The biggest sales weekend of the year is a little more than two weeks away and likely a good portion of you are slightly freaking out right about now. Is your site ready? Are your stores ready? Do your sales associates have the proper training? Are your call centers geared up for a major influx of calls? Is the office coffee machine prepared to handle the 72-hour-straight caffeine drip necessary to fuel you and your staff?
These are the tough questions you need to make sure you answer before going into the frenzy that is Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Here, we have a few tips that will help you make the four days run just a little bit smoother. And hey, just remember, we’ve got nothing on China’s 11/11.
1. Get ready for the crowds. A site whose name I will not mention recently ran an awesome sale. I was all amped up about buying some goods at 50% off, and then realized that every time I tried to add something to my cart, the pinwheel of death (as I like to call it – Mac users, are you with me?) started turning. Eventually I had to abandon ship, and it turned out the site crashed. If your site isn’t ready for the influx of eager shoppers, why bother luring them in with deals? They will end up leaving you disgruntled.
2. Under-promise, over-deliver. As said in aforementioned tip, customers will leave if you promise them something (like a sale) and then it turns out your site can’t deliver it. Rather than offering a complex deal arrangement that perhaps only applies to certain items and must be activated with a code, and must be reached through an email entry, etc., etc., just do something simple like send out an email with a coupon code for 20% off the whole site during a set amount of dates. If you promise that, and then not only deliver on that sale, but provide a bonus at the end such as, “Now that you’ve nabbed 20% off site wide, here’s a coupon for $20 off your next in-store purchase, on us – Happy Holidays.” Sure, your competitors may have been offering 50% off for a holiday blast sale, but were they able to deliver a seamless experience, and then surprise their customers with something that goes above and beyond?
3. Make emails count. In the last three days, I think I’ve received two emails per day from every single retailer whose list I subscribe to. When that’s the kind of email inbox competition you’re facing, you’re going to have to get creative with subject lines and make sure your offer really brings something special to your customer’s table. “Our annual bedroom sale,” may not cut it amid subject lines like, “Free shipping on everything, INCLUDING furniture,” for instance.
4. Ready the troops. Preparing all employees in your organization, both online and in store, cannot be undervalued. Brick and mortar retailers surely over-staff during this busy time to meet customer demand – but simply hiring is not enough. Those new hires, even if they are temp-staff, need to be trained to understand what’s front of mind for customers. Sure, a staff member on the team for three months won’t understand the business the way a 10-year veteran would, but pick the three top things they need to know, and make sure they know them. As for online staff – make sure your customer service reps are prepared for a fight every day, but hope for a friend. Then they’ll be pleasantly surprised when customers are reasonable and kind, and will know how to handle it when they sound like this guy.
5. Breathe. This one’s self-explanatory, but its importance can’t be undervalued. When everything in the universe seems like it has gone wrong and you’ve refreshed your Google Analytics stats no less than 74 times and your CEO is hounding you for numbers at 10:01 a.m. on Black Friday morning, you might want to jump out the window. Alas, this is only a weekend – you will survive, as will the company. Remember that whether your numbers are overall good, or overall bad, your life will go on. Again, silly, cliche thought, but oh so easy to forget when we’re in the thick of it. If you can go home, hug your cat, eat a slice of pizza and catch up on Netflix, you’re doing OK. So take a moment during this crazed holiday time to breathe and stop…for real.