Black Friday was once a retail event that gained little momentum in the Southern Hemisphere, but this traditionally American holiday sales day has taken the world by storm in recent years. This year, with the proliferation of online shopping and the massive uplift in eCommerce, it’s set to become one of the most important dates in the 2020 calendar for Australian retailers, big and small.

After an exceedingly challenging year, the once-a-year event holds a trove of opportunity for retailers that have struggled with sales and growth due to health and safety measures brought on by the pandemic and changing consumer behaviour.

The key to success over the Black Friday sales period, however, is carefully considered preparation. In order to reap the full benefits of Black Friday, and Cyber Monday for that matter, it’s important to be proactive and well prepared to meet and exceed customer expectations. A three-pronged approach that considers the right tools, enables you to leverage your data, and refines your omnichannel strategy will put you on the front foot and give your business the competitive edge it deserves.

Work with the right tools

In order to deliver the best service possible, businesses, regardless of size, need to work with the right tools to help optimise customer engagement, collect crucial information and streamline the sales process.

It’s imperative that businesses accommodate for changing consumer behaviour and the first step is redefining the way you handle payments. Square’s Cashless Payments and the Pandemic in Australia report, found that one in three Australian businesses turned effectively cashless between January and June this year. Adapting for the sake of public health and safety, as well as providing options that address changing consumer needs, are just as important for online stores as they are for physical stores. Choose a payment platform that provides end-to-end security, proactively request cashless methods of payment and ensure your business is equipped to accept contactless transactions, both in-store and online.

Additionally, you’ll need to implement a COVID-Safe plan to operate in a physical space this year. Some key measures to consider include: sanitiser stations; visual guides to support physical distancing; sneeze guards and masks to protect staff; and potentially implementing an appointment scheduling software to minimise wait times and ensure that customers are able to shop in your physical retail space safely.

Get the most out of your data

Data is one of the most valuable resources available to businesses across numerous industries. For retail in particular, data that provides insights into consumer purchasing behaviour, inventory and staffing-related metrics will help your business to cut costs, ensure customers’ needs and service levels are being met, while guaranteeing no stock shortages.

Equipped with the right tools and technology, harnessing the power of data can be a simple and streamlined process. Tap into your payment system to obtain an overview of typical sales levels. Modern payment systems will significantly simplify this process and help you visualise where you need to stock up and when your busiest time periods are.

Create a seamless omnichannel experience

While the current environment has created a challenging ecosystem for businesses, changing customer behaviour and a rapid acceleration in innovation has emphasised the need to establish or refine your omnichannel experience.  

A seamless omnichannel presence is no longer a luxury, but a necessity. From establishing an online store to offering alternative means for stock fulfilment, the goal in creating a seamless omnichannel experience for consumers is to simplify the sales process.

Before Black Friday arrives, ensure you’ve allocated the resources needed to perfect your online presence. More than eight million households shopped online between March and August 2020. To continue doing business without establishing in, investing in and finessing your online presence would be a critical mistake.

Click-and-collect has become a saving grace for many retailers, particularly during peak lockdown when businesses and consumers experienced a seismic shift in how they interact with one another. It provides customers with the option to shop online and collect their wares in physical stores, and will become increasingly popular as many Australians, Victorians in particular, experience frustrations around slow delivery due to the increased load on delivery services.

Click-and-collect has mutual benefits, including reducing costs for retailers by removing delivery fees and enabling retailers to maintain customer relationships, allowing them to provide invaluable human interaction throughout the purchase journey while providing an opportunity for sales staff to upsell at the point of collection.

Colin Birney is head of business development at Square Australia