Imagine this: It’s Black Friday, and everything seems hunky-dory on your end. Your customers are happily buying every single thing they see on your display, your sales team are all smiles, and the transactions are flowing smoothly.
In short, you’re experiencing business nirvana from all sides.
From out of the blue, however, all hell breaks loose.
First, your point-of-sale (POS) system stops working. Your cashiers then apologize profusely as the checkout lines continue to grow even longer.
Your customers, on the other hand (who were grinning from ear to ear just minutes ago), now look as if they’re just about ready to eat your cashiers alive.
Your website crashed.
While you’re pleased with the fact that your IT support came in with guns blazing trying to fix the issue, you know that hundreds of potential sales are going down the drain the longer the site is down.
As if things couldn’t get any worse, your social media manager informs you that one of your virtual assistants berated one of your customers on Twitter, and the netizens are now retweeting your VA’s snarky comment.
Year after year, Black Friday horror stories hog newspaper front pages and flood social media platforms. Still, this special day after Thanksgiving, which signals the first day of the Christmas shopping period when shoppers hunt for sales, remains a highly anticipated event.
For bargain hunters, it’s a chance to own deeply discounted merchandise. For merchants and retailers, it’s a chance to fire up their sales revenues and test their marketing mettle.
Black Friday wins
Because we live and breathe marketing, allow us to share with you a roundup of some of the most successful Black Friday stories ever told.
- Last week’s Black Friday saw big-box retailers cashing in as shoppers flocked to their physical stores in advance for their store openings. Macy’s reported some 16,000 people converged into their Herald Square flagship store in New York.
In a New Jersey Target store, 600 people started lining up at noon, several hours ahead of its 6 p.m. opening. Retailers like Wal-Mart, Target, and Kohl’s offered the same deals online, and Black Friday sales were projected to ring up a total of $3.05 billion, an 11.3% increase from last year. [Source]
- Target skillfully used the power of social media to drive interest to both its online and brick-and-mortar sales items. According to the data from social media analytics tool Buzzsumo, Target’s Black Friday page has been shared 109,000 times on Facebook as of November 21, 2016, days before Target’s Black Friday launch. [Source]
- Cards Against Humanity, more popularly known as “party game for horrible people” offered a Black Friday deal in 2015 that approximately 12,000 people had trouble resisting. The company made over $71,000 selling – okay, wait for it – NOTHING. [Source]
- Bath and fragrance soap SABON saw a 35% increase in Black Friday sales in 2013 after personalizing their website’s homepage. [Source]
- Because Black Friday competition is going to be overwhelmingly fierce, the chances of small retailers being outbid by the bigger brands in ad platforms such as Google Display Network is pretty much a given. What an Apple products retailer did, alongside its online marketing firm, was focus on online PR. The result was 390+ transactions from one referring website alone. [Source]
- The U.K. retailer Daniel Footwear had a 25% bump in their 2015 Black Friday sales due to their text marketing campaigns. They sent a total of 45,000 text messages on Black Friday. [Source]
Black Friday fails
Unfortunately, along with the wins are the fails. Check out these business-shattering fails.
- Black Friday deaths. Perhaps the most cringeworthy of Black Friday fail is shoppers getting killed or seriously injured over squabbles.
In last week’s Black Friday alone, there were several violence and shooting cases reported in the different parts of the country.
The reported fatalities included a man shot dead in Reno, Nevada at a Walmart parking lot. Another was left wounded in Memphis, Tennessee after he was shot at the parking lot of the Wolfchase Galleria Mall. And a 21-year old was also shot at a NJ Macy’s store. [Source]
- Deserted shopping centers. In the U.K., several shopping centers seemed like ghost towns. In contrast to the rush of crowds seen in recent years, this year, bargain hunters snubbed the call of the malls as they went shopping for deals online, with retailers recording a 50% increase in ecommerce sales over last year. This is bad news especially for retailers who failed to map out a Black Friday ecommerce strategy. [Source]
- Websites crashing. Of all the days it had to crash, specialty retailer Neiman Marcus’s website went down on Black Friday, 2015. To avoid customer backlash over missed sales due to the website’s technical difficulties, the specialty retailer had to extend its sale period. [Source]
- Newsjacking gone wrong. Another Black Friday marketing fail for the books was that of online retailer Celeb Boutique. Back in 2012, Celeb Boutique unwittingly hijacked the hashtag #Aurora to promote their Kim Kardashian-inspired Aurora dress.
Unfortunately, #Aurora was trending at that time because of the tragic shooting in Colorado. Later, the tweet was deleted, and an apology was issued from the account, saying they didn’t check what the trending hashtag was all about. [Source]
Lessons that business owners can learn from the Black Friday.
Just so you won’t have to experience any of the Black Friday fails that we shared, let’s talk about the lessons that you can learn from them.
Always have a POS backup plan.
This should be a standard practice for any business owner. Always have an emergency plan in case your POS system crashes.
Your emergency kit should include instruction manuals and important phone numbers, such as your ISP and POS manufacturer’s service support. Also, your employees should be briefed on the contingency measures you have in place. That way, your team won’t be easily rattled should anything unfortunate happen.
Prepare an emergency POS crash kit that you can use for situations such as power failures or system crashes. This kit includes a manual credit card imprinter that allows you to process credit card payments even without internet connection.
Keep your website secure.
No business owner in their right minds would want their ecommerce site crashing on days such as the Black Friday. As such, you need to have an emergency website crash kit ready and employ a combination of these tips:
- A backup host for your site should your hosting provider’s servers go down
- DNS management service to reroute your web traffic to your backup site
- CDN server system to deliver cached content from your website
Should your website crash, contact your hosting provider to fix the issue. Be sure to keep their contact information on your emergency list.
Also, be ultra-responsive to your customers during times when your site is down. Be open, transparent, apologetic, and offer something of value to your customers in return — like how Neiman Marcus responded to their disappointed bevy of customers by extending their much-anticipated sale.
Be social media-savvy
Make sure you have a dedicated team that keeps tabs on what’s happening on social media. Check for trending news, hashtags, and influencers. See which ones are hot and safe to associate your brand with (such as #BlackFriday2016, #BestBlackFridayDeals), and which ones to avoid.
Double-check the profiles you tag on social media to avoid mentioning the wrong accounts. Are they verified, duplicates, or parodies?
Leverage digital and mobile.
The rush for Black Friday deals has spread from brick-and-mortar stores into the online realm with online sales overtaking physical store sales, says a 2016 article on Bloomberg. The same article quotes Adobe Systems as saying that online sales inched progressively higher to roughly 18% or $5.27 billion.
Meanwhile, revenue generated from mobile devices experienced a 33% upswing to the tune of $1.2 billion compared to the previous year.
Prevent Black Friday-induced violence.
You wouldn’t want your business to become known for a Black Friday riot over toilet papers, would you?
To avoid the embarrassment and your properties getting destroyed, have a strong security plan in place. Hire security personnel to maintain order and safety within your stores.
As always, keep your local emergency numbers on hand so an employee can quickly call to authorities should any violent breakouts ensue.
The retail mayhem that is Black Friday makes for an interesting lineup of case studies into the lessons learned and the strategies employed in the world of consumer marketing. With wins and fails falling on various levels of the spectrum, from small to some of the biggest retailers, it makes perfect sense to use the lessons learned to steer your business to the right path.