Are You Ready for Black Friday 2014

With Thanksgiving just 21 days away, countless people (myself included) are finalizing their travel plans, their dinner menus and their shopping strategies for the biggest shopping day of the year, Black Friday 2014. They are considering the purchase of big ticket items, whether a new TV, laptop or smartphone, and they are looking for the best possible deals in stores and online.

In anticipation of the annual event, retailers are making final preparations to meet consumer demand and contend with the crowds in general. They are hiring seasonal personnel, and stocking store shelves and racks to capacity (and then some). They are beefing up security, both physical and virtual, to head off any potential problems.

Many retailers are also fine-tuning their business continuity/disaster recovery (BC/DR) plans to ensure their readiness in the event of a disruption. And, they are doing so for good reason. Black Friday is big business all across the country, with New York, Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Washington, DC, ranking as the top five cities (source: IBM Black Friday Report 2013). And, no one wants to miss out on the opportunity.

Consider the results from last year’s Black Friday, as published in a December 2013 report by Business Insider:

-$12.3 billion was the overall brick-and-mortar store sales for Thanksgiving and Black Friday 2013 – up 2.3% from 2012 (source: CNN Money)

-$1.964 billion was the overall online sales for Thanksgiving and Black Friday – up over 18.5% from 2012 (source: TechCrunch)

-Mobile sales reached 21.8% of total online sales – that’s an increase of nearly 43% from the previous year (source: TechCrunch)

-PayPal® reported a 121% increase in global mobile payments compared to Black Friday 2012

Combine these numbers with expert predictions for an even better 2014 holiday shopping season, and it’s no wonder retailers are now doing everything possible to ensure their success.

If you’re among them, communication is probably top of mind. Not just for advertising and promotions, but for business resilience should the unthinkable – a massive snowstorm, a blackout, a major security breach, an earthquake, a terrorist attack – occur.

Whether you rely on manual methods (call trees) or an emergency notification service, there are several things you can do to safeguard your employees, your customers and your organization this Black Friday and beyond. These simple, proactive measures include:

– Updating emergency contact information using HR databases or a Self-Registration Portal, if available

– Obtaining personal phone numbers, email addresses, etc. for employees, if allowed, so you can better account for them, or communicate with family members, in a large-scale event

– Testing communication with small groups, or better yet everyone, if time permits

– Including vendors, suppliers and other stakeholders in your notification strategy

– Making employees aware of your business continuity plan, and ensuring they know the appropriate actions to take in an emergency

– Providing notification recipients a source for additional information (e.g., status updates, return-to-work instructions, etc.), either through secondary alerts, portals or message boards

– Determining gaps and making improvements where possible over the next three weeks (and planning for others in the future)

Yes, time is short between now and Black Friday 2014. But, it’s time that all of us – retailers and consumers alike – can (and should) use to better prepare for what many consider to be the biggest shopping day of the year.