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How to get your business ready for Black Friday step by step.

By Husain Sumra|Monday November 2, 2020

Do you want to get your business ready for Black Friday shoppers? You’re about to find practical tips to make the most of this critical season. According to Deloitte, 2020 retail spending is likely to be 1-1.5% higher than in 2019 with total holiday (November to January) spending between $1,147 billion and $1,152 billion during the November-January timeframe.

Get your business ready for Black Friday.

It’s time to start planning your online marketing campaigns and logistics. Assuming your business already has an online store and a social media presence, use these steps to start planning for the holiday shopping season in advance.

1. Plan your Black Friday schedule: One day or multiple days.

By tradition, Black Friday is a one-day promotion. However, there is no reason your business can’t innovate and offer multiple Black Friday shopping days. For example, Wal-Mart has announced it is spreading its 2020 Black Friday deals over several days. Wal-Mart’s approach includes 5:00 a.m. openings on Black Friday and additional online-only promotions.

To make a multi-day Black Friday promotion attractive to your customers, consider different options on how to highlight the event. For example, if your business is limiting the number of people who can enter at any given time, a multi-day promotion is a way to make your sales accessible to more people. Aside from crowd management, you might consider using time-based promotions (e.g., get an extra 10% off when you shop between 12:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m.). This type of time-based promotion is a way to incentivize customers to shop at off-peak periods.

2. Offer online-only special deals and update return policies.

Some of your customers may not be comfortable with in-person shopping in 2020. In that case, consider offering online-only deals. For example, you might reserve some special deals for Cyber Monday so online shoppers can buy at that time.

If you plan to emphasize online shopping to a greater degree, think through the whole customer experience. Specifically, some customers may be reluctant to buy items like clothing online because they may not fit properly. This source of potential customer dissatisfaction can be reduced by offering longer and more flexible return policies. Likewise, reach out to suppliers and shipping providers so you can offer realistic shipping time frames to online customers.

Since online customers may compare your return policies to Amazon’s, it is helpful to contrast your policy with Amazon’s. As of October 2020, Amazon’s return policy states: “For the 2020 holiday season, most of the items shipped between October 1 and December 31 can be returned until January 31, 2021.” Offering a holiday return policy comparable to or better than Amazon will make your online promotion more attractive.

If your business is new to online shopping, check out the section below on “Get your business ready for Black Friday when you don’t have an online store.”

3. Prepare special deals to grab customer attention.

Consider creating new product pages or revising existing product pages so customers can easily find your Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals. You may want to get on the phone with your graphic designers and marketing specialists to design new graphics for your website to make the deals stand out.

4. Prepare your inventory and fulfillment systems for a higher volume of customer orders.

In 2020, you should assume that historical shipping timelines and methods will need adjustment. CNN reported that “persistent postal delays are prevalent across the U.S.” as of September 2020.

There are a few ways you can proactively address shipping issues. First, post a message in your online order forms and stores advising that shipping time frames may be delayed due to heavy demand on shipping providers. Second, contact additional courier companies beyond USPS, such as FedEx and UPS, to inquire about their shipping services and pricing. Third, you may want to consider asking your employees to deliver packages to customers in some cases.

Historically, Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales feature discounts. As a business owner, it is wise to align with these customer expectations as you start planning your promotions. Ask yourself and your employees where you can afford to offer a discount to attract customer interest. Use your digital business phone system to reach out to vendors right now to discuss volume discounts and fulfillment matters right now.

5. Review Small Business Saturday for marketing potential.

First launched in 2010 as a Twitter hashtag, Small Business Saturday takes place on the last Saturday of November. It is a special day for small businesses to shine and stand out because it is distinct from Black Friday and Cyber Monday. For additional inspiration on how you can take advantage of Small Business Saturday, read this article on Entrepreneur.com: 21 Simple Ideas for a Successful Small Business Saturday.

6. Test your online checkout process for reliability.

If your marketing campaigns are successful, your business may face a large volume of orders in a short time. To ensure a high-quality consumer experience, start planning for increased orders now. Contact your key suppliers and ask them about their capacity to make more shipments. Further, you may want to ask your employees about their willingness to work overtime during the holiday shopping season.

7. Launch your holiday season campaign promotion with email marketing.

As a business owner, email marketing is one of the most efficient ways to let customers know about your deals. According to a 2018 study, 59% of marketers say email is their biggest source of ROI. If you see a similar return on investment on your business, consider making email marketing one of your top priorities.

Get your business ready for Black Friday when you don’t have an online store.

If your business does not have an online presence through a website or social media, you still have options to make the most of the holiday shopping season. This takes on added importance in 2020, with in-person shopping limited due to COVID-19 restrictions. Your store is less likely to be crowded in 2020 compared to previous years. An online store or in-store pickup options become even more important during Black Friday.

The first three steps outlined above still apply for a business owner who cannot take online orders. The change lies in the marketing details. For example, you may not be able to participate in Cyber Monday Sales.

Here are some alternative ways to get your business ready for Black Friday if you are not equipped for online business.

1. Look into options to get your business online.

Years ago, creating an online business storefront was challenging. Setting up the checkout process alone could take hours of effort. In 2020, multiple services can help you sell products online, such as Shopify, a platform used by more than 1.1 million websites in the United States, according to BuiltWith.com, and Google’s Google For Small Business initiative. If you have some time to start planning to go online, these services can make it easier to set up an online checkout process.

If you do not have the time or interest to set up an online store, look into social media instead. As a business owner, it is a good idea to be where your customers are. According to eMarketer, “U.S. adult social network users will spend seven more minutes per day on social networks than in 2019 [in 2020].” If your business does not use social media, you will need to use other marketing methods like direct mail to get in front of customers.

