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How to Prepare for Black Friday -- Part 1

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    Don't wait until the last minute for the holidays.

    It’s the biggest shopping day of the year -- and, hey, it’s also my birthday this year! -- and if you’re just thinking about getting ready for it now, well, it might be too late. It depends how many hours you’re awake for and how much you can get done on a given day.

    “While Black Friday is a one-day event, entrepreneurs and retailers should not forget that it is actually just the start of a 30-day marathon whereby a savvy retailer can set the stage for what is hot and in-demand over the entire holiday period,” said John Lyotier of Christmas.com. “Retailers should encourage consumers to add items to their Christmas wish lists on Black Friday, so that the eventual purchase can be made in the subsequent days in the buildup to Christmas."

    So, how do you encourage consumers to do that? It helps if you speed up your website. Google’s engineers have found that 400 milliseconds, or the amount of time it takes to blink an eye -- is entirely too long for users to wait for a website to load.

    Four-hundred milliseconds. It’s absurd and it’s sad, but it’s the way things are going. The New York Times piece on Google’s findings also revealed that “people will visit a web site less often if it is slower than a close competitor by more than 250 milliseconds.”

    To put it in less abstract terms than the blink of an eye: Think of photo finishes for races, and how close it is between the silver and gold medals. That’s what you’re up against to keep customers.

    Jessica Partain of Inedible Jewelry suggests you should “get your selling rhythm down as best you can beforehand, from how you package your sales, to restocking or neatening your shelves, to how you record your bookkeeping… it will save your sanity when it’s crazy-busy.”
    Clarity is also good: What you’ll be selling at a discount and for how long. People don’t like to wait, so don’t force them to dig and dig to find deals when it’s Black Friday. Everyone’s having deals, and if people can’t figure out what you’re giving discounts on, they’ll hop along to somewhere else. Remember? People don’t like to wait.

    While you’re in the spirit of clarifying things, start planting the seeds of what you’ll be doing now. Use hashtags on Twitter dropping hints and, as Partain says, “understand that as the holiday shopping season kicks into high gear, people will be bombarded by messages from brands.” Help yourself stand out, be clear, and don’t waste people’s time. There are lots of other folks out there who are making it easier to take everyone’s money. So don’t make it difficult when it’s probably the whole point of your company: to exchange goods and services for money. Right?

    David Wolinsky is a freelance writer and a lifelong Chicagoan. In addition to currently serving as an interviewer-writer for Adult Swim, he's also a comedy-writing instructor for Second City. He was the Chicago city editor for The Onion A.V. Club where he provided in-depth daily coverage of this city's bustling arts/entertainment scene for half a decade. When not playing video games for work he's thinking of dashing out to Chicago Diner, Pizano's, or Yummy Yummy. His first career aspirations were to be a game-show host.