In the UK as in the States, Black Friday has long since become a key date in the retail year. Black Friday 2018 is certainly not going to buck this trend. The vast majority of retailers, whether high-street or online, will once again offer major promotions, and this year, many retailers will launch their promotions as soon as the clock strikes midnight on Thursday 22nd.  Online stores are already preparing their sites for a huge surge in visits and sales. In 2017, Amazon and Argos alone made sales worth up to £1.4 bn. A small number of retailers have announced that they don’t intend to participate in Black Friday this year, the most prominent of these being B&Q, but there are few retailers willing to pass up the advantages of a successful Black Friday. If you’re planning a Black Friday event, these seven steps will help you plan and execute the perfect promotion.

Selection low, discount high

For consumers, Black Friday is primarily about one-off deals and big discounts. Customers will be drawn to the heaviest discounts, and realistically, to stand out on Black Friday a discount needs to push 60% or more. Of course, discounts like that aren’t going to be possible across your whole product range! Nevertheless, it’s essential to offer one or two products at that level of discount: strategize which products you can afford to discount to that extent, bearing in mind that these discounts are likely to be the first things your customers look for on the day. Try to offer your biggest discounts on items which will grab customers’ attention, whether it’s because they’re bang on-trend, extremely popular, or just because they’re show-stopping items. Naturally, you’ll want to offer lower discounts on the rest of your product range, too, but it’s the big-discount items that will attract people to your shop or site. When you offer a big discount on products which aren’t especially popular or eye-catching, you risk your customers concluding that your Black Friday deals are not as attractive as your competitors’ and moving on.

Limit quantity

There’s an ongoing debate about the longterm effects on sales of running Black Friday promotions. There’s a risk of cannibalizing future sales if you offer too much stock at too high a discount. It’s essential to limit the quantity of any particular item available at the discount you’re offering for Black Friday. As well as protecting future sales of that item, limited availability creates urgency. Customers know they need to buy now if they want to enjoy the discount. I sometimes call these items the “doorbusters,” because they get customers rushing through the doors to shop while they’re still available. Think strategically about which of your items – or discounts – will generate the most demand.

Timing is everything

Long gone is the era when Black Friday was a single day. Most Black Friday promotions now extend until Sunday, if not the following Friday. When planning a longer event, it’s best to spread your promotions over the days, offering at least one new major promotion on each day of your event. This incentivizes your customers to keep returning on each day of your event, to see what new offers are available. Ideally, on every day of your promotion you should offer one or more new “doorbusting” offers. That doesn’t mean you have to be offering big discounts on multiple items by the end of your event: instead, limit each offer to the day it’s launched, which will also create urgency for your customers. A note of caution: although many businesses will have their own specific reasons for running longer promotions, in general, I’ve found that a short, sweet promotion creates more impact and is far less disruptive to everyday operations.

Don’t rely on your ‘doorbusters’

It’s essential to offer a small and carefully curated range of big discounts on in-demand products. At the same time, a basket of smaller offers will boost sales by capitalizing on your customers’ impulse buying. The danger of relying too heavily on your doorbusting discounts is that competitors might undercut you on one or more of those items, effectively killing your promotion. There’s also the risk that you overestimate the demand for a particular item. Think about how your smaller offers tie into your doorbusting ones. Retailer NEXT makes the most of their Black Friday event by offering their biggest discounts on expensive items and displaying these items with similar but cheaper items at a less substantial discount. Customers drawn by the size of the discount but reluctant to splash on a top-of-the-range item are more likely to be drawn to a more modest promotion on a similar, cheaper model.

Shift the last of your summer stock

Black Friday is usually thought of as part of the Christmas retail season, but it can still be a good time to get rid of any remaining unwanted summer stock. In many cases, this may be easier (or cheaper) than warehousing unwanted stock or arranging for its sale to the secondary market. Consumers reliably buy summer stock out of season, if the discount is big enough, and you can shift substantial items this way, from lawn furniture to swimming pools. It’s a win-win solution, economizing on your logistics while offering great value to your customers.

Don’t bite off more than you can chew

Despite the value of Black Friday events, many retailers find that even the best-run promotions can have a knock-on effect on everyday operations, creating problems which give rise to bad experiences for customers, lost sales and demotivated staff. Marks & Spencer have discussed the possibility of sitting out Black Friday this year because the event causes “chaos” in their stores, not only during the initial rush but also for days and even weeks afterwards as customers return items. Black Friday can test your store’s capacities to the limit. Assess your available staff and IT resources. Give particular attention to queueing: disorderly queues are often responsible for bad customer experiences on the day. Customers who have a poor Black Friday experience may end up abandoning their items, and some customers may never return to your store. If you don’t have the resources to provide a great customer experience for a big “doorbusting” rush, consider scaling back your event.

Think about multi-channel customers

For some of your customers, getting up early to queue in front of the store is all part of the Black Friday fun, but many others will prefer to stay on their sofas (or in their beds) and make their purchases online. If you have both physical and online stores, you should offer promotions through both channels, so that you don’t miss out on sales from one part of your customer base. A great way to increase engagement with your membership or loyalty programme is to offer a preview event, with early access to some or all of your Black Friday promotions, for customers signed up to your programme.

It’s worth getting your Black Friday strategy right, not just because a successful Black Friday event is great for sales, but also because the same strategy can be adapted for other promotions, like Boxing Day. With that in mind, create a strategy which works for you, playing to your business’s strengths and offering great value for your customers. You may be taking on the challenge of Black Friday because you don’t want to be left out, but that doesn’t mean you have to follow the same strategy as everyone else.

Good luck!