By Craig Sears-Black, UK Managing Director at Manhattan Associates

This year, Black Friday is set to shock the retail industry by not only focusing on in-store promotions but also by producing record-breaking online sales to become the UK’s first £1bn online shopping day. It is therefore essential for retailers to align all channels and ensure they are providing a seamless experience across every customer touch point.

But it shouldn’t stop there; retailers can also ensure better results if they take the time to fully prepare the back office functions and make sure these are ready for the surge in activity. More orders will always mean more deliveries, more returns, more queries and more admin. Now is the time for retailers make final preparations for all of this.

There are three vital actions to take to avoid to make the most of this year’s Black Friday.

  1. Make use of the data available
In order to make the most of Black Friday and the Christmas period retailers should leverage all the data available to them. By making informed predictions and looking at data in real time – on what’s selling quickly, stock on hand, replenishment lead times, capacity of fulfilment partners to deliver, etc. – retailers will be able to make educated decisions about which of the products they include in the promotion and which products will be added at a later date or not at all.
  1. Turn the dial on promotions
It is really important that retailers not only focus on the promotion aspect of Black Friday, but also ensure that the service they provide is consistent. The skill is balancing both aspects in order to make the sale and retain or gain a loyal customer. To do this, retailers can monitor the promotions and sales of products in real time and decide which products they want to offer with certain promotions. For example, they may choose to turn the promotion dial down by having a 15% discount and keeping their 24 hour delivery window for a product selling well, but turn the promotion dial up by offering a 30% discount and extending the delivery window to a maximum of 10 days for products that they know are not as popular. Retailers that can harness the data available to do this in real time will be able to better manage and take advantage of the possibilities of Black Friday.
  1. Increase flexibility to maximise sales
Once the orders are flooding in and the promotions and delivery times have been agreed, retailers need to deploy a flexible approach to fulfilling orders. Rather than having all ecommerce orders shipped from the main DC, retailers could allocate store inventory for click-and-collect orders where possible, as well as ship items from the store if it means a customer can receive goods quicker and it’s cheaper to dispatch those goods from the store. Extending the role of the store to become a mini DC in addition to its traditional role as a sales outlet, speeds up fulfilment and drives sales whilst also reducing total cost. Retailers just need to ensure that stores are appropriately reconfigured and staffed as the store’s role evolves or customers will be left disappointed again.

Implementing these three actions will ensure retailers will be able to handle the surge in demand on peaks such as Black Friday in a cost-effective and profitable manner whilst also delivering on their service commitment to customers.

Lets all head into the peak Christmas period this year armed with the knowledge, technology and preparation needed to not only increase sales, but also secure the loyalty of new and existing customers.