Five Ways Retailers Can Prepare for Black Friday 2020

Black Friday, which will take place on November 27th this year, is currently the topic of much discussion. Well, the world’s biggest buying holiday is always a focus of discussion. But this year things are a little different. Many retailers, especially in the US, are deeply unsure about how the COVID pandemic will affect what is usually their busiest day. Walmart, for example, is closing on Thanksgiving, ending one of the store’s best-known traditions.

Some commentators have even suggested that Black Friday is effectively cancelled. With mandatory social distancing and hygiene measures in most countries, the jostling queues and frantic, discount-seeking crowds simply won’t manifest.

So what should retailers do? Is the outlook as gloomy as some have suggested? Or have the surge in online shopping, and the likelihood of pent-up demand, created new opportunities?

In this post, we’re going to tell you everything you need to know about making the most of Black Friday 2020.

What Should Retailers Expect From Black Friday 2020?

If there’s one thing that is for certain, it’s this: Black Friday 2020 will not be the same as its predecessors.

Most experts and commentators are agreed that retailers can expect the following changes:

  • Lower numbers of people in-store.
  • Expectations from customers for hygiene and protective COVID measures (both in-store and online).
  • More online purchases.
  • Competitive online promotions from other retailers.
  • A greater demand on the part of customers for up-to-date stock information.
  • High demand for “work at home” products like laptops and office equipment.

It’s vital to remember that demand is still expected to be high. And while Black Friday 2020 might not generate the same revenues as in previous years, there are some practical steps that retailers can take to ensure they fully leverage the opportunities available.

Run Promotions Before and After the Actual Date

The term “Black Weekend” is becoming increasingly common. Many retailers even begin marketing and promotional campaigns weeks ahead of the big day. Don’t limit your promotions to twenty-four hours. Instead, allow shoppers to take time to compare deals and design your campaigns to have appeal during the days before and after the big event. And don’t forget about Cyber Monday.

This point is particularly relevant for brick-and-mortar stores. Social distancing measures mean that the usual quantity of foot-traffic just isn’t viable. By extending the buying period, retailers can ensure the highest possible number of shoppers without sacrificing safety.

Focus on Your Online Campaigns

While brick-and-mortar retailers have taken a serious hit, online shopping has boomed in many categories. People that have been forced to stay indoors or are unwilling to take the risk of going shopping in-store have understandably turned to the internet.

It’s likely that this trend will continue well beyond November. Ensure that you design dedicated, digital campaigns and create attractive online offers. Now is a particularly good time to test untried forms of advertising, such as influencer marketing and Black Friday social media ads.

Guarantee Flat Discounts (Rather Than Category-Specific Offers)

Discounts are expected to be particularly appealing to many groups this year. With global unemployment steadily increasing and many countries facing the prospect of recession, customers are likely to jump on opportunities to save money, especially for essential items.

One way of limiting confusion among potential buyers is by offering a flat, store or site-wide promotion on all items. Remember that browsers are limited on time, so don’t make them search your site for relevant offers. Offering a “baseline discount”, in conjunction with discounts on specific items and categories, is one way of putting shoppers’ minds at ease.

Emphasize Hygiene and Customer Safety

Most retailers don’t need to be reminded of the importance of proper COVID hygiene and safety measures. If there’s one thing that will kill a store’s sales immediately, it’s closure due to failure to adhere to guidelines.

But it’s also good practice to remind potential customers of safety measures when advertising Black Friday deals and offers. Most will be concerned about large crowds and the risks of in-store shopping on one of the busiest holidays of the year. Emphasizing how you’re creating a safe environment will often allay these fears and worries.

This also applies to online purchases. How, for example, are you ensuring safe delivery? Will packages be cleaned after handling? What does the returns process involve?

Prepare Supply Chains and Delivery Networks

One thing that the COVID pandemic has clearly highlighted is the fragility of many global retail supply chains and infrastructure networks. Without stable manufacturing sources in China, and with many delivery companies struggling to meet increased demand, a large number of retailers had to limit available stock and prioritize essential items.

It’s crucial to remember that many supply chains and logistical services still haven’t fully recovered. And it’s unknown how they will deal with the strain of increased Black Friday demand.

That’s why it’s essential for retailers to build contingency plans well in advance. Do you have reserve stock, for example? What about alternative couriers? Can you employ enough staff to man fulfillment centres? Have you explored alternative suppliers in case current ones can’t meet your requirements? All of these questions are worth asking.


Nobody can accurately predict the long-term impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. But one thing is almost certain: businesses that are able to adapt and strategize creatively have the best chance of weathering the storm.

As Black Friday rolls into view, keep this point in mind. Don’t be afraid to try different approaches and use the coming weeks and months to test and refine new ideas.

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