As is common this time of year, retail associations, consultants and other experts are predicting about how the retail industry will perform during the critical Black Friday weekend, identified as Thursday through Sunday of Thanksgiving. And, while all seem optimistic that winning retailers will outperform Black Friday 2011, most also agree that growth will be in the low single digits and that retailers must bring their best efforts to successfully cross over to the black this year.
Historically, retailers answer this challenge by focusing on inventory, pricing, staffing and promotion – every aspect of the shopping experience that comes before the transaction is completed. The harsh reality, however, is that consumers are not actually customers until they have completed those transactions.
In fact, the most untapped opportunity to boost Black Friday performance is at the front of the store where customers wait in line to complete their purchases and, in the best of cases, make final determinations about their shopping experiences.
Our research finds that the most successful retailers tend to share 10 highly effective public guidance habits. These 10 habits focus on implementing the core basics of queuing, being prepared to change line configurations at the drop of a hat, and, above all, maintaining control of the retail environment at all times.
Effective Habit #1: Lines are restructured to accommodate more people: Effective Black Friday waiting lines are prepared ahead of time with a longer-than-usual line configuration, a plan for how the line will extend into the retail area and additional stanchions so customers don’t form uncontrolled configurations on their own.
Effective Habit #2: The waiting line is a single line queue: The smartest retailers will employ a single-line queue, which is proven to decrease average wait times compared to a multiple-line queue. The first come, first served method feels fair, and no one can claim someone else is getting preferential treatment.
Effective Habit #3: Fast deployment is made possible: A register stops working. Someone spills their latte in the middle of the line. Anything can happen on Black Friday, and retailers should have extra stanchions, retractable belts, and various types of signage on “stand by” that can be quickly deployed to manage the unexpected.
Effective Habit #4: In-line merchandising is used strategically: Retailers should capitalize on the impulsive nature of Black Friday shoppers without overwhelming people already firing on all cylinders. In-line merchandising should be available, but not obnoxious, with merchandising bowls attached to stanchions and clearly marked.
Effective Habit #5: Waiting people are kept busy: Digital signage that displays promotions, how-to videos, advertisements, or entertaining media decrease perceived wait times. Get customers started on their transaction as soon as possible, and keep them occupied with in-line merchandising.
Effective Habit #6: There is a clear clue to queue: Black Friday crowds can make it challenging for customers to find the queue, come check-out time. Belted stanchions give the line visibility and post-top signage and banners tell customers where to enter or wait. Simple instructions help high-strung shoppers relax in line.
Effective Habit #7: Reinforced barriers are relied upon: With Black Friday crowds come unintentional (and sometimes intentional) bumping, squeezing by, and even pushing. Reinforced stanchions drilled into the floor or with heavy magnetic bases, accommodate jostling crowds from entrance to exit without being shifted or knocked over.
Effective Habit #8: Clear instructions and information are provided: It is better to make queuing decisions for busy customers rather than force them to come up with their own solutions. Signage with clear, simple messaging identifies in-line merchandising items, the direction of the queue, and places to wait or move forward.
Effective Habit #9: Safety is paramount: A well-designed queuing strategy keeps Black Friday customers part of orderly, safe lines. Stanchions make the line clear, improve customer flow, and enhance crowd safety and help calm anxious customers.
Effective Habit #10: The exit is part of the queue strategy: The true end of a queue is the exit of the retail store. Pathways should be created to extend from the start of a queue to the register to the front door with helpful stanchions and signage. Incorporating retractable belt stanchions will ease the process of directing people to the exit while avoiding customer traffic jams.
The only thing predictable about the annual Black Friday retail extravaganza is its unpredictability. By preparing now and focusing on these 10 queuing strategies, retailers can better manage those lines before they burst at the seams and help create a far better Black Friday shopping experience for their customers.
About Lavi Industries
Based in Valencia, California, Lavi Industries is the premier provider of public guidance and crowd control solutions in North America. Leveraging its portfolio of world-class brands – Beltrac® stanchions, Directrac® signage systems, Qtrac® electronic queuing systems, and NeXtrac® in-line merchandising systems – Lavi has helped the world’s leading companies effectively guide people in, through, and out of their facilities. More information is available at http://www.lavi.com.
Director of Marketing
Lavi Industries Inc.