. Consider promoting your mobile capabilities online or running a promotion for those who utilize your contactless program.
The time crunch prior to Black Friday can leave retailers feeling anxious and as though they’re out of options. Focus on implementing proactive, customer-centric strategies that go back to the basics, alleviate some of the pressure and give way to a happy holiday season.
Chester Ritchie is Senior Vice President of Worldpay US