BLACK Friday and Cyber Monday are the most highly anticipated shopping events of the year, not only seeing customers making savings online but also flocking to stores to see what bargains they can bag.
Despite stories of pre-pandemic shopping mayhem, as COVID-19 remains a threat to the UK and continues to strain the NHS(1), shoppers will be seeing a much more controlled scene this year as the government now advises that people take lateral flow tests before entering high-risk environments in the run-up to Christmas(2).
Whilst Black Friday and Cyber Monday are both extremely profitable events for businesses, it’s still paramount that staff and shoppers’ health and safety remain a priority right now and with people unexpectedly self-isolating last-minute, business owners should prepare for disruptions to their staff schedule.
Brett Smith, Director of Customer Success at the workplace management platform, Planday, commented: “Providing a safe experience for both your staff and customers is integral to the success of your business this weekend. With the ongoing COVID-19 threat, the high volume of shoppers we usually see entering stores each year is just not going to be possible when putting safety first.
“Not only will stores have to think about customers, but scheduling staff and preparing for worst-case scenarios, such as staff members catching the virus, will need to be factored into Black Friday and Cyber Monday planning.”
Brett provides some expert tips on how to create the safest and most seamless shopping experience for your business this year:
“After the constant changes and disruption COVID-19 has caused, staff rota scheduling may seem a daunting task for managers in the retail industry, especially on one of the busiest days of the year.
“Many people are still catching the virus and having to self-isolate which can throw a spanner in the works at the very last minute. You must be prepared for sudden changes to your staff rota and still be able to run the store sufficiently. Try to have as many members of staff available on standby as possible, this way if anyone does need to isolate, you’ll have other team members step in.
“Investing in tech that enables you to easily plan ahead, and provides greater communication with staff so they can inform you if they are available or not, will mean you can easily put together a schedule that works for everyone and have a readily available backup plan if something changes at the last minute.”
“The key to making things go as smooth as possible is all in the communication. Ensure that everyone has one central place to discuss work-related issues, such as shift rotas and stock availability.
“It may also be worth having check-in points throughout the day where everyone congregates and discusses how things are going. This provides an opportunity for everyone to raise any concerns or issues in real-time which can then be resolved sooner rather than later.”
Make sure your staff are product knowledge experts
“To create a great customer experience, spend some time with staff in the run-up to the Black Friday – Cyber Monday weekend and reintroduce some basic customer service tips and product knowledge 101s. When your staff understand customer needs, they’ll be able to easily upsell by suggesting complementary products to add to the cart.
“Ensure your workers have the tools they need to understand the changing market based on the impact of the pandemic. Which products are customers likely to be looking for?”
Make safety precautions a priority
“By now, this should be standard practice; but double-check that every in-store customer touchpoint adheres to the latest COVID-19 advice.
“Depending on the nature of your business, you will potentially need to ask your staff to wear face masks and use extra signage to encourage customers to also wear face masks, despite them not being mandatory at the moment. It would also be recommended to keep the number of people in-store below full capacity, introducing a queueing system could prove effective.
“On entering, a sufficient sanitation station should be in place for customers to use before walking around and handling any product. It’s then important to assign members of staff to regularly wipe down screens and surfaces, and ensure hygiene measures are increased during busy periods.”
Create the right layout
“Essentially you need customers to find exactly what they’re looking for as quickly as possible in order to make a sale. This may mean that you need to change the layout of your store with popular products being placed strategically throughout – you can then assign staff around certain parts of the store to help customers and answer any questions they may have.
“Depending on the size of your store and the products you sell, it may be wise to reintroduce a one-way system so that customers can flow through the shop floor safely and efficiently.”