When reflecting on Black Friday 2013, what can American business owners learn? This year, storefronts saw slightly smaller turnouts than previous years, thanks in part to online stores offering tantalizing Cyber Monday deals today. Last Friday was not without drama, however. Stories and videos of unruly crowds, customer fights, and at least 1 case of a customer being shot by a security guard have flooded the Internet over the weekend.
Despite the negative news that inevitably follows the biggest shopping day of the year, there are plenty of positives to take away as well. Retailers stepped it up this year, implementing a variety of exciting new technologies to better understand and serve customers in both the short- and long-term.
Here’s our recap for Black Friday 2013, outlining the best new technologies, worst cases of customer craziness, and lessons to learn about retail safety.
Best Black Friday Marketing Techniques and Technologies
Like most industries, today’s retail environment is driven by data. The more businesses collect, the more than can improve customer experience and the bottom line. Here are a few examples of how businesses focused on collecting, refining, and monetizing customer data during Black Friday this year.
1. Loyalty Program Applications
Perhaps the oldest method of collecting customer data, loyalty program applications gather basic but essential information like name, address, zip code, and preferred method of contact. The latter is vital in today’s digital world, as different contact mediums might have very different conversion rates, based on the customer’s preference. Email, phone, and even social media are all avenues worth exploring.
2. WiFi Location Tracking
For more tech savvy businesses, collecting data as customers move through the store is even more beneficial. Pioneering the world of in-store data collection is RetailNext (RN), a company that helps retailers use customers’ cellular signals to triangulate their position as they move throughout the store.
According to chief marketing officer Tim Callan, the technology works as follows: “If a shopper’s phone is set to look for Wi-Fi networks, a store that offers Wi-Fi can pinpoint where the shopper is in the store, within a 10-foot radius, even if the shopper does not connect to the network,” (i).
Using this technology, retailers can modify product displays, sales offers, and more simply by monitoring how customers move through the store.
Black Friday: Lessons in Safety
Of course, not all the events of Black Friday 2013 were brimming with forward-thinking application of technology and enhanced customer service. As anticipated, the most notorious shopping day of the year resulted in quite a bit of property damage and personal injury. According to the website Black Friday Death Count, at least 90 individuals were injured last Friday and 7 lost their lives.
As was the case in previous years, the biggest contributing factor to Black Friday injuries was unruly crowds. This issue took the national spotlight 5 years ago when an elderly gentleman was trampled to death by a mob of customers rushing the entrance of a mega-retailer right as the doors opened to the public.
In response to this tragedy, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) now issues annual press releases and tips for retailers to more effectively manage large crowds of customers. In addition to planning for crowds and staffing entryways with employees and uniformed security guards, retailers are encouraged to use rope, post, and belt crowd control systems to keep crowds organized and flowing in a safe manner. In more extreme cases, retailers may wish to implement steel barricades to control larger crowds.
Black Friday Shopping Chaos
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