It’s the beginning of November! That means the biggest day of the year for your retail customers is almost here.
Once again, Black Friday is projected to be the busiest shopping day of the year, with nearly 1.5 times more shoppers than the second busiest day, Super Saturday (the Saturday before Christmas). In fact, 20 percent of consumers plan to do most of their holiday shopping on Black Friday, according to by Natural Insight—up from 15 percent last year.
But it’s not just Black Friday that matters anymore. Cyber Monday and Thanksgiving Day earn their share of sales as well. For many retailers, the Sunday before Thanksgiving through Black Friday weekend is the key shopping week of the entire year.
How can you ensure you and your customers have a successful Black Friday week? Here are 11 steps every distributor should take now.
1. Review last year’s data.
When did you have the greatest demand from your customers? Were there particular products or manufacturers whose products were most in demand, and how will this year’s Black Friday week compare? What problems did you run into, such as weather incidents, insufficient staff or technological glitches? If so, how can you prepare for and prevent the same risks this year?
2. Talk to your customers.
What type of demand do they predict this year? What days do they think will be busiest? What shipping times are they guaranteeing for ecommerce sales? What approach are they taking to inventory management? Are there certain products they will be promoting that need to be consistently in stock?
3. Get your website ready.
Enabling your customers to place orders online saves a lot of time for you, your team and your customers. To make sure your website can handle sudden spikes and heavier than usual traffic, conduct some stress tests. Make sure your website security is prepared to handle the latest cyber threats.
Review your website with a critical eye. Is it easy for customers to navigate? Does it provide the information and functionality that both returning customers and new customers need to make a purchase?
Some of these features include:
Robust search functionality to search and filter products by a variety of descriptors, such as product type, manufacturer, product name, etc.
Ability to compare products side-by-side
Customer account/login to access discounts, place reorders, etc.
Ability to request a price quote
Variety of payment options, including credit cards, house account, etc.
The functionality to feature specific products, sales or discounts to help you move inventory
Is your website intuitive to use on both desktop and mobile devices? During this busy season, your customers will rely on smartphones to manage their stores and inventory, so make it easy for them to search and compare products, request quotes, or place orders with their phones.
4. Assess your staffing needs.
If you need to hire temporary employees or bring back seasonal workers from last year, now is the time to start. Remember, you need time to train new workers and get them up to speed on your systems. It’s also a good idea to cross-train your team so that employees can lend a hand on especially busy days or handle each other’s roles when needed (like during the inevitable winter sick days).
Finally, energize your team for the hard work ahead by offering frequent breaks, lots of praise, and rewards like comp time, gift cards or bonuses to help them manage the stress.
5. Diversify your sourcing to minimize risk.
Are you relying on one product from one supplier for the majority of your holiday sales? Putting all your eggs in one basket can put you at risk. What if that supplier has an emergency or bad weather delays shipments?
Find alternative sources of products to cover all your bases. Purchasing from diverse manufacturers across the country can help you avoid weather-related delays.
6. Watch your inventory and your margins.
Know your costs and profit margins and keep a close eye on both. Categorizing products into detailed classifications is possible with inventory management software and can help you drill down into specifics to see which products have the best margins.
7. Focus on inventory turnover.
In addition to profitability and popularity, monitor inventory turnover and work to enhance it. The more frequently you turn over your inventory, the more profit you’ll realize. Frequent turnover also helps you reduce the amount of working capital tied up in inventory.
8. Take advantage of technology.
Inventory management software and warehouse management software can greatly streamline your operations. Using RF barcode and RFID systems, for instance, greatly reduces the chance of human error. The more you can automate, the more time you’ll save and the more data you can gather.
9. Streamline your physical processes.
Are your shipping and receiving, warehousing and packing areas as efficient as possible? Talk to your front-line employees to get their insights on what would speed up the processes. Simple changes in how you organize physical space, such as putting high-demand SKUs closer to the packing areas, can save tons of time.
Minimizing steps makes it easier for temporary employees to learn the ropes—and makes your team more productive.
10. Strengthen relationships with suppliers and customers.
Focus on ways you can bring value to both parties. How can you save your customers and suppliers time, save them money, or make their lives easier? For example, when you use Fundbox Pay, you can get paid right away while offering your approved customers net-60 terms.
Since retail customers need as much working capital as they can get during the holidays, this can be a real selling point for your business.
11. Put financing in place.
During crunch time, the last thing you need is a cash flow crunch, too. Plan ahead by considering various ways to get access to capital before you really need it.
For example, you may want to research opening a business line of credit. Another smart option for distributors may be purchase order financing. If you get a large order, purchase order financing can provide the capital you need to fill it, so you never have to turn down a customer again.
By following these steps, both you and your customers can make the most of Black Friday week—and the rest of the holiday shopping season, too.