2. Prepare for a fast checkout process.

During the holiday shopping season, stores can become crowded. For some shoppers, the prospect of going shopping with large crowds may be unappealing. As a business owner, there are ways you can proactively address these concerns. 

Take a close look at your current checkout process for customers. Equip your staff with cleaning supplies to keep surfaces clean. Further, take a look at your payment systems so customers can use contactless payment methods such as bank cards.

As you develop these changes, consider running a “practice Black Friday” session with your employees a week or two before the holiday shopping season officially starts. With this approach, you will have the opportunity to detect and address any problems in the checkout process.

Get the word out with marketing campaigns.

Your customers will not know about your Black Friday or Small Business Saturday deals unless you tell them. Therefore, start planning your marketing campaigns well in advance, especially if you are using direct mail, because it can take some time to print and mail out your promotions.

What if you are reading this article a week or two ahead of Black Friday? In that case, you will need a strategy that can produce faster results, like calling customers. Use your digital phone system to contact past customers. For example, create a list of 200 customers who bought from you in the past few months. Set a goal to call 10 or 20 customers per day and invite them to your Small Business Saturday deal.

As a business owner, you can lead the calling campaign but feel free to ask your employees to join you in the calling campaign. The time you spend making calls to promote your Black Friday and Small Business Saturday offers may further increase your revenue.

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Loyal customers are critical to business success because they tend to be a source of repeat business. According to The Loyalty Report 2018, “Loyalty programs that establish positive emotional connections with Members see 27% more of their Membership increasing their spend with the Brand.” This research tells us that building customer loyalty can lead to more spending.

Loyalty programs vs. improving customer experience: Designing your approach

There are different approaches to building customer loyalty. Some companies use loyalty program cards, bonus offers and other incentives. You might offer access to special deals like CVS or take 5% off the purchase price like Target. You might even give some or part of your product away for free, like airlines that provide free flights through their loyalty programs. What if your small business isn’t interested or able to offer these kinds of loyalty programs?

There is another way to encourage loyal customers to keep giving you repeat business. Gather customer feedback through a phone survey and then use that data to improve the customer experience. When customers see that the business owner has acted on their feedback, they may feel inspired to return to that business. That means more revenue for the bottom line. You just need a fast and straightforward way to conduct a customer satisfaction survey. That’s where a focused business phone survey comes in.

Why increasing customer loyalty with a phone survey is a good choice.

Organizing a customer satisfaction survey by phone offers notable advantages compared to other methods. While a net promoter survey can give you interesting data, there is no conversational element involved. Further, using the net promoter survey approach effectively requires a certain degree of specialized training in the net promoter methodology.

You might also consider online customer surveys. Surveying your email list or website is worth attempting. Depending on the size of your email list or website traffic, you might be able to get a large number of survey responses. The challenge with online customer surveys is that you will have to spend a lot of time reviewing the data to find insights. There is no way to ask a customer to clarify their survey responses or provide an example.

Conducting a customer satisfaction survey by phone gives you the best of both worlds. You can ask questions and get survey responses. However, you also have the opportunity to provide the human touch. For instance, you may hear a customer complain about a lost or delayed order. When you hear about a problem during a phone survey, you can gather all the necessary details to make the situation right with the customer.

How to increase customer loyalty with a phone survey step by step.

The following steps give you a starting point to create a simple customer satisfaction survey. Over the course of a month, you could gather a significant amount of insights to improve your customer service by calling five to 10 customers per day.

  1. Define your customer satisfaction survey goals.

Before calling a single customer, reflect on your business goals. Are you seeking to improve your profit margins? In that case, you may want to focus your survey on the customers that spend the most on your business. Finding ways to make high-spending customers content may give you an excellent return. Alternatively, you may decide to focus your survey project on whether your local SEO has attracted customers. 

  1. Write your customer satisfaction survey questions.

Now that you have clarity on your goals, it is time to write your questions. According to Survey Monkey, a survey software company, it is best to focus your survey on closed-ended questions. An example of a closed-ended question would be: “How many times have you bought from our business in the past 12 months?” However, this kind of question may not give you the ideas you need to improve the customer experience.

At the end of the survey, consider asking one or two open-ended questions to understand better what your customers like. Encourage customers to think creatively with a question like this: “If you could change anything in our business, what would you improve?”

Tip: Reduce your need for note-taking by using call recording, but make sure that you ask for permission first.

  1. Test the survey with a small group of customers.

With your list of customer satisfaction questions, make a few test phone calls to customers. The purpose of the test is to discover if any of the questions are unclear. If you receive confusing answers, revise the question to make them clearer.

  1. Train employees on how to gather survey responses.

Consider running a few training phone calls for your employees. Ask them to call you or other employees in a role-playing scenario. Making a few practice calls will help your employees become more familiar with the questions. Besides, practice phone surveys will help employees learn how to record survey responses accurately. Once the training is complete, give your staff a list of customers to call and let them get started.

  1. Review the survey responses for insights and follow up with customers.

After all of the survey responses are in, schedule time to review the results. In particular, look for patterns in the results. If a large number of people gave low scores to your website, you may need to make improvements. Also, review the survey responses received in the open-ended questions. You might be pleasantly surprised at what customers tell you.

  1. Follow up with customers after the survey when needed.

A phone survey lets you gather rich insights because you can quickly ask follow-up questions. However, merely gathering survey responses may not impress your customers very much. Instead, offer to refer problems to the business owner for improvement or offer to enter the respondent in a drawing for a gift card. That is a much more compelling improvement! By addressing problems and issues when they arise, you stand a much better chance of winning additional loyal customers.