The Black Friday frenzy has begun for 2016.

This year some retailers have tried to get ahead of their competitors by offering a Black Friday week and sought to tempt consumers by adding new deals each day.

Discounting products in the run up to Black Friday and on the day itself can be a mixed blessing for retailers. An increase in sales over the Black Friday period mean that sales the following weeks dip as a result. The knock on effect is to bring money into the business earlier rather than generating extra revenue. Consumers are always looking out for a deal, online or in store. The whirlwind of Black Friday excitement means that most retailers see a boost in sales because they see an increase in consumers either through their shop doors or to their website who are out for a bargain.

Retailers need to consider their Black Friday strategy. Is focusing sales in the Black Friday period worth the impact on sales figures in December? At the time of writing, it is reported that the November sales figures of one leading retailer are down as consumers wait for Black Friday deals to be launched.

A positive consumer experience

Consumers expect more for less. Irrespective of a busy period, they expect value for money, efficient service and a fantastic consumer experience whenever and whatever they buy. Complaints can go viral in an instant on social media. It is crucial that sale periods are handled carefully.

Savy retailers will use Black Friday sales to their advantage if it is good for business but they must put steps in place to ensure they have a positive effect. This year some retailers have extended cut-price deals across a longer period to avoid a huge rush of customers on one day. The effect will be to make the sale period easier to manage online and in store and to ensure that they don't promise what they can't deliver.

Disaster avoidance

Online traffic is likely to dramatically increase as Black Friday approaches and to explode on the day itself. Retailers need to ensure that their websites can cope with demand. Precautionary measures should be taken to ensure that there is sufficient IT staffing over the Black Friday period to resolve and avoid technical issues which would result in missed sales and disgruntled customers.

Don't promise what you can't deliver

The Consumer Contract Regulations 2013 require that online customers receive their purchased goods by the agreed delivery time, and otherwise within 30 calendar days. If they do not, they are entitled to a full refund (for the costs of the goods as well as any delivery costs) within 14 calendar days.

It is essential that retailers assess their capacity to deliver. Such an assessment must also extend to the suppliers and delivery agents of the retailers, as, ultimately, a consumer has a contract with the retailer and it is the retailer which will be liable for any late or non-delivery of goods.

An honest self-assessment conducted by retailers will avoid letting customers down. Further, clear communication of the online offers being made and the dates customers can expect to receive their goods is far more likely to encourage repeat business than delivering late.

It is also worthwhile promoting alternative delivery methods such as 'click and collect' or secure collection points. This encourages customers to shop online and will alleviate the strain on delivery companies.

In store strategy

It is important to remember that at all times retailers have a duty of care towards those who enter their premises. Consumers can get overexcited in their determination to get the deal they want. Poor staffing and security can cause arguments and scuffles between consumers resulting in bad publicity for a retailer.

Consumers want to feel that they are treated fairly by staff and that they have an equal chance in obtaining the offers open to them. Staff rotas should be planned to ensure there are enough staff on the shop floor as well as ensuring that staff are trained and briefed on how to deal with extremely busy periods.

Practical tips to give consumers a great experience and to reduce the risk of reputational backlash include:

  • allowing limited numbers of consumers to enter the premises at any one time
  • providing extra security staff around the shop floor; and
  • implementing effective queuing systems for tills and entry to the shop

The value of loyal consumers

Whilst Black Friday deals and flash sales can bring revenue from new consumers, retailers must strike a balance and keep their existing consumer base happy. Many retailers are using Black Friday to offer loyalty-based discounts to existing customers as an alternative.

What next?

If you are joining in with Black Friday, it is worth looking at the level and length of involvement. If it does not have as big an impact as hoped then perhaps it is worth scaling back the promotional frenzy next year, or offering promotions online only to avoid the disruptive effect it can have in stores.

The Black Friday benefit is that you are likely to experience a boost in sales because of the increased footfall and internet traffic. Continually review the reality and adjust plans if necessary, make sure your stated delivery times continue to be achievable, staffing levels are adequate and offers are clear.