Black Friday is always crazy—both for consumers and retailers—and this year promises to be even wilder than usual. According to a survey by Natural Insight, 20% of consumers plan to do most of their holiday shopping on Black Friday, up from 15% last year. Whether you own a brick-and-mortar store, an e-commerce site or both, advance preparation is vital. Follow these “12 steps to Black Friday success” to ensure you’re ready. 



1. Review last year’s data. What kinds of products were hot sellers? What times of day were busiest? What marketing and advertising campaigns worked best? How well did you manage inventory?


2. Research. What’s trending in your industry? What “must-have” products are your customers clamoring for? Combining your research and sales projections with last year’s figures will enable you to make educated estimates this year.


3. Determine what products to promote. Focusing on those that are hard to find or unique to your store will help you attract more customers.


4. Staff up. Make sure you’re adequately staffed during the times of day you expect the most customers. If you’re hiring seasonal workers, get moving: The National Retail Federation projects retailers will hire between 585,000 and 650,000 temporary workers this year, and competition is stiff.



5. Prepare your people. You’ll need time to train those temps—and your regular salespeople—to provide stellar service. Your staff’s product knowledge, helpfulness and demeanor can make or break the sale at holiday time.


6. Test your tech.

    1. If you sell online, run a speed test to make sure your site loads quickly and a stress test to ensure it can handle at least double your normal traffic.
    2. Secure your website against cyberattacks and build customer trust by using trust seals from your SSL certificate provider to indicate site security.
    3. Test your website navigation and checkout processes for ease of use on both desktop and mobile devices: Holiday shopping will be more mobile-driven this year, eMarketer Retail predicts.
    4. Make sure your in-store point-of-sale system is running smoothly and accepts multiple forms of payment. Younger consumers are embracing mobile payment solutions. 


7. Embrace holiday décor. Enjoying holiday decorations is one of the top reasons consumers shop in-store instead of online, according to Natural Insight. Create a festive atmosphere with holiday décor, music and scents. Get creative with color: Bold, icy shades of pink, purple and green will be cool alternatives to plain old red, white and green this year, says Frontier Label.


8. Check your local directory listings. If you own a brick-and-mortar store, make sure the information in your local search listings (such as Google My Business and Yelp) is current and complete; if you have special holiday hours, add them.



9. Review your reviews. Do you have enough recent online reviews to convince new customers to shop at your store? If not, start a campaign to encourage reviews from satisfied customers.



10. Plan your inventory. Inventory management software can help you find the perfect balance between too much inventory (that goes unsold) and too little inventory (that disappoints customers).


11. Create your marketing calendar. Build excitement around Black Friday by starting your holiday marketing campaign early. (More than one-fourth of consumers start shopping before Thanksgiving, so it’s not too early to start promoting.) Plan your email marketing messages and cadence, creating different promotions for loyal customers and for new ones. Push to get more email signups before Black Friday.


12. Think social. Social media will have a huge influence on holiday sales this year, according to eMarketer, and it’s where SMBs will concentrate most of their ad spending this year, says Reveal Mobile. Plan now for special holiday-themed social media content, contests and promotions. Look for photogenic, fun and unique ideas to encourage social media sharing. You can even start selling products straight from Facebook with the Storefront Social app.


By following these steps, you’ll be well-prepared to succeed not just on Black Friday, but during the rest of the holiday shopping season, too.



About Rieva Lesonsky


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Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and Co-founder of GrowBiz Media, a custom content and media company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship, and the blog A nationally known speaker and authority on entrepreneurship, Rieva has been covering America’s entrepreneurs for more than 30 years. Before co-founding GrowBiz Media, Lesonsky was the long-time Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine. Lesonsky has appeared on hundreds of radio shows and numerous local and national television programs, including the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN, The Martha Stewart Show and Oprah.


Lesonsky regularly writes about small business for numerous websites and for corporations targeting entrepreneurs. Many organizations have recognized Lesonsky for her tireless devotion to helping entrepreneurs. She served on the Small Business Administration’s National Advisory Council for six years, was honored by the SBA as a Small Business Media Advocate and a Woman in Business Advocate, and received the prestigious Lou Campanelli award from SCORE. She is a long-time member of the Business Journalists Hall of Fame.


Web: or Twitter: @Rieva

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