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Black Friday 2019: Retailers, prepare for the biggest one yet

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Black Friday has finally outdone itself. Enter: Cyber Week.

Though Black Friday technically falls on November 29 this year, over the last few years it has extended its boundaries to include Thanksgiving Day before and Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday after. This can be attributed to retailers wanting to capture sales opportunities however shoppers prefer to shop—in-store, online, or both.

You can expect a healthy mix of online and in-store shopping this year. Last year more than 116 million people said they planned to shop in-store that day, versus 76 million online shoppers on Cyber Monday. And judging by the results of this year’s Amazon Prime Day, which surpassed Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined, online shoppers are showing no sign of slowing down.

For retailers, Sage Pay chief executive Seamus Smith says the key to taking advantage of a big selling season like this is employing technology for more efficiency. “Retailers have to create the capacity to quickly respond to the change in demand across all channels. Smart digital technology is more critical now than ever to predict how much additional support and inventory you will need to prepare for Black Friday in advance,” he said.

2019 has been especially saturated with business technology solutions for every productivity challenge. What are the core areas of consideration for growing retailers looking to capitalize on what may be the biggest trading season in history? Here is where you can leverage technology to create bandwidth and make Black Friday frictionless and profitable.

Black Friday shopper behavior for stock management

Black Friday has quickly stretched beyond its traditional high-street roots as millennial and Generation Z shoppers gain more buying power. While most baby boomers prefer the personal engagement of traditional stores when shopping, 68% of millennials demand the convenience of omnichannel accessibility. However, younger shoppers still value the in-store experience from brands they love, and they expect a slick, frictionless experience.

Retailers must be prepared to address the different shopping preferences of each generation and manage inventory at every point of sale this Black Friday season. This means allowing shoppers to make purchases and pick-ups in-store and online interchangeably, as well as building the visibility into your stock levels to track returns and exchanges wherever they happen.

“This is an area where smart technology is critical,” Seamus advises. “Smart stock management allows you to look at what your sales were last year and identify previous and new trends in terms of products, inventory, and purchase behavior. Retailers can help themselves by looking at their own data for the answers to their Black Friday inventory strategy. Investing in that kind of insight is the first thing I suggest for creating the capacity needed to manage high demand during peak trading season. You can ensure you have enough inventory for the influx in demand without being stuck with too much leftover after the selling season.”

Accepting payments for Black Friday sales

Generational preferences and how comfortable shoppers are with payment technology will also factor greatly into Black Friday 2019. Today’s customer journeys are increasingly varied, and can be immediate or extremely complex, especially in younger customers. They can range from impulse purchases on shopping apps to lengthier, highly considered purchases involving multiple channels for product research and price comparison—even during Black Friday sales.

Retailers must integrate the payment process into their omnichannel customer offering for a frictionless Black Friday experience. To do so they must consider the customer’s expectations at each point in their journey and ensure their payment technology can accommodate any scenario of sale regardless of channel or preferred payment method.

Retailers of any size will stand out by offering simplicity, convenience, and durable, well-defined value in their approach to payments. One in-store example that has expanded among retailers is self-service technology like Zara implemented in 2018 to eliminate their infamously long lines.

For online retailers, a diverse offering of payment methods is critical to customer experience. “We know from research we’ve done over the years that consumers generally can be up to four times more likely to complete a purchase if they see a wide variety of payment types presented to them at checkout. Demand for mobile payments and digital wallets is growing, so it’s critically important for retailers to pay close attention,” Seamus advised.

“Abandonment is one of the key problems for any online retailer because if you don’t have a smooth payment experience, with popular payment methods included, you lose the customer and the sale.”

Managing payments security during increased traffic

Merchants should also be considering the security of the customer’s financial and personal data, and protection against fraud.

“The other side of the coin is to be cognizant that as digital technology fuels e-commerce and other transactional activity retailers need to ensure transactions are secure and protected,” Seamus says. “The growth of online commerce will sadly continue to attract the interest of hackers and cybercriminals. But again, there are accessible ways that businesses can protect themselves from those issues during this busy time.

“One example of technology that supports this is tokenization, which allows safe storage of your unique card details providing access to the original payment information regardless of the contact point.”

Shoppers have grown more willing to use new payment technology, but they are still concerned about the safety of their personal information. Research shows 62% are generally welcoming toward added authentication measures for online payment security. New authentication technologies will revalidate repeat purchases or return shoppers to the website and make their experience even more frictionless.

Hiring Black Friday staff

Even with everything else in place you’ll still need to ensure you have enough staff coverage to restock shelves and assist with the extra foot traffic. Insights from a business management solution can tell you how many additional staff you’ll need to hire. It can also help you with hiring and onboarding and managing schedules.

Adding more staff—temp or full-time—means more payroll admin of assigning employee types and calculating accurate pay and benefits for each. Doing this accurately will be more challenging during the busy Black Friday season—especially if it’s done manually. Payroll integration technology with time tracking and attendance functionality can make peak season staffing easier. Connecting your time and sales data is important for reconciliation purposes, eliminating data errors, and reducing payroll fraud. Keeping track of this data can also help with planning for other peak trading seasons. A business management solution equipped with automation can make this easy and error-free for any size staff.

In conclusion

Black Friday is a fast-paced selling season. Even more so now than ever, if your customer doesn’t get the experience they expect, you might lose a future sales opportunity.

Use new technology for business management to stay on top of cash flow to purchase enough inventory, manage stock across multiple shops and online, manage staff coverage and scheduling, and keep things running smoothly at checkout.

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