BY Fast Company 5 MINUTE READ

It’s almost that time of the year where Black Friday hysteria hits retailers across the globe. While South Africa has only recently picked up on the trend, it is growing exponentially, and online and retail stores become increasingly chaotic on the day. For consumers to make the most out of the Black Friday bargains on offer, and for retailers to cash in on the potential influx of sales revenue, it’s crucial for both parties to be prepared. Here’s what to avoid – and what to do – to handle the craze with confidence.

When Black Friday goes right for a retailer, it can be sensational. According to Nathalie Schooling, CEO of customer experience specialists, nlighten, the brands that achieve the most success on Black Friday are not just focused on deals, profits and ‘quick-wins’ like so many businesses, but they go out of their way to consider the Customer Experience (CX). They know how to turn this ‘once-off’ marketing bandwagon into an ongoing customer relationship.

“Black Friday is a chance for consumers to trial new brands, products and find new ways to shop. The brands that understand this, have a far greater chance of keeping current customers happy, whilst winning over new ones. At a time when competition is tough and the economy is sinking, what business can’t afford to seize the long-term growth opportunity that Black Friday can offer?” says Schooling.A retailer that Schooling believes is getting this right is Takealot. Last year, the e-commerce store’s well planned and executed Blue Dot Sale for Black Friday saw them taking over R196 million – representing year on year growth of 125% and a 127% increase in orders.

Takealot attributed their success to focusing on their mobile e-commerce platform, as 68% of their Black Friday customers used their mobile phones to take advantage of deals. “This proves that Takealot considered the customer experience first and foremost and took all measures necessary to deliver on their promises. Given their results, they will likely enjoy a repeat performance this year.”

Research has shown that if a customer has a bad experience with a business, they usually won’t return, and Schooling reminds retailers that the same rules still apply on Black Friday.  “I would urge brands to not make the mistake of focusing only on offering the best and cheapest deals, but to think about the customers experience holistically.  With the potential for great success, comes the potential for a deal to go sour if the follow-through hits wide off the mark,” she says.

Leaving customers with the sense that they got a great deal from a business long after the Black Friday ‘rush’ wears off will depend on their customer experience.  Brands should make it a good one and use the opportunity to stand out from the crowd.

Here is Schoolings quick fundamental guide for retailers to make sure they deliver on CX this Black Friday.

1. Be accessible
The high pressure “buy now or miss out for good!” aspect of Black Friday coupled with our busy, mobile modern existence means that deals need to be instantly accessible. Your customers want to take advantage of Black Friday, but they have work, childcare, and other commitments that can’t be put on hold.

2. It’s all in the delivery
You must be prepared to deliver on all your Black Friday promises. Deals applied for but not honoured will live on in social media and consumer review sites like Trustpilot. The Internet has a very long memory and the negative effects of not following through on you promise can haunt your brand.

3. Take the opportunity to turn traffic into data
Make a database of new customers that shop with you. Collect data about their experience and learn from it. This is an opportunity to gather valuable insights about your customers buying behaviour and attitudes towards your products or services.

4. Be Prepared
Take on temporary staff, prepare your workforce, ensure your servers can handle the extra traffic, make sure your payment systems are robust and have a Plan B for as many eventualities as you can think of. You want your customers to be elated, not frustrated.

5. Assure customers of their safety
It’s a vulnerable time for consumer safety, both in-store and online. With identity theft on the rise in South Africa, making customers feel safe can go a long way. Brick and mortar retailers should increase in-store safety with visible security staff presence.  They can also have a controlled front-of-house entry point or invest in in-store camera systems. Online retailers could add additional layers of authentication and offer payment methods whereby the consumer has recourse, like iPay, PayPal and Payfast.

Schooling advises consumers to think of Black Friday as ‘planned’ impulse buying and warns against being sucked into the shiniest deals or fanciest advertising. “It’s easy to get swept up in the buzz. All the bargain hunting might feel great at the time, but it can quickly translate to buyer’s remorse once purchases are out of their packaging.  Being prepared, keeping your options open, and having a handle on T&C’s and return policies can help with a smooth customer journey.”

Below Schooling offers insights and tips on how consumers can take control of their customer experience and bag the best deals this Black Friday.

1. Set a budget and stick to it
As with all aspects of financial management, self-control and discipline are paramount. If you have a spending limit, stick to it no matter how tempting the next storefront appears or how enticing the deals are that pop up once you’ve already spent your budget. Ask yourself – can I afford it? If I can afford it, do I really need/want it? What else could I spend this money on if I don’t buy this?

2. Do your research
Many retailers offer Black Friday bait long before the day, giving you sneak peeks of the products or packages that may be on offer, sometimes releasing deals ahead of time. Make sure you have an idea of the brands and products you are interested in before the big day. A lack of focus can lead to confusion and temptation.

3. Have a wish list, and be flexible
Think about the items you really need or have coveted for a long time and prepare a wish list ahead of the day. This way if you come across an attractive deal, you have already considered your buying decision ahead of time. Give thought to how much you would like to pay and what you would be willing to pay, which features are must-haves and which you could live without.

4. Be Safe
Within the frenzy of Black Friday, there are opportunists and fraudsters who know consumers have their guards down and are perhaps not applying the same due diligence to their purchases or their safety (whether online or in-store). Pickpockets will be out in force, attracted by the crowds, the shopping bags filled with goodies and the bulging wallets. Online, scammers will be vying for your money alongside genuine retailers. Be vigilant and check security certificates.  Where possible, pay by methods where you have recourse, like iPay, PayPal and Payfast.

Even with the best intentions, it’s easy to get carried away on Black Friday, but with a little mindfulness and forward planning, you can bag both a bargain and a meaningful customer experience.