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Black Friday is Important, Just Not For the Reasons You Might Think It Is

Guest Blog By Steve Russell

The first thing you should know is this: Most of what you believe about Black Friday isn’t true.

The second thing you should know is that it doesn’t matter.

We’re told that Black Friday is a consumer madhouse, that it’s the day where people run over each other for the sake of a half-price microwave. We love the narrative of the sales-crazed shopper, but what about the story of Black Friday itself?

We’re told that Black Friday got its name because it’s the day that retailers start making a profit for the year – out of the “red” and into the “black.” In fact, the name was coined by Philadelphia policemen who dreaded the massive amount of pedestrian traffic and traffic jams that always followed Thanksgiving.

And we’re told that Black Friday is the biggest sales day of the year. With all those low prices and once-in-a-lifetime deals, how could it not be?

In fact, from 1993 to 2001, Black Friday fell between the fifth and tenth busiest shopping day of the year. It didn’t become the “official” busiest shopping day until 2003, where it’s remained at the top spot more or less ever since.

But Black Friday is changing. Retail is changing. As is the entire holiday season.

Just last month, Macy’s and J.C. Penney announced they are kicking off Black Friday on Thanksgiving, breaking from tradition and opening one day early. As the retail landscape evolves — and savvy customers hunt for deals online, on mobile, and on foot — we’re going to see more change happen more often.

But here’s one thing that won’t change: Retailers want better results than last year.

Which is why regardless of history, the objectives for Black Friday remain the same. You want to get the most people in the door as possible. You want to verify that your employees are engaging customers and getting products into their hands. You want to ensure that your end caps and displays are effective, and that signage and store layout drive increased conversion.

Black Friday and the following weeks are the perfect time to test your strategies for the rest of the holidays, and ensure your stores is prepared for success. Here are three ways to be successful on Black Friday and beyond:

  1. Be on plan: It’s hard to overstate how much timing and thought has gone into store design. Make sure that every one of your stores is on brand, with the proper displays, signage, and merchandise for the season. Tools like Prism Skylabs enable retailers to remotely look into their stores, and ensure that everything is as it should be.
  2. Optimize your stores: Black Friday comes with significant customer demands and maximum competition from other retailers. It’s an ideal time to understand which end caps, promotions and displays engage your customers, so you can see what’s working and what’s not — and make meaningful adjustments.
  3. Deliver for your customers: Holiday crowds demand an increased focus on the customer. Make sure you have the appropriate resources to meet the needs of every person who enters your store. Visual analytics such as heatmaps can help you determine where to best position your employees for success.

As omnichannel retailing continues to gain momentum, Black Friday will keep evolving. In the meantime, all retailers should see Black Friday as a day to drive sales and improve the customer experience.

Steve Russell is CEO of Prism Skylabs

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