It may be a US import, but Black Friday is now firmly established as a major event in the UK retail calendar. Falling the day after Thanksgiving in November, it sees many retailers offer big discounts in a bid to kick off the Christmas shopping season. Such is the power of this occasion that it appears to have shifted our Christmas spending habits. According to figures from the Office for National Statistics, UK retail sales rose by 1.3 per cent in November 2018 before falling by 0.9 per cent in December.

Start your preparations early

Advanced planning is key to smooth and successful Black Friday promotions. By gearing up early, you give yourself more time to establish and deliver on your goals. Start by considering high-level issues such as which products or services you want to promote and how and where you’ll advertise your deals. If you’re marketing your offers on social media, it helps to create a content schedule.

Start advertising your promotions early too. The sooner shoppers are aware of the deals you’ll be offering, the more prepared they’ll be to make purchases. Also, don’t be afraid to message your consumers more frequently than usual, whether via social media, email or traditional mail. People are more likely to be receptive to hearing about your special offers at this time of year.

Pre-empt technical problems

Experiencing technical problems at any time of the year can be bad news for your bottom line, but it’s especially costly during busy shopping periods. This means it’s essential that all your systems are running smoothly. If you’re selling online, your website is a huge part of this. With the likes of Game and Debenhams having experienced Black Friday website outages in the past, this is an issue that can strike even the most experienced businesses. It’s therefore essential to make sure your web server is equipped to handle the level of traffic you anticipate. Website speed is also important, and you can use tools like Google PageSpeed Insights to check the speed of your site and find ways to improve it. If you’re worried about your website performance suffering because of a high volume of shoppers, you might want to consider running your Black Friday events over a longer period of time to spread demand.

Ensure your payment gateway is working correctly too. This could involve running test orders to see how smooth the process is. Any delays while purchasing could result in consumers abandoning their baskets, so this is something you’ll want to rectify.

Differentiate your promotions from your rivals

Consumers are bombarded with promotions at this time of year, so to get people to take notice of your offers, you’ll need to make sure they stand out from those of your competitors. For example, rather than just offering discounts on your products or services, why not attract consumers with deals like free next-day or two-day shipping on all orders? Ensure that your deals are easy to spot too. For instance, you could add a pop-up message or banner to your website homepage. Or if you run a brick and mortar outlet, make sure the relevant signage is clearly visible from the street.

Also, put some thought into making your social media content as compelling as possible. For example, content like videos, GIFs and carousel ads can generate more engagement than images.

Take the opportunity to upsell

Black Friday discounting gives you a great opportunity to upsell and cross-sell products that bring extra value to customers. One way to do this is to offer discounts on big ticket items that have related accessories and add-ons. The fact that your customers will have made savings on their main purchase could encourage them to buy these extras.

To do this effectively, you’ll need to steer customers in the direction of these additional items. In shops, this means arranging your displays so that the products you have on offer are presented close to the associated accessories, while if you’re selling online, make sure you have a ‘related products’ function on your website.

Learn from last year

If you have key reports, Google Analytics or business notes from the same retail period last year, study them to see what you can learn. Taking a look at this information could help you to more accurately predict customer behaviour, better prepare your inventory and anticipate any potential problems.

Make sure you keep accurate records this coming Black Friday too so that you’ll be able to keep improving year on year.