Stay Out of the Red this Black Friday

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For most retailers, Black Friday will come and go without incident. Other than the final sales numbers, there may be little to record about the day. Some retailers however, do experience a noteworthy incident on Black Friday, and when they do, they generally find themselves in a spotlight they’d rather avoid. In fact, even a cursory Google search for Black Friday incidents reveals thousands of articles and even entire websites dedicated exclusively to memorializing Black Friday catastrophes. In our own effort to reduce the material available for these catastrophe-driven websites, we’ve compiled a list of considerations for retailers heading into Black Friday.

Probably the most widely-publicized category of Black Friday incidents relates to physical security. Although the incidents of shoppers being injured in a mad dash to the TVs seem to have decreased in recent years, it is worthwhile to consider whether the proper precautions have been put in place this year. Some logistical considerations and precautions include the location of merchandise in the store and how it will be accessed by shoppers, as well as how the lines of those waiting to get into the store and those waiting to pay for their purchases will be handled.  Once shoppers have paid for their purchases, they still need to transport their purchases out of the store and leave the parking lot without incident. Physical security as it relates to each phase of a customer’s experience should be considered when planning for Black Friday shoppers.

Another highly-publicized category of Black Friday and holiday shopping incidents is data security. Regardless of who is ultimately responsible for the data breach, the customer is most likely going to blame the retailer. Huge increases in the frequency of transactions also increase the likelihood that customer information may be compromised, either by the sales associate at the register or in cyberspace beyond the register. Retailers can take precautions by ensuring that they have the proper chip technology for credit and debit transactions and that other forms of payment such as those through smartphones also remain secure.

Related to the security of customer payment data is the personal information that shoppers regularly share, sometimes without even realizing it. Retailers who use technology such as Mobile Location Analytics or Facial Recognition Technology should be aware of the privacy considerations that need to be made when acquiring this type of information.

Some retailers may run into trouble if they do not maintain consistency across stores. Mangers and associates at all levels should be instructed not to create their own promotions and to honor posted sales. A customer who feels misled by a retailer can quickly cause a scene in the store or turn to social media to share their less-than positive experience.

Radio frequency identification (RFID) is changing the way retailers do business, and it can similarly change the way retailers handle Black Friday. Retailers can use RFID to better manage their inventory in ways that will help prevent inventory loss or even theft. RFID can help retailers not miss out on any sales by keeping track of inventory in the flurry of Black Friday Sales.

Analysts have predicted a strong Black Friday for retailers. To avoid unnecessary litigation expenses, negative shopper experiences, and ultimately stay out of the red this Black Friday, retailers should take into account these and other considerations relevant to their business. Best of luck to all retailers out there as you head into this holiday season.

Follow me on Twitter:  @annelockner

